Project Management

Project Management 2.0

New technologies, concepts, and Web 2.0 tools are popping up everywhere. How can you use them to help your project team collaborate, communicate - or just give your project an extra boost? [Contact Dave]

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Another Supportive Community

Situation: You are a user of Daptiv's products and need a little help from time to time.

Daptiv is launching a new online community to promote social interaction between its customers and employees. It allows you to share FAQs and new product ideas, and serves as a one-stop knowledge base and training resource.  With more than 100,000 Daptiv subscribers, this community should be fairly significant right away. It will be interesting to see what impact it has on Daptiv users and the businesses they support. We recently spent some time with Ian Knox, Vice President of Products and Marketing, from Daptiv to find out more.


Q. Tell us a little bit about this new community you are starting.  What are it's goals and what do you see as the immediate benefits to your user base? What will be the benefits for Power Users who are consistently active on the site?

The Daptiv community was conceptualized with the aim to foster product innovation and streamline the whole process of knowledge sharing through mutual collaboration. This new platform gives all its users an opportunity to collaborate directly with Daptiv peers and employees to receive timely responses to product related queries and leverage the community’s knowledge of best practices.

A highly user friendly and intuitive platform, it makes it easy for all the users to access the training courses and refer to knowledge based posts to advance expertise in Daptiv PPM whenever in need. The Greenhouse’ feature of the platform allows customers to share ideas and vote on new and innovative features for Daptiv’s product roadmap. It’s like an interactive knowledge house which is just a click away from its users. Active users and contributors will be abreast with the latest in technology, product and capabilities.


Q. How is this similar to or different from the MS Project 2010 Community or MPUG?

The Daptiv community includes a couple of unique capabilities. First, the platform is an evolved version of our Greenhouse community that was launched back in 2008 and enables customers to propose ideas and collaborate with our product team. Second, we include a library of Daptiv PPM applications and reports, which enable users to download best practice components and use them immediately in Daptiv PPM. This is addition to our blogs, videos, forums and knowledge base.


Q. Will Daptiv employee participants be pre-selected, or any anyone at the company participate?

Just like a community, this new platform is open to all of Daptiv’s users and customers. It’s an open development platform and a community of contributors. The community not only encourages exchange of knowledge, but also allows Daptiv to stay in closer contact with clients and partners.  


Q. Do you see Daptiv partners playing a role in this?

Absolutely! Daptiv partners are an integral part of this community. Our partners tailor to an array of sectors and we value the know-how that they bring in. This is a collaborative community where ideas, experiences and best practices are exchanged for better results. We are eager to listen in and drive Daptiv’s innovation process by creating a closer, more intimate dialogue with our customers.


Q. How do you see members of the community working together? 

We have designed the Daptiv Community to become the ultimate go-to resource to help customers with their PPM questions and deliver value for their businesses. We see this platform as a breeding ground for new ideas, seamless engagement and reliability.


Q. In terms of long-term vision, what do you see this evolving into over the next few years? Do you see the scope of this extending beyond Daptiv-specific best practices to more general PPM advice?

The basic premise of this community is to evolve constantly by adapting to the changing environment. Conversations are made in real world environment through open dialogue via discussion forums and an updated knowledge base.

Over the years, this community aims to serve as a one-stop entry point where both customers and employees pitch new ideas and initiate discussions with like-minded peers. Our vision is that this is the first place PPM practitioners from our user community come to ask questions, share best practices and connect with peers.

Posted on: November 09, 2012 03:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do You Need a Team Operating Agreement?

Situation: Team members keep stumbling over simple, common sense, standard practices.

A Team Operating Agreement seems like overkill for a lot of us. I've personally seen dozens of these over the last several years and many are just a fluffy box-checking exercise.  The whole this seems a bit much until you've been through the painful process of constantly reminding people how they should be working together. At some point you have to ask yourself - what's the least ridiculous option?  Do you keep telling people what you think is just common sense or do you work with them to spell out a set of rules that make sense to everyone?

Yesterday we went through the process of updating the TOA template we have here on gantthead (usually available only to premium plus members, but freely available to all registered members through 1/15/2012) and we added a few items that you see listed in bold below.

  • Ownership of project outcomes
  • Ownership of specific outcomes
  • What we value
  • How we make decisions
  • How we communicate
  • How we work through problems
  • How we express our commitments

In my opinion all of these things are important, but as it is with so many other things, the more important part is not the document - but the process of having built it collaboratively.  It's that collaborative process that gets you real buy-in to the principles you lay out in the agreement.  The signature is just a formality.

If you have a moment, come take a look at the new version of our template and let us know what you think.  

What do you think should be in a Team Operating Agreement?  What's a waste of time? How do you make the collaborative process of building the document work?

Posted on: January 04, 2012 10:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Is Enterprise Collaboration Getting Easier?

Situation: You think it might be time to  focus on collaboration again.

In a few weeks I'll be attending the Gartner Portals, Content, and Collaboration Summit - which is an obvious thing to do for someone in my position.  This year, fellow collaborator, I think it's something you should consider doing as well.  I think we have arrived at a unique point in time where collaboration needs not be something you force people to do.  It's just something you set the stage for and nurture over time.  The forces I see making this a good time to focus on collaboration are:

Niche Communities
Every time I attend these things, I'm struck by how useful the event is to people who are responsible for enterprise collaboration - especially those who deal with niche communities.  Presenters used to point out modest internal successes and relate them to far more successful consumer-based ones.  These days, when we talk about collaboration, I hear more about internal successes that create immediate value far beyond what's happening more broadly online. These efforts are often more effective because they address smaller, more tightly focused, and interconnected communities.  Tight knit communities are motivated by shared needs that people on the outside simply don't share.  I know that tools matter, but to be honest they often feel as inconsequential as the brand of golf club you use.  It's mostly about the people and how much sharing between them "matters".  The more people share in common, the more they can help each other and the more they care.

It's not "weird and wasteful" anymore
People's willingness to share has changed a lot based a larger cultural shift. Society is just more attuned to social networking in general - more open to online interaction.  Ten (or maybe even just a few) years ago, it was near impossible to get people to participate in knowledge sharing of any sort online because they just didn't understand it.  Now so many people provide their "friends" with highlight reels of their lives through facebook, that it's just second nature to share.

People are seeing the value of it - personally
In Stephen Covey's book "The Speed of Trust", he talks about the importance of Social Trust and what he calls "The Principal of Contribution".  It's sort of an extension of "you get from life what you put into it."   Essentially, there is an increasing need for individuals to display their contribution to society online.  Here on gantthead, I talk about your profile being an central hub for your Project Management "body of work".  Facebook gives you a place to "let people know what you are up to" and Linkedin is pretty much a place for people to see what you've accomplished.  Again, it's all about the "personal show", not so much about the details of each transaction.

One of Gartner's Keynote speakers Clay Chirky wrote a book entitled, "Here Comes Everybody".  In this book, he explores how the content "balance of power" has changed over the years to where users are more in control. More recently, he wrote "Cognitive Surplus," where he reveals how new technology is changing us from consumers to collaborators, increasing creativity in many ways.

So I guess my point is that we're getting to the point where techniques, and perhaps where we are in our socio-technical evolution matters more than tools.  Attending conferences like the Gartner event can help you understand what's working.

Do you think it's gotten any easier to get people within your enterprise to collaborate online?  What's working well for you?


Note: If you would like to join me at the Gartner Conference, they are a sponsor of ours and will give you $300 off, if you use the promotion code "GANTT".

Posted on: March 01, 2011 08:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Is Wiki-based Collaboration the Answer?

Situation: Your collaboration tools just aren't cutting it.

The range of SaaS tools out there has expanded way beyond BaseCamp knock-offs to tools that approach projects from a variety of angles. Each tool has its own heritage that’s reflective of what the vendor believes is important.  One interesting tool that I’ve looked at recently is PBworks, formerly known as PBwiki.  Their approach is very collaborative in nature and less structured than most.  By providing easy ways for you to define your own structure, they hope to provide tools you can make fit your work style, versus having to adapt your work to rules imposed by the tool.

We recently spoke with Chris Yeh of PBworks, who told us a bit about their approach to collaboration and managing knowledge.  Here’s what he said.

Q.  You guys firmly believe that wikis provide a better collaboration platform than folder-based file sharing or email.  Can you tell us a bit about why that is? (provide examples if possible)

Wiki-based collaboration provides several major benefits that file sharing and email simply can’t.

First, let’s deal with file sharing.  The issue with file sharing is that it’s difficult to understand how a document has evolved over time.  At best, you might be able to view different versions of the file from some archive.
With a wiki, revision and change management are an integral part of how you work; all revisions are stored, you can see the history of changes with a single click, you can compare any two revisions, and you can always revert back to a prior version.

This kind of flexibility gives people the freedom to be more creative; you can take more risks because the revision history is there as a safety net.

Wikis also allow true co-authoring, rather than simply passing redlines back and forth.  When a group of people works on a document, the asynchronous edits are notoriously difficult to re-integrate.  Usually, whoever is responsible ends up having to read through several different drafts and manually integrate comments and suggestions.

With a wiki page, everyone is always working on a current version that reflects everyone else’s edits.  This decentralized approach saves a ton of time.  One of our customers is Deloitte Digital, which uses us for creating new business plans.  Their CEO, Peter Williams, reports that using PBworks lets them cut down the time they spent on editing final reports by 90%.

With email, the issues are slightly different.  The problem with email is that it’s so easy to lose the context of the conversation.  Most emails are not self-contained; to understand them, you have to read the entire conversation to pull out the nuggets of information that are actually relevant.

A wiki page provides a centralized, authoritative record; it is largely self-contained, and once you read it, you can make a decision or draw a conclusion.

Another PBworks customer is Capgemini, the consulting firm.  They were able to use PBworks to cut down project-related emails by 90% on one of their marketing projects.

Q.  You seem to specialize in certain industries, like creative, legal and financial services.  Is there something special about the ways that people work and collaborate in those industries that make your approach a fit?

We focus on use cases where individual users have to deal with multiple projects and initiatives, and where communications need to cross geographic or corporate boundaries.  We’ve designed our product so that not only can you use hosted wiki pages to collaborate, you can also get a personalized dashboard of activity, tasks, and milestones across all of your different projects.

For example, while designers and lawyers may seem very different, the challenges they face at work are very similar: They are staffed on multiple projects for multiple clients, and they have to keep track of a lot of tasks and information.  Both lawyers and agencies end up using PBworks in a very similar way to manage their client projects: They create new workspaces for each new project or case (using our workspace templates), they collaborate with a project team to get things done, and they track their progress using a personalized dashboard.  Whether you’re building informercial websites like Livemercial, or prosecuting a personal injury case like McConnell & Sneed, the collaboration process is very similar.

Q.  Every toolset has implementation challenges.  What are yours and what approaches do you use to get around them?

One of the big challenges with adopting a broad collaboration platform like PBworks is that there are so many possibilities.  Even I don’t know all of the capabilities of the product, and with our engineering team adding new functionality all the time, sometimes people aren’t sure where to begin.

That’s why we put such a heavy emphasis on certain specific solution-focused product editions, like Project Edition for project leaders or Legal Edition for lawyers.  This allows us to do things like build usage-specific templates, instructional videos, and case studies.

We also back up our product with some of the best service in the business.  You can contact our support team via email, and get a response from a real human being in hours, sometimes even in minutes.  And if you need help getting started, we offer a $100 custom trial package which gets you professional services to customize our product and provide a one-on-one training session.

Q.  A big part of project management is having a high-level view of what’s going on.  There’s no gantt chart view, task dependencies, etc. in PBworks.  Is that intentional or are those features to be added later?

It’s intentional.  We’re big fans of rapid iteration and innovation, so our general approach is to launch a simple, usable product, and build up from there based on feedback from real users.  For example, PBworks started off as PBwiki, a bare-bones hosted wiki.  It didn’t even offer user accounts.  But over time, it’s evolved into a full hosted collaboration suite, complete with document management, basic project management, and even a mobile edition for iPhones and Blackberries.

After we launched Project Edition, we immediately began hearing feedback on issues like task dependencies and measuring resource load.  We’re working on such features, and many more.

It’s also the case that we heard from a number of project managers who thought that the level of detail and customization was just right.  Let’s face it; many projects are not complex enough to warrant a full project management solution, yet are more complicated than a simple to-do list can handle.  PBworks is great for those ad hoc projects that make up most of our work lives.

Q.  What do you feel the biggest challenge in collaboration today (beyond what you’ve addressed in PBworks) and what is your organization doing to address it going forward?

The biggest challenge in collaboration today is encouraging the end user to make online collaboration an integral part of their daily work.  Tools that require users to abandon old but comfortable ways of working, or that require double entry, aren’t going to work out in the long run.
I think that collaboration has a lot to learn from the bottom-up usability of social media tools like Twitter.  These informal and unstructured tools are a great way to handle the initial phases of brainstorming, when you don’t even know the objective of your proto-project.  We’re looking very closely at these tools and how our customers use them so that we can integrate their lessons into our products.
Ultimately, collaboration is about bringing together, people, processes, and production.  Collaboration vendors won’t be successful unless their products can bring together all three of those elements.
Posted on: August 08, 2009 10:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Iran, Twitter, and Project Management

Situation: You are still trying to figure out what Twitter is good for.

Much has been made of how Twitter has been used to circumvent Government censorship in Iran - letting us know what's really going on in places where journalists have no access.  A lot of that is because:

1.  Twitter can be completely anonymous and untraceable.
2.  Twitter is so immediate and easy to use.

So, even under extreme pressure, anyone can feel comfortable commenting and reporting issues on Twitter.

Think about that for a second.  How many times have you found out about project issues too late because of office politics or fear of reprisals?  Wouldn't it have been great to have a suggestion box that people could trust because it resides outside of the organization?

What would happen if you set up a Twitter account and asked people to "direct (private) message" you with suggestions, comments, difficult issues, and just "things you should know about".  Perhaps you could push people to do it at every status meeting.  The comments would be completely anonymous and you could even have a longer private conversation through direct messages if required.  You would have to make sure they didn't openly "Tweet" any private company info, but that shouldn't be a problem.

If Iranian dissidents feel comfortable risking jail by Tweeting, why wouldn't your team feel comfortable using it to make things more successful?


Posted on: June 22, 2009 02:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

I'd rather be a failure at something I love, than a success at something I hate.

- George Burns