Back when I was managing software development, there was a phrase I used to use when project deadlines were approaching: “Turn it up a notch!” Needless to say, that did not always go over well with the developers. There are always going to be projects that get to those points, but there’ll be more of them if project management methodology implementation and adoption haven’t been effectively carried out.
It is admittedly a daunting task to get everything in place to deliver the benefits at an organizational, as opposed to individual project manager, level. After all, good project managers generally bring their own methodology and hardly have to be coaxed to use good discipline and techniques. The challenge is in harmonizing good techniques across an enterprise. That means getting everyone to agree what constitutes best practice and to use the tools and procedures needed to execute on it. But even that’s not the biggest challenge. The scope of the exercise if done thoroughly includes resource management, planning, scheduling, time tracking, communications and reporting with a healthy dose of collaboration required to make it all come together.
The software to support this endeavor used to be the domain of a few players. Microsoft Project was a dominant planning tool for example and often time tracking was redundant with some other resource scheduling or planning software used by the firm. The challenge has always been to integrate the need for very detailed task status, hours reporting and resource allocation tools with reporting systems capable of aggregating from the detail level to the program and executive summary level. Organizations had to be a certain size to make this effort worthwhile and to pull it off.
Given the proliferation of easy-to-use, cloud-based products like Basecamp, Trello and others, project management tools have gotten easier to bring to bear on some portions of the job, for example collaboration or building a work breakdown structure (WBS) or something resembling one. Other tools such as Timeneye, a time tracking application, and BizXpensTracker, which does detailed time and expense tracking (on mobile devices), cover other aspects of the overall need. But as easy as the individual apps are to use for their specific purposes, the integration problem hasn’t gone away, in fact if anything, it’s gotten worse.
It may be that for organizations of any significant size an integrated suite of applications such as Sharepoint and Project Server from Microsoft are still the best way to go. Smaller organizations can take advantage of the easier to implement cloud-based apps but will need to find ways to get them to work together. Some come with interfaces to each other or ways to export data in generic formats.
Integration is of course no guarantee of adoption. There is still no substitute for persistence to get project stakeholders on board and therefore no replacement for the enthusiastic project manager encouraging the troops to turn it up a notch.