Don’t treat your project management information system like a garbage can!

SmellyGarbageCanIt can be a significant step towards improving project management capabilities when a company decides to move from storing project information in an inconsistent fashion across multiple files, databases and templates to capturing this information within a consolidated project management information system (PMIS).  By taking this step, they position themselves to reap multiple benefits including reducing the effort involved in reporting project status at the portfolio level, providing a consolidated view into staff utilization and available capacity, and simplifying the process of accessing historical project information to serve the needs of future projects.

However, as with the implementation of any new technology, behavior changes is required to achieve these benefits.

If there is no change in the quality, accuracy, timeliness or completeness of the data being captured, the outcome is actually worse than if no solution had been implemented.  While the lack of easy access to project information in the past would have prompted concerned executives to seek out project managers to get live updates on project status, once a significant amount of effort and cost has been spent in implementing a PMIS, they will want to see some return on that investment and will be likely to use it as the official source of project knowledge.  If the data within the PMIS is not complete or accurate, there will either be a loss of credibility in the tool or even worse, poor decisions might be made based on bad data.

So what are some tell-tale signs that your PMIS is ailing?

  • If a view of staff utilization shows that most people are overallocated to an unnatural extent (i.e. more than 150% allocation on a weekly basis) or don’t appear to be allocated to anything
  • If project status updates on active projects are missing or are more than a couple of weeks old
  • If a spot check of the schedules for key projects reveals multiple tasks whose planned start or end dates have passed without any progress reported against them
  • If risk registers or issue logs are overflowing with generic or low severity items and finding a key issue or risk is harder than a needle in a haystack
  • If projects are shown as being active which are known to have been completed or cancelled and/or no data exists for projects which are known to be active

So what might be the cause of some of these symptoms?

Sometimes, it might be that executives and key stakeholders have never used the PMIS as their source of project information or staff utilization.  If that is the case, then it’s no surprise that project managers or team members may be unwilling to invest the time to keep the PMIS up to date.  Other times, it might be a training or coaching issue – if no one is regularly keeping an eye on the data and following up on compliance or quality issues it’s no surprise that it will get stale.  Another cause might be that the system or procedures are too onerous or time consuming to use – this points to the lack of an effective feedback loop with end users which could have resulted in fine-tuning or improvements to the system. The source of most of these issues is a lack of good change management practices.

A PMIS can improve the productivity of your project teams, but remember that a pile of garbage in a colorful bag with a decorative bow is still just as smelly!

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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