How to manage communication and collaboration challenges  

 

Communication and collaboration are highly desirable but often badly defined concepts. In programme and project management, the whole team will generally be aiming to collaborate effectively, but not everyone in the team will define collaboration the same way. For some, collaboration is all about meetings, brainstorming and sharing ideas. For others, it may be about everyone staying firmly in their own zone of genius, but having a solid central system in place to facilitate communication and collaboration when necessary. Many team members do not want to attend constant brainstorming sessions or share every detail, but still want to quickly and easily inform other team members of progress and log any thoughts about issues that could affect the project. 

 

When communication breaks down: the real cost 

 

A breakdown in communication can be a major source of stress within any team. Research indicates that poor communication is often reported as the top stressor in many workplaces, closely followed by a belief that other team members are not contributing. It seems likely that the two are linked, as good communication is what lets team members keep up to date on what other team members are achieving.  

 

When working in a team, communication often needs to be not one-way or two-way, but multi-way. In a project management situation, there may be many team members working on different tasks, some of which are poorly understood by other team members. It may appear that a team member is not contributing, when the truth is that they are contributing in a way that is not obvious, or they are waiting on other team members to complete a task so that they can move forward. 

 

Why collaboration fails 

 

It is easy to assume that all collaboration is good, but sometimes many heads are not better than one. Sometimes too many cooks really do spoil the broth. Sometimes too much input, especially irrelevant or unnecessary input, slows progress down rather than optimising it. 

 

On paper, collaboration pools the resources and brainpower of different team members to create a whole that is better than the sum of the parts. By bringing together many perspectives and ideas, we are more likely to consider all the options, find more creative solutions, and anticipate undesirable outcomes. 

 

In practice, however, not all collaborations work this way. Many people collaborating on a project can lead to a certain amount of “groupthink”, whereby creativity is undermined, and group members can all start to have the same blind spots regarding their project.  

 

Collaboration can lead to collective thinking and breed false confidence. Team members may assume that because a number of people have reached agreement, they must have reached the best decision. This can encourage them to stop considering options, while there are still viable options to be considered. Personality often plays a bigger part in reaching agreement than we realise. The more vocal or charismatic members of the group are often seen as having the best ideas. Pressure to agree with those group members, or simply with the majority view, is strong. 

 

Collaboration can also dilute efforts by leading to something called social loafing. This is the tendency to sit back and allow others to do the majority of the work, when you are working in a group. This may be one of the main reasons why so many face-to-face meetings are so unproductive. Only a few people are actually contributing. Often, a system where you ask everyone to reflect on a problem or issue, and then submit their ideas to a central system, will result in much more input from all the individuals involved. 

 

How to facilitate successful collaboration 

 

Successful collaboration can be as simple as putting the right system in place. In order to collaborate on a project, it is vital to have a few elements in place from the start. Firstly, successful collaboration requires clear goals, effectively communicated, so that everyone is working towards the same results. Secondly, while many ideas may shape the decisions reached by the team, there still needs to be a process in place to guide that final decision-making. Thirdly, that decision-making process needs to be a transparent one that suits the whole team. 

 

Identifying a decision-making process that works for your team can keep the whole project from stalling due to indecision. It can also prevent collaborations from breaking down, with the boss or project manager deciding that the collaboration is not working and reverting to an attitude of telling everyone what to do. A process that can be followed each and every time a decision needs to be made brings a feeling of transparency and accountability to your projects, which is vitally important. 

Why accountability matters 

 

Ultimately, when it looks like collaboration is failing, a team may just be experiencing a lack of accountability. The collaboration itself may have been successful, but the process seemed to end there. Without an easily accessible system in place for everyone to track how the collaborative decisions made are being implemented, teams may be left feeling that the collaboration was a waste of time, and that the decisions reached are not actually being executed. 

 

Often, the necessary level of accountability is as simple as using the right software to enable constant communication. Project management software can let all team members track where the project is, which ideas are on the table, what the final decision reached was, and even exactly how it was reached. Software can allow for transparency, accountability and ongoing communication. It can provide information, at a glance, of who is working on what, and who is eagerly awaiting a response or completion date, so that a new task can be started or the next step can be taken. Software can even log which ideas have been considered, and why a different idea has been chosen, giving everyone on the team a sense of having been heard and had their input considered. 

 

Verto project management software gives teams and organisations the communication and accountability tools they need to collaborate effectively. To find out more, register for our free 14-day 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, go to www.vertocloud.co.uk.


Forecast frequently to enable tactical shifts

 

Good project management involves frequent forecasting. While it can be useful to forecast results right at the beginning of a project’s life cycle, the true magic of forecasting is that it allows for constant readjustment throughout. Forecasting allows you and your team to stay on track by anticipating extra tasks and resources for the project plan or budget and identifying tasks and resources that may no longer be necessary.

Frequent project forecasts facilitate proactive planning and flexibility. They can allow the project manager to regularly update the business case, which can help the team members keep the project on track, and also allow sponsors and other stakeholders to understand the reasons for any delays or changes.

A key element of project forecasting is to review the risk events that have already occurred and assess the remaining risk triggers. There are always a number of unknown, and often unpredictable, variables in any project, but frequent forecasting provides the project manager with valuable knowledge that enables proactive resource management as the work progresses.

What should we forecast and how frequently?

Frequent forecasting around time, costs and quality of deliverables is vital. Each forecast will allow the project manager to update the business case so that all team members and relevant sponsors know exactly how the project is moving along. The project manager will also be able to reallocate resources and seek sponsor approval in a timely manner.

Time forecasts allow for the reallocation of resources, including team members. To accurately forecast project duration, it is necessary to monitor the activities that will impact the project completion date as well as those that influence project milestones. Modern project management software lets you log updates on the progression of these activities as often as needed for any individual project, which will depend on its nature. You may need to do this daily, weekly or as you complete each relevant task.

Cost forecasts allow the project manager to plan for an injection of more resources and seek sponsor or management approval when necessary. Most projects can benefit from employing the Earned Value Management System in order to accurately forecast ongoing project costs. Depending on resources and the complexity of the project, you can also use trend forecasting, also known as “straight-line” forecasting, to estimate future project costs, although this can be less accurate. Cost forecasting is also something that software-based systems incorporating financial data to support budgeting decisions can help with, and again, using such software lets forecasting occur on an ongoing basis and as frequently as is appropriate for the individual project.

Quality forecasts also allow for necessary adjustments to the project schedule or resources. Frequently forecasting in the area of performance and the quality of the project deliverables increases the chances that the project outcomes will match those identified at the planning stage. According to the “Rule of Tens,” the cost of correcting a technical issue increases tenfold as a project progresses from one phase to the next. This means, of course, that you must identify and correct issues around performance and quality as soon as possible. You can do this as long as forecasting around these factors happens frequently and in advance of the project moving on to a new phase.

Understanding the limitations of forecasting

A forecast is not a prediction. Even the best forecasting is still simply a projection based on current data, which is why frequent forecasting is necessary. Data is always subject to change, and forecasts need updated as new information becomes available. Decisions made based on your current forecast should always stay flexible. They are the best that you can do given your current knowledge of the situation. Remember that as soon as that knowledge expands, you have the opportunity to do better.

Frequent forecasting also narrows uncertainty as the project progresses. At the beginning of the project, you are looking a long way into the future, and your team should be prepared for the fact that early on, forecasting has a lot of limitations. As the project moves through each new phase, forecasting should become progressively more accurate. Towards the end of the project, forecasting correctly should be much easier. At this stage, there are naturally less variables, although they still may exist. The project manager or software can also use the team’s past performance to forecast future performance.

Types of forecasting

There are a few types of forecasting that you can apply to project management, and they may change throughout the project’s life cycle. Qualitative techniques can be particularly useful when data is scarce, which is typically at the beginning of a new project. These techniques may involve human judgement and rating schemes to help forecast possible outcomes.

Statistical techniques become more important when there is a lot of data to support forecasting. In project management, this might happen in the later stages of a project or when there are many comparable completed projects to draw data from. You should, however, remember that statistical techniques assume that past performance predicts future performance. While this is a reasonable assumption, it is more likely to be correct over the short term than the long term. The recent past can forecast the immediate future better than historical data can forecast the distant future, unless data patterns are very stable with few variables that can potentially impact the project.

Ultimately, frequent forecasting that uses recent and relevant data is a key element of successful project management. A responsive project manager can use forecasting to implement an ongoing series of tactical shifts that will keep projects running on time and on budget throughout their duration.

Verto’s project management software gives project management teams the ability to customise their forecasting needs to their individual projects. To find out more, register for our free 14-day trial!


Give your projects room to grow

 

 

When it comes to project management, ease of implementation is vital to success. A complicated project is not always better, and one that is easy to implement often starts quickly and meets all its objectives. 

 

It is not quite that simple, however. Ease of implementation often intertwines with another important factor: project maturity. Organisations at different levels of project maturity thrive when they use techniques and tools appropriate to their specific level. It is often useful to not only look at how to make project management easier but also determine the level of complexity that is right for your organisation. 

 

Project management maturity refers to how well-equipped an organisation is to manage its projects and helps define the tools and techniques needed for project success. Businesses and other institutions progress over time, slowly developing an organisation-wide approach to project management.  

 

Increasing project management maturity leads to the development of widely accepted and replicable methodology, strategy and decision-making processes. You might assume that the way to implement successful project management is to reach a high level of project maturity as quickly as possible, but this is unrealistic. As the name suggests, project maturity is something that tends to happen organically over time, and it cannot, for example, force itself on a new start-up with a skeleton staff and few processes in place. 

 

Ease of implementation is not about fast-tracking project maturity but about choosing the right tools for your organisation’s current level. An organisation in the early stages of project maturity may need to keep things simple. The appropriate project management software will involve systems that are easy to implement and quick to use, giving you the ability to share files and report visually to other team members and stakeholders. A more mature organisation may well need more complex systems that are able to manage not only its projects and programmes but also its resourcing, finances, planning and forecasting.      

 

Organisations can benefit from figuring out their current level of maturity based on the Project Management Maturity Matrix. This identifies four levels of project management maturity. At level one, the success of the project relies almost solely on the efforts of the project manager and team members. As maturity increases, project management becomes all about methods and systems as the organisation learns to replicate the methodology of earlier successful projects. 

 

While increasing project maturity is desirable, the success of any project rests on using the right tools for the current level of maturity. At level one, a team can complete a project well as long as it has a way to communicate, share data and give feedback. At higher levels, an entire host of different functions contribute to a successful project. 

 

Verto project management software gives organisations room to grow. You can start simply with a product right out of the box and add functionality as and when required. This allows teams and organisations to mature over time as their project management software grows alongside them. To find out more, register for our free 14-day trial! 


VertoGrid – the answer to internal privacy and security?

The culture of collaboration is gaining momentum however there are still some circumstances where confidentiality, data security and privacy are important within the boundaries of an organisation including at individual team and department level.

VertoGrid can be implemented as ‘one’ over-arching programme management system (like a mother ship) but with individual sub-systems (the fleet) within a single organisation. This means you can have unique login and unique administrators all within one system getting all the benefits of sharing and joint reporting but retaining the option to have privacy over an individual section or department’s projects and programmes.

In addition to the flexibility within a single organisation the system can also therefore manage multiple funding streams within one system. This is especially useful if you have the need to report on differing projects and funding e.g. from one or more government sources, to multiple boards and sponsoring bodies.

In essence we have made the management of complex projects easy!

Contact us for a demo to see Verto in action!


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.


Scheduling: make sure that your schedule stands up to scrutiny

 

Scheduling has a big impact on project management. Done well, it is the magic formula that gently guides a project to completion. Done badly, it can become the dirty little secret of project management. Let’s look at what makes the difference. 

 

What is scheduling? 

 

When it comes to project management, scheduling is about more than putting tasks on a calendar. Scheduling is, arguably, where the magic happens. Project scheduling involves creating a system to communicate not only the tasks that need to get done, but also the resources that will be needed to complete them and the timeframe allocated to them. A project schedule holds pretty much all the information needed to deliver the entire project successfully and on time.

 

When does scheduling happen in the project life cycle?

 

In layman’s terms, planning and scheduling are similar concepts, but when it comes to project management, you won’t be scheduling until after the planning phase is complete. This is because planning is about looking at the big picture and defining fundamentals. Planning looks at the real problem that needs solving, identifies the stakeholders, and defines objectives. Planning also determines what resources will be needed and what major tasks need to be done. However, we’re talking broad scope here. There is no fine detail at this stage.

 

Scheduling starts once you enter the second stage of the project life cycle. This is the build-up phase, and it’s where you start getting into the real nitty-gritty details of managing your project. Most projects will come with a predefined start date and deadline, and the schedule is what defines everything that happens in between.

 

Scheduling tends to involve working backwards. You take the end deadline, and any other hard deadlines, and work out when your deliverables need to be ready.  You then schedule in the details, looking at the tasks to be completed, the resources needed, and the team members involved. Creating the project schedule accurately is vital to the success of the project, which is why it has to wait until the build-up phase. Try to schedule a project while it’s still at the big-picture, planning stage and you won’t have enough information. There’s nothing vague about project schedules. There needs to be a lot of attention to detail.

 

The challenges of scheduling

 

Scheduling can be one of the most challenging aspects of project management. As mentioned, it’s a fine-detail process, but some types of project have a lot more variables than others. If you’re working on a project that has a lot of “unknowns” to deal with, then schedule management can become one of the most challenging parts of the entire project.

 

If you are managing a building or engineering project, then it’s likely that you’ll have complete specifications up front. With less tangible projects, such as a media campaign or a change management project, there will be a lot more variables to factor in. This means that with some projects, you can use proven, easily replicated techniques to calculate detailed timeframes and accurate resource allocation. With other projects, it’s a case of starting out with rough estimates, and constantly refining details as you progress and more information about the project emerges. Either way, project scheduling is never a case of “set it and forget it”. Active schedule management is required throughout the project life cycle.

 

Why the schedule can be the dirty little secret of project management 

 

If the schedule is this important, then it must be highly reliable, right? You must be able to look at it at any point in the project and immediately see where you are, what you’ve achieved, and whether you’ll be finishing on time and according to the resource allocation you originally scheduled, right? Wrong. That’s not always the case. At least not with all projects. There’s a dirty little secret that some project managers will acknowledge.

 

Some project managers will tell you that the schedule is irrelevant. They’ll cite the challenges already mentioned: there are so many unknowns, so many variables. We make the schedule, but we don’t expect to stick to it. The project will be finished when it’s finished. Scheduling doesn’t work, except when it does.

 

Scheduling does work. It works like a dream for some project managers, but not for others. Why is this? How come scheduling works perfectly on some projects, but not on every one? The key, as is often the case in project management, is in the systems. Scheduling only works if you can accurately track those important variables, update accordingly, keep your entire team informed, adjust everything else to fit with your new information, and communicate those adjustments to your stakeholders.

 

All this may sound like a big ask, but what it actually boils down to is the right system. Good project management software can provide an all-in-one solution to integrate all of the above and ensure that the schedule is managed and updated to give you a consistently clear picture of exactly where you are, and how far you have to go.

 

Key tips for effective scheduling 

 

There are several ways that you can ensure that your schedule guides your project safely to completion.

 

  • Start the scheduling process after the planning phase is complete.
  • Understand exactly what the deliverables are.
  • Build the schedule around deliverables, not tasks.
  • Work backwards from those hard deadlines.
  • Break down big deliverables to the lowest estimable deliverable (work packages).
  • Make work packages as small as possible for accurate time estimations.
  • Use milestones as targets and at regular intervals.
  • Keep track of team members’ availability.
  • Don’t assign everyone on the team a 100% workload.

 

An effective schedule needs to be flexible and responsive, regardless of the type of project. There will always be variables, and the only way to plan for that is to have a solid system in place to track those variables and respond quickly when needed.

 

To see what Verto can do to help you manage your project schedules, contact us for a demo!


Project governance: how to define a governance approach

Project management is the key to guiding a project from the initial planning stage to completion and ensuring that successful implementation as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Good project governance is essential for efficient and effective project management, helping everyone involved to understand, monitor and implement the policies and procedures needed to bring the project to completion.

What is governance?

The concept of governance is, at its purest, the establishment of policies and the monitoring of their proper implementation. Governance involves designing systems, structures and processes that ensure that all team members are aware of their duties and responsibilities, allowing them to work towards well-defined goals and outcomes.

There are several essential elements that are generally believed to be essential to good governance, including:

Accountability
Transparency
Responsiveness
Equity
Participation
Consensus orientation
Strategic vision

Governance is not a new concept. In fact, the very word has an old-fashioned ring to it, but don’t let that fool you. The way that good governance is being brought into 21st-century project management is modern, high-tech and increasingly implemented via solution-based software rather than stuffy men in suits.

What is a gateway?

In project management terms, gateways refer to key decision points that occur throughout the project life cycle. Gateway reviews are carried out at each decision point to assess the progress so far and rate the likelihood of success. Gateway reviews involve an independent and confidential peer review process designed to ensure that the project is ready to progress to the next stage of implementation or development.

You can probably already see the potential problems with that, of course. Without an excellent communication and project management system in place, the gateway process can be the very thing that stalls a project or slows its progress. With the right system in place, the project sails through the gateway process efficiently address any issues, and continues briskly in the direction of its desired outcomes. With the wrong system in place, not so much.

What is the purpose of governance?

The purpose of governance depends on the type of organisation employing it. When it comes to the not-for-profit sector, good governance generally has a dual purpose of achieving the organisation’s social mission while also ensuring that it continues to be viable. In this way, good governance is closely linked to public trust and accountability, as few things destroy an organisation’s viability as quickly as a lack of trust and respect in those whom it aims to serve!

Within this broad definition, there are a few core functions of governance that all teams within an organisation need to keep in mind. In general, governance:

Sets out the organisation’s objectives
Defines the organisation’s ethics
Creates the organisation’s culture
Ensures legal compliance

Governance, then, needs to permeate the entire organisation and will affect every project carried out within the organisation, from the initial planning stage through to final completion. At each stage of any project’s life cycle, managers and team members need to be working within a framework that incorporates all of the above.

Who should be involved in governance?

So that you keep to good governance best practice, responsibilities will need to be assigned and delegated to various people both within the organisation and externally. When it comes to project governance, it is vital to assign duties, authority, powers and responsibilities clearly, ensuring appropriate levels of accountability and transparency, and laying out a range of individual and team deadlines that often need to fit together like a (very complicated) jigsaw puzzle.

Those involved in governance may include board members, managers, workers, volunteers, and external review and assessment entities. Another important group often involved in governance is, of course, the community that the organisation is serving. This might be the students in an educational facility, the patients (and their families) in a health or social care setting, or the constituents in the case of local government.

How should communication work within a governance structure?

Effective communication is key to good governance, but it is far from easy to maintain. How often when dealing with large, bureaucratic organisations have you heard, or felt, that “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing”? Clarity of communication is an ongoing problem for many organisations, especially large, complex ones such as local government departments, hospitals or social care facilities.

This is why those solution-based software options mentioned earlier are becoming increasingly important. While governance itself is an old concept, the solutions to developing good governance in a modern-day world are decidedly high-tech. Even most reluctant organisations realise that computer programs, cloud-based software and other technical solutions provide the answer to their many and varied communication issues. Solution-based software is increasingly the key to implementing and monitoring policies and outcomes, carrying out gateway reviews on time, and tracking projects through every stage of their life cycle to successful completion.

In an agile environment, project management necessarily works differently from in a traditional environment. Traditional project management establishes a detailed plan, with concrete outcomes for each stage, and then works towards the agreed finish point. Agile project planning involves defining the desired result, then working towards it by delivering each stage of the plan in a short period of time, and then clarifying what needs to be done next.

When project management becomes highly responsive in this way, project governance and gateway reviews need to be implemented differently. In short, they need to become “agile”. In agile projects, the gateway review process can still be carried out at pre-defined stages (such as pre-project, at the end of the feasibility stage, end of foundations, and so on). The steering committees of traditional project management will also take a different role, operating as a “management by exception” response in most agile projects. The good news? Solution-based project management software allows for adaptations to suit many different methodologies!

To see what Verto can do to improve the outcomes of your existing project management techniques, register for our free 60-day trial today!


A guide to successfully tracking benefits for your programme.

Benefits realisation allows organisations to plan, manage and monitor how time, effort and resources are invested into making desirable changes within the organisation. It is an essential part of project management, which invariably involves change for the better through a clearly defined, results-focused process.

Planning for benefits realisation, however, involves a lot more than identifying which benefits should be delivered and to whom. You also need a clear timeline, a plan for implementation, and a way to assess how well your actual results match up to the outcomes you planned for. This means that those involved in benefits realisation need to:

• Identify benefits
• Define in detail what each benefit will entail
• Assign dates for the delivery of the benefits
• Detail the necessary implementation procedures to ensure that benefits are delivered in full
• Plan for change management as the processes to deliver new benefits are implemented
• Track progress at every stage of the project lifecycle
• Develop methodologies to compare actual outcomes to planned outcomes

Benefits realisation generally involves a complex process that can, of course, be made easier by the right project management tools. A significant number of changes implemented by public sector organisations come under harsh criticism for not actually achieving the benefits that they aimed to deliver. This can often be due to a lack of benefits management, or sometimes a lack of any robust project management methodology at all.

Identifying benefits

Identifying the benefits that you’re aiming for is the first step. Ensuring that those benefits are well defined and quantifiable is the only way to know for sure whether you delivered them or not. You may also be identifying and monitoring benefits that are not quantifiable but are observable and measurable. Let’s look at each of those in turn.

Quantifiable benefits are benefits that can be forecast and measured. They are often financial, such as a specific amount of money that can be saved (particularly in the not-for-profit sector) or made (more commonly in for-profit organisations). They may also be quantifiable in some other way, such as cutting waiting times in a healthcare setting or improving exam results in educational facilities.

When it comes to justifying a particular project, quantifiable benefits can be fundamental in persuading stakeholders of the project’s importance. They can be defined in advance and accurately tracked at each stage of the project life cycle. It’s vital, of course, to establish a baseline by which benefits will be measured, and then capture all data relevant to the benefit. Omitting data related to outcomes is where project analysis often goes very wrong!

Observable benefits are those that may not be easy to measure objectively but can undoubtedly be assessed by experienced observers. These can include things such as staff morale, ethical standing within the community, and satisfaction levels among end-users of your service. These benefits can be incorporated into your objectives for your projects, and you may devise methods to assess them, but defining their success will rely primarily on observation.

Measurable benefits are those that can be objectively measured but not easily forecast. You can identify these benefits, but they can’t be incorporated into the outcomes that you are working towards as they can’t be predicted. Monitoring them, however, can be useful for future projects. Measurable benefits can be particularly valuable for pilot projects. Not sure if a change to your inventory system or a customer service initiative will make things better or worse? It can be implemented in one office or department and expanded (or ditched) depending on what your project analysis suggests regarding measurable benefits.

Mapping benefits to organisational goals

Excellent project management techniques will allow you to map benefits to overall organisational goals. Benefit realisation rarely serves just one purpose. Customer satisfaction is linked to customer retention. Employee morale is related to productivity levels. Patient experience is connected to public trust, complaints processing and even crisis management budgets.

Innovative, solution-based project management techniques allow organisations to link the desired benefits of any given project to the overall goals of their organisation, and assess how these two elements are moving forward together (or not) at each review point throughout the project life cycle.

Direct and indirect benefits

In every project, there will be direct and indirect benefits, which is why monitoring the non-quantifiable aspects of your project is essential. Indirect benefits include those intangible benefits that can’t be easily tracked, such as reputation, image and ethical standing in the community. Many organisations use a system of benefit estimation to assess the indirect benefits of a project, along with the more tangible direct benefits.

To track and measure the indirect benefits of a programme it is essential to observe and monitor every aspect of change that occurs within a system as a project progresses. Including both direct and indirect benefits in the final analysis of any benefit-driven organisational change creates a fuller and more valuable assessment on which to base future projects. It can allow potential change-makers to justify future plans that will potentially create indirect benefits.

Benefits framework

To make expectations clear during the project management process, it’s useful to define a benefits realisation framework. A benefits framework allows organisations to identify, deliver, analyse and sustain the benefits associated with any particular project that they implement. The framework must be driven by the strategic planning process of the organisation and, to be effective, it must become standard practice throughout the project life cycle.

A benefits framework will lay out best practices, processes and techniques to be followed throughout the transition (and beyond, to sustain the value from changes). Most importantly, the framework will present the benefits not as a random list but as a web of interrelated objectives, creating a clear picture of where the achievement of a particular benefit is dependent on the realisation of another.

Solution-based project management software is a valuable piece of the puzzle when trying to implement benefits-driven change. To see what Verto can do to improve project management outcomes for your organisation, register for our free 60-day trial today!

 


7 things you should be doing to keep safe if you're a mobile worker.

These tips will make your mobile working safer.

 

Remember Apple’s iPod ads where you could have 1,000 songs in your pocket? At the time, it was revolutionary.

 

Since then developments in technology mean we can now have our entire business in our pocket. And changes in the way we work mean more and more of us do.

 

Easy access to data and the ability to work where and when we need to have enormous benefits. But they also come with some risk.

 

Devices can easily be lost or stolen. Remote access increases the opportunities for data to be breached. And inexperienced staff may not keep up with safe working practices.

 

Verto is cloud-based project management software, which means your whole team can make the most of mobile working. To help you make the most of these opportunities, we’ve put together some tips on how to make mobile working as safe as it can be.

 

These are really simple things you can do that will protect your data, your organization and your staff.

 

  1. Insist all your team use a password, or better still finger print scanning, to lock their screen.

 

  1. Set up all your devices to wipe their data after the passcode has been entered incorrectly a set number of times.

 

  1. Use remote management tools to track, lock and even wipe the data on your devices.

 

  1. Smart phones can’t be tracked once their SIM card has been removed. So accept we all lose things from time to time and encourage your staff to report a lost or stolen device as soon as possible without fear of penalty.

 

  1. Make sure all your mobile devices have up-to-date malware protection, exactly as you do for your desktop devices.

 

  1. Make sure all your staff are aware of the risks linked to mobile devices. For example, they should only use apps that your IT team have confirmed as safe. And they should only ever access sensitive data via a password secured network.

 

  1. Limit the types of devices on your network. This will help them integrate seamlessly with your back-office systems and make it easier for you to keep security measures up-to-date.

 

It’s worth taking the time to make mobile working safe as the benefits are significant. For example, mobile working means flexible working, which is good for both employers and employees. It can help you recruit the best staff. And it can help you cut costs. For more on this see our blog about how flexible working can make you a better employer.

 

To find out more about how Verto can help you make the most of mobile working please call us on 0118 334 6200 or message us here.