Every journey starts with the first step, and kicking a project off in the correct way is a sure first step to making sure that a quality job is delivered. We’ve automated these initial actions using Activities in IBM Connections and SugarCRM.
We have set up sections in an Activity Template which delinate the project into common phases, such as startup, shutdown and other phases. For those which have standard documentation types, we have created To Do entries with file attachments which hold the template of the document which should be created. We have provided bookmarks in the To Do entry to the relevant Wiki page (in Connections) which provides guidance on how to complete the document and what the next steps in the process are. Our Activity Template also has sections for emails, reference documents and other information which might be collected over time.
The Project Manager is at liberty to run his project as required, but our company guidelines around setup, initiation and shutdown of a project are now standardised.
We have gone one step further, however, in the automation of our project delivery structure. We use SugarCRM as our CRM system and now automatically create a Project in Sugar with the relevant financial information when an opportunity is won. The Project document in Sugar is marked as draft and lands on my desk for review. When I approve the document, some script behind the scenes uses IBM’s Social Business Toolkit and the REST APs within Connections to automate the generation of the Activity in our Projects Community. It correctly assigns the project manager, project team, project number, title and client details to the Activity. Because it uses the Activity Template which we’ve setup, the new project is defined in a standard way, assigned to the right people and set up ready for action.
The sales folks aren’t off the hook, however. One of the first tasks in our Project Activity is that the sales people must provide links to the proposal, quotations and anything else which would help the team produce a Statement of Work or Project Initiation Document. To-Do’s are raised in Activities flagged with the sales person as the actioner and these are managed by the Project Manager.
One nice side effect of this is that the activity shows up in the team member’s Activities sidebar in Lotus Notes. Our structure has an area for communications and other files relating to the project so they can immediately drag and drop emails they’ve collected on the project onto the Activity and thus share the information with the rest of the team.
Some activities become very large but the ability to section, indent and group items in the activity makes building a logical structure for the task in hand very easy. Because everything is there it also acts as an excellent overview and provides overall context which often gets lost when you’re in the middle of a difficult project.
Because the tasks being worked on by the team are managed in the activity and are plainly visible for everyone to see, there is less in the way of email cross-talk. A project email becomes something important rather than just more mindless detail a colleague wants to make sure he covers his backside with.
Importantly, we encourage our team to use our Projects Blog to document what they have been doing. If not for sharing with the others then for their own aide-memoire in the future. We’ve found it particularly useful if they tag entries with the job number (assigned originally by Sugar), the customer name and the technology they’re blogging about.
Combining the activity (which is the system of record for us) with the blog (which is both the system of record and of engagement) works really well and I would encourage others to give this approach a try.
This social project management approach should be appropriate in many industries. By reducing the email chatter and focusing on tasks and blogs a lot of the background noise gets filtered out. Using the comments in the blog as a way of discussing on record the contents of people’s “reports” is also a very valuable way of getting participation whilst using that as a means of capturing tacit knowledge.
Give it a go – you might be pleasantly surprised!