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Project management trend: Collaboration

Trends-2014

Source: Efi

There are several trends in project management that will only get stronger in 2014 (resource management, distributed teams, cloud, agile, etc.), but one that I particularly thrive to bring forward is ‘collaboration‘.

All trends are important, but this one is my personal top priority, as it affects the whole team’s synergy, and a project manager doesn’t get anything done without its team.

More and more tools are available to help teams collaborate by making project information available to everyone, and adding options that simplify communication. For me, this is more than just about the tools, it’s about the team itself and how they work.

Working together rather than in silos

Typically, everyone works in their corners, and when their part is done, they would give it to the next one who would then do their part, and so on. Collaboration is about everyone being “together in this”, and working together while one part is being done. This means that the team is updated with the status as it goes, and are able to participate in each step to share their opinions pro-actively rather than at the last-minute when they receive the done work.

A typical example, is when design is approved, and only than can the tech team flag that half of it cannot be done but by now, it’s too late! Collaboration means involving the others while design is being done so this does not occur. Collaboration tools ease this by helping everyone to communicate and keep track of comments, discussions, and decisions.

This brings teamwork to a whole new level, which is important for the sanity of any project. But all this extra communication needs to be managed by the project manager, who can only go so far with mails, and Word documents scattered on the agency’s network; these tools help the project manager do this, and lets the team communicate amongst themselves rather than putting everything on the PM’s shoulders.

Bigger sense of involvement

As team members are more and more collaborating through every step of a project, it gives everyone a bigger sense of involvement and commitment. This adds motivation to get the work done, and done properly. It also helps everyone feel part of the team, which improves teamwork and moral.

All this reflects positively on the projects.

Live updates

All that communication can add delays to your project, but not anymore; everyone can be updated live on every step. Whether it’s an updated schedule, or a new decision taken concerning the design, no one has to find out ‘by chance’ that they’ll need to deliver something next Monday.

All those updates can also be communicated and tracked easily without having 150 more mails in the inbox.

Sharing of files

Simple yet useful, files are being shared all the time, especially if you want the others to have a look at the work being done. Sometimes, it can hard to find the right files at the right moment, and it gets worst as the project progresses because more files will be available, and more version of each files.

This creates confusion and frustration in a team. Great online collaboration tools will make sure files are categorized, versioned, tagged, and in the end, easy to find. Sharing files and receiving feedback can become easy, and help out the team all the way to the end.

Everyone can pitch in

As everyone is involved more and more, the whole team can pitch in improving how it works. This is where it can get very interesting; everyone can improve their communication, their work, their habits simply by discussing and gathering feedback.

Continuous improvement is always important, and a must in a competitive environment where everything becomes bigger except budgets & schedules.

In conclusion

Collaboration is very important and tools are making it easier and easier. Teams must embrace this and work tighter together more than ever, there is no more excuses!

What is your favorite trend coming up in the future? Share!

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Is collaboration important for PM tools of today?

I am certain that each domain of work have their different say on this, which I’m still curious to find out about from others, but this article is going to be from an IT point of view.

So is collaboration important for tools of today? YES!

First, let’s make sure everyone is one the same page: by ‘collaboration’, I’m not talking about having a chat available so we can ‘talk’, I’m talking about everyday tools like what is used for managing projects. Collaboration is not only to share messages, but sharing everything about the project (information, dates, etc.), and being able to all work with the same elements.

So now, why is it important?

Saves time

If everyone is using the same tool together, than nobody creates their own individual version, which duplicates information, adds to confusion, and wastes time.

When the information is updated, appropriate people are notified and everyone can quickly see what was updated, rather than having to email or go talk to everyone each time something comes up.

Improves teamwork

When working in teams, collaboration is important, otherwise there is no “team”. The more collaboration possible, to closer & efficient the team will be. Imagine if everyone is aware of project updates and can easily refer back to anything, and can contribute on top of it.

This becomes even more essential when the team is bigger, as more people can contribute.

Everyone can contribute to improve

If everyone collaborates using the same tools, than everyone will have their own opinion. This means that valuable feedback can be gathered in order to improve the tools, or how they are used.

This can greatly optimize/fine tune how the team works together.

One (or few) places where information is stored

If people use the same tools, that means that the information will be less scattered. The result is that there is less confusion, less time wasted looking for information, and less information lost. Furthermore, if there are team members that are switched, previous information is not lost, and new team members can refer back to the team’s tools to catch on.

In conclusion

Collaboration in tools is highly underestimated. Sending a massive amount of mails or spending days in meetings does not compare to having efficient & collaborative tools that the whole team uses and trusts.

What do you think about collaboration with tools used today?


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3 reasons to work as ONE team

Team victory

Source: gracey

All organizations are formed by the combination of many teams of people, grouped by roles, or projects. Each team’s size may vary from very few to a lot. Although these are logical ways to separate people, in can also cause those teams to work in “silos” amongst one another. Here I want to emphasis on that one unique team which is actually everyone put together into one single large team. Think about it, even if 15 teams are separated, they are still all part of the organization, that one big team on top.

For example, in a matrix style organization, where resources from several teams are used to collaborate on a specific project, people working on the same project will collaborate as they are offered the opportunity to do it, resulting in them sharing their knowledge, and growing as a team while working on the project. While that happens, the other colleagues are mostly ignored since teams are each busy with their own work, and nothing is forcing them or giving them an opportunity to collaborate.

Here is why it’s important that the people keep that one big team in mind:

1. Knowledge sharing

Knowledge sharing is valuable for everyone, it gives everyone an opportunity to teach others, but also to evolve with the knowledge that others share with us. A typical scenario, as mentioned above, is that the sharing will be amongst the people working on the same project. When projects are done and new teams are created, then at some point new knowledge will be shared here and there.

However, what about the knowledge that could be shared with the others with who we have no project in common? Here is an example: A small team composed of a designer, a front-end developer, a back-end developer, and a project manager. Each of them will collaborate since they are linked with the project, but what about the sharing between the front-end developer and the other developers? Yes they may (may!) ask for help when they need it or may discuss a subject or two while eating, but no real continuous knowledge sharing will be done, so each developer will not necessary learn from others as much as they could.

It’s important to the most knowledge possible gets transferred on a regular basis, not just partially.

2. Better understanding of the organization

More often than it should, a lot of people are unaware of why certain decisions are made within the organization. That lack of understanding can bring frustration or destroy motivation, resulting in people leaving the organization.

On the other hand, if everyone is considered part of the same team, and this kind of information is shared with everyone, then a better understanding of the organization will be developed, and again, valuable feedback and knowledge can be shared. While the frustration and lack of motivation can be avoided, everyone will feel more part of the organization, resulting in higher moral.

3. Better productivity overall

If you have more knowledge shared, less frustration, more motivation, higher moral, and one big happy family, what happens? Everyone is more productive! This can result in great innovations, higher project success, higher quality in people’s work, etc.

It’s hard to say no to that 🙂

How can that be achieved?

As mentioned, people work in team-silos because they are busy and each focused on tasks at hand. The sharing done is generally limited to the opportunities they have to actually collaborate with others. This means that opportunities have to be created. Here are some examples that can help:

  • Knowledge sharing lunch: Order pizza and have one or more people take about a subject during lunch. It could be one lunch per week where people volunteer to speak, and others attend. This idea is easy to put together, and the trick is to have someone maintain the lunches each week to make sure they don’t stop.
  • Knowledge sharing meetings: Similar to the first idea, this one could be considered more formal. The idea is to have a monthly meeting where subjects are assigned to members, and they have to gather knowledge on that subject so that they can share it in the next monthly meeting. This idea is also great to “force” people to do some research they wouldn’t do on their own. Again, it takes someone to organize and control those meetings, and makes sure everything runs smoothly.
  • PMO: Although this idea can be harder to build if none is existent, it is a great example of a core management place that makes sure that knowledge, standards, and processes are optimized and standardized with everyone. I will not go into details of the advantages of a PMO, but I will at least mention that it gives an opportunity for project managers to receive valuable knowledge from the others with who they will rarely work with unless a project is large enough for 2 or more project managers to work together.
  • Centralized tools: By tools, I mean anything that can be used to execute tasks, whether it’s document templates, lessons learned knowledge, codes, plugins, etc. One way to help people share without necessarily actively talking or collaborating, is making sure everyone has access to a repository of those tools. By using the same tools, and having access to other’s contributions, learning can be done without actually using anyone else’s time. Furthermore, that gives an opportunity for people to give feedback on those tools, or improve them, helping the others who use them.
  • Activities: More used as a team-building technique, this can still be very useful to get people to play/collaborate/talk. Even if it’s outside the workplace, it will simplify all the sharing that can occur after that since people will get to know one another better. This will reduce shyness, and raise collaboration overall.

In conclusion

Working in teams is one thing, but everyone working together in one big team can have tremendous advantages. It may not be easy, and it’s important that key resources regularly manage this since it will not happen by magic, but what it will bring to the whole organization is more than worth it.

Have you ever worked somewhere where people were one big team? Or completely fragmented?