Many analysts, including myself, say that project management 2.0 tools make teams more productive and make organizations agile and more competitive. But does this mean that they prevent project failure?
Probably not. There are several aspects of project work, including tools, processes and people. Project managers still ague which one is the most important.
Experts say that individual and team motivation is the leading factor affecting the productivity of a project team. Indeed, the Guide to PMBOK cites the ability to motivate people as one of the key skills a project manager should obtain. This is confirmed by many project managers with hands-on experience. One of them, Pawel Brodzinski, says that project success depends mainly on people, i.e. the project team. It’s hard to disagree with his point that there are situations that even the best project management methodology fails to predict. In this case, you can only count on people. Count on their dedication, commitment, flexibility, creativity, communication abilities, will, experience and knowledge.
However, even organizations that consider project teams their most important assets often complain about productivity of their staff and admit that even the best teams sometimes fail to complete projects successfully.
Perhaps the reason lies in the choice and execution of project processes? Trevor L. Young, in his book “Successful Project Management,” states that for project success, it is essential for everyone involved to commit to using a common set of processes and procedures. Defining project phases, developing project scope, planning, creating of WBS, defining activities, controlling and other processes were standardized years ago, and many organizations look at them as keys to project success. But in real life, there are no two identical organizations when concerning project management process requirements. Because of this organizational uniqueness, project managers often find it a daunting task to adapt to new project environments and leadership styles. Performance is ad hoc and changes with each new project.
Many organizations have developed or adopted what they consider to be the authoritative project management methodology, and in many cases, these methodologies are essentially fine. But, typically, out-of-the-box methodologies, no matter how well thought out, leave room for procedural gaps based on specific organizational and project team dynamics.
Project processes should be supported by efficient project communications and information sharing. Only then will they be correctly executed. Well-organized sharing of information and clear communication helps multiple levels within an organization accept and support the benefits of project team’s actions. This is where tools play a vital role.
According to Andrew McAfee, what we are witnessing today is that, within most organizations, the great majority of consultable digital information is either highly structured (customer order records stored in a database), a reflection of the viewpoints and priorities of the formal hierarchy (newsletters), and/or static (document repositories). As a result, this consultable information does not show the current state of the organization as perceived by its members, nor does it accurately represent their views, skills, judgments, experiences, activities, etc.
In fact, it seems almost incredible how few opportunities people have to generate, modify, share and communicate information freely and widely inside of an organization, especially when compared with their abilities to do the same on the consumer Web. Since so many organizations describe people as their most important assets, it is perplexing why these opportunities are so constrained. Sharing and communicating project information can be even more important, as a project plan has to be quickly adjusted to any changes going on outside of the project. Gaps in information sharing and communication lead to sluggishness, redundancy, inferior decisions and missed opportunities.
This problem can be fixed with the help of the right tools. Project management 2.0 applications open new opportunities for collaboration, by streamlining project communications and improving sharing and collection of project information. Team members contribute pieces of relevant project data to a common project workspace, making them available for everybody to access, use and modify. Project communications via e-mail are integrated into the overall project collaboration process, which prevents loss of any valuable information.
My conclusion will be that all three aspects of a project should be in perfect balance. People, processes and tools are equally important in project management, and the weakness of one element will have an impact on the whole project. The same can be said about project management software. Project management 2.0 tools alone can hardly do the whole job, but they can empower people, and they can catalyze changes in processes.
Which element of project management do you consider the most important? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and arguments in the comments to this post.