Collaborative Project Management

July 19, 2010
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It’s funny how old habits die hard. Consider the following:

It’s funny how old habits die hard. Consider the following:

  • I can’t seem to wean some of my tech-savvy friends off email when they should just know better.
  • My dad still checks his stock quotes on television.
  • Many are using old versions of Microsoft Excel or Project to manage their enterprise-wide system deployments, upgrades, and other information management (IM) endeavors.

To be sure, each of these tools was powerful “back in the day” and, truth be told, they still can get the job done. Sort of. With regard to MS Project and Excel, even “older” versions contain essential functionality when it comes to tracking resources, producing reports, etc.

Old School Tools

But there’s always been something that’s frustrated me about these applications. (No, not that Microsoft makes them. I’m a big MS guy. We can discuss the reasons over beers sometime.) Rather, these tools just didn’t allow for easy collaboration, something part and parcel of the MIKE2.0 framework. Typically, one person held the “master” file (.XLS, MPP) and either kept it close to his/her vest or sent it around to team members for updates.

The following process wasn’t terribly uncommon:

  • Team member sits down and manually update tasks on massive project plans
  • Team member sends said updates to some type of PM or administrator
  • Invariably, t eam member needs to explains that updates are not in sync anymore
  • Repeat above process every week or so

It just seems so 1990s…

Disclaimers

Now, Office 2010 with its web-based front end may address the linear nature of updates to each tool. To be honest, however, I’m too lazy to look it up right now–and Project isn’t part of the main Office suite. There’s no way that I’m going to be an early adopter for the 2010 version. I’m still shell-shocked over the drastic GUI change from Office 2003 to 2007.

Also, note that this post only uses a particular product (Comapping) as an example of new PM tools and a new mindset. I could just have easily picked another tool.

Project Management 2.0

There are many new web-based apps out there to manage large projects. From what I can tell, they do a much better job than the relics of years’ past. I’ve kicked the tires on a few and been fairly impressed. I recently spoke with John Kyle at APE Software and he mentioned that his organization uses Comapping. I started playing around with it and created this completely incomplete “plan.”

The visual and collaborative nature of the tool just blew me away. Yes, you can share your screen with others and “co-create” a plan or make changes in real time. There are other really neat features that, from my perspective, would facilitate collaboration, communication, and effective project management. These are all admirable goals.

Tools alone don’t ensure that a project will come in under budget and at or ahead of schedule. Many things can still derail projects of all sizes, scopes, and sorts. No one’s disputing that. But doesn’t it stand to reason that a better PM tool (whichever you choose) will allow for collaboration? To me, Agile projects just don’t fit neatly into the Gantt Chart type of mentality.

Think of this in terms of a golf analogy. You give me the world’s best clubs and I’m not breaking 80. I’m just not that good. However, let’s say that:

  • You show me how to swing properly
  • I practice
  • and I have a great set of clubs

Isn’t success more likely?

Feedback

What do you think?

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