Is it Possible to Do More Project Management with Less?

I don’t know about you, but recently I have heard the phrase “doing more with less” many, many times. It has come from technology managers in both the commercial sector and public sector.  Corporations and government organizations alike continue to reduce the size of their workforces while attempting to “get work done” (or sometimes more work done) in spite of hiring freezes.  Work as we know it, including project management, is undergoing profound change. With colleagues laid off and a wave of upcoming baby boomer retirements, what’s a professional project manager in a PMO to do?  Is it possible to do more with less in our field?

The initial knee jerk reaction, of course is to counter, “but I need more skilled project managers.”  I know that I have sure had my fill of people being assigned as “project managers” who are little more than team members who are now leads. But the reality is—at least for the present—corporation and agency leadership is not likely to give us the full component of project staff members that we think we need.

So, in a spirit of finding a silver lining in the project staffing cloud under which many of us are working, I have a few suggestions to help us survive doing more with less.

  1. Develop templates that even non-PMPs can use –
    We use templates all the time and many are available free from vendors.  A template done correctly can help codify the information you need and help manage the communication of project data.
  2. Create online forms that streamline common requests and approvals –
    If you are fortunate enough to have an online collaboration portal (Like SharePoint, eRoom, Google Docs – now Google Drive, BaseCamp, etc) then create a form that can be used to facilitate processes.  Since you don’t have time to chase around getting approvals, use the power of the computer to capture and route these types of processes.
  3. Define and automate workflows that help your team get work done –
    If you are even MORE fortunate to have a tool that does workflows (Like SharePoint, Clarity PPM, ProcessIT, etc) then you can create a workflow to manage the processes or take a form and send it through an approval process.
  4. Automate the most time consuming processes with a tool or template.  Things like status reporting, resource allocation, demand management, requests and approvals, or schedule updating. (Again the big tools are Project Server, Clarity, and many other online tools)

This is not an exhaustive list – but hopefully is a good starter for you.

When faced with challenges such as doing more with less, smart firms find ways to innovate through processes and technology.  What additional techniques is your organization using to maintain professional project management with fewer resources?

Finding a Content Management System Solution – Part 3

In part 2 of this series, I talked about selecting a content management system (CMS) and including the needs of people (stakeholders and users). I shared several great questions to ask when choosing a solution. So after you have done all the work of finding, selecting and implementing a CMS you can relax and take it easy – right ?  Sorry, a good CMS does not stop at the launch of the solution; in fact, many people would say your “journey into the land of Knowledge and Content management” has just begun!

Your organization has invested time and energy into picking and implementing the right CMS and you want it to be effective and improve the knowledge retention of the organization.  Do these software products do all this by themselves?  Of course not – Now you have to provide on-going processes and people to maintain and adapt your CMS to the changing environment.

If the goal of your CMS is to provide knowledge, lessons learned or any organization-valued information, then the content that it manages must have several qualities:

  • Currency – is the content current or so old as to be useless
  • Relevancy – is the content relevant to the needs of the users
  • Accuracy – has someone validated the accuracy of the information

These qualities do not happen by themselves but rather are part of the on-going processes, maintenance and support that you must provide.  I find that many Knowledge Management or CMS initiatives don’t include critical maintenance support. It is unfortunate that this happens and why CMS solutions like SharePoint, often get a bad rap. There are several things to consider for the on-going support, use, and effectiveness of your CMS:

These qualities do not happen by themselves but rather are part of the on-going processes, maintenance and support that you must provide.  I find that many Knowledge Management or CMS initiatives don’t include critical maintenance support. It is unfortunate that this happens and why CMS solutions like SharePoint, often get a bad rap. There are several things to consider for the on-going support, use, and effectiveness of your CMS:

  • Knowledge management staff
  • Training
  • Documented, updated and utilized processes
  • Culture and Change Management
  • Executive support

Staff and training
If you have not planned for staff that is responsible for the on-going maintenance and support of your CMS then you may be in for a train wreck.  I shudder to think of the future of the World Wide Web or a giant CMS that no one thought about maintaining! There is a lot of stuff to be found on the internet – but just try to find the “right” piece of information – that is hard to do. And how about training for users and stakeholders on how to use the CMS processes and tools? I assume that you will change processes over time or add new features… and what about new staff coming into the organization?

My recommendation is to put training time and resources for transition and maintenance into the CMS plan. Ensure that everyone has an initial class in using the CMS and document marking. Place someone in charge of the CMS and make using and supporting it part of employee reviews. Reward the staff members who make the system more effective through their efforts.

Processes
An effective CMS is not a one-time and you are done effort. Require training to show employees and team members how to use and add to the document store covered by the CMS. Quarterly or semi-annually, assess the performance of the CMS using quantitative and quality measures. Include questions on employee surveys about CMS use and perceived value. Take action when the results of performance analysis indicate less use or value than desired. Consider conducting an external review of your CMS’s performance from trained knowledge professional after implementation.

Culture and Change
To maintain a CMS and continue to receive benefits from a more sophisticated way to management organizational knowledge, company culture — the way we work here — will need to change. As I have said before, changing a culture is not easy. For those individuals pushing for using a formal CMS system or tasked with implementing and promoting it, I suggest modeling, training, rewarding and practicing patience.

Executive Support
No major cultural or programmatic change can happen in the absence of executive support. Formal support in terms of resources for designing, initiating, implementing and training are essential. Informal support, which can often be more powerful, happens when senior managers use the CMS system and can talk knowledgeably (and with data) about the system’s benefits. An enthusiastic executive champion can sway undecided or reluctant employees to try.

I hope your CMS or KM system can provide the kind of effective solution that organizations are looking for today.

________________________________________________________________
Some additional resources:

Knowledge Management—Emerging Perspectives – short article on KM by Gene Bellinger

Defining and designing the performance-centered interface: moving beyond the user-centered interface – Great article on making your solution a “performance based” system. (Another copy is located here: http://www.cognitive-technologies.com/whitepapers/files/Performance_Centered.pdf

Content and Knowledge Management resources list – provided by Ingistics, LLC

KMworld – online site for the magazine

The Lazy Project Manager's Blog

The Home of Productive Laziness Thoughts

ProjectManagement.com

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

A Girl's Guide to Project Management

Project Management musings for one and all

How to Manage a Camel - Project Management Blog

Project Management Recruitment, Careers and News from Arras People

LeadingAnswers: Leadership and Agile Project Management Blog

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

Project Management Hut

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

Herding Cats

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

beyondcenter

Pushing the Edges Out ...

projectxpert

Just another WordPress.com site