Project tracking and reporting tools

Finding the right tools to manage a big project can be fraught with politics, price constraints, and just what you are ‘given’. Sometimes is just comes down to what the PM is familiar with. Sometimes it is proprietary software that is mandated to be used either by the implementer or record, the PMO, client or a particular department. Certainly, there will be a mix of MS Project, multiple versions of Excel spreadsheets on a SharePoint site, maybe some powerpoint and a bug tracker tool. It seems that the choice is usually ‘what we used last time’ or ‘there is no budget for a software solution’.

Well, I am checking out ProjeQtOr to see if it is up to the job. All in one program, it does the project planning, manages resources, costs, risks, quality tracking, bug tracking, task and bug assignment and progress tracking, and it installs on a Windows server. Oh, did I mention that it was free & open source (sure to fit in anyone’s software budget)?  And before you say, ‘training cost’, look me in the eye and say you are not going to have to spend some time training someone on MS Project, share point or all those Excel spreadsheets. And there is the cost of all those licenses and IT time to install and manage security access. Then there is all that time spent each week updating status’, generating reports, managing file versions, recalibrating milestones with change orders…..I think you can get the picture.

Fair & Open disclosure: I have no connection or receive any benefit from the software developer….other than maybe a future project that is a little better tracked & reported on. Then again, we all benefit from that.

Happy Monday

 

Communication is Key to effective project management. These Six tips will help

ONE SIZE FITS ALL STATUS REPORTING.

This may not sound like a best practice to some of you, but in my opinion it definitely is. Finding a one-size-fits all status reporting process and structure means the project manager can get the info to every stakeholder who needs it and wants it in a shorter period of time with less effort. What does that mean? It certainly means that even on those weeks when the PM is swamped, they can still get the status reporting done. And with the use of a good dashboard at the beginning, those who just want a quick project health update can still get it easily. And the key players, the customer and team, will always have the right and accurate information weekly.

REUSE PROJECT SCHEDULES AND CHECKLISTS THAT WORK.

Never re-invent the wheel when you don’t have to. If you have a project schedule that worked before and it is similar to the project you are about to undertake, then use it again as a getting started template or shell for the new project. You will be less likely to miss a small, but important task in setting up the new project or put in a odd or inaccurate estimation of duration or effort for a task you’ve led on a project 30 times before. If you already have it…use it.

START EVERY MEETING WITH AN AGENDA.

Meetings are critical communication undertakings on project engagements. You call them for regular dissemination of information or to get info for decision making or to review status or issues on a project. They may be formal, informal or impromptu, but they are – or at least should be – always important. The best meetings happen with planning, not by luck. Plan out an agenda so you know what you want and need to accomplish and so that you can come across as a very organized meeting facilitator. The goal is to get the best attendance and participation as possible and to keep getting that at future meetings because you have gained the reputation as a great meeting facilitator. Having a great agenda – and sending it out in advance to all participants and then following it – is how you get there. Oh, and stay on time…nobody likes meetings that drag on longer than planned or start late.

FOLLOW UP AFTER PROJECT MEETINGS.

Always, always, always follow up after meetings with notes. Update your agenda with notes and outcomes from the meeting and send to all participants asking them to confirm or reply with changes within 24 hours. The goal is to ensure that everyone is on the same page with the same understanding post-meeting. Follow Up like this is how you ensure that.

TOUCH BASE WITH THE FULL TEAM DAILY.

Weekly full team meetings are advised – I always do them 1-2 days in advance of the weekly formal customer project status meeting. That way I always have my team’s most up to date status for the status report and revised project schedule. But a daily touch base – it can even just be a brief email every day mid-day to all team members – is a good way to give a quick status update to the team and ask if they have any feedback or status updates.

TOUCH BASE WITH THE CUSTOMER AT LEAST WEEKLY.

Finally, the customer needs a formal weekly status call. But a daily touch base in the form of an email is a great way to keep the customer engaged and to keep them confident in your team’s forward progress on the project. Some customers are easy going, and some get nervous if they haven’t heard from you in a day or two. If you are communicating with them too much, they will tell you. And that’s far better than too little.

Is Slack a tool or a short leash?

Take Slack. The instant messaging and office chat app has swept across media, tech, and other service companies with the virility of a goat-yoga video since its launch in 2014. It already has more than 5 million daily active users around the word, and has found a home at IBM, NBC, Adobe, and hundreds of smaller companies. Slack is marketed as a tool to maximize your time-management potential and allow everyone to stay in contact, but with its mobile app it has become a 24-hour addiction for many office workers.

The inevitable future of Slack is your boss using it to spy on you