Creating Project Management Value with Modern Technology

There’s a broad spectrum of tricks and tools in the enterprise environment that help businesses integrate software, enhance communication and connect staff with stakeholders. The presence of technology in the workplace has gone a long way toward elevating corporate operations to a point where satisfying enterprise needs is far easier to facilitate. To that end, businesses need to be prepared to expand their current networks and accept modern IT opportunities to that they continue to meet expected benchmarks.
Rising to these levels of technological excellence has a significant benefit on the project management life cycle. The presence of advanced tools creates confidence among workforce while leaders are able to execute a level of oversight and control that’s necessary for maintaining fluid flow of tasks without complicating any individual’s work. As the array of IT options in the enterprise landscape continues to expand, businesses should stay abreast of which tools and services are most likely to assist with critical project management needs.
Here are some of the key factors to consider when choosing modern technology for project management.
The core of a team is formed around a common bond among individuals. This center needs to be developed and nurtured, granting employees time to talk with one another, share information about tasks and also provide meaningful feedback to other workers about their own personal interests. By mixing soft talk with enterprise tasks, people begin to get more invested in one another so that the project becomes a primary means of association rather than just an assignment from a manager.
The Tennessean’s J.J. Rosen wrote that communication and interdependence are critical aspects of the project management life cycle. Fostering strong relationships and making people count on one another strengthens bonds and provides a more cohesive work experience. Technological options like social media and cloud computing resources help foster these kinds of interactivity. Mobile devices and advanced networks promote collaboration and ease of use.
A team is nothing without a strong and steady hand to guide it. The qualities of a top project manager are integral to the success of a team, so people in charge need to learn how to generate quality experiences for their workforce instead of just taking control.
To do this, Rosen stated that people at the head of team need to be aware that they must make use of tools that enhance oversight without becoming too far inserted into each person’s responsibilities. Managing metrics from afar and meeting regularly with personnel for updates and open dialog enhance social and control bonds while also putting leaders in a place of omnipotent power.
This comes in handy when using integrated workforce management and financial solutions. The difficulties of controlling a budget, generating schedules, running performance checks and interfacing with stakeholders mean project managers are getting invested in tools that automatically handle routine processes.
Project management has a variety of intricate agents and demands from clients that make them increasingly difficult. To that end, personnel must have access to a similarly diverse set of software and application opportunities. The more companies come to rely on technology and the greater the variety of tools they implement, the more important it becomes that solutions are backwards compatible.
Cloud computing is helping ensure this is a reality that’s easy to obtain. Gero Renker stated in Business Reporter that the cloud has presented a prominent opportunity for project management teams to access, update and implement solutions straight out of the cloud without incurring excessive costs or endangering compatibility. Such flexibility makes it easy for firms to rely on the cloud for mobile integration and remote connectivity.
It’s common for some companies to name their project management teams based on a whim and not so much regarding personal attributes or talents. Pete Harpum of Mannaz stated at a recent conference that even in these situations, it’s essential that companies make use of enterprise training and talent management tools to boost knowledge among workforce. Technology allows businesses to level the playing field in terms of project management capabilities and chances of success regardless of staffing issues.

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Managing the Techies

One of my first projects was managing the launch of an insurance product. Unfortunately, I knew absolutely nothing about underwriting and it was clear that it was going to be a struggle to understand anything in the more technical meetings. So, I buckled down and studied the subject. Of course, I’m not likely to ever be an underwriter but it did help to have some idea of what they were talking about.
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proworkflowSince then I’ve managed a variety of types of projects and it’s always been clear to me that you need a lit bit of knowledge to be able to bring it all together. You don’t need to be an expert (and some would argue that you shouldn’t be as you risk getting sucked into the doing of tasks rather than managing them). But knowing enough so the wool doesn’t get pulled over your eyes is definitely an advantage.
Software projects are a particular challenge because often application development team leaders have the skills to be able to project manage as well. Why do they need a project manager? They manage the day-to-day work of the team, deal with changes, app improvements and upgrades and run all sorts of projects without some interfering career project management who doesn’t even have a background in development waving a Gantt chart at them.
That’s why managing application analysis and delivery projects can be tricky. According to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession In-Dept Report: Enabling Organizational Change Through Strategic Initiatives, projects don’t fail often due to lack of technical expertise (that’s a measly 8% failure rate). But they do fail through insufficient communication (59%) and poor stakeholder management (37%). This is where a project manager can bring a huge advantage to the team.
Let’s look at why a PM is needed and how you can make the best contribution to the technical team.

You manage the project team
Isn’t that the development team leader’s job? Yes, but there are normally lots of other people involved in app projects like testers, marketing people, the brand team, maybe even your in-company lawyers. You bring all of these extra people into the project team and co-ordinate the resources.

You plan the work
Tasks still have to be done in the right order. You can free up the development team leader by doing all the plan management: putting together the schedule and making sure he or she knows what tasks are coming up. The team leader can still delegate work to the right resources and by working together you are saving them a job by removing some of the administrative overhead and making sure work gets done on time.

You manage changes
Pesky customers keep changing their minds. As a project manager, you control the project scope and manage the impact of any changes on the schedule, budget and team. The development team leader is then free to shift the work priorities of the team according to what has been decided but doesn’t have to do any of the change management process. (Although you will want their input into the change analysis.)

You stop the noise
One of the main roles of a project manager is to keep issues, noise and office politics away from the people doing the work. You absorb and resolve all of this so that they have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. You make it easy for them to do a quality job because you’ve deflected and fixed all the problems. OK, you might need their input to make issues go away, but you can do that in a controlled way instead of opening them up to deal with all the interruptions, queries and non-problems that hit the project.

You’re the single point of contact
Allied to the point above, having a project manager on a software development project means that there is a single point of contact. Want to know about the wireframes? Talk to the PM. Need to find out the test results? Talk to the PM. Curious about the sales strategy for the new tool? Talk to the PM.
You can get updates from the team as required – you’ll know who to go to. And it stops the development team leader’s phone from ringing off the hook or from individual developers being asked random questions when they could be focusing on delivering the requirements.
With Computerworld reporting that this year IT Project Manager salaries are up 2.2% on last year it seems that the skills that project managers bring to development projects are being recognised. With a bit of explanation, you should be able to convince that reluctant apps team leader to hand over the reins and demonstrate that you can support and enhance the project with your PM skills.

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Protect Against Creeping Project Scope

Fighting project scope may sound like a fresh breath campaign but it’s more important for project managers who find themselves going over budget and missing deadlines. A little preparation goes a long way (but we can’t promise minty fresh breath when all is said and done).
A Daily Record article promoting a project management training course is just an advertorial but it does provide good insight and thoughts on dealing with the issue. As the article points out, “Managing project scope has a lot to do with establishing limits and defining what needs to be done by who from the beginning, and scope creep only occurs later when these restrictions are exceeded.”
Project scope needs to be set when the project is defined – and not while in the midst of the project. ” Managing project scope has a lot to do with establishing limits and defining what needs to be done by who from the beginning, and scope creep only occurs later when these restrictions are exceeded. The term applies to situations in which additional work is added to the project without corresponding changes to budgets or schedules and this takes a toll on resources, finances and time the project team are able to devote,” is the advice given.
Scope creep is an odd phrase but it has a major impact. “In fact, many failures in project management can be attributed to scope creep and its associated problems, and the ability manage this problem is vital for project managers. There are many reasons for its occurrence too, as sometimes it is the project manager’s fault when requirements are not properly outlined, or the client has allowed extra work to be done without addressing the situation,” the article advises.
MBO Partners, a provider of management services, says on its website:

The early signs of scope creep are visible long before there are scope changes. Warning signs of scope creep include:
Project is vision-oriented but without clearly defined, measurable tasks and/or deliverables
The project does not have a clear business case
Lack of strong executive support
Stakeholders are not involved or supporting the project
Internal project manager lacks experience dealing with size and/or complexity of project
Actual work takes longer or is more complex than initially identified
Issues are not being resolved or require a project change in order to close
So, what can be done to tackle the problem? “Project managers must thus be clear about what the client should expect from the service their organization is providing, thus eliminating confusion later in the day, and specific about the benefits they can expect to enjoy on their end. Without this, the expectations of the client may begin to exceed the actual ability or intentions of the project team and this will inevitably lead to scope creep when these two ideas collide,” the article says.
Of course, some scope creep is inevitable. “Changes are something that happens in almost all projects, and the ramifications of these changes are what a project manager needs to track and manage so as to avoid scope creep from negatively impacting the overall quality of a project. Communication and planning are key here, with a mutual understanding reached between the client and project manager vital to managing shifting requirements and circumstances,” the article concludes.
Project management consultant Shelly Doll, writing at, says not all project scope creep is bad. “For in-house software development, additional features could give your product the edge over your competition. But, that edge is lost if you release a month or two late. Regardless of the perceived effects of scope creep, cost is the bottom line. By controlling your cost of development and by delivering on time, your project can be a success, without compromising flexibility in production,” she says.

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The Business Analyst on your Project

Project requirements? Business analyst. If you are lucky enough to have a BA on your project, then you’ll find that they will do a much better job of the requirements than you probably have the time or inclination to do. The role of the BA changes from company to company but generally they specialize in helping the team understand how the project fits with corporate strategy overall and getting you a top notch solution that meets tactical, operational and strategic objectives. While some BAs tend to focus on requirements elicitation and tracking, others will hold senior, strategic roles and be working with the C-suite to define organizational portfolio improvements. Whatever ‘your’ BA does, whether they are credentialed by IIBA, PMI or no one at all, they will definitely be an asset to your project team.
Let’s think about the BA’s role when it comes to business requirements.

Requirements elicitation
If you’ve ever asked someone what they want from a project and got a blank stare in return, you’ll know why it’s not appropriate to call it ‘requirements gathering’. Requirements aren’t out there to pick off the tree: you have to go and find them and refine them. People often don’t know what they want from a project and one of the BA’s roles is to help them define and articulate what it is that they want, often by looking at the problems they are facing and what could be better about their situation.
Typically a business analyst will have an in-depth understanding of how the organization works, what processes are in use, how different teams hang together and hand-offs between divisions. This can be very useful when it comes to determining process requirements and ensuring that everyone is included in the requirements exercise.

Requirements management
70% of BAs say that requirements management is part of their brief. A BA can follow the requirements through from the initial suggestion to the project’s testing phase. The requirements management plan helps define what has to be done, but you can expect this to generally involve linking the requirements to the testing plan to check that every requirement is tested (and has made it to the final release). Working out how to trace requirements through the lifecycle is something that a BA will be skilled at, and they might use software tools to help keep track of each requirement throughout the life of the project.
Interestingly, only 16% of people who hold a hybrid project management/business analysis role do requirements management. That could be interpreted as people holding that hybrid role don’t have the time or skills to do this properly – another reason why a dedicated BA on your project team has to be a good idea.

Managing risk
A business analyst will often take a holistic view of the project – they see it from end to end as a piece of work contributing business value. Those involved with other project tasks can get sucked into the detail and end up missing that big picture view. As a result, a BA can often spot project risks long before anyone else, especially when you take their detailed knowledge of requirements into account.
BAs will also be a great help when it comes to risk understanding and mitigation. As the business expert on the team, they’ll be able to identify exactly how this risk will impact the project and the requirements and will probably come up with ways that the others on the team haven’t thought of.
Together, you can work on ways to adjust the requirements to mitigate the risk, remove the requirement, or do something else to secure the future of the project. The BA can help with the analysis exercise around the impact of this risk and ensure that requirements and associated documentation, use cases, test cases and so on are all updated accordingly.
Requirements form a major part of a project – obviously – and it’s really important to have someone on the team who is skilled in this area. Without a strong requirements focus you will end up delivering something that is of little (or no) value to the users and all the work on your project will have been for nothing.

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