You are a project manager in an exciting project. The timeline has been set, decisions have been made, the project goals set and communicated, the decision for the appropriate project management tool. So what can go wrong? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is: everything.
According to a study by the Project Management Institute, companies that underestimate project management report over 67 percent more project failures. The misfortune usually begins with project managers who are driven by wrong ideas about how a successful project can be planned and achieved.
Below we have compiled eight of the most common lies with which project managers endanger themselves – and the success of the project.
Aligning yourself to milestones seems sensible at first, but it can be dangerous. Because milestones are not tasks and do not advance the mission. They only provide information about the distance covered. So there has to be someone who breaks down milestones into very specific tasks and makes it clear to everyone involved what needs to be done to achieve them. That someone is the project manager.
Many project managers now consider milestones to be dangerous for the reasons mentioned: “The trick is to take large projects apart with skill,” says Paige Costello, product management manager at Asana, a manufacturer of project management tools. “Sometimes the most distant milestone is assumed, some date in the future chosen and the fingers crossed. But the more obvious the components are that are necessary to achieve this goal, the easier it becomes to understand which processes should take place at the same time and which dependencies exist between the individual project components. This is the only way to arrive at a good plan for the project flow. “
- Microsoft Project
The first project management software appeared on the market around 30 years ago: Microsoft Project. Back then, the Redmond company needed software to better coordinate the work of its software teams. In 1984 the first version for the MS-DOS operating system was published. Since then, the software, which focuses primarily on project planning, has continued to develop and is now also available in the cloud.
The software company Planio from Berlin has developed an extensive all-in-one platform based on the open source solution Redmine, which has positioned itself as a serious alternative to the US heavyweights in Germany. From numerous features for project and task management, through file and knowledge management with wikis and FAQs to advanced modules for communication and customer support: the wide range of functions of the web solution operated in the German cloud leaves nothing to be desired in terms of functionality.
- Base camp
When it comes to project management, the name “Basecamp” quickly comes up. The app provides a central location for the organization and coordination of projects. Project teams can create notes and to-do lists, upload files and plans, and assign and manage tasks. It is also possible to communicate with the colleagues involved about the project progress in chats. Version 3 of Basecamp is currently available.
Projectplace is one of the first professional PM solutions designed for the browser. The first release of the software was published in 1998. Since then, Projectplace has continued to evolve. Today it presents itself in a modern flat design and comes up with an extensive feature set that covers all important aspects of successful project management. With high-quality apps and social collaboration functions, the tool also addresses the current requirements placed on modern productivity solutions today.
- Clocking IT
The free, web-based project management tool “Clocking IT” is mainly aimed at software developers who want to efficiently manage their extensive projects. Thanks to a clear dashboard and extensive collaboration features, project progress and the processing of individual tasks can be monitored and documented at any time.
“Trello” was launched in 2011 and is offered by the software company Fog Creek Software from New York. According to the manufacturer, the visual project management solution now has over 12 million registered users. The approach is strongly based on the Kanban concept. Instead of organizing projects and individual tasks in lists, they are presented in index cards with which the user can interact visually in an intuitive manner.
The web-based “5pm” offers all the features you would expect from a project management tool and puts the topic of time recording in the foreground. 5pm awaits, among other things, with a clear representation of the individual projects and tasks, extensive time management functions and a clear representation of the respective project progress. In addition, 5pm offers the possibility to create individual project groups, email integration and extensive reporting functions.
“Wrike” is a sophisticated PM solution from California that can convince with an extensive feature set, many integration options and mobile support. The main functions of the modular application include task management, shared document management, and communication tools such as comments, activity streams and email integration. Classic PM tools such as Gantt charts and reporting, as well as additional features such as time recording, round off the software’s range of functions.
The free software solution “Klok” is less suitable for classic project management in the sense of collaboration, but rather as a tool for personal time management. Especially for self-employed and one-man companies, Klok offers the opportunity to optimally split their respective working hours into individual projects and not lose sight of important dates.
- Blue Ant
From classic resource planning to to-do lists, time recording and portfolio management – the extensive “Blue Ant” web tool from proventis GmbH in Berlin offers a wide range of functions for a wide variety of projects. With a variety of interfaces and web standards, Blue Ant can be easily integrated into an existing IT landscape.
With the free cloud solution “TrackingTime”, the self-employed and teams can manage their projects and tasks together and conveniently record all working hours. The application comes with a modern user interface and is available for web, desktop and mobile (iOS and Android). Another plus is the detailed reports for customers, projects and employees, which you can easily create in the browser and export as a CSV file.
“Redbooth” is a holistic PM solution that covers all key aspects of efficient collaboration with a strong focus on communication, project planning and file management. When it comes to team communication, Redbooth comes up with chat discussions and video conferences in HD quality. Documents can be assigned to projects and edited together with the whole team. When it comes to document management, the program offers seamless integration options with cloud storage services such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Box.
“CoMindWork” offers both the possibility to work web-based on the manufacturer’s server and to use the software in your own network. In addition to classic project management functions such as the creation of projects, to-do and task lists, file sharing options and the common time management functions as well as Web 2.0. Features CoMindWork offers extensive possibilities to adap
t the software to your own needs. In this way, many points can be individually adapted from the design to the arrangement of the user interface.
Working purely web-based, “Werkstatt42” is particularly suitable for smaller companies and the self-employed due to its compact range of functions and moderate costs. Features include task management, the ability to collect information centrally on whiteboards, and file sharing options.
- Zoho Projects
“Zoho Projects” contains all the necessary applications for project management. These include task management and milestones, time recording, calendar functions and Gantt charts. Users can also chat with each other, exchange their documents and create a wiki.
Anyone looking for an all-in-one solution should take a look at “ActiveCollab”. The central functional modules of the Canadian-based solution include project planning, collaboration, invoicing, time recording, expenditure management and a comprehensive reporting functionality. Another plus is the many integration options thanks to the open programming interface, SDKs (Software Development Kit) and add-ons. The seamless integration option with a version management system makes the solution particularly interesting for software teams.
Just like most of its competitors, “Smartsheet” is web-based. Individual projects are created in so-called smartsheets and the respective project employees are added. All the information related to the project, such as the communication of the project participants, file attachments and shared documents, can then be reached quickly via the respective smartsheet.
The web-based solution “PIEmatrix” offers the possibility to map, structure and manage projects in all project phases based on existing templates. You can choose to structure the project flow based on the integrated templates or to modify it according to your own needs. Once created, templates can then be easily saved and used as best practices templates for similar projects.
- Projektron BCS
“Projektron BCS” works purely web-based and has all the classic project management functions, such as task management, a ticket system, various evaluation and reporting functions, flexible rights management and time management functions.
Knowing the finish line is essential to successfully complete a race. Transferred to project management, however, it is all too often the case that PMs cannot clearly describe what the goal achievement – or the final state – should look like.
“Project managers tell themselves: ‘Everyone knows what the goal is,'” says Kim Kessler, Vice President of Product at Caremerge. “But unfortunately, often nobody knows. It is the responsibility of the project manager to give the ideas of the stakeholders a precise definition and to align them with the project process. Otherwise, every project turns into pure speculation.”
Another common misconception among project managers is that everyone agrees on the standards by which success is assessed and measured. In fact, it is absolutely essential that the question at the beginning of the project is how exactly the performance is measured.
“If the objective is diffuse: ‘We want to make things a bit more intuitive and simple’, then it has to be defined in detail what that means in concrete terms,” says Kessler.
All project participants hang in there, strive to work overtime, take part in meetings and report on their progress. So the necessary work is done perfectly – another common misconception.
“Everyone lies to everyone and thinks that effort is synonymous with earnings. But that’s not the case. Efforts are difficult to quantify, but earnings can be measured relatively easily,” says author and consultant Glen B. Alleman.
A strategy that divides the project into measurable sections is helpful in such situations. After all, nobody wants to work hard for three months to end up being poorly rated. Therefore, project managers should be assigned tasks that can be completed within a certain time frame.
Quite a few people in the project management environment know that if project managers are convinced that “only the simple part” of a project is due, there are often many unsightly events. For example, about unexpected technical problems, difficulty understanding task objectives, scarcity of resources, insufficient budget or the painful realization that there is no backup plan.
“Not understanding the complexity of a requirement from the start is the height of self-denial,” said Beth Scudder, Client Services Manager at Saggezza. “If someone takes on a certain task that those responsible don’t know that the task has a significant impact on various other aspects of the project, it can lead to misfortune.”
Therefore, review each task that you think is easy to do. How did you come up with this assessment? Did you really understand the objective? And do you know exactly what is necessary to achieve your goals?
“One of the most common ways that project managers pretend is to do unpleasant or risky tasks yourself because they think they can do it,” says Costello. “They tell themselves that they just work a little harder, catch up in the next phase of the project, take a few night shifts if necessary, and ultimately become project superheroes.”
In fact, it usually happens that project managers end up watching the entire project hit the wall. The fault is the misjudgment of being able to regulate everything yourself and therefore not needing a plan B or deliberately not being able to involve experts.
“It would be better to share challenges and problems with the team and then tackle them together,” Costello recommends.
Being the person with the plan but without technical skills is not a nice role. The feeling often arises that one’s own achievements are not recognized. However, this is about the same as saying that the rudder of a ship is useless because it is under water and therefore not visible.
“There are always processes and technologies that make everything better and more efficient,” said ChenLi Wang, senior vice president at Pango. “In the end, it is crucial that the entire team pulls together to achieve the goal. Ensuring that is the job of the project manager.”
Wang is not the only decision maker who appreciates the value of good project management work. According to the aforementioned PMI survey, this applies to two thirds of managers. In addition, almost half of the organizations surveyed in this context prioritize the development of a corporate culture that values project management.
“Project managers are risk managers. And risk management is the extreme case of how adults manage projects,” says Alleman.
If you want to achieve a goal in a team, you need leadership skills. After all, it is people who ultimately ensure successful completion – not milestones, deadlines, budgets or resources.
“The people are crucial,” agrees Wang. “It is important to form a team whose cooperation is based on mutual trust – and of course on using project managers who can get the best out of these people.”
Project managers are so much more than just the types that tick the box. You are a consultant, guide, mental coach and manager in one.
This article is based on an article from our US sister publication CIO.com.