Straight Talk on Project Management

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Need an alternative to IT project apps? 

The Project Management app market seems to be saturated, each promising that theirs is the definitive solution. It’s like diets and self-help books! If each is so great why do we need so many? It does make choosing the right one very hard.

Of course, no two IT Projects are the same so how do you find the right tool? Can you function with just one? Can you function with more than one? And … is there an alternative that makes the search redundant?

I just read a great piece on Forbes written by Brian Rashid, “What People Want From Their Project Management Apps In 2017”. In the article, he explores the gap between what you want from your project management apps and what they actually deliver.

Brian reports that GetApp, the business software directory company carried out a survey into how Project management tech solutions need to improve to sync better with the needs of users. It makes interesting reading and Brian suggests there are three key takeaways.

1 – Everyone (95%) is Running Multiple Tools

2 – The Most Valued (but Often Missing) Feature Is Task Management

3 – Firms Are Throwing Money At Tools That Don’t Deliver The Best Possible Value

The last of those points is really jumped out at me. On a number of occasions recently I’ve been with clients trying to unpick the issues that are reducing their Project Management capability and found good money being thrown after bad on the latest Project Management fix. Not small budgets either. Brian Rashid writes, “58% of those surveyed by GetApp have budgets of $2,000 (over £1550) or more per year for project management tools.” He also asserts that over nine out of ten (91%) of project managers would allocate additional funding to buy more project management software.

The holy grail they are seeking is the one app with all the features they need.

Many never find it.

Which explains why point one, that everyone is running multiple tools, rings true for most Project Managers I know. If one tool won’t deliver everything, of course, you are going to seek others until you have a complementary range of apps at your disposal.

I honestly think, that a decade ago, this was fine.

As a Project Manager, you could live on a little island populated by as many tech solutions as you thought you needed. The thing that made them all work together was you! As long as you were in control of spinning the plates few of them would fall off the poles.

Collaborative Project Management changed this though. Now your working practices need to mesh with others, information has to be shared with people who could be in a different department, location or even on a different continent. Every chink in the chain is a weakness that saps your potential to deliver the best possible outcomes.

So what should you do?

In his article, Brian Rashid suggests some solutions to each of the key points that he’d taken from the GetApp survey. WorfklowMax, Trello, Basecamp …all excellent suggestions and worth looking at, however, sometimes it pays to unpick the issue further. When you buy a Project Management app you buy a POTENTIAL solution to a challenge, but could it be as easy and cost effective to outsource the challenge itself? 

As one end to end Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) client succinctly put it to me this week, “When I have a leak at home I don’t agonise over which spanner or wrench to use – I call the plumber.”

For this client, Project Management is a function that facilitates delivery of business outcomes – it is not a business outcome itself. It is a means to an end. A means to an end, as it happens, that this client finds fraught with pitfalls and dangers that risk those very outcomes unless managed with robust governance and competence. Not unlike tackling plumbing at home, it can get very messy, very quickly.  

As a Project Management geek I feigned mock hurt at my beloved profession being compared to plumbing but, of course, I can see his point.

In the same way that a leaky pipe at home demands the attention of someone who knows one end of a wrench from the other, IT Projects demand assessments, governance, tools and people that will provide consistently high-quality Project Delivery. Doing it yourself may seem like a cheaper option but it doesn’t feel that way when faced with water ruined carpets and flood damaged foundations, or for that matter, late and over budget IT project delivery and performance that falls short of expectations. Ironically, in IT Project Management terms, there is often a decrease or at least no net increase in the overall portfolio costs – so getting an expert in may be the cheaper alternative!  

Another advantage that the PMaaS route has over trying the latest PM app is alignment with you, how you get things done and your organisational culture. To be fair to the apps, they have to target a larger market so their offer is designed to match as many end user needs as possible. The result is that you could get exactly what you want but with some extra functionality that you don’t use but still have to pay for or your chosen app falls short of your requirements. A PMaaS partner worth their salt always gets to know you before laying out their proposal and their service provision should be as flexible as your needs in terms of time, depth of involvement and cost, etc.

In conclusion, the right wrench or spanner is probably out there but if there’s a guy who already has it in his toolbox and more importantly knows how to use it, it might be worth giving him a call.

Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed