By Rich Wilkinson, Director of Solutions Engineering at Unanet
It’s a simple question. It ought to have a simple answer. It doesn’t. As a Project Manager told me just the other day, “It’s hard to tell someone else how you are doing when you don’t know yourself.”
I was meeting with a group of PMs and a little later in the conversation, I asked “How do you know where you are and how current is that data point?” There wasn’t a happy face in the room. Finally, someone spoke up and said “We get a set of static reports twice a month. Each one tells us where we were the week before – if we’re lucky. If we’re not, then two weeks ago. The rest of the time, we’re driving 90 miles an hour, backwards, in fog.”
I wish that response was unusual, but it’s not. I didn’t even have to ask what system they were using. I knew from the answer.
It seems I always have to push the envelope. So, I asked what they would give to know where they were at the end of the previous day every morning when they logged in. I won’t repeat some of the answers, but their boss, the COO, leaned over and said “I’d kill for that.” It made me a little nervous. He was a Navy Seal and I think he was serious!
We spent about an hour talking about what Unanet could do for them. We talked about the power of a single database with a single application and a single security model. We talked about the importance of timecard compliance if project managers are to rely on the data in the system – and how they can monitor and enforce that compliance. Not how some system administrator could do it – how they could do it for themselves. And, how the PMs could assign resources to their own projects, schedule those resources to plan project performance – by person, by time period. And, how they could modify those plans on the fly and, ultimately, answer that all-important question for themselves – “How is my project going?”
As we approached the end of the meeting, the salesperson asked to discuss the next steps. The CEO looked over and said “There are no next steps.” The salesperson looked understandably disappointed. Then he said “This is what we’ve been looking for. We’re committed. Send me paperwork to sign.” At that point, her expression improved markedly. Mine, too!
When I was a PM, I constantly struggled to know where I was and how my project was going. I kept a “shadow system” to figure it out. I spent countless hours manipulating spreadsheets and reconciling those (monthly, in my case) with the project reports I got from finance because I had no direct access to the data myself. I wish that was a “back in the day” thing, but it’s not. PMs still do that today – even though their company may be using some of the most expensive, “leading edge” systems out there. Maybe that sentence is only half right, and the system is just plain expensive.
Shadow systems and work-around processes are in a lot of ways, even more expensive than that “leading edge” ERP. Shadow systems not only represent a cost in terms of the PMs effort, they also represent a performance risk. Because, when a PM is keying data into spreadsheets to answer that all-important “How is my project going?” question, some project, somewhere, isn’t being managed.
Do your PMs know the status of their projects right now? Or just once or twice a month with a delay of a week or two?
If your team doesn’t have a pulse on how each of their projects is doing, in real time, it may be time to make a switch.
Join us for one of our upcoming thought leadership webinars or demos to see what life could be like for your project-based business. (https://goo.gl/uYXp6d)