Keeping up: New ways of working

This mini-series is looking at how project management is facing the challenges of 21st century business practices.  Missed last week’s article on how project management is responding to those challenges?  Catch up here.

Today’s economy and business culture is not the same as the one that most of our project management tools were designed for.  The business world has moved on, and some parts of your organisation have probably moved on more than others.  It’s likely that your project management function hasn’t moved on at all, and you are still doing the same old stuff you did 10 years ago.  If it hasn’t broken, then why fix it?

I believe that as project managers we should make it easy for other people to work on our projects, and that means working in the same way that they do – both at work and at home.

Here are some new ways of working:

Podcasts

  • When I started working in healthcare I downloaded everything I could about the industry to my iPod and learned on my way to work.
  • Could be used for training courses and other project communication

Wikis

  • Useful for long-term projects where staff turnover is high
  • Encourages knowledge dissemination and discourages knowledge silos
  • Customisable, searchable and better than email folders

Blogs

  • Useful for project teams that are not co-located, so they can keep up to date with each other
  • More useful for stakeholder communication and engagement, if you allow comments, especially when the stakeholders are external

Webinars

  • Another training tool
  • Useful for keeping project costs down when the training overhead involves travel
  • Can be stored/recorded so if people can’t make the session they can catch up later
  • I have also used this for collaborating on documents in real time with colleagues in another country

Messaging

  • Workplace use of messaging tools like MSN have yet to catch on widely, but the potential for being able to see when your colleagues are online and available to talk is great
  • Employers need to get over the fact that we would chat all day about non-work things before this takes off, but people are used to using the technology at home

SaaS

  • “Professional” project managers aren’t worried about this at all, but some of the tools out there mean they should be.  SaaS has the potential to make everyone a project manager
  • Very useful for small-to-medium projects
  • Some tools manage status updates by email, removing the need to be any good at scheduling
  • If these tools are in use in your organisation amongst people who don’t have ‘project manager’ in their job title, then how do you engage them when they are stakeholders in your project?  They will have certain expectations of project management tools and you need to be sensitive to this.

Plus collaboration tools like Microsoft Sharepoint, the need for real-time reporting which other departments probably have and the need to engage with and provide information for mobile users.  You can’t open my monthly steering group report on a BlackBerry, and that’s a bad thing.

I’m not saying you should go out and adopt all of these in your project now.  That wouldn’t be practical, and probably isn’t right for the culture of your team or your organisation.  However, if there are things on the list above that you haven’t considered for your project, you need to understand why you aren’t using them.  They all tools for your project management toolbox.  As with any project management framework, you don’t have to use everything, just pick and choose what works for you and understand why you are leaving the other bits to one side.

At the APM conference last month I asked the audience if their project management style reflected the way others work in their organisation.  The results were exactly even:  50% agreed, 50% disagreed.  So while some of us are making progress with working in the way others work, there is still a long way to go.  Next week I’ll be looking at the progress we have already made towards closing the gap.

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