Project Management

Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Have Traditional Reports Passed Their Use-by Date?

Categories: Tech

by Lynda Bourne

Projects mean reports! Many project teams are required to produce weekly and monthly reports for their client as part of a contract, or because of an internal set of reporting requirements. This process comes with challenges:

  1. The information is out of date—project reports largely focus on what has happened.
  2. Most reporting regimes use a one-size-fits-all structure. This is better than freeform reporting, but it means while all of the information may be needed by someone, there’s a lot of redundant information for almost everyone else.
  3. They are time-consuming and expensive to produce.
  4. The information is groomed and edited to suit the narrative the report writer would like to tell. You don’t need to be dishonest to change the impression a report creates; you simply need to understand how language works. 
  5. The people who really need the information are usually too busy to read it.

That raises a big question: Do we need traditional reports? Developments in business intelligence, artificial intelligence and system integrations offer a far more useful solution—putting real-time information in front of the people who really need to know now.

Most of the information on virtually every project (even traditional construction projects) is recorded in various software tools. With a little bit of organization, the data can be brought into a business intelligence (BI) system in real time. The result: a dashboard showing what’s occurring in real time, usually with a drill-down capability to see what has changed and why.

The problem with BI is usually too much information and added noise created by different elements within the tool being updated, edited and corrected at different times. This generates false differences for short periods of time. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in to play two useful roles:

  1. Within the BI system to filter out the noise: For example, if Bill’s timesheet has been entered but his work for the day has not been updated, wait until the end of Bill’s shift before flagging low productivity—his work update may be entered in the next 5 minutes. (Real time is good, but needs managing/synchronizing.) 
  2. Outside of the system to learn what’s important to whom: No one can spend all day looking at the dashboard. AI can be trained to send targeted alerts when something relevant to a manager changes enough to warrant their attention. An email or an SMS is sent with a link embedded to the relevant part of the dashboard.

 

Do reports still have a role? My answer is yes, but it’s a different role. Reports are needed to explain something or to show the results of an investigation or inquiry. For example, a team (or individual) may be tasked to report on the preferred subcontractor to engage for a particular role on a project. The report provides leadership with the information and options needed to make a decision. In fact, this would be a far better use of the time currently spent by PMO and project staff preparing and distributing weekly and monthly reports.

I want to hear your thoughts: Do traditional reports still have a place among project teams?

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: September 17, 2020 05:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Learn to Fail—It’s Just Part of Being a Resilient Leader

By Cyndee Miller

Alexis Ohanian has racked up quite a list of accomplishments in his 37 years. He cofounded Reddit, sold it and then came back to help rescue it. He wrote a bestselling book. He cofounded a seed stage venture fund. But when it came time to have a chat with one of his fellow speakers at the latest gathering in PMI’s Virtual Experience Series, he seemed deeply concerned that people were going to be convinced he was a slacker. It wasn’t entirely unjustified. He was, after all, talking to Tanya Elizabeth Ken, the 17-year-old founder of LakshyaShala, an NGO dedicated to helping kids around the world gain equal access to education.

No shocker here, both of them had some interesting thoughts on how to revamp the educational ecosystem—a timely topic as kids around the world head back to school.

Introducing children to the virtual classroom forms habits that impact future work behaviors and outcomes. “Teaching someone how to learn online unlocks all kinds of doors,” Ohanian said.

With the vast power harnessed by digital learning comes an even greater responsibility to create platforms that are accessible. Despite all of the technological advances spurred by the global pandemic, systems of education remain unbalanced across the globe.

“Virtual learning can reach a wider audience, but we need to take into account the people who don’t have the access/resources,” said Ken. “If you want to solve a problem like equality in education, then we need to solve all the hindrances families are seeing.”

There’s still work to be done, she said. And while improving access to education sits high on her priority list, so too does improving the quality of education.

“The education system does not teach us entrepreneurship and project management skills,” Ken said.

Ohanian admitted he didn’t think much about project management until college and even then he used it mostly to plan his EverQuest guild or Quake 2 clan. But he also said those skills were the only way he was able to develop Reddit. “Project management is how you build a startup,” he said. (It’s also apparently how he helped plan his rather complex wedding. “It wasn’t always that romantic, but it was effective, gosh darn it.”)

Whatever the project you’re working on, this is a time that demands the ability to contend with astounding change. And empowering students to think of themselves as problem-solvers builds that agility from early on, said Ohanian. “Real life doesn’t have a syllabus,” he said. “The more a student can exercise the muscles of resilience, the better.”

Part of building resilience—on projects and in the classroom—is pushing past failure.

“You’re taught to avoid failure at all costs as a student, to get good grades, but life is full of failures and setbacks,” he said. “Get comfortable with failure—not because you’re not doing the work, but because struggling and disappointment and learning from it, that’s life.”

That theme of resiliency bubbled up quite a bit and it’s no doubt emerging as the new must-have skill as we all attempt to navigate the next normal. The goal shouldn’t be to just bounce back, but to bounce forward, said session speaker Greg Githens, PMP. Expect to be surprised—and seize the unknown, he said. Don’t let uncertainty stall progress: Do a lot and do it now, said session speaker Norma Lynch, PMP.

So get cracking. And get ready for the next Experience PMI event, “A New World View: Our Global Impact,” slated for 20 October: http://ow.ly/569n50Biskx

Before we reconvene on the Interweb, tell me: How are you becoming a more resilient leader?

Posted by cyndee miller on: September 11, 2020 06:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)
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