Project Management Communication

As Basecamp founder and 37Signals CEO Jason Fried said about Project Management Communication:

“.. project management is communication. Projects don’t fail from a lack of charts, graphs, tables, reports, stats, spreadsheets, and so on. Projects fail from a lack of simple two-way communication.”

It is all about communication

We at happytodos strongly support this philosophy for project management approach. There are a lot of great project management software out there on the web. Most have great features, good user interface and overall provide a very good user experience. But that doesn’t make the project you manage with one of those tools succeed. At the end of the day IT IS all about communication.

There is a reason why companies hire project managers to oversee their projects and hopefully get them to completion on time and on budget with high quality. You simply can not run a successful project without a “Daddy” who will make sure all team members are in the loop on the latest updates relevant to their work, resolve issues as they come up, report back to management, and mostly run around like crazy and make sure everything is on track and people are working on what they are supposed to be working on. With hundreds of projects under my belt, I should know. It can get really crazy.

We need to communicate in order to bring a project to completion

Don’t even get me started on the meetings. Hours and hours of wasted time that could better be invested in producing actual work. Don’t get me wrong, meeting are important, sometimes, but mostly are not. The only reason we have collaborative meetings with project teams is because even with the great invention such as email, the clutter gets so great, it’s easier to gather the team in a room for an hour than count that all have read the latest updates sent out via email.

I remember, as R&D Manager for online advertising agency, if I got just 200 emails a day – it was a good day. That’s at least 2 hours of my time wasted , each day. Then there are meetings, at least once a week, per project, just to make sure everybody is in fact in the loop on all the updates I worked hard to send. So how come so much time is wasted? The answer is simple – We need to communicate in order to bring a project to completion.

So what if we had a monster of a project management system such as MsProject. With all the bells and whistles on it, it didn’t do much for making our communication easier. If anything, it made matters worst. There could effectively be only one project manager on each project, making it a real pain to have several people update the project tasks. You see, only one person can edit an MsProject project file at a time. And then he has to commit it back to the server so that another person can download updated copy to make his changes. From the team member point of view, although they do get an interface to see and report on their tasks, communicating on tasks effectively is a bitch.

Today’s online project management tools are all about collaboration

Having not be the only project manager who found the off the shelf enterprise project management solutions to be a real pain, and with the growth of internet technological capabilities, a new breed of project management tools started to emerge – online project management applications. Completely web based, hosted solutions with much better and simpler interfaces, less features overall (compared to MsProject) but more to the point for day to day use. Nothing to install, fairly small learning curve, fast user adoption and practically no training needed. And the past part is: today’s online project management tools are all about collaboration (the actual hole in the wall and not the drill), and cost a tiny fraction of any enterprise project management solution.

So, while charts, schedules, calendars and task lists are nice, without a doubt, the most important part of project management task is collaboration. I personally tried, tested, integrated and trained teams to use many online project management tools. Some of the best tools out there are of course Basecamp, ActiveCollab, Clarizen, Wrike and alike. You can read more about each of them on the web. And while they all excel in collaboration, there was still something missing.

The missing secret ingredients

It took almost two years of very detailed research of over 50 such apps and my own personal experience in project management for over 10 years, to distill the missing secret ingredients that are essential to effectively manage a project. While online collaboration tools bring a completely new and much needed approach to project management, there are still the following questions that none of them could answer in an easy and satisfactory manner.

These are the three golden questions I found asking myself many, many times a day. Questions that my managers were asking me, and questions that needed to be answered in real time for me to be able to be a good project manager and do a great job. These are:

  • Who is working on what right now? – Goes to making sure the project is executed as planned and people are working on the right tasks.
  • When will a task be completed? – Goes to making sure we are on track schedule wise, and also goes to impact on the final project completion date.
  • How much does the project cost? – Goes to making sure we are on budget and if not, how we can adjust while the project is still in progress.

I find that if you had an instant answer to all of these questions any time to wish to ask them, coupled with great collaboration – you would most likely have more successful projects than anyone else and a happy CEO.

So, I decided to go ahead and develop an online project management system that does just that: answers these questions for you, anytime, anywhere, just like a magic mirror, AND has effective and easy to use team collaboration tools. This is how happytodos was born. I especially like the name since the purpose of the app is to make you happy to do.

Would love to hear your five cents if we did a good job at providing a tool that makes you happy to do and makes your projects a success.

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admin 26th September 2011