Right now, you are probably using a software system to track projects and issues within your business. If you suspect that your software or processes are not getting the job done or your projects are not running as smoothly as you would like, you may be right!
When a software program does not provide enough visibility over a project, there are a variety of symptoms that can be experienced. While that may seem like an inconvenience, if you’re aware of what to look for it can be easy to solve. Let’s take a look at a few symptoms.
- Unclear project objectives: A project needs to have clear goals in order to be successful. However, you notice that your projects lose focus, or your objectives are a bit fuzzy. It is often unclear what you are working towards, and you find projects veer off on tangents in any given direction. You find yourself struggling to allocate work and resources because it is unclear where / how many / for how long these resources are needed. Additionally, it can be difficult to see and manage workloads across a large group of people. Software may provide reports on the number of tasks assigned, but that can be misleading (e.g. 20 x 10-minute tasks and 2 x 8-hour tasks are not the same thing).
- Gaps in communication: Communication is arguably the most important part of any project – communication between team members, communication with clients, communication between managers, etc. However, you notice that communication among all parties involved in a project tends to break down as time progresses. You may have noticed an increase in questions being asked by clients, an increase in questions being asked by team members, or an increase in questions you need to ask a client. You may feel like you are unable to provide consistent updates to your client, which eventually leads to an increasing demand for updates. Often, software requires that the input/response of stakeholders is done manually by a project manager. This relies upon memory, and, therefore, leaves room for human error, which could impact the project.
- Late identification of task risk: Inevitably something will go wrong in every project. That is completely normal and manageable, as long as there is visibility to predict it and create a recovery plan for it. With low visibility over a project, it becomes more difficult to identify potential risks and plan for them. You notice that your teams are having difficulty meeting project milestones on time. Planned dates are either met with great effort and burn out team members or they are pushed back. You see an increase in levels of multitasking or expediting, or both.
- Too many red flags, inability to focus: On most project tracking software, work that is past its due date shows up as a red flag. While this is helpful in allowing you to see what is past due, it becomes a problem when work falls behind. As more work fails to meet the due date, more red flags pop up. This makes it difficult to decide what should be worked on first, as it all appears to be in a critical state. Managers are torn between many red flags that need attention and they find it difficult to focus on work.
- Project schedules assume finite task durations: But how many of your team will comfortably give an answer to 'how long will that task take'? Flexibility in a project schedule is important. Your current software may not allow for flexibility among task durations. For example, if a project plan states that a task will take one day, that is all the team will allow for that task. This means that if a task is finished early then the plan still allows the entire day for that task, despite it only having taken four hours. This can leave a project team with idle time and unexplained swings in how busy the team may be on a day-to-day basis. There is a fluctuation in the amount of downtime or busy time throughout the week.
- Incidents are treated independently from business-as-usual work requirements: Most workplaces have ‘to-do’ lists of work and a separate ‘to-do’ list of incidents. These are two separate lists, but both need to be worked on. When pressure increases in the workplace, the lists of incidents tend to be left behind because the list of day-to-day work takes priority. But, the list of incidents still needs to be addressed, so you end up falling behind.
- Fights over resources: Planning resources is a way to ensure that everyone gets what they need. With low visibility over a project, it becomes more difficult to plan and distribute resources where they are needed. You may see ‘fights’ between managers over resources or the uneven distribution of resources. You may encounter requests for more resources from managers who feel like they need more. A couple of extra people to help on a project may seem like it could get the project back on track. However, it would require them to manage resources across more people and keep track of more workloads, essentially making things worse. You see managers becoming stressed, burned out, and a little too shouty. While their teams become frustrated and stressed along with them. Usually, resources are often engaged too late or too early in a delivery process, which results in poor scheduling and overall ineffective time utilisation.
To ensure that a project runs as smoothly as it can, and all parties are happy with the result, you need the means to track the progress of projects, as well as individuals, keep milestones visible, detect and document risks early, and make information accessible by all parties. And for this you need a software system that enables you to do it all.
WHAT IS A PRODUCTIVITY HEALTH CHECK?
Productivity Health Check is an assessment of your current software solution and processes, to identify areas of improvement, as well as risk and exposure.
The assessment is conducted via a quick online assessment, after which you will be provided with a detailed report outlining how you rate against the rest of the industry and suggestions on where to focus your productivity initiatives for best results!