3 ways to be an effective manager in an agile environment

Agile project management focuses on delivering project outcomes repeatedly and incrementally. It is a less rigid and regimented process than traditional project management, giving the project team more autonomy and flexibility.

Without the rigid framework of a traditional project management approach, agile teams need great tools in place. They need to communicate, collaborate and respond to each other’s needs. Agile environments rely on team members being motivated and well informed, and agile project managers need to trust in their team and exhibit behaviours of flexibility, collaboration and empowerment. So what makes a project manager effective in an agile environment?

 

Pay attention

 

Some people assume that agile management means as little project management as possible. In fact, in an agile environment, change happens fast, and the act of managing and accommodating that change requires the project manager to be attentive, disciplined and actively managing at all times. Agile PMs may be handing a lot of autonomy to their team members, but that does not mean they take a ‘hands off’ approach. On the contrary, they need to pay a lot of attention to what is going on within the team and coordinate it all.

 

Know your people

 

Great agile project managers get to know their team. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each team member helps in any project management situation, but in an agile environment where things change at short notice, knowing who has which skills and attributes is vital. Agile teams are generally more collaborative with responsive team members much readier to step up and take on ‘other duties as required’ than in a traditional project management setting.

Knowing who in your team needs extra support and coaching is also vital. Agile team members need to be motivated, self-disciplined and proactive. It is worth developing these attributes in team members who are missing them, as this will help an agile team work better. Lastly, great PMs in an agile environment will make sure team members know each other well. Good team building and facilitating a rapport between team members means that they also know the capabilities and special skills of their colleagues.

 

Use collective wisdom

 

Having a more collaborative team is only useful if everyone can contribute their best. Agile teams will be expected to make joint decisions, and to do that, it is necessary to have a process in place to share collective wisdom. A successful agile project manager will find a way to bring people together, encourage feedback and ideas and somehow aggregate diverse opinions to reach the best decision possible.

Agile project managers must find a way to benefit from wide-ranging feedback without getting too hung up on the need for consensus. It is the job of the agile PM to aggregate all the information and make a decision based on the collective wisdom of the team.

Project management may be different in an agile environment. It is, however, every bit as important as in a traditional setting.

Verto is a powerful way of pulling together project information and collaboration in one place, enabling you to work smart, be intuitive and deliver.  To see how we can help you contact our friendly team for a demo at info@vertocloud.com or sign up for a free trial!


We Build Bots & TMI Partner With A Reseller Agreement

Multi award winning AI company We Build Bots (WBB Ltd.) partner with TMI Systems, the Public Sector specialists in Cloud based work collaboration and programme management with their flagship product Verto.

 

Since WBB Ltd. was founded in August 2017, the Cardiff based Start-Up has secured a 6 figure investment, become a Certified Oracle Cloud Partner, and  recognised G-Cloud supplier. They have also won multiple awards for innovation, and quadrupled the size of their team.

With national and global clients across the financial, automotive, public, utility, sports and third sectors, WBB Ltd. are seeing a rise in demand for their chatbot technology; ‘IntelAgent’ within Local Authorities across the UK –  new clients include Monmouthshire, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire County Councils.  This increase in public sector interest has sparked the partnership TMI Systems.

Also G-Cloud accredited, TMI Systems have more than 10 years’ experience in providing the cloud based project management software ‘Verto’ which is used by over 60,000 users across over 120 public sector clients including Councils, NHS CCGs and STPs; Local Enterprise Partnerships and the emergency services.

With both businesses providing solutions to key challenges within the Public Sector, the Partnership provides an exciting opportunity for both parties. The partnership will begin 6th February 2019.

We’re delighted to be working with TMI a leading project management and collaboration provider, this will create synergies that are both complementary to our goals and serve both of our clients in the years to come.

-Paul Shepherd, CEO at We Build Bots

Working with We Build Bots is already adding value to our clients as Verto now uses WBB’s chatbot technology as part of our comprehensive support for all our users. We are delighted therefore to launch this partnership of Verto our leading project management and collaboration software with WBB’s award winning ‘IntelAgent’.

-Chris Wright, Managing Director at TMI Systems


Advancing sustainable collaboration across the public sector

Verto has teamed up with Shared Service Architecture (SSA) to combine our Cloud-based multi-agency project management systems with over 200 proven collaborative transformation tools and techniques.

What is Shared Service Architecture?

Shared Service Architecture (SSA) is a dynamic facilitation and teaching company focused on equipping politicians, board members, chief executives and senior managers in the public sector with the skills and knowledge to innovate and initiate successful shared service and collaborative transformation solutions.

What is Verto?

Verto is a Cloud-based work collaboration and programme management system with over 60,000 users across the UK. It replaces countless emails, spreadsheets and templates with a simple to use service that allows teams to share and keep everything in one place and report directly from the system.

The bringing together of SSA and Verto assets in one place will enable our clients to have real-time oversight and control over complex projects, enabling leaders to make better, more informed decisions that maximise leverage, address interdependencies and mitigate risks. Build the skills, capacity and confidence of your people to successfully deliver complex, multi-agency service transformation programmes.

 

To find out more about how Verto and Shared Service Architecture can help with collaboration and project management click here.


Verto: Supporting Integrated Care Systems at Eastern Cheshire CCG

 

 

Our case study on Eastern Cheshire CCG shows how Verto has improved digital collaboration by streamlining their processes and documentation, enabling a single view of programme information; this has simplified their reporting management systems, including instant visibility of its project performance and the ability to generate high-quality reports, including its Board Assurance Framework, with one click of a button. 

“Working with the Verto team has been brilliant – they have such a great ‘can do’ attitude. They are so responsive, listening to our ideas
and challenges and finding solutions so the system really works for us.  One of the key factors in choosing Verto was that it was in use at NHS West Cheshire CCG so we could see in detail how it was working and how good it was. West Cheshire were very impressed with the system and support.  In particular, we could see how using VertoGrid would enable us to run programmes and reports cross-oganisationally whilst retaining all the individual configuration of our own system. For us this was the best of both worlds and, combined with its ease of use and depth of functionality, it wasn’t a difficult decision”.

Adam McClure, PMO Manager for NHS Eastern Cheshire CCG

Read the full case study here http://bit.ly/2Wb61w5

 


How a clear strategy will streamline your project delivery

 

 

The word strategy is in wide use in businesses and other organisations. The term is so common that it is easy to assume that everyone knows exactly what it means. In practice, however, many people confuse strategy with planning and sometimes with process. Planning and strategy are not the same concept. In fact, strategy is what needs to be in place before planning can begin.   Understanding the blend between strategy, planning and processes will streamline project delivery.

 

 

 

 

Planning involves decision-making, but strategy involves devising a framework that will guide how you make decisions. For this reason, strategy always comes before planning, and a clear strategy should make day-to-day planning and decision-making much easier. 

 

 Applying a strategic framework

 

A strategic framework should lay out a set of principles that guide both your daily decisions and long-term planning. This framework should include answers to these important questions: 

 

  • What value are you creating as an organisation? 
  • Who are you creating it for? 
  • What skills, resources and core capabilities do you need? 
  • How will you reach and communicate with your customers or end-users? 
  • What level of revenue or profit are you aiming for? 
  • What unique qualities or offerings set you apart from the competition? 

 

In short, strategy is an overview of what will move you from where you are to where you want to be. It is about what you want to achieve and what needs to be in place to achieve it. 

 

Develop your knowledge

 

Becoming knowledgeable about strategy helps guide the daily decision-making processes of your entire team. Once your strategic framework is in place, it can inform decisions on investments, hiring, product development, budgets, advertising and most other issues. Having a strategy can also help team members prioritise everything from major projects to small daily tasks. 

 

A clear strategy also lets your team members decide what not to do. If a plan, decision or process does not in any way support your clearly defined strategic framework, then it probably does not need done. Alternatively, it could need to be adapted so that it does contribute to your strategy. 

 

When everyone understands the strategic framework, autonomy increases, and decision-making is more streamlined. Often, much of the back-and-forth clarifications between managers, employees, departments and team members is due to a lack of understanding in regard to what the organisation is actually trying to achieve. Once everyone is clear on the answers to all the above questions, formulating plans becomes easier. Many decisions become more obvious, and some decisions practically make themselves. 

 

Blend 

 

Strategy, planning and process are very different things, but they are all linked. A plan involves making a set of decisions based on a strategy. A process is a clearly defined way of doing a particular task. The strategic framework lays out the big picture of what needs done; the plan is the actual roadmap of how to do it and the process is the system that you have in place to implement what is in your plan.
 

To find out how Verto project management software can help with implementing strategy, planning and processes, sign up for your 14 day free trial .

 


Why visibility through reporting and notifications is essential for project success

 

Successful project management is about a lot more than sharing data. This is why specialist project management software remains so popular in spite of the availability of free file-sharing sites and basic, affordable online workspace systems. There are big differences between basic file sharing systems and the built-in functions of more advanced project management software.

One major advantage of specialised project management software is that it gives you the ability to report to project sponsors simply and easily. For those who still remember the “old days” of wading through long, dry, written reports, 21st-century technology is a huge step forward. Reporting has evolved to allow for condensed information, easy-to-assimilate visuals and notifications of important project updates that land on your phone or other mobile devices in real time.

As technology gets more complex, reporting gets less so. Software allows you to replace those lengthy reports with accessible charts, tables and other visual elements that quickly present all vital information. You can customise project management software to ensure that sponsors and other high-level stakeholders regularly get updates that matter to them and that those who require an immediate response receive it without ever having to deal with extraneous or redundant information.

The fast pace of the modern world means that it is important to prevent slowing down workflow with bloated or unnecessary processes. Trends in reporting are constantly moving toward presenting the right information to the right people at the right time. This information should make sense to non-technical staff and stakeholders, even when the information itself is technical or complex.

Verto software offers a range of reporting options aimed at keeping communications streamlined and effective. Providing comprehensive reporting from the product itself, as well as the opportunity to integrate it into third-party reporting engines, Verto opens up various choices for project managers. The software features easy-to-use reporting options that are ideal for keeping your management team up to date on events, milestones and risks without the need for detailed input from sponsors. You can also customise this software to let sponsors respond to issues when their input is necessary.

Mobile apps now allow project management teams to access an unprecedented level of flexibility. Offering on-the-go updates, requests for approvals and knowledge of risks, mobile reporting allows teams to easily collaborate on making the right decisions for their projects in a timely fashion. Customisable apps facilitate instant notifications that not only concern the project’s current stage but also the various decisions needed for the next stage. The right app can clearly present the required information for making the next logical decision on a particular project, whether it is to progress to the next stage, end the project or inject more resources for successful project completion.

The VertoGo mobile app offers immediate updates for your project management team with the additional options of notifying sponsors of changes and gaining their approval while they are on the move. VertoGo is now available for both Apple and Android devices. For more information Click here.


5 ways to streamline approvals and make contextually informed decisions

 

Few things bring a project to a grinding, if temporary, halt quite as fast as a badly-managed approval process. Streamlining the approval process can keep a project flowing smoothly from one stage to the next. To do this, it is necessary to put systems in place that allow approvers to make fast, contextually informed decisions.

 

1. Consult the right people

Decision authority is the first thing to streamline. Too many organizations have too many people or functions involved in the decision-making process. This gives veto power, or the power to delay the project with unnecessary queries, to the wrong people. Some people or departments are consulted for no reason, other than that is the way things have always been done. Ensure that decision authority is only given to the decision-makers whose input is really necessary

 

2. Ask the right questions

 

When it comes to capital expenditure decisions, there are three vital questions to answer:

 

  • Is this proposal complete, and does it exceed the minimum hurdle rate?
  • Do we have the funds to invest in this project?
  • How attractive is this project compared to others, at this time?

 

Any queries, objections, or decision-making delays that are based on anything other than these questions are irrelevant and should not be holding up the approval process.

 

3. Implement a system to compare disparate projects

 

Decision-makers often have to compare very different projects. To complicate the process further, the criteria for evaluation may be either qualitative or quantitative, depending on the project goals. This can make it challenging to answer the question as to which project is most attractive, inevitably delaying the approval process. It is vital, therefore, to have a system to compare disparate projects objectively and ensure that the most appropriate project is quickly approved.

 

4. Forecast frequently

 

The approval process is also hindered by out-of-date forecasts. Projects grow and change as they move through the project life cycle, making it important to update forecasts at every stage. To keep approvals streamlined, it is necessary to:

 

  • Make real-time data automatically available to the capital-management system
  • Allow project managers to easily and frequently update this data
  • Compile forecasts in a systematic and standardised way
  • Make forecasts easily accessible to everyone involved, to enable effective collaboration
  • Ensure that management act promptly based on these frequent, real-time forecasts

 

5. Develop a unified approach

 

Many organisations make approval decisions in silos. There is no unified system to compare one project against another. This hinders the process, as approvers try to identify the most attractive project by navigating multiple reports, spreadsheets, and databases to ascertain exactly what the updated forecasts, budgets, and return on investment is for each project are.

 

One way to streamline the approval process is to streamline the comparison process. Organisations can do this by implementing a unified capital-portfolio-management system, that tracks each project across the investment life cycle, allowing easy comparison at every stage for which approval is required.

 

Request a demo of Verto to see how we can help you streamline approvals in your organisation!


How reports can make or break a programme

 

The reporting process is part and parcel of the programme management process. However, not all reporting is good reporting. Over-reporting can be as damaging to progress as under-reporting. It is vital to ensure that the reporting process is streamlined enough to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time, without creating unnecessary work for key team members who would be better off spending their time implementing rather than reporting.  

 

 

Programmes and projects consist of many moving parts. Communication between team members, managers, contractors and stakeholders is vital. When it comes to running a programme that may consist of many different projects, all working towards similar or complementary outcomes, things get even more complicated. It is important to monitor the interdependencies between projects within the programme, and prevent problems and delays affecting one project from having an impact on others. This means identifying and communicating factors that need to be reported, not just within project management teams, but also from one project team to another. 

 

Effective reporting systems allow for essential communication across large and complex programmes. It allows project managers within the programme to keep up to date with the progress of other projects that will impact theirs. Reporting also allows the teams delivering the benefits to assure those waiting for them, such as senior management, stakeholders and end users, that the projects are progressing well, that the programme is working, and that the benefits are likely to be delivered in full and on time. 

 

When project management teams regularly and efficiently report to sponsor teams, everyone benefits. Good reporting procedures give everyone a sense of ownership and involvement. Clear reporting can relieve sponsor time pressures by ensuring that management, stakeholders and customers are aware of how things are progressing, and if there are delays, why those delays occurred, and what is being done to alleviate them. Programme managers may be reluctant to communicate bad news to stakeholders, but stakeholder management is an essential part of programme management, and good reporting can ensure stakeholder buy-in. 

 

Under-reporting and over-reporting 

 

Both under-reporting and over-reporting are damaging to effective programme management. However, it is not always easy to create a perfect balance. A lot will depend on how agile the organisation is, and the tools in place for effective programme management. A rigid approach with specific reporting structures, templates and software that all teams must adhere to, regardless of how relevant they are to a particular project, may result in over-reporting and time wasted on reporting progress rather than actually making more progress. 

 

An agile approach will allow for customised levels of reporting, taking into account the complexity of the programme. Ideally, reporting should supply everyone with the data they need, when they need it, without distracting them with irrelevant or untimely information.  

 

Many programme managers are keen to ensure efficiency by providing information strictly on a need-to-know basis. This approach ensures that just enough information is reported to allow key project decisions to be made. This may work well in situations where the programme management team has the trust and understanding of the sponsor team, but can cause problems if the stakeholders and other members of the sponsor team misunderstand this commitment to efficient reporting, and see it instead as a lack of transparency. 

 

Other programme managers choose to deliver far too much detail to stakeholders. This is rarely welcomed and, depending on the complexity of the programme, can often obstruct the reporting objective of clearly communicating progress. Too much detail, data and unnecessary information is hard to digest, and can even imply to the sponsor team that the programme management team is trying to hide important information among a sea of jargon. 

 

Setting expectations 

 

Good reporting procedures have a lot in common with good programme management. It is advisable to agree on reporting structures at the beginning of the programme, at the same time that all other deliverables are being agreed upon. This involves agreeing upfront with stakeholders, other members of the sponsor team, and other project management teams within the programme, what will be reported, in what depth and at which points during the implementation of the programme. It can be helpful to set out the following: 

 

  • What data should form an essential part of reports? 
  • What data is irrelevant and can be left out? 
  • How often will reports be delivered? 
  • Who will read which reports and why? 
  • Is there a culture of trust that allows efficient, need-to-know reporting? 
  • What reporting tools will be used? 
  • Are there alternatives (such as project management dashboards) that can be used to minimise formal reporting procedures? 

 

The more agile the approach to programme management is, the more agile the approach to reporting can be. It is possible to build in flexibility, allowing bare bones, need-to-know reporting to be the norm, but agreeing that more in-depth reports will be generated if a complex or unforeseen issue arises. 

 

Reporting best practices 

 

While no reporting system is perfect, there are certainly some best practices that should be followed. When it comes to reporting procedures in programme management, it is essential to consider the objectives of reporting and put in place a strategy that allows all relevant information to be reported to all relevant teams and individuals, without wasting any more time than is necessary on the reporting process. To ensure maximum efficiency: 

 

  • Agree who needs to know what, when and why 
  • Put in place an efficient reporting system 
  • Consider project management software that allows for ongoing communication 
  • Create formal reports only as often as necessary for the success of the programme 
  • Do not provide detail for the sake of detail – summarise the essential data and information 
  • Establish trust between the programme management team and the sponsor team 
  • Generate reports at regular intervals to create continuity and expectations 
  • Do not let reporting get in the way of implementing 

 

Ultimately, reporting procedures should be made as efficient as possible. To find out how Verto can help make your project management more efficient, register for our free 60-day trial today! 


VertoSense: ultimate flexibility with dynamic infographics

 

 

VertoSense is a powerful new tool we’ve introduced in response to the need of our clients to better manage and visualise their project dependencies. 

Instead of just focusing on the traditional elements of tasks & milestones, VertoSense allows users to record the links between any of the project elements. For example, a cost may be dependent on a milestone, an issue’s resolution dependent on an action or even a benefit linked to a change in scope.

Greater flexibility for better business 

The enhanced flexibility and customisation of VertoSense means that project management professionals and stakeholders can make determinations about how dependencies are established and recorded, taking account of subtle dependencies that can be lost in more rigid systems. 

These dependencies can be set up as often as necessary and between as many elements as needed so it really is extremely flexible. 

Intuitive design 

Creating a customised dependency automatically generates a dynamic infographic which shows all the connections. You can see where any other projects are dependent on yours, where your project depends on any others and where you have any internal dependencies. Refining your view to just what you want to see makes assessing impacts as easy and visual as possible.   

 

Pinpoint accuracy 

The VertoSense linking functionality also provides teams and stakeholders with a significantly improved means of communication throughout the project management framework. All project management software does this doesn’t it? Well, not quite in this way. 

With VertoSense, users can share information with their collaborators through pinpointing to get feedback, troubleshoot minor issues, request review and more. The VertoSense function guides contacts to the exact place where you need help so there’s no time wasted trying to direct attention to the relevant area. Such intuitive collaboration is crucial in project management and means users can instantly see what needs to be done, do it and get on with other tasks. 

Communication is as easy as starting the chat - every project automatically has a chat group containing all the project members or you can create your own groups as needed. 

Make it easy to see and understand 

VertoSense can dramatically streamline and simplify your next project management task. From improving recorded dependencies and generating intuitive visuals to helping you see where and how various internal and external projects are connected, this powerful tool can take your project management to the next level.  

This tool offers a customisable solution for those looking to boost communication and increase the transparency of any project. 

VertoSense comes alive in a demo, so to see it in action contact us at info@vertocloud.com or call +44 (0)118 334 6200. 


How agile teams can work together

 

At the heart of any successful project is a well-managed, cohesive team. While this sounds simple, it is often far from it, with team collaboration often hindered by a fast-paced, ever-changing work environment. Increasingly, the demands placed on the modern project management team include shifting priorities and changes in timelines and objectives, as new data is incorporated into the original project. It is, then, vital to put in place an agile team that can effectively work together in spite of the uncertainties they will face.

 

What is agile?

 

“Agile” is now a concept that applies to goals, principles, practices and, of course, teams. Being agile is about setting aside rigid, traditional, 20th-century management techniques, and becoming responsive, flexible and collaborative. Agile teams are poised to respond, adapt and pivot in a working culture that has become increasing volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

 

Agile teams must learn to prioritise responding to change over following a plan – which turns traditional project management techniques upside down. At first glance, the agile workplace, housing an agile team, is not the ideal environment for traditional project management strategies, but project management strategies can be adapted. Project management can also be agile.

 

Making project management agile

 

In an agile environment, project management works differently. Traditional project management establishes a detailed plan, with specific deliverables for each stage, and then follows the plan. Agile project management involves defining a desired outcome, and then working towards it in stages. Each stage of the plan is delivered in a short period of time, and then the team clarifies what needs to be done next.

 

In project management, agility matters most at the point of execution. The idea of agility as a broad ideal may seem inconsistent with the “milestones and deliverables” focus of traditional project management. However, agility at the point of execution is possible in well-managed projects. Teams can work together to execute specific tasks, while remaining responsive and ready to adapt to whatever new issues the execution of that task generates.

 

Project managers who nurture agility within their teams create successful outcomes. They learn to track and monitor progress, identify shifts in priorities and objectives, respond to new information, redistribute collaborative work as needed, map and manage inter-dependencies between different groups, and identify high-potential but overlooked experts who can take the burden off other, over-stretched, team members. Agile project management, far from being a step away from the benefits of traditional project management, builds extra strengths and advantages into the way that the team approaches tasks, deliverables and milestones.

 

Agility in the public sector

 

Agile concepts are already well-established within the private sector, and not just within small businesses and start-ups. Firms such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft have been quick to embrace an agile approach, throughout the organisation, and at a deep cultural level, but can this approach translate to public sector organisations with more traditional and measured working practices?

 

Agility in the public sector is possible and highly desirable. However, it needs to be accepted that organisational culture is what drives true agile thinking, and with large organisations, a change of culture is a significant challenge in itself. The first step is an honest assessment of current working culture, which will inform the change needed to transition to an agile approach. Transforming the bureaucracy associated with large public sector organisations into many small, self-contained agile teams, empowered to make rapid decisions and resolve issues quickly, will not happen overnight.

 

The role of the project management office with agile teams

 

There is still a role for the project management office in a world of empowered, self-organising, agile teams, and this role is essential. Agile teams in a large organisation are part of the wider enterprise, and still have important obligations to fulfil. With many independent, agile teams under its wing, the project management office is responsible for ensuring that the organisation is still delivering value, while maintaining quality, reputation and stakeholder confidence. Ultimately, the project management office is still responsible for oversight and governance, even as more power and individual decision-making is delegated to agile teams.

 

Agile project management tools 

 

As project management becomes agile, the tools needed for effective team management evolve. The best agile tools for your team will vary, but they must cover the following important elements.

 

Task management

 

Agile teams need sophisticated task management tools. These tools can take the form of virtual Kanban or Scrum boards with projects, task lists, time records and expenses. This allows team members to track tasks that they are not directly involved in, and makes incomplete, in-progress tasks visible to the whole team, facilitating easy monitoring and “dovetailing” with other tasks.

 

Team collaboration

 

Team collaboration tools allow for centralised, visible communication. Team members can share updates with each other, and with other local and distributed teams, and easily communicate with each other about shifting timelines, task lists, feedback and assignments.

 

Agile metrics, reporting and analytics

 

Reporting and analytics are vital to agile teams. Team members constantly responding to the metrics, data and analysis being compiled by the team as a whole is at the heart of what makes a team agile. These tools need to incorporate time tracking and projection, easy-to-understand progress reports for stakeholders, quality assurance and progress. There also need to be systems in place to identify and remedy project obstacles, evaluate performance and appraise financials.

 

Integrations

 

Any individual tool is only as good as the system in which it operates. How well does each tool play with other tools you are using? The best approach to agile project management is often an integrated software system that can be easily customised to the needs of your team.

 

Project management teams can work together easily and efficiently in an agile environment. However, it does require that traditional project management techniques are adapted, with the core concepts and benefits of agility kept in mind as those adaptations are designed and implemented.

 

To see what Verto can do to help your agile team work together easily and efficiently, register for our free 60 day trial.