It might sound a bit weird coming from someone who develops and produces project management software; however, its the one ugly truth.
Project Management Software is a very dangerous offender. If left unsupervised it can destroy your plans and kill your team morale.
If it was tried in a court of law, PM software would probably get from 20 years to life in prison without a chance of parole for at least 15 years.
It all starts with some white lies:
You: How is my project?
PMS: Oh, no worries! Everything is green! (I don’t know about your PM system, but mine speaks with an Irish accent.)
You: Are you sure?
PMS: Of course! We still have almost a week until the deadline.
You: Hmm. OK, then.
It then continues with the excuses:
You: What’s going on?!! Our project was supposed to be completed 10 days ago. Why is it still open?
PMS: I don’t know.
You: But it’s your job to keep track of everything!
PMS: Yeah, but nobody is talking to me. I’m left alone in the dark server room. I don’t like it there. That HR software in the corner is creepy.
You: How come nobody is talking to you? OK. That’s it! From now one everyone in this organization will have to talk to you every day! Twice a day!
Now we get to a point where we start losing our project.
You: OK. Give me the numbers!
PMS: I’m happy to report that our project is 76.5% completed.
You: What does it mean?
PMS: What do you mean, what does it mean?
You: I mean when is it going to be completed?
PMS: I don’t know.
You: Great. Do you at least know if were within a budget?
PMS: Not really. It’s not the end of the month yet. And people here usually start entering their expenses and time logs around the 30th.
You: What?! OK, from now on everyone has to enter their time logs every day! Twice a day!
PMS: Fine with me. By the way, you really need to do something about that HR software. I swear, the other day I saw it picking its teeth with a human bone!
In the end, its nothing but despair and chaos.
You: We need to talk.
PMS: Yes, I know. It is you, not me.
You: No! It’s you! You keep showing that everything is green, but our project is already overdue by 2 months. Nobody wants to work with you. Nobody trusts you. And everyone hates me, because of you. My career is almost ruined!
PMS: Don’t be such a pessimist. I know for sure that our project is 83.7% completed.
You: screaming and ripping out hairs.
So is there any hope? Does your project have to end like this? Is there any way to make your project management software useful?
Well, when used properly, your PMS can be a really good friend and not a foe.
Here are some things that you as a project manager can do to ensure that:
First of all, don’t force your new PM system on people; otherwise, they’re going to sabotage it. Make sure you spend some time educating your team and adapting the software to your needs and processes.
Accept that you can’t automate everything. Some things like the newly adjusted project end date have to be specified manually after talking to your team.
If you want to get specific results you need to provide specific input. If you have 10 tasks and all of them are 50% completed, it doesn’t always mean that your project is 50% completed. Each task can take a different amount of time. Make sure you add this information to the system.
This brings us to another issue of trust. If the data that you feed your PM software is too generic, late or incomplete, then you can expect the same from the results. And if the reports produced by the software don’t match the reality you are in trouble. Your team can forgive this once or twice. But after that, they won’t have any trust in this software. And in the end, the software is going to be abandoned.
Finally, please remember that no project management software can eliminate direct communication. Of course, the best thing is to always drop by at your team members’ desk and ask him or her about how things are really progressing. If your team is working from remote locations a phone call or even an online meeting will do the trick. A short 5-min conversation can reveal more than a 20-page report.
All these rules may look trivial and obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many companies suffer from the consecutiveness of their recidivist PMS actions and project managers’ inactions. Remember that prevention is better than a cure.