5 Steps to Create Habits that Last

Think about your day so far. What activities have you completed since you woke up? I imagine this list will include things like brushing your teeth, grabbing a coffee, listening to your favorite radio station on the way to work, checking emails, and listening to your voicemail. Each of these activities is a habit, a regular practice or behavior. 40-45% of our daily activities are actually habits, meaning our life is the culmination of our habits. Developing new, effective habits is key to collaborative project management success.  However, habits are also notoriously hard to form and give up! In this article, I will explore five ways to identify and create new habits that last.   Habits and Successful Collaborative Project Management The importance of personal and professional habits to project management is discussed in a few different contexts in Collaborative Project Management: A Handbook. To summarize, habits are key to: Leadership: Effective leaders actively cultivate a range of positive habits to help guide and nurture their team. Habits help leaders to act consistently, garnering trust and respect from colleagues. REP: Quite often, people struggle to make long-lasting, meaningful change. At BrightWork, we have crafted the “REP” approach to personal change…

Which Collaboration Option is Best in Office 365?

Office 365 has some of the best team collaboration options on the market today. But as you start to use these tools more and more (you can connect Office 365 and BrightWork by the way!), it can be hard to wrap your head around the various collaborative options available.  You could use Teams, Planner, SharePoint, or other some combination of apps and tools! So which collaboration tool should you be using?  How do you pick? I don’t think you should or really even need to pick one winner.  What you have to keep in mind is that with these collaborative tools, each one has slightly different use cases.  In this blog, I’m going to cover three that we utilize here at BrightWork, and how you can use them to suit our different collaboration needs. FREE DOWNLOAD: PROJECT MANAGEMENT TEMPLATES FOR SHAREPOINT AND OFFICE 365 Teams for a chat and conversations Teams is a Slack-like app within Office 365 that provides a chat-based workspace for teams to talk and collaborate.  At its heart, Teams is a messaging app.  You create different “Teams”, or channels, for a department, or a team, or even a sub-set of people working on a particular project.  By default, threads are visible to the entire team…

Top 5 Effective Communication Skills for Project Managers [Infographic]

The word communication has been evolved from the Latin word “communis” which means common, general or public and “communicare” meaning “make something common”. When we communicate, we are trying to establish “commonness” with an individual or a group. We have a requirement to collaborate and share information, an idea or thoughts among the team involved in a project. Communication is an essential process in our day-to-day life, and the entire world revolves around it – and now, effective communication skills are an essential element in the skill set of a project manager. According to the PMI (Project Management Institute), it’s been estimated that project managers spend 90% of their time on communication related activities! The success of a project largely depends on how effective the communication process is. This process beings during the first stage of your project (project initiation) and continues right though each stage into the final stage as you close out your project Communication is not like time, it is not a finite resource – however, we need to use this resource effectively and efficiently. You can never assume that the receiver of information will interpret the message the same way as the sender intended it. Because of…

How to Create a Project Communication Plan

Effective communication is the essence of project management, making a communication plan vital. According to the Project Management Institute, high-performance organizations who finished 80% of projects were twice as likely to have communication plans in place than their low-performing counterparts. If you don’t have a plan or want to update your current plan, read on!   Why do I Need a Communications Plan for my Project? Communication is a “process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior”. Sounds easy? Unfortunately, effective communication is quite rare! Lack of time, personal styles, daily distractions, and assumptions can easily disrupt communication. As pointed out by playwright George Bernard Shaw, ‘’The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’’ A project communication plan is a blueprint for communication processes during your project. The plan should help provide the right information to the right person at the right time in a format that works for them. Having a plan will: Make it easier to secure stakeholder buy-in and support Set expectations with stakeholders, the project team, and external vendors Improve decision making Keep the team up-to-date with current and upcoming tasks Define roles…

Rest More and Do Less to Improve Your Productivity

I have a confession to make: I love being busy. Evidence includes a long to-do list; an even longer list of ideas; a (very) well-walked dog and active weekends running ‘errands’. I’m already stockpiling books for my next vacation!  Like most people, I like feeling engaged, busy, occupied. One task done, let’s start the next one quick! Over time, I came to associate this constant hive of activity with professionalism, effective time management, and accomplishment. I’m not alone in this view; for many, burning the candle at both ends is the hallmark of success. A quick online search reveals a growing obsession with tips and hacks to boost our productivity. And yes, I’ve tried many of these ideas. Two ideas have recently made me reconsider this stance. Firstly, the idea that leisure time was once a marker of success, not constant busyness. Secondly, being busy leaves little room for downtime, which is essential to creativity. We need time to think and reflect. This got me thinking about how I was spending my spare time and the effect on both my personal and professional life. Again, I wasn’t alone. Rest, sleep, leisure time, doing less to get more done – these…

How to use Communication Styles to Drive Project Success

Understanding communication styles is pivotal to executing a successful project. As we have covered on the BrightWork blog before, ineffective communication is the primary cause of project failure 33% of the time and has a negative impact on project success more than 50% of the time according to research conducted by the Project Management Institute (PMI). The most useful skill to develop and use to combat this bane of project success is the ability to understand and adapt to different communication styles, while also appreciating the impact of your own style on a group dynamic. This article will delve into some established schools of thought around communication styles and help you apply them in the context of your project teams. I will begin with the four traditional styles of communication before looking at some more ‘new school’ approaches to communication. As Mark Murphy explained in Forbes, no one communication style is inherently better than another. Picking the wrong style for a particular audience, whether it’s one person or a thousand, shuts down listening and can spell trouble. Learning to build flexibility around your preferred style allows others to more successfully hear the important things you need to communicate. Below are…

4 Simple Steps to Successfully Plot a RACI Matrix

Understanding who is responsible for certain tasks and duties is essential for the success of any project. If these aren’t clearly defined, would anything ever be completed? One relatively straightforward model that can be used to clearly identify roles and responsibilities is the RACI Matrix. RACI is an acronym for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. For each task, an individual or group is assigned one or more of the four types of association. In this post, I outline the 4 associations, steps to create your own RACI Matrix, and reasons you might adjust your RACI matrix. I also provide a brief overview of some variations of the RACI matrix. RACI – The 4 Types of Association Responsible The group, role or individual who is assigned this association is in charge of performing the work. They complete this task. Depending on the size and scale of the project, there may be multiple parties “Responsible” for the task and in many cases, this group, role or individual is also “Accountable” for the task. Oftentimes, it is assumed that the Project Manager is “Responsible” for all tasks when in actual fact they should delegate if possible so that other members of the team…

9 Tips for Facilitating Better Project Meetings

As I sat down to put write this blog post, my mind ran to the poster on the right that one my colleagues shared with me a few years ago. I know it’s a bit facetious, but it does make you think about the purpose and function of meetings in our work day. I’m sure we’ve all been there many times.  We’ve agonized through a meeting we had no business attending.  Or the meeting that had no set agenda to drive the conversation and direct decisions. Or the meeting that attendees were not prepared for, which is both frustrating and counter-productive. However, in the right context with the right agenda and attendees, meetings are a very effective way to move work forward.  But to get the most benefit from a project meeting, they must be facilitated efficiently. 9 ways to facilitate better project meetings Only invite necessary attendees Start by keeping the list of attendees as small as possible and limited to those who absolutely need to be there.  There must be a better way to communicate with your teams if every update comes from an all-hands meeting.  Bigger groups are certainly useful for a brainstorm-type session where you need the creative juices to flow openly.  But generally speaking,…

Supercharge Your Project Reports with BrightWork

Everyone loves a project report – except the project manager! Trying to prepare different types of reports for stakeholders and the team from various sources is often a very manual and time consuming process. It’s especially troublesome when a report is urgently needed for a meeting; if your information sources are not up-to-date, you’re in for a long day!  Reports are a vital project tool. Having the right reporting tools in place allows you to track progress, manage risks, maintain cost control, and improve overall visibility.  Reports also enable team members and stakeholders to contribute effectively to the project.   Reporting Tools The best way to tackle project reports is with a collaborative project tool such as BrightWork, which quickly pulls together relevant information from different sources into the required format. Better yet, you can also set up automated reporting to send reports to the right person as needed – daily, weekly, or monthly. Just think about how much more time you could have to work on your projects!   Types of Reports BrightWork comes with a range of reporting options including project and portfolio reports, ‘My Work’ reports for individual team members, and real-time high-level portfolio dashboards, which give…

4 Ways to Boost Team Performance

Picture this: the project is nearing completion, your stakeholders love your outputs, and the team is laser-focused on the deadlines. Suddenly, your star player starts to underperform. They stop contributing at meetings, are frequently late, and the quality of their work declines, forcing other team members to pick up the slack. The project is finished on time, but you are frustrated and unsure of what to do next. Should you confront the underperforming team member, report their behavior to HR, or ignore the situation, hoping it was a temporary glitch? Effective project managers need to maintain team dynamics by focusing on what is best for individual team members and the group. Addressing poor performance supports individual growth whilst also establishing acceptable behavior for the rest of the team. Read on to learn more about performance management, and four ways to boost performance using goals, check-ins, rewards, and feedback.   Managing Team Performance  Performance management is a ‘process by which managers and employees work together to plan, monitor and review an employee’s work objectives and overall contribution to the organization’. The purpose of performance management is the continuous assessment of progress against agreed goals and metrics, with feedback and support provided…

3 Ways BrightWork Makes Task Management Easier in SharePoint

Most people on your team are working on more than one project at once.  With so many competing priorities, it can be overwhelming to stay on top of what needs to be done. Here’s a common scenario we hear from customers: It’s difficult to keep track of their assigned work and when it is due, especially across competing projects Team members struggle to contribute to projects and providing status updates is too time-consuming There is no objective way to highlight when they have an issue or have too much on their plate Project deliverables are not managed in a central library and version control is lost. Task Management Made Easy with BrightWork and SharePoint SharePoint is the perfect platform for team collaboration, with some robust task management capabilities.  BrightWork is designed to extend those capabilities to give team members a simple work management system in SharePoint. With BrightWork, all team members can: find their responsibilities easily carry out the some of the project work quickly report on progress right from the project site in SharePoint.   Find your work Project management templates from BrightWork give the team a virtual workspace to connect and collaborate on the project.  At any time, team members…

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…