Project Management – May I Help You Master Your Challenges?

Last week I wrote about the biggest challenges in PM. I collected answers of 10 of the top PM experts in order to comprehend what project managers have to be aware of to successfully run a project. I thought it’d been an informatory and adventurous experience and it, in fact, urged me to get once more in touch with the same experts, on a quest to find their holy answers to the challenges.

There is Always Good and Bad

David Blumhorst, Vice President at Daptiv, calls hitting the business target, PM’s biggest challenge. He holds Project Management liable for meeting business targets and believes that a good Project Manager differs from others due to his quality to make decisions about if the project is really on track to meet the business targets.

Get Trained to Triumph

Josh Nankivel criticises bad-defined scopes as they cause schedule and cost overruns. He encourages Project Managers to take their time so as to create a clear and concise definition of the deliverables. Work-breakdown structures are vitally important and need to be well-prepared. He believes that it’s something you can learn and adopt to as he initiated a training program for Project Managers where they learn how to get rid of the lack of their work-breakdown structures.

Stay up to Date with Updates! 

Education and qualification are aspects where Jason Westland and Elizabeth Harrin spot defects. They are convinced that PM needs to be a “full discipline“, something that requires a lot of study and training. Due to the quickly changing world, Project Managers should ensure to constantly update their knowledge in order to have a sophisticated view on the different aspects PM includes.

Don’t Forget you are a Human, not a Robot

To Ron Holohan and Mark Horstmann, communication is the biggest challenge PM faces today. According to them, Project Managers should try to implement a well-balanced use of technological and human resources in their projects. A steady interaction and communication with your team members is inevitable and something that can not be replaced by technology. PM-software offers great features that accelerate and often simplify processes and the right use of these features possibly results in an advantage for the whole team. Always be aware though, that Software can also lead to misunderstandings and result in a complication of circumstances. In this context I would like to quote Soma Bhattacharia once more. She says:”no matter what tools we got […] at the end of the day you have to work with your team”, and suggests to know who you work with and what you can do to create a pleasant atmosphere.

A Compliment a Day Keeps the Notice of Termination Away

Ressources Management, as mentioned before, is a big challenge. Margaret Meloni critices the continued push to get everyone to do more with less. To avoid a self-contained and awful atmosphere she advises to take time for employees as well as for yourself. Managers should interact with their team members and show them, that they are appreciated to increase their self esteem.

Pass On Responsibility!

In my last post I furthermore mentioned Tom Mochal’s opinion on the biggest challenge which is a lack of functional reports. He assumes that, in order to prevent this from happening, managers should have assigned people validate the enddate and buy into the enddate. That way they are obligated to tell you if they can’t make it, as soon as they know. Tom additionally entrusts Managers to assure to have reliable, responsible and passionate reporters around them.

How Do you Create Passion Though?

The last challenge I wrote about was Mark Perry’s maintenance of passion. He presents 10 great tips that, in the long run, help you master the challenge!

  1. integrate passion to your work
  2. eliminate irritating tasks
  3. reacquaint yourself with your career
  4. be grateful to all those who helped you
  5. surround yourself with passionate and motivated people
  6. recognize your passion
  7. expect and encounter negativism
  8. “a book a week keeps passion from getting weak”
  9. spread the word
  10. have faith in your passion

All of these essential advices can help Project Managers to overcome challenges and obstacles. Eventually there is a wide range of supervisors and tons of software that aims to solve these challenges in collaboration with Project Managers. But what I have discovered, and what we can also gather from the experts’ answers, is that it only takes a little bit of humanity to master the majority of the problems.

The Biggest Challenge Project Management Has to Face!

For the last days I’ve been probing Project Management experts from all over the world in order to get a better idea of what challenges Project Management faces nowadays. It’s been amazingly instructive and informative. Reading and listening to their answers has truly given me a new and clearer view into the complexity ensuing from project management.

I started my search based on the question “What is the biggest challenge Project Management(PM) has to face in our modern, technologically advanced world?” I, therefore, got in contact with 10 of the top PM-experts that have provided me with individual answers to the given question which I would gladly like to share with you.

Stay on Track

One thing that challenges every business and every project is hitting the business target. David Blumhorst says that on time, on budget and on scope deliver does NOT equal hitting the business target. According to him, project managers’ biggest challenge is to make sure they’re on track to meet the business targets.

It’s Always Good to Know What you are Doing

If you dont define your scope in clear and concise terms in the begining and really go through that process of working out exactly what the deliverables are that you’re gonna deliver to your customer and then decomposing what exactly it’s gonna take to do all those things […] then you’re gonna be missing things.”, Josh Nankivel reports and refers to a general lack in work-breakdown structures. In his opinion an unpalatably defined scope is the indubitable reason for schedule and cost overruns, which quite often frustrate projects.

Lack of Qualification

Jason Westland takes Josh’s and David’s opinion to the next level as he detects defects in the qualification of nowadays managers. He complains that it’s, in these days, too easy to become a project manager as it only takes a short advanced training to receive a certificate. “Now most managers dont have lots of qualifications. The percentage of project managers that have a formal qualification is getting a lot less”, Jason remarks, claiming to keep PM a “full discipline“.

Comprehensive Schools as a Solution?

And Jason is surly not left alone with his assumption. Elizabeth Harrin urges to introduce a national standard which would enable a universally accepted qualification. But she also addresses a problem: “Project related work and jobs are growing too quickly for our approaches to professionalism to keep up”, Elizabeth notes and adds that this is precisely why it’s become hard for employees and employers to choose their qualifications.

“Two monologues do not make a dialogue”

-Jeff Daly-

Besides a general lack of classification and qualification Ron Holohan comes up with a totally new aspect, the importance of communication. He declares: “We are getting worse at communicating with people on and off of our teams” and refers to the wide range of technology on market. Ron underlines the importance of PMS but also blames it for scope creep, conflicts and misunderstandings. Mark Horstmann agrees as he believes that the real problem is the increasing focus on technology as a solution to more effective projects when in fact the only solution that has ever existed when it comes to projects is people who do good work in a timely way. “Technology is great but it’s worthless without people“, he continues and reasons the success of projects from how well people fit in the project.

People=Resources → Resources=Inevitable

Soma Bhattacharia proves the importance, stating “no matter what tools we got […] at the end of the day you have to work with your team”. In her opinion project managers need to pay more attention to the interpersonal communication as well as the resources management in order to know who you work with and what you can do to create a pleasant atmosphere.

Don’t Forget about People

Resources Management also plays an important part in Margaret Meloni’s view on the biggest challenge PM faces today as her response to the opening question is the continued push to get everyone to do more with less. “We get caught up in a hectic paste that we forget about the people around us“,Margaret states and argues: “The more that we demand from people, the better we need to treat them.”

The Choice of the Right Underling

Another challenge that deals with human resources and interpersonal communication offers Tom Mochal. Taking his theories into account an obstacle is the problem of trying to assign work and get work done with people that don’t report to their manager functionally. If you’re given inchoate, erroneous or even no information at all, the project is likely to fail.

Is it only about Information?

Mark Perry provides us with the answer. Project management offices(PMO), unlike other organisations that are driven by mission-critical goals such as making a sales quote or achieving a market share target, usually don’t have blatant and public victories but still have to deal with issues, problems and unrealistic expectations by management and stakeholders. Mark complains about a lack of commitment by those that are assigned to a project. According to him the biggest challenge project management faces is to find a way to keep up the passion for what you’re working on.

As we can see, the assumptions of the importance of different challenges vary a lot and every expert has an individual view on the biggest challenge but one thing they all have in common is to make PM as effective as possible.

Don’t forget to check out my next post which will deal with ways to solve the addressed problems!

AtTask – Project Management on a High Level!

Methods of quick communication

  • 1100 – smoke signals
  • 1800 – pigeons
  • 1900 – Telephone
  • 2000 – e-mail
  • 2011 – AtTask

Put out them smoke signals, AtTask welcomes you to the 21st century!

This week I got in touch with a great tool called AtTask. It’s an online project management software that helps companies better manage projects, people and ressources. Founded in 2001, by Scott Johnson, its headquarters is located in Orem, Utah with offices in Bejing, Tokio and Europe.

A stroke of genius as a business concept

The idea to create a software, that could help companies to increase efficiency by better managing projects and people as well as ressources was eventually the outcome of a quandary. A group of software developers were in an awkward predicament when they worked from different geographic locations on a variety of projects. They needed a reliable online solution which could aid in project planing and status report and in the end came up with what they named AtTask.

What exactly is AtTask?

AtTask allows its clients to individually set up a network for their projects. “It is easily accessible by anyone with an Internet connection regardless where one is located”, reports Finn Orfano and continues “[…]AtTask supports several languages – French, German, Japanese and Spanish. There is also the provision of inclusion of Dutch and Polish.” It’ works with all recent operating systems like Linux, Mac and Windows. According to toptenreviews the main unique feature is its collaboration capabilities. Everyone with the right of access is easily notified about the status and changes as they occur. Reports can rapidly and effortlessly be shared with clients or managers that want to receive an update about the process, even if they’re not part of your team. In addition, you are able to customize your own page to suit your needs and are empowered to decide on your own deadlines for different tasks. Rather than wondering who might be available and qualified for certain tasks, managers may simply post upcoming and available tasks with their individual deadlines, and team member can opt to accept them.

Putting value on the social aspect

AtTask is based on a constant, internal team communication and therefore offers many ways to get in touch with co-workers and direct supervisors. The pattern remindes me of Facebook as every employee can spread news via status and comment on others’. This feature truly emphasizes the team spirit and lets others unproblematically know what you are working on and where help is possibly needed.

Uncertainty? Isn’t that waking up, not knowing what the day will bring?

“[…] capacity, resources and demand may be determined and monitored effectively“, mentions projectmanagesoft.com and refers to the implemented Resources Management. A capacity planer enables you to add new projects to a schedule and calculate if it’s feasible to accomplish within the set time period. “This feature compares the resources you have to the resources the project requires.” adds toptenreviews and indicates that this feature avoids overuse. Employees have a list of tasks and know exactly what to do until when.

You are your own boss!

The drag and drop system allows you to change the order of your tasks and by that to set priorities. You are notified if tasks are overdue or the management changed priorities. It provides you with an ample scope and offers you the freedom to choose individually on which task you like to work on.

Pricing, definitely a blemish!

If you go to AtTask’s website you’ll find lots of columns containing tons of information but the one thing you wont find is any information on pricing. That’s not for no reason. You can choose between several licenses which contain additional tools and also, since it’s individually adjustable, there are individual offers depending on what your company wants. Christopher Stordalen from the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance reveals some prices for the University of Minnesota (all prices per year).

  • Project Manager Enterprise – $650
  • Project Manager Professional – $395
  • Team Members – $250
  • View Only – $150

Just the fact that there is no information on AtTask’s website is in my opinion quite suspect. There is a free trial though which you can sign up for here.

What’s in it for me?

As a business you might wonder if this online software affects your benefits. Well why don’t you ask Apple, Adobe, CBS or HBO? All these companies are AtTask clients, as populicio.us states. They assumably use AtTask because of the reasons projectmanagesoft.com summarizes. According to their opinion AtTask impoves productivity and manages the workflow within the company. The planing tools help companies to identify problems faster and resolves issues more efficiently. Miscommunication is minimized and misunderstanding reduced. Both, employees and employers benefit from AtTask as it includes features that replace other, yet necessary, applications. It’s individually adjustable and a solution that grows with you.

AtTask is finally a software that demonstrates how businesses can be more efficient and businesslike by applying humanistic values to human resources.

 AtTask has received the TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award for Project Management Software, knocking Microsoft to second place!