How we do things better at thedocyard

Here we are at the start of another new year and we’re looking at how to do things better, build on what we’ve achieved, learn from previous mistakes and make smarter decisions.  I thought I’d take this theme to our project team and ask them what they thought are some important but overlooked issues when implementing project plans.

Their response was,  “Keep it real”.

I asked for clarification because, otherwise, this was going to be a pretty short article.

To paraphrase, here’s what came back:

” You’re the project manager: you’ve got the project scoped, you’ve distributed a meticulous and attractively presented document with vision, goals, strategies and requirements all dot-pointed and right-justified – there’s even a road-map! But when the flag goes down and the people working on your plan have to jump from one project ‘vehicle’ to another at full-speed -? It gets tricky. “

So the ‘keep it real’ response is actually a logistical challenge: how do you – the project manager – track  “where are we now” with simultaneous projects in real time?

Automate as much as possible

Task delegation is one thing and tracking who has done what, and when, for each task is another. (Just ask your admin support who’ve had to chase down multiple spreadsheets and trawl through email attachments to give you a view on what the situation was last week.)

Every project needs a task list broken down into steps with a scheduled due date, and you – the project manager – need a birds-eye view on how those tasks are tracking overall now, not five days ago.

Keep it real by acknowledging that team members are jumping from one priority to another. It’s too common that integral tasks are left incomplete, eventually accumulating into a big, messy pile of unfinished business and everyone is wasting time trying figure out where they are and then playing catch-up.

Use a tool where tasks can be delegated and where scheduled due dates ‘tick over’ to overdue automatically, thereby raising a flag before a missed step becomes a problem.

Collaborate, don’t duplicate

This is really about shared platforms: it’s about getting teams to talk to each other but not necessarily at the same time or in one place (cross-border teams, collaborating across multiple time-zones, for example).

By using digital tools where the latest updates on shared tasks are immediately visible to everyone responsible, with a recorded task’s history(who said what, when), all involved team members can see which task are we aT and what the next step is, or should be.

What about multiple parties all collaborating on editing files? Easy. Use a check-out and check-in facility that shows the file is currently being edited.  When the file is checked-in, the version number should reflect that a new iteration has arrived.

Measure twice, cut once

It’s an old DIY adage but just as appropriate for project management.  Your shiny new plan may have all the KPIs documented but who’s double-checking those measurements as the project proceeds?  Surely not the overworked admins?!

As any experienced carpenter will tell you, you need the right tools for the job. Use best-of-breed technology that records, tracks and delivers real-time information on actual activity within your project: who’s logged in, for how long, what did they look at, what did they edit, download or upload? What questions have been asked, by whom, when, on what subject, and has anyone answered it?  

The list goes on.  The job of tracking actions underpins your metrics: how can you measure if you don’t have an accurate record of what the real situation is?

Drive those dashboards

That ‘birds-eye’ view that I mentioned earlier – that’s a dashboard.  A project dashboard is the summary page and it should be very easy to drill-down into that information to interrogate your data. Not only that, but your teams need to have their own version of the dashboard, providing an uncluttered focus on the aspects of the project that they’re working on.

The value of dashboards as a project management tool can’t be overlooked, particularly when dozens of teams are working on multiple projects simultaneously.

Be security smart

Online security is a HUGE issue and yet – even after incidents such as Facebook, PageUP and My Health Records – online users seem oblivious to how easily their data security can be compromised. They’re using emails to send confidential information, sharing documents on insecure platforms, broadcasting sensitive information that can be used for spear phishing attacks.

Be smart with your data and only use secure platforms for sharing sensitive documents and tasks. Use security features such as two-step authentication, reputable password generation and storage tools and leading-edge virus checkers.

Most important of all, educate yourself on how cyber criminals operate and the psychological tools used to penetrate your operations. That last piece of advice could save your business.

I hope that’s been helpful! We’d love to know your thoughts on what aspects of project management are overlooked, often forgotten, or misunderstood. If you like how we do things at thedocyard, head over to our 30-day trial!

Have a productive 2019 – all the best for your projects.