A project manager wears so many hats that zooming out and getting the bigger picture might be difficult. It is easy to treat different tasks as separate entities and therein lies the danger: Resourcing and project goals might not meet, or lessons learned during projects are systematically ignored in the following projects. More than anything, a project manager needs information to maintain a broad perspective.
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A fluent flow of information is born out of both cultural and technical factors. Company culture should be open, but developing internal communications is a technical task, too: Tools need to function in real time, they must be easy to use and bidirectional, so that information moves from project managers to the team and vice versa.
Resourcing calls for both a frog’s and a bird’s-eye view
Resourcing is a good example of something that’s easy to wreck with poor internal communication. Resourcing is usually seen as a job for the project manager, but for it to work, every team member must take care of the project’s profitability and their own workload to match the project’s scope.
Bad resourcing is often the thing that eats away a project’s profitability. The way to avoid this is to involve the whole team in the work by keeping them informed and sharing information with everyone who takes part in the project.
Of course, resourcing is, first and foremost, on the project manager’s agenda: project managers need to get up-to-date information on their team’s resource situation, so that a momentary overload in some part of the team won’t become an overwhelming obstacle for the whole project. That’s why it’s important that information flows in real time. A spreadsheet created in the launch stage of a project cannot be used to see if a part of a team gets buried in work during the project – this requires a continuous bi-directional flow of information between project management and experts.
Often people work on several projects simultaneously, which makes resourcing even more demanding. Functional project tools make it possible for the project manager to have a bird’s eye view – every employee’s workload must be visible, and managers have to be able to decide which employee’s schedule allows them to do ad-hoc tasks.
Forget the painfulness of invoicing
For any project manager, invoicing is often both pleasant and arduous. Invoicing might be left for the last day of the month, even though it could have been done much earlier. In most cases, invoicing gets put off because it’s messy: Information must be compiled from several locations.
Being organized helps. By integrating invoicing and resourcing systems, all information is centralized. When you have the billing estimates, subcontracting information, the number of hours used, and costs of material in one place, you don’t need to be a detective to create an invoice.
Good project management makes waves
When the flow of information works at the project level, its positive effects spread into every part of the organization. Centralized data collection and ‘master data’ thinking are the cornerstones of many an agile corporation’s business management, not only because it simplifies project management, but also because of the wider benefits.
In practice, this means that all the tiny bits of knowledge about customers, gathered from marketing, move fluently to sales. When a deal is made, all the knowledge from the process becomes a part of the actual work – it doesn’t get buried into a graveyard of Excel spreadsheets. This way, your team doesn’t have to aim at moving targets: They’re constantly informed by the framework created at launching stages of the project.
When a project is completed, the project framework should be compared to actual performance, which helps to resource and to budget in the future, with following projects. This has positive effects on sales, profitability, growth, and development.
Information flow and centered data collection are thus a project manager’s secret weapons. Teamwork often becomes more efficient through communication and the right toolset, and tasks like invoicing typically need a technical solution – centered data collection. There’s a technical solution to many of a project manager’s headaches, and solving the problems has huge benefits both for individual projects and at the company level.
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