Project Management Within Your Collaboration Strategy

My introduction into the knowledge management and collaboration space was during my tenure at the phone company back in the mid-1990’s. I was tasked with extending our organization’s oft-ignored intranet, which was where content went to die, never to be seen by human eyes again. However, for a small core group of us within the IT shared services organization, we caught the vision of a centralized repository for our information assets. I was tasked with the job of simplifying the way in which people accessed project data, checked the status of various initiatives, and accessed our library of resources.

Of course, the design tools available at that point in history were fairly limited: I created rudimentary visuals using Corel Draw, and with my basic HTML skills, built a clickable diagram of our project methodology to help people quick identify where to go and what to do to find the information they needed. Over the next year or so, I continued to add to the site and extend its capabilities in an effort to automate key processes and provide simple reporting mechanisms for our fledgling project management office (PMO) and the management team.

Fast forward to today, and many of the core needs for project and portfolio management are still there for the modern organization. However, our business systems are more complex, and within the broad collaboration technology category there are often confusingly overlapping technologies. As a result, project teams often adopt the tools and solutions they know and trust, which likely do not scale across the entire enterprise. Part of what has added to this complexity has been the proliferation of web-based services, allowing anyone to quickly and easily sign up for an online project management service and get some kind of business value. The problem, of course, is that centralized security, compliance, and governance is often an afterthought.

Modern project management is about capturing the information necessary to track tasks, and provide data for managers to make decisions. That’s it, in a nutshell. You may or may not agree with this definition, but at its core, project management is just another aspect of collaboration and knowledge management, albeit at a much more tactical level. The project and portfolio management space has been crowded for decades, with no single solution “owning” the space. While Microsoft Project could make an argument for the leader position, the most common tool actually used for project management schedule building and planning is Microsoft Excel. But even within the Microsoft portfolio of tools, the use of the desktop version of Project is falling behind Project 365, Planner, and even Microsoft To-Do.

The primary problem with MS Project, IMO, is that hardly anyone uses the deep, complex functionality it provides. It’s an either/or problem – either you do get trained on using all of it, or you turn it off and stick with your Excel spreadsheet or Planner board. Project, historically, has not provided the “Casual PM” with the tools they need – more than a simple work breakdown structure and Gantt chart, less than the detailed resource management tools and analytics. Most people – well, most project managers – want something in-between. Something that allows them to get more work done, check deadlines across projects (the portfolio view), and NOT get hung up in advances features that burden rather than help.

KanBo boardWith the expansion of cloud-based solutions, there has been a trend toward kanban list management tools, which better fit the agile project management needs employed by many organizations. For many years now, there have been various free and paid solutions that have offered light-weight kanban capability within SharePoint and Office 365, but to be truly effective within the context of an organization’s enterprise-wide collaboration strategy, these solutions must be integrated within their intranet, and offer all of the same security, compliance, and governance capabilities as their other platforms and tools.

In other words, project management tools should no longer be a bolt-on solution, but an integrated aspect of the rest of your environment. When planning for your company-wide collaboration platform, include project management within your discussions. Likewise, when product and project management teams begin planning for tools and services to help them in their roles, make sure that the solutions you consider fit within your company’s broader collaboration efforts.

Modern project management is more than centralized storage of project plans on a shared drive — it is another facet of your organization’s broader collaboration strategy.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Apps & Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and fractional-CMO for revealit.io, tyGraph, and Extranet User Manager.