Three tips to improve your project management process

Allison Vail – 3 Comments

With the hyper-focus on productivity in modern work spaces, project management and time management tools have proliferated. One-page scrolling websites boast products with the latest technology, the best UI, and the most effective communication systems. They talk about collaboration, built in instant messaging and API integration. Every new software site, cloud-based or not, confidently proclaims it has the solution to office project management or workflow snarls, followed with glowing product recommendations from customers.

Our clients often share their preferences with us or ask us what they should be using. Before we point anyone in the direction of a solution, we say three things.

1. Having project management software is not the same as having a project manager.
2. Project management software is only as good and integrative as the people/person using it.
3. All offices have different needs — the software should be chosen based on actual, functional needs, not the coolest new technology.

Having project management software is not the same as having a project manager.
Someone needs to own the software, the project management process and how the software integrates into actual workflow. Someone needs to input data, schedule jobs, check on to-dos, check in with staff, assign tasks to people and make sure the workload is fair and balanced. They need to feed the beast. A PM needs to get staff tuned into the system and act as a back up. It’s easy enough for employees to ignore an email or forget to sign into the software—it’s much harder to ignore the project manager sticking their head over a cubicle to remind you of a deadline.

Project management software is only as good and integrative as the people/person using it.
Experience suggests all software or “solutions” have their limits. There’s always something that could work better, be more intuitive or provide a missing feature that would fix everything. A good project manager or a committed team will find ways to jump around any limitations, real or perceived. They’ll find an add on, or a work around, or a way to adapt technology to their needs. To make a tool work in the office, ideally the whole team needs to buy into using it, but if there are only one or two outliers, a project manager can find a way around them too.

All offices have different needs. Do the research.
Size, composition, culture, workflow, product or service — these things all play a role in directing what piece of project management software is going to work for an organization. Before jumping on the latest, shiniest app or product, look carefully at your needs. What are the pain points with current systems? What features do you never use? What can you live without? What tool is 100 percent necessary? What will your team be open to using?  Corporate culture and brand plays a huge role in what sort of software will fly in an organization, so don’t write that off as irrelevant. Analyze project management tools against your organization’s realities. You might not need the solution being offered by a new tool. You may be able to solve from within or use a simpler method.

If you do the background work, there is a far greater chance that you will end up with the right solution than if you skim over each potential solution or pick up the latest piece of software promising to fix all your problems.

What tools have worked for your AEC firm? Let us know in the comments.