How can collaboration and emergent structures do the routine job for you?

Andrew Filev , Wednesday, April 23, 2008
In my previous post I wrote on gaps in efficiency of traditional project management tools. The major problem with these tools is that they are not flexible and that they do not leverage collaboration. These tools created lots of additional routine operations the project manager should perform. Many of these operations are connected with project planning and updating project plans.

Why plans become obsolete and useless

The way a project plan is structured can play a major role in how the project is delivered. In real life any employee has his own view on the ongoing projects. This means different perspectives and different access. For example, if we speak about a product development project, the designer has his perspective of all the design tasks, including the design of the Product A.

Each developer is the team sees the development perspective of the just one product.
The product manager has the picture of all the products.

The project manager has his view of the entire project plan that includes products as well as project phases.

Traditional project management software with one-to-many work breakdown structure, like Microsoft Project, can hardly accommodate more than one person conveniently, not to speak of many projects and departments. This inconvenience makes the old project management software less usable and thus people become hesitant to check plans and update them regularly. In turn it leads to problems with adoption and obsolete project plans. There needs to be a better way to organize tasks, information and projects.

Project management 2.0 software helps you structure your project plan the most effective way

Project management 2.0 tools have fewer restrictions. They let structures emerge, without strong central control. In collaborative planning tools, like Wrike, hierarchies are many-to-many, in contrast to the one-to-many hierarchy in Microsoft Project. 

Collaborative planning tools allow team members to create lists of project-related tasks. Later these tasks can be edited and updated by the team members. Some of the tasks can be shared among the team members, so that the whole team has the big picture of the project. The to-dos of all the team members are automatically merged into project plans. These plans become the part of the strategic plan. Thus separated emails, tasks and plans are collected by the software into a bigger picture that becomes a master plan or a multi-face work-breakdown structure of the whole organization.

Collaboration planning tools, like Wrike allow having different views of the same schedule and applying different work-breakdown structures to it. That makes it really easy to reorganize tasks and evolve the schedule. Project plans become more flexible, which means that a project manager and his team can react to changes going on inside and outside the organization much faster. This agility helps to bring iterative and incremental practices into project management without giving away the control.

Project management 2.0 tools allow you to start with a structure with one item and evolve it into a model that perfectly suits the project. This helps project managers to apply elements of bottom-up planning and take advantage of collective intelligence.

Empowered by emergent structures and collective intelligence, project managers can combine field knowledge coming bottom-up with the guidance coming top-down. There is also a significant benefit for top managers: emergent structures allow them to get complete visibility that bridges the gap between strategic corporate plans and daily to-do lists of employees. Complete visibility helps to react to changes going on in business environment faster, thus the whole organization becomes stronger and more competitive. 

Comments (2)

  • Chris, Wednesday, 30 April, 2008
    I am wondering what other companies/tools you see being the PM 2.0 space. This would include, but is not limited to, those companies you see as competitors, or even those companies who see you as a competitor.

  • Andrew, Wednesday, 30 April, 2008

    There are a lot of tools that have partially implemented PM2.0 vision. They are starting from generic collaboration tools like wikis and ending up with enterprise project management tools like Microsoft Project Server. The problem with other project management tools is that they typically rely on a single work-breakdown structure and/or separate project workspaces, so they do not allow harnessing the full power of collective intelligence and emergent structures in the organization. The problem with generic tools is that they can not do the simplest project management tasks like reporting overdue tasks. Wrike closes the gaps in this space: Bridging the Three Gaps in Project Management. To the extent of my knowledge there is no other product that does it.
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Andrew Filev

Andrew Filev is an experienced project manager and a successful entrepreneur. He has been managing software teams since 2001 with the help of new-generation collaboration and management applications. The Project Management 2.0 blog reflects his views on changes going on in contemporary project management, thanks to the influence of collaborative web-based technologies. More >>

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