How can project management software deliver both consistency and flexibility?
When our long term customer the Government of New Brunswick (GNB) produced a white paper on their implementation of our project management software it held a surprise. Of course they spoke about consistency of processes and improved reporting but also they noted project manager flexibility. So we thought it would be interesting to explore this benefit here in more detail.
What is project manager flexibility?
In this context we mean the ability to move a project manager between projects mid-flight without undue disruption to the project.
I'm sure many of you are lifting your eyebrows in surprise as that idea goes somewhat against conventional wisdom. You usually avoid moving the project manager because you expect chaos and confusion as a result. You might also expect to introduce delays as the new project manager gets up to speed. However you would get some really attractive benefits if you could minimise those downsides.
And that is what GNB found. In addition to their expected performance, time saving and quality gains, they listed benefits including:
- Better use of their best project managers - They knew they had a limited cadre of project managers and is as usual some were more capable than others. They found they could if necessary now swap an experienced project manager from a stable project to help recover a problem one.
- Improved project launch - Experienced project managers could launch and stabilise a project before leaving delivery to a less experienced colleague.
- Better project manager development - Less experienced project managers could work on certain aspects of a project delivery to strengthen their overall competence. A project manager can become scarred by being locked into a failing project. Switching the project manager early prevents this. Aspects of the project manager role could also be shared or the junior mentored more effectively. Project managers learning on easier projects had more confidence and better locked in capabilities before moving to bigger projects.
- Project managers felt more professional - The project managers were now spending less time on mundane housekeeping tasks and able to focus more on adding value.
How did they achieve this project manager flexibility?
For GNB the key to unlocking this project manager flexibility was consistency. They wanted a software tool which would help provide and support consistent documentation and reporting. GNB wanted their project manager software to allow them to establish robust, consistent process and documentation for their projects. Getting this consistency into their project processes and reporting was a major factor in raising the maturity of their project management capability.
Their adoption of software tools established a consistent framework for all documentation, and audit trail versions of all communications like emails etc. This made it a much quicker process for a new project manager to get up to speed with a project. So lowering the downsides of swapping project managers. Reporting allowed management/PMO to see where projects were failing with performance or process. This also made it much easier to identify early the areas where project managers might benefit from mentoring or some other intervention.
GNB operated a scaled methodology approach and an early assessment of the complexity of any new project. This meant simpler/lower risk projects ran lighter processes and reporting. This made it easier to 'blood' new project managers on safer projects where they could gain confidence and establish good foundations of practice.
Over the last couple of years usage of the software has widened out to encompass the whole of the Government of New Brunswick’s portfolio of strategic activities.
You can read the original white paper in full here.