Early Signs of Project Failure [Guest Post]

Managing a project is not only about meeting deadlines, but also fostering teamwork, and managing various stakeholders and the multiple communication channels that come with each task. Over half of all projects are generally thought to fail, and according to some estimates, even up to 70 or 80 percent. This is why it’s crucial to recognize early signs of project failure—here are some situations of which you may want to be cognizant.   White Space Risk As Harvard Business Review pointed out, project plans, timelines, and budgets are made to make sure designated activities are carried out properly. However, there is also the “white space risk,” meaning some required activities won’t be identified in advance, and “integration risk,” referring to the risk of the disparate activities not coming together at the end. Harvard’s solution is rapid-result initiatives, and they give an excellent example regarding a sales improvement project.   Improving Workflow Let’s say a goal is to double the sales revenue over a two year period by implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system for a company’s sales force. One team would research and install software packages, another team would analyze customer interaction such as e-mailing, phone calls, and meetings,…

How to Manage Your Time and Overcome the Myth of Multitasking

I don’t need to tell you yet again how valuable your time is. ‘Time is precious’, ‘time is money’― you have heard a thousand variations already. We get it, time is important…so what do I do about it? This article gives you just one perspective on how to manage your time and overcome the myth of multitasking.   “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” ― Charles Darwin, The Life & Letters of Charles Darwin   Make that a thousand and one variations you have heard already! Even Darwin is giving us grief for wasting time now. In reality, who doesn’t waste ‘one hour of time’ every so often? But of course, he has a point, those hours add up and you may find them turning into days or even weeks. That is where it is up to you to draw the line. So now you have decided to do just that, no more wasted time! But what does this mean?  How do you do it?   “Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” ― Peter F. Drucker   While not an exact science, the discipline of time management can…

A Team Built for Collaboration [Guest Post]

Over 25 years ago, I was approached by a loyal client who wanted my team to build a complex application whose goal was an ideal end state (or maybe a dream state to be more accurate) for their business model but how to achieve it (its solution)  was mostly undefined. The continued success of their business was threatened by technology and new competition and depended on the success of this very high risk project. I told my client that we would do the project if he would appoint one of his senior managers to our team. They should understand the business model requirements and be able to represent and make decisions for their business. I would want that manager to join our team as a full time member. I argued that I could not assure success unless the client provided that level of commitment.   The manager was appointed and the project was a success. That was an awesome learning experience for our team and began what would soon evolve into our Co-Manager Model. I have never taken a client project engagement since then without using this Model. Over the years the Model has matured and become an essential tool…

Tracking Project and Non-Project Activities in SharePoint

BrightWork is well known as a wonderful environment to capture all of your project related tasks, and I will provide some info about how to easily and effectively do just that in this article. BrightWork is also a great place to capture, manage, and report on non-project related work (and there’s a lot of that going on every day!) – more about this later on. Tracking Project Work Tracking all of your project work in BrightWork is very straightforward.  Choose a project related template to start from, such as Project Lite/Standard/Structured, or Projects and Work Tracker (among others). Select the type of work you want to track such as Tasks, Goals, Issues, and Risks. Locate the relevant list along the Quick Launch of the project site (down the left side of the page). Create a new piece of work by either clicking ‘New’ towards the top of the list, or by clicking on an existing work item and choose to ‘Edit’ it with any progress you’ve made.         Tracking Non-Project Work Now what about that non-project work I mentioned earlier?  Easy – we have a pre-made template for that named appropriately enough “Work Tracker” (WT). With WT,…

A Quick Guide to 9 Essential Project Documents

What is going to be more successful –  a project with two or three project documents or a project with hundreds of project documents? Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” answer to that question; a well-run project may need either and all of the in-between. Projects can vary in size, deliverables, life cycle, scope and that is just the tip of the variable iceberg. What is certain is that project documentation should be clear, relevant and up to date. This will ensure all project stakeholders are on the same page at the same time. Expectations, requirements, resources and risks should be obvious to all from the outset. I recently asked some of my wider community for tips on project documentation and I have summarized my findings in the blog post below. Enjoy and feel free to add your own tips and thoughts in the comments section too!   Questions to Ask Before you Start Project Documentation Prior to kicking off the gathering or developing of project documentation, it is important you first have an understanding of why the project is happening and what type of governance the project may require. This will determine how much and what type…

5 Quotes to Improve Data-Driven Decision Making

Most of our decisions are made on gut instinct in a matter of seconds and usually less than a minute. This is the most common way to make a decision. It’s often said the best ideas are the ones that come from your gut, but when you start making more tactical decisions within your business, then data always helps. Data is more than just facts and figures. Data is everywhere. There’s more data available now than ever before, and we are continuously striving to stay head of the curve in an increasingly data-driven decision making world. Data can align your team members, improve collaboration and ultimately enhance your organization’s bottom line. With this, the increasing opportunity to collect, interpret and leverage digital information, has led many managers and leaders adapting to how they make decisions – relying less on intuition and more on data. Data vs. Opinions When it comes to making decisions, your colleagues and team members have their own distinct strategies. The more experience we gain, and the more time we spend at a job, the more opinionated we become. How many of you can relate to the quote from James Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape, who famously said “If we have data, let’s look at data. If…

How to Improve Your Project Leadership with Coaching and Mentoring

Taking an active approach to the development of your leadership style is critical to collaborative project management. You need to cultivate a wide range of practices to use in different circumstances to nurture and guide the team in the right direction. Depending on the situation, you may opt to coach or mentor an individual to achieve the desired result. In this article, I will explore the differences between coaching and mentoring, and outlines best practice tips for these techniques. Before we begin, it’s important to understand when to use coaching and mentoring with your team.   Situational Leadership: Show, Coach, and Mentor As discussed in Collaborative Project Management: A Handbook, you can either show, coach, or mentor an individual towards an agreed outcome. In order to determine which path is best, you need to decide what is really happening. Here are four possible spectrums to consider. Capability Spectrum: Sometimes, team members are capable, competent, and able to do the job at hand. Other times, they are not capable or trained for the tasks ahead. Willingness Spectrum: There will be days when you will find team members energetic, enthusiastic and very willing. These are often followed by lazy, lethargic, and unproductive days. Time Pressure…

Still Using Excel Spreadsheets for Project Management? [Guest Post]

Executive Overview I have the privilege of seeing so many great projects and solutions. BrightWork Collaborative Project Management Framework and software are no exception. I first was introduced by BrightWork to Éamonn McGuinness, who has the vision of making successful project and portfolio management possible and easy for every organization. BrightWork has been providing project management solutions with SharePoint since SharePoint 2001. I learned more about BrightWork through the free downloadable Collaborative Project Management Handbook. Immediately I found some very useful insights including an open process for managing post mortems. I’ve been in some companies who fear failure and met many in those companies who would never willingly admit their mistakes. In one company we had regular post mortems whenever there were outages, but also a moment after every project where we took time to reflect on the project and talked about highlights and low lights. Let me tell you just how different the experience is when you’re on a team where collaborative project management processes are implemented. Everyone has a voice. Failure is not an ultimate risk that plagues someone never to be trusted every again. All members of the team can provide leadership through collaborative mechanisms and have…

Managing the 2017 Epic Upgrade Project for Group Health Cooperative [Guest Post]

As a Project manager, have you ever managed a project where you find yourself a bit out of your comfort zone due to your lack of subject matter knowledge? As most of the projects I manage are focused on the Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin (GHC) business, I find this happening to me more often than not. Managing projects that are specific to Supply Chain Management, Financial Systems or GHC’s electronic medical record software (Epic) are not business areas that I have previously had career experience in. As such, it has been critical for me to use a tool that is both flexible and customizable so that projects can be built out in ways where team members can participate in a meaningful way to ensure that the project documentation is accurate and tells the true story of a project from start to finish.   What is the GHC Epic Upgrade Project? For those of you that may not be aware, 190 million patients have a current electronic health record in Epic. The Epic electronic medical record software is used in; hospitals, retail clinics, skilled nursing centers, rehab centers, hospices and many other types of organizations across the globe.…

Is SharePoint 2016 Worth the Upgrade? [Guest Post]

As with every new year, we’re asked to consider if the software and hardware we’re using is out of date or will be able to do just fine despite the calendar change. As always, you have to balance out the cost of upgrading both in money and in time as you transition to new user interfaces, features, layouts etc. versus the cost of using potentially outmoded technology. Lucky for us, data security upgrades make the question ‘is SharePoint 2016 worth it?’ an easy one to answer. With today’s emphasis on data in all facets of business from advertising to product design to team collaboration and organization, keeping that data safe is of the utmost importance. Nothing can shut down your business faster than a bad breach. While SharePoint 2016 offers a tonne of features both new and updated, one of the biggest upgrades is on the security side of things. Working remotely and safely in the cloud and onsite are just some of the benefits that SharePoint 2016 offers its users. Whether you’re one of the 75,000 customers or 160 million non-paying users, SharePoint 2016 is a great tool to help keep your business running in top form. SharePoint Keeps…

REP: 3 Steps to Successful Collaborative Project Management

 “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo   As you start a new month and a new quarter, it’s a good time to think about your goals and any changes you would like to make, both professional and personal. Is there a new skill you would like to learn, or a habit you wish to form? Is there an element of your collaborative project management approach that needs some attention? Perhaps you already know what you need to work on but don’t know where to start? Quite often, people struggle to make long-lasting, meaningful change. At BrightWork, we have crafted the “REP” approach to personal change management. REP stands for Research, Execute and Post-Mortem. REP is a play on the word ‘repetition’ and is a very simple but effective personal change management process. Effective project management involves more than developing and following a plan; you must invest in your leadership skills and personal development. REP is the key to this challenge.     Research Phase The purpose of the research phase is to gather new knowledge…

5 Ways BrightWork Transforms SharePoint Into a Project and Portfolio Management Solution

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you have lots of projects happening in your organization, across several teams, departments and maybe even regions.  And it might not be a stretch to say you’re already using SharePoint for document management and basic collaboration. Why not leverage the SharePoint platform to manage projects and portfolios in a simple and practical way? Here at BrightWork, we’ve built a project management solution that plugs right into SharePoint to help you get up and running quickly with project management on the platform.  The project and portfolio management templates bring together all the project data floating around in email, Excel, and various tools, and turn it into robust reporting dashboards in SharePoint. In this blog, you’ll see five key ways that BrightWork transforms SharePoint from that basic file sharing platform you might have thought it was… into a complete project and portfolio management solution. 1. Easy to Navigate Project Hierarchy Those of you familiar with SharePoint will know that you can build out the environment with a set of sites and subsites.  BrightWork builds on this concept and helps you organize all your projects into a logical hierarchy.  Below is a sample image…

Are Your Projects Making a Fool of You?

Mix a little foolishness with your prudence: It’s good to be silly at the right moment – Horace. Although little is known about its history, April Fools Day has led to some very creative pranks over the years. Unfortunately, as a project manager, you may feel like April Fool’s Day never ends! Take a break from your project and enjoy our favorite funny project management videos.   Dilbert struggles with unrealistic assumptions using a magical wardrobe!   Watch for a few handy tips to deal with ‘experts’.   I’m sure you will identify with a few of these personalities!   A very insightful piece.   Image credit 

How to Use Project Data for Better Decisions

Project management is the art of decision making. Every project needs a decision maker, the person responsible for making the big decisions – the project manager. The project manager is faced with multiple choices and should strive to choose the best option. However, when a decision is made, it triggers events that the decision-maker has no control over. Each combination of choices is followed by unique events which lead to an outcome with some measurable value. As Deepak Chopra, Founder of the Chopra Foundation, warns in his article “The Secret to Making Good Decisions” “One good decision can have positive repercussions for years, but so can one bad decision.” As the project manager, how do you present your choices as the best options that will lead to the greatest outcomes? You simply need to get the most accurate project data! Accurate project data will tell you what has happened, what is happening and what may happen. You can sometimes find this information through talking or meeting with the key people; stakeholders, project members, colleagues and team members. Another option is to look at reports and documents to understand what has or is happening. This will give you a snapshot from a point…

6 Ways to Improve Project Communication [Infographic]

Communication can make or break your project. Research conducted by the Project Management Institute (PMI) found that ineffective communication was the main contributor to project failure one-third of the time, and had a negative impact on project success more than half the time. Check out our infographic for six handy tips to improve project communication.     If you want more tips and ideas to improve project communication within your team or organization, check out some of our most popular blog posts: How to Tackle Poor Project Communication: Understanding the roots of poor communication and the impact of this risk is critical to developing a communication plan that works. 6 Ways to Improve Team Motivation: Communication plays a vital role in motivating and engaging project teams. Managing Distributed Project Teams [Infographic]: Global Workplace Analytics estimates that around 3.7 million employees (2.8% of the workforce) work from home at least half the time. This means that many project managers now oversee distributed teams. However, communication and collaboration can become even more challenging when dealing with distributed teams. Dealing with Conflict in Project Teams: According to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), managing conflict is one of the biggest challenges a project manager…

3 of the Worst Decisions Ever Made: A Failure Analysis

Decisions are one of the most unavoidable things in life; each and every one of us face them every single day. There is an old Dutch proverb that goes “he that has a choice has trouble”. Of course, decisions vary in importance and some are more difficult than others are but we can never truly anticipate the ultimate consequences. However, as Peter Drucker once said, “Whenever you see a successful business” you already know that “someone once made a courageous decision.” Replace the  word ‘business’ with ‘person’ or ‘project ’and the phrase still holds true: Whenever you see a successful person or project…’a courageous decision or decisions were made’. These decisions often go awry and lead to failure, but making good decisions comes from experience and experience comes from learning from your bad decisions and failures. Here are 3 of the worst decisions ever made, which all come with valuable lessons in decision making, so let’s do a ‘failure analysis’. Ross Perot turns down Microsoft Source When he described this move as being “one of the biggest business mistakes I’ve ever made”, Ross Perot was making something of an understatement. In 1979, Perot’s Electronic Data Systems was worth about $1…

6 Ideas to Improve Your Project Resource Management

Resource Management is all about getting the right people, equipment, and materials in the right place at the right time. This is a top challenge for project managers everywhere! Lack of proper resource planning can lead to resource shortages during project execution, which can quickly derail or halt a project. The following resources will help you to identify, allocate, track, and optimize resources on your project.   What is Resource Management? 6 Definitions: Make sure you understand these six core principles of resource management – Resource Levelling, Critical Chain Planning, Resource Capacity Planning, Resource Tracking, Resource Communications, and Resource Commitments – before tackling your next project.   Do You Know This Simple Approach To Resource Management?: In  this blog article, PMO expert Ken Martin outlines a top-down and bottom-up approach to resource management. The use of both approaches together helps to refine sizing criteria for projects so an organization can determine resource allocations.   A Quick Resource Management Guide [SlideShare] explores a four-step resource management process: Plan, Acquire, Notify, and Retain.   How to Track Resources in SharePoint with BrightWork: Did you know you can use SharePoint as a portfolio management tool, rolling up crucial data from your projects into unified…

7 Irish Sayings to Make You a Better Project Manager

On March 17th, communities around the world gather together to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s most famous holiday.  As a nation, the Irish are well-known for having ‘the gift of the gab’,  a natural ability to speak in an entertaining and persuasive way. With that in mind, I have put together a list of seven Irish sayings to inspire you and your project team. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!   However long the day, the evening will come Meaning: We all struggle with projects that seem to go wrong at every turn. By its very definition, a project has a start and end date so just hang in there – the project will finish at some point.   You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind Meaning: Procrastination is the enemy of a productive project team. Spending too long planning a project, worrying about risks, or delaying a task until the time is right means you will never get any work done.   Three best to have in plenty – sunshine, wisdom, and generosity Meaning: Whilst we cannot control the weather, maintaining a positive attitude and practicing generosity whenever possible can elevate your overall mood and outlook. This…

How to Reduce the Impact of Cognitive Biases on Project Decisions

Have you ever taken your friends to your favorite restaurant only to be surprised that they didn’t like it? Maybe you recently changed your car and now it seems everyone is driving the same model! Did you ever want to leave a bad movie early but stuck it out as the ticket was expensive and you wanted to get something in return? Well, I have experienced all of these situations, and I am sure you have too. These scenarios are classic examples of cognitive biases, mental shortcuts that influence how we perceive the world, interact with others, and make decisions. As project management is so reliant upon effective decision making, understanding the impact of cognitive biases and how we can overcome these limitations is an extremely useful tool for project managers and teams.   The role of Cognitive Biases Whilst there are numerous examples of cognitive biases, it is useful to understand why we rely on these flawed systems in the first place. The purpose of a bias or mental shortcut is to save mental time and energy when making a decision. Cognitive biases address four key issues: Too much information: We generate over 5 quintillion bytes of data daily,…

5 Women Leading the Way in IT Project Management

International Women’s Day (March 8th) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action. It marks a call to action for gender parity – not only for International Women’s Day, but for every day. This aim for equality infiltrates all industries and roles, including project management. In 2015 The Institute of Project Management Ireland published findings from their annual survey of practitioners that were eye opening: “41% of the respondents and practitioners were women” “When questioned about their role in Project Management, women were more likely than men to consider project management as their primary profession, though they were less likely than their male counterparts to work exclusively on projects, being more likely to spend 25-50% of their time working in Project Management related activities, and the remainder of their time in other roles.” “Looking at the variety of projects and teams, women are slightly more likely to work on a wider variety of projects compared to their male counterparts.” “When questioned about the type and value of projects undertaken, women are more likely to work on projects of a shorter duration and of a lower monetary value than their…

Decision Making: 3 Approaches to Help You Make “The Right” One!

Decision making is hard. I put my hands straight up and admit, I am one of those people who always want to make “the right” decision. How do you make the right decision? “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” – Mark Twain But how many people want to admit this – who wants to make a bad decision? The quote above is one I have to remind myself about, every time I have a big decision to make! Decision making is a task which faces us everyday, through personal decisions and professional decisions. For this part of my post, I will be referencing one of the newly added chapters to the Collaborative Project Management Handbook, Second Edition – Make Good Decisions. Making good decisions is a key part of project management and furthermore, making transparent decisions with your team is a critical part of collaborative project management. Project teams are staffed with intelligent team members from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines who expect to be involved in the decision making of a project. With this, decision points occur at all five stages of collaborative project management. As a project manager, you need to merge…

Has Technology Helped with Workplace Mood?[Guest Post]

If you’ve ever worked in a company with dated technology, you know how this can be frustrating. Still, when most employers think of boosting morale, they think of things like team-building exercises and extracurricular activities. These things usually provide some lift, but their effects are likely to be temporary in the absence of adequate technology. Technology Symbolizes Forward Movement When a business isn’t investing in technology, they are sending the message that they do not have the funds or desire to advance their business. Naturally, employees who work for unmotivated employers are more likely to suffer from a morale deficiency. Employees Trained on Technology are More Efficient Technology can be a helpful tool in training most workers. With online software programs and tutorials, employers can provide a thorough and consistent training experience. Employees who are well-trained are more confident in their jobs and feel more secure about their place in the company. They are also more likely to see a career path for themselves at the company, which can help improve their overall mood. Technology Naturally Boosts Productivity Think about the difference in time it would take to handwrite and hand-distribute a company memo versus sending a simple email. This…

How to use Consensus Decision Making for Project Management

Recent research suggests that we make around 35,000 decisions every day, ranging from the mundane (what to have for breakfast) through to potentially life-altering situations (accepting the offer of a new role). Add individual experiences and biases, time constraints, pressure from various sources and many other variables to the mix, and it is little wonder that we suffer from decision fatigue! However, we cannot avoid making decisions, especially when delivering collaborative projects. Effective project management relies upon individuals and teams making informed decisions on a regular basis; which project should we start next and why? What are the requirements for this project? How should the team manage resources? How often will the team meet to discuss progress? Who is responsible for liaising with stakeholders? As a project manager, you also need to decide if you will involve your team in decision making, and if so, to what extent. Consensus decision making – the idea that each person will support the implementation of the decision, regardless of whether or not he/she agrees with the decision – is a collaborative approach that overcomes many of these challenges. In this post, I will outline the steps and skills required for consensus decision making in project…

Why We Love Project Dashboards (And You Should Too!)

As a project manager, I am sure you have spent countless hours sifting through project data to prepare various reports for senior executives and stakeholders. You may even have felt like Dilbert from time to time:     Project reports are only useful if they provide easy access to actionable information. Project dashboards – a high-level summary of a project – can really help managers, teams, and executives review, monitor and manage a project on an ongoing basis, reducing the need for constant manual reporting.  If you don’t want to be like Dilbert, read on to learn more about project dashboards and their benefits!   Project Management Dashboards A project management dashboard provides a high-level summary of the project, allowing project managers to track the progress of the project against the original plan and deal with any risks or issues.   Project dashboard benefits include: Increased visibility for managers and senior stakeholders in one place. Depending on your solution, you can also use automated reports, KPIs/traffic-light indicators, metrics scorecards and other views for even more information. Ability to drill-down for additional information as needed. This can also be configured to an individual’s role, which prevents team members becoming lost in…

A Three-Step Framework for Collaborative Project Management

Project management has been around for centuries. From the Great Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China through to the Industrial Revolution, the construction of the Transcontinental Railway, and other contemporary feats, projects have always been a route to transformation and change. This should mean that we are all brilliant project managers, adept at leading projects and teams to success. Unfortunately, as these examples of failed projects prove, this is simply not the case. Project management is not going away but it’s not getting any easier! So what’s the solution? How can project managers and teams overcome the many challenges and obstacles facing projects to achieve their goals? Collaborative project management, which emphasizes teamwork and cooperation, may hold the answer. In this article, I will explore the benefits of collaborative project management and outline a three-step framework to help you implement this approach with your team.   Project Management Challenges “Health warning! Project Management does require a determination to keep going to the end, as there will be difficult periods on most projects”, Eamonn McGuiness, BrightWork CEO and author, ‘Collaborative Project Management: A Handbook’. I am sure that many of you are nodding vigorously whilst reading the above…

BrightWork Launches the 2nd Edition of Their Collaborative Project Management Handbook

Today, BrightWork launched the second edition of their book, Collaborative Project Management: A Handbook. In recent years there has been a shift away from the traditional managerial hierarchies to a much more collaborative approach to managing projects, which emphasizes teamwork and cooperation. With that in mind, BrightWork last year published the first edition of their Collaborative Project Management handbook to outline the processes, resources, and leadership skills required to manage projects collaboratively with a team. In this new edition, they have built on the practical guidance in the first book and introduced a three-step framework for implementing collaborative project management in any organization (Collaborate – Lead – Evolve). Speaking about the new edition, Éamonn McGuinness, CEO of BrightWork and book author, explained, “Modern, effective project management is about collaborative project management. It’s people working together, enjoying the journey on the way to an agreed, better destination.” He added that “The handbook is intended as a practical resource for new or accidental project managers, team members, and experienced project managers who need to coach new managers.” What’s inside this expanded edition? This second edition expands on the first version of the handbook and adds: A new 3-step Collaborative Project Management Framework with suggested implementation steps An expanded section on leadership, with new chapters covering Personal Leadership and Situational Leadership.   Praise for…

How to Be an Effective Project Manager in the IT Industry [Guest Post]

What distinguishes mediocre managers from high-quality ones? Mediocre managers are unwilling to do what they expect their employees to do. High-quality managers never ask their employees to do something they themselves would never do. Employees trust the manager who values them as an equal. A strict work hierarchy creates a toxic environment for innovation and job satisfaction. Being a high-quality manager is something that many people are ill-suited for. Why? Once they get to their coveted promotion, they live it big and ignore those under them. Avoid Incompetence Do not be a manager who imitates the failures in management around you. Set an example of integrity and excellence that your employees trust. An important thing to keep in mind are the 7 Habits that Stephen Covey pioneered. The 7 Habits can be applied to transform your workforce. Stephen Covey spoke of how the most effective people put values above impulses. The most ineffective people live entirely on impulses. Make sure that your value foundation is a healthy one by learning from those around you. If you are not taking responsibility for your life, then your employees will not either. What matters most is your example, not your words.   Have…

Make Collaborative Project Management Easier with the Right Tool

Someone once said ‘All right stop, collaborate and listen’. Now if you know your 80s music, you are probably wondering why I’m starting with a quote from Vanilla Ice! Setting aside questionable musical tastes, he has a point. Project teams can only collaborate efficiently by making time to do so. Managers and team members often need to stop, take a step back to figure out what is happening with the project, and listen to each other before moving forward. Sounds easy? There is a catch; many organizations don’t have a central project management tool to make this happen. Let’s take a look at this problem and a solution in more detail (with a little more inspiration from 80s music!).   ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ The lack of a central project management tool creates numerous challenges for project teams such as: Stakeholders need more reports and meetings to stay up-to-date Remote workers are left out of the loop, and struggle to stay on track as the project changes Key files are stored in different locations and formats, making it impossible to know if you have the correct version. Excel is especially tricky to use for project management for this reason!…

How to Use Emotional Intelligence for Enhanced Team Collaboration

If you needed to improve your team’s overall productivity, what would you do? I imagine you may develop project templates; invest in some time-management training; create a collaborative project site; delegate work; help your team prioritize and communicate more efficiently, and so on. Each activity is certainly useful and worth undertaking. But what if these endeavors don’t pay off? Developing an emotionally intelligent team could provide the solution. Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to an individual’s ability to recognize their emotions and understand how these emotions impact on others. An emotionally intelligent team relates to the ability of a group to manage and harness emotions for positive outcomes. An emotionally intelligent team is not simply a combination of individual emotional intelligence and self-awareness, but rather, the result of active team development. Read on to learn more! Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence As noted by Daniel Goleman in his 1998 work, Working with Emotional Intelligence*, each of us only has part of the information and skills we need to do our jobs. We depend on the group mind – the collective experiences, skills, and knowledge within the team – to complete tasks, making collaboration essential to project and organizational success. Indeed, research indicates organizations…

9 Survival Tips for Accidental Project Managers

The title of ‘project manager’ is no longer just confined to those with industry certifications or who have chosen a career in project management. Changes in technology, shifting business needs, and a move towards increased collaboration means that many of us will need to manage projects to be successful in our roles. We will become ‘the accidental project manager’, often parachuted in to take ownership of a project with little or no notice. When confronted with my first major project as a marketer, I failed quite badly! I had no formal project management training and there were no templates or standardized approaches to projects within my organization. I never really thought about project management before then. I still cringe when I think of the mistakes I made! To help you avoid common pitfalls facing the accidental project manager, I asked some of the BrightWork team for their tips and advice. Here’s what they had to say.   1. Planning ”You may want to jump right in and start working, but how do you know you are working on the right tasks?  It’s important to take a breath, assess the goals, and break them down into achievable steps.  Create a plan…

What can Project Managers Learn from Space Exploration Programs?

The human pursuit of the final frontier has been an incredible source of wonder and inspiration for us all over the last number of decades. The imagination, ambition, and dedication displayed by these teams in achieving what was once inconceivable is a magnificent example to all who pursue their goals. For project managers especially, this could be considered the very pinnacle of the discipline. With such high risks and demands, the methods and successes and failures of these pioneers can inform our own project management practices and provide invaluable insights. Here are three projects from high-pressure space programs that project managers can really learn from. 1. Failed Collaboration: NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter burns up in the Martian Atmosphere Source The $125 million satellite was supposed to be the first weather observer on another world. However, a simple communication error and a lack of fact checking led to the orbiter disappearing entirely without ever providing any results. The engineers at Lockheed Martin, who constructed the orbiter, expressed their calculations in ‘pounds’ of pressure’; however, it was standard practice at NASA to use a conversion to ‘newtons’ to do these calculations. The difference in figures caused the craft to travel far too close…

How to Overcome Low Employee Engagement Levels

Attracting, retaining, and engaging employees is becoming an increasing challenge for organizations, which in turn, impacts on project delivery. Employee engagement is used to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of an organization’s approach to human resource management. An “engaged employee” is defined as one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests. A disengaged worker is likely to be unenthusiastic about their job, finding little meaning or value in their role; they are also uninterested in improving the company’s reputation. Collins (2001) declared that the top performing companies prioritize getting the right people in the company before deciding vision, strategy, organization structure and even business tactics. However, the challenge for organizations is to keep employees at a high level of engagement throughout their tenure. This article outlines engagement challenges and success factors, including employee feedback.   Engagement Challenges Gallup’s 142 country study on the State of the Global Workplace (2012) found that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. In other words, only one in eight workers, roughly 180 million employees in the countries studied are psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to be…

Leverage Change Management for Better Projects

If you’re in an organization and you want to do something new, strategic, exciting, challenging or difficult – it’s a project. A project is a way to transform an organization or a group. The essence of project management is change, something individuals will resist for many reasons. They prefer the status quo; they are fearful about job security; they may think they will be unable to learn something new. Realizing the benefits of project deliverables is not as simple as completing assigned tasks and assuming users will embrace the end solution. You must manage the ‘people’ side of the change to ensure that the outcomes are implemented. In this piece, I will explain the role of change management, how it relates to project management, and practical approaches for managing change.   Project Management and Change Management Before going much further, it’s important to understand the difference between project and change management, and how these strategies overlap. Project Management refers to the use of people, processes and methodologies to plan, initiate, execute, monitor and close activities. A project is temporary in nature with a defined start and end date. Projects are once-off endeavors with a specific set of required deliverables. Change…

Using SharePoint for Project Management – An Overview

Microsoft SharePoint is an amazing collaborative platform that can be easily configured to provide a more coordinated environment to track and manage a project with your team. One of the biggest benefits of using SharePoint for project management is that each project site can be set up to match and expose your project management processes. We’ll see what this looks like and how you might get started in this blog.   Free Download: Two Project Management Templates for SharePoint and Office 365   Collaborative Project Sites in SharePoint Below is an example of what an out-of-the-box SharePoint site can look like when configured for project management. Using SharePoint sites to manage a project helps you bring all project information together in one collaborative environment. The project homepage (pictured above), for example, gives you a straightforward dashboard that shows you how the project is doing with a summary of work, goals, project status, and so on. The links on the left-hand side make up the Quick Launch of your different processes. The Quick Launch can be tailored so the grouping and taxonomy mimics the PM process you use in your organization. All of the processes you need can be built right in.…

How to Manage Difficult Conversations with Team Members

Conflict, personality clashes, and other challenges will arise in project teams for many reasons. This can lead to difficult conversations between you, the project manager, and individual team members. These conversations are daunting and unpleasant but often necessary to address the situation, protect team morale, and keep the project on track.  With a little practice and the right strategies, you can navigate difficult conversations to reach satisfactory outcomes. Developing an approach to such conversations is a key step towards project leadership and should be incorporated into your communication plan. In this article, I will outline some tips and ideas to help you prepare for and hold the conversation.   The need for difficult conversations Conflict drains employee resources and wastes time so it is important to know when and how to tackle the situation more directly. Such situations can include: Sudden declines in performance and productivity Inappropriate conduct toward team members or clients Personal problems Complaints from other team members against an individual Personality clashes.   Of course, the best way to address potential issues is to prevent conflict through regular communication and interaction with your team. Watch for warning signs such as lack of engagement in meetings, missed deadlines,…

A Practical Guide to Prioritizing Project Tasks

Ever feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done? In an increasingly connected and demanding business environment, we all feel this way from time to time. Conflicting priorities, unexpected issues, a constant stream of new requests, and a lack of vital resources often means we waste time on irrelevant or unimportant work instead of tackling high-value, meaningful tasks.  A global survey of 1,500 executives found that only 9% were satisfied with how they were spending their time. In addition, only 52% said that the way they spent their time largely matched their organizations’ strategic priorities. Thinking of time as an infinite resource that enables us to complete every task reduces individual, team, and organizational success. If everything is a priority, how do you achieve anything of importance or value? Developing a systematic approach to prioritizing work is your secret weapon in combating too many demands on your time. Read on to learn more about prioritization techniques to use for your own project work, planning team activities, and working with stakeholders. Prioritization 101 Prioritization refers to ‘doing first things first’ by evaluating a group of items and ranking them in their order of importance or urgency. In short,…

Tackling Scrum Agile for the First Time: A BrightWork Approach

If you know Scrum Agile, you may be thinking about introducing this methodology to your projects. To help you get started, I’ll share some experiences and tips following our application of the methodology in 2016. The Need for Change Our team is responsible for developing custom business solutions internally for BrightWork. We have delivered many successful projects over the years without the help of Scrum Agile, so let me start by saying only change your formula if you feel it is going to bring about a real positive change. Giving Scrum Agile a run made sense for us and we felt it was the right fit for some of our development programs. Only change your formula if you feel it is going to bring about a real positive change We wanted a change because we felt more traditional methods of project management were missing a certain versatility. We would begin with a requirement, kick off our development, and come back to the table some time later with a release candidate. We felt we were failing to get adequate feedback from the product owners along the journey but more significantly, the solution we were building never had a chance to adapt…

Millennials: The Heart of Collaborative Project Management

What is collaborative project management? Can you not just identify the need, and then do it? Do we even need project management? Let’s break it down. If you’re in an organization and you want to do something new, strategic, exciting, challenging, difficult – it’s a project. A project is an opportunity to transform. It’s a mechanism to bring you from a starting place to a new interesting place and it’s an action you take to realize your potential and meet your goals. Sounds exciting and invigorating, right? Especially this time of year as we are preparing for, if not already breaking into, a successful 2017. If you want to innovate, succeed and grow – you should explore collaborative project management! Project management is moving away from traditional managerial hierarchies and processes into a collaborative approach which emphasizes teamwork and cooperation. Why? Well, this is mainly due to the shift in personnel due to the growing numbers of millennials joining the workforce. People like myself who have graduated from college over the past 5 to 10+ years, who are looking to innovate, succeed, and grow. We want to make an impact, expect to work for a purpose, and we are willing and…

BrightWork Success – An Area of Expertise Just for You!

At BrightWork, our objective is to make it easy for you to manage projects successfully with SharePoint. This week we took the next step on that journey – BrightWork Success. BrightWork Success is an area of expertise designed specifically to help our customers accomplish more with BrightWork. With one login customers can now easily access an assortment of BrightWork and Collaborative Project Management training, resources, and support materials. If you are a customer, all you have to do to access this exclusive customer content is request access here. Our support team will be in touch once they can verify your customer status. If you are not a customer but want a sneak peek at the BrightWork Success content, simply visit here –  we’ve made some of the material open for you to enjoy too! BrightWork Success Membership includes access to: Help and FAQs An area created by our team so that our community can search for tips and knowledge about the BrightWork solution. Training Guides These training guides provide step-by-step instructions on how to use BrightWork to manage projects and portfolios on SharePoint 2013. Training Webinars These training webinars are 30 to 60 minute long videos that can help you learn how to…

5 Reasons Not to Use Excel for Project Management

Picture this. It’s Friday night. The office is empty. The only sound is frantic typing as you try to prepare a project status report for Monday’s meeting. You have to trawl through spreadsheets, spreadsheets, and more spreadsheets, cross-referencing data you can only hope is correct and up-to-date. The completed report is finally emailed to relevant stakeholders and team members. You can now leave for the weekend, knowing there will be confusion in the meeting as someone will make a change or update to their version of the report which no-one else can see. If this sounds familiar, don’t worry – you are not alone! Spreadsheets are the bane of many projects. Get started using SharePoint for project management for free today. No more spreadsheets and email!  It makes sense that many organizations turn to Excel for project management. It’s part of the Microsoft suite, making it familiar to end-users. Organizations often don’t want to invest in separate project management software, preferring to use readily available systems. In many cases, teams are forced to develop complex templates and workarounds in Excel and are reluctant to try a new method. Whilst Excel is a powerful tool, especially for data analysis, it’s just…

How to Reach Your Goals in 2017

“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” — Fitzhugh Dodson Goals, whether personal or professional, are powerful motivators and opportunities for change.  As we start a new year, it’s natural to reflect on the successes and failures of the past 12 months and to set goals for the coming year. A quick search in Google Trends reveals a predictable increase in searches for ‘setting goals’, ‘New Year’s resolutions’, ‘achieving goals’ and similar terms in the past seven days. New year, new you, right? Unfortunately whilst research from the University of Scranton shows that 57% of people set New Year’s resolutions, only 9% felt they were successful in achieving this goal. There are many reasons why we fail to achieve our goals; setting the wrong goal, trying to do too much too quickly, lack of a realistic plan or giving up at the first hurdle. As a project leader, you need to consider goals from two angles. Firstly, you should establish your own goals and define a plan to achieve these outcomes. This will ensure you remained focused on the road ahead and experience each day with intent. Secondly,…

5 Stages of a Project: Planning and Executing

I recently outlined the five phases of project management defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI) in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) with a particular focus on the first phase, Initiating. In this article, I will explore the next two phases of project management: Planning and Executing. Phase 2: Planning Using the project plan developed in Phase 1, work with your team and stakeholders to develop key documents required for project execution. Planning is vital to the overall health and success of your project so do invest time in this phase. Review and update the following plans: Costs: Estimate costs and create the project budget. Scope: Set the scope including tasks, costs, and outcomes. Duration: This should include ideal and likely timelines. It may be useful to start at the end goal and work backward to develop your timeline. Quality: Decide how deliverables will match the required criteria. Remember – quality is part of the triple constraints that impact on a project. Communication: Develop a detailed communication plan, outlining when and how key communications will occur. This should also include stakeholder engagement. Risk: Revisit the original risk assessment from Phase 1 and refine. Where needed, develop contingencies. Resources: Gather and allocate required resources. Metrics: Determine key reporting metrics and…

Situational Leadership: 3 Easy Ways to Adapt Your Approach

The journey to successful collaborative project leadership has so far included key leadership strategies for project managers and suggestions for positive team dynamics. Another important leadership technique is adapting to the current situation. There are several factors to help you understand the situation and decide what type of leadership is needed. Let’s look at four possible spectrums and three approaches to managing these situations. Four Situational Leadership Spectrums Capability Spectrum: Sometimes you will find the team members capable, competent, and able to do the job at hand. Other times, they are not capable or trained for the tasks ahead. Willingness Spectrum: There will be days when you will find team members energetic, enthusiastic and very willing. These are often followed by lazy, lethargic, and unproductive days. Time Pressure Spectrum: Project tasks are usually high priority or flexible. Environment Spectrum: Some projects live is a very stable and well-regulated environment whilst others occupy a manic, high growth, unstable environment, sometimes reaching crisis point.     Think of the spectrum as moving from positive behaviors on the right to negative behaviors on the left. Your goal is to move team members from the less desirable behaviors to positive outcomes, for example, training…

5 New Year’s Resolutions Project Managers Shouldn’t Make!

Another year, another fresh start and more projects to tackle. If you want to support your team and deliver better projects, here are five resolutions not to make and five that you should! 1. Micromanage the Team If you want to micromanage your team, prepare highly detailed plans, stand over every task, seek constant updates and refuse to delegate work. Your approach is simple: the project will be completed one way – your way! This strategy may sound tempting if you are a new project manager, are trying to manage multiple projects or have experienced failure in the past. Micromanagement often provides an illusion of control. However, the reality is reduced productivity, loss of trust, a team with little confidence, and burnout. Try this: Manage the team, not the tasks. Collaborate with your team by making sure everyone is clear on the goals of the project and their role in achieving these outcomes. Get to know your team so you can assign tasks according to their strengths and weaknesses. If needed, provide constructive feedback and additional mentorship. Trust your team to successfully complete the project.     2. Never Communicate Don’t waste time with meetings, sharing key project information or…

Boost Team Engagement in 3 Steps

I recently outlined 15 ways to cultivate your project leadership style. The next step in developing leadership is team management. The importance of leading and supporting your team becomess even clearer when we consider recent studies and surveys showing that large percentages of the workforce are not properly engaged with their company. If you are interested in these surveys, a good place to start your research is at www.gallup.com. This lack of employee engagement is a sad reality. I really believe that the vast majority of people would prefer to be fully engaged and enjoy work. We spend so much time at work – who wouldn’t want to be happier and more engaged at work? Here are three ways to engage and lead your project team.* 1. Decide on a Team Model The selected model should be consistent with collaborative project management. There are many options to consider depending on your organizational structure and the project. One approach is the formation of project teams within or between departments as needed. Each project has a designated leader. At some point, individuals will lead projects and serve as team members on other projects.   2. Build Team Dynamics – the 4 Cs…

Top Three: Our Most Popular Project Management Webinars of 2016

Every year I say it, “we’ve had the best year yet with webinars here at BrightWork”…and my tradition continues! A fabulous year of top-class content, presenters  and awesome attendees. We covered everything from making project management easy, project visibility and portfolio reporting to and using SharePoint to select and approve the right projects, to cultivating collaboration within distributed project teams…and much more! Prepare for project management success in 2017 and check out our recorded webinars below. Enjoy!   SharePoint + MS Project = The Perfect Combination for Project Collaboration Using SharePoint and Project together, make an invincible platform for collaborative project management! See how you can use SharePoint and Project together to: Start with managing a simple project schedule with tasks, issues and deliverables Evolve to manage a more complex work breakdown structure, with timelines and automated reports Manage across project and portfolios with metrics, dashboards and status reporting   3 Must-Have Skills of a Project Leader Many people believe that managing and leading projects is an innate skill. Not true!   Watch this recorded webinar to learn more about three essential skills that a project manager must have and practice: Time Management Energy Management Email Management Portfolio Management & Resource Tracking Using…

Happy Holidays From Our Family to Yours!

With the holiday season in full swing and as we prepare for the weekend festivities, we spent some time here at BrightWork reflecting upon and celebrating our many blessings and successes! We are grateful for you, our readers, for your constant support and attention. For our customers, who have given us their confidence and the opportunity to serve their needs over the past 21 years. And of course we celebrated together, as employees after another amazing year, laying the groundwork for a very positive start to 2017 – which we are looking forward to already! It has been an unforgettable year. We introduced a new release of BrightWork for SharePoint 2013 and 2016, launched our first book – The Collaborative Project Management Handbook, with proceeds going to Concern Worldwide and we even redesigned our website – with a surprise coming to it early next year. As we are closing the year, extreme excitement shines through us all – wait until you see what we have planned for 2017! From us all here at BrightWork, we wish you a happy holiday season accompanied with a healthy and happy new year!

15 Ways to Cultivate Your Project Leadership Style

If you are a new Project Manager, you really should think about leadership. It is very important to have a set of process steps to deliver successful project management. They will be your map for collaborative project management, without which you will get lost, your project may fail, and your project team will be disappointed in you. But even if you know how to navigate the project management terrain very well, you will need to do so with a leadership style that works for you and also works for collaborative project management. And if you are getting your stripes for the first time, this may be difficult for you. In this article, I will introduce 15 ideas to ways to cultivate your leadership style. In a follow-up article, I will outline elements relating to the team. Project Leadership Practices* Good leadership is a choice you make. Great leaders are not born thus. Great leaders make the necessary investments. Taking responsibility to lead yourself to a better place one day at a time will help you become a strong leader for others. Are you in that good place already or are you prepared to make the commitment to get there? If…

Best of 2016: Our Top 10 Blogs of the Year

After a year of fantastic content on the BrightWork blog, here are our top 10 most popular articles from 2016. The posts cover a range of project management and leadership topics such as communication, report writing, motivation, and SharePoint use.  We are looking forward to another great year of project management content in 2017. Thank you for reading!   How to Tackle Poor Project Communication Unsurprisingly our most popular article of the year! In this post, Grace addresses one of the most challenging issues for project teams: poor communication! The article offers practical approaches to dealing with this issue and enhancing team communication to a level of collaboration needed for project success.   7 Steps For Effective Report Writing Report writing. Another bane of the project manager’s existence! This post offers 7 simple steps to make your report writing more effective and stress-free. This is really an area many of us could improve on for 2017!   4 Quick Steps to set up SharePoint for Project Management In this post, Billy makes a great case for using SharePoint to support your project management practices. He offers us four simple steps to setting this up and even provides two fantastic SharePoint…

6 Reasons to Rethink Business Processes for Improved Projects [Guest Post]

During project planning, individual tasks can seem simple. However, as the project progresses, more tasks inevitably get added to the workload. Some of the tasks become more complex, making the entire process unwieldy and placing your project at risk. Taking some time to review and improve processes can really simplify the work needed to deliver a project. In some cases, it’s possible to automate some of the more rote tasks and use the structured workflow to keep things running smoothly. Business process re-engineering is a management strategy focused on analyzing and re-structuring workflows within an organization. Usually issues follow the introduction of a new product or service, new upper management, or new technology. When a pattern of inefficiency appears, project managers should promptly rethink how work is done in order to improve productivity and cut costs. Here are six areas to consider. Identify the Problem Identified issues could be due to some common causes: One department may use more than its share of resources. Busy schedules don’t allow time for process changes. Failure to recognize the extent or nature of problems. Inadequate employee training. Outdated or insufficient technology, tools, or infrastructure. Bureaucratic policies that create delays. Staff are not engaged or…