I cannot recall a time that it was clearer that companies should (and can) leverage project management and collaborative business platforms to enable a culture of accountability, predictability and process repeatability. Business trends, research and economic statistics are proving that successful organizations are benefiting from the effectiveness of project collaboration, communication and reporting across the enterprise, thus improving bottom-line performance.

The Business Problem

Companies today face the challenge of determining what is happening both within their organization and externally in their marketplace. Information such as who is working on what and the progress of directives is fundamental and yet it is often elusive. The objective is for teams and individuals alike to rally around their work activities, focusing their efforts on many things simultaneously in order to deliver timely results. However, executives are reluctant to introduce complicated systems or drastic changes at a time when market performance and a strong balance sheet are essential.

No Magic Bullet

The only way for companies to improve their business is to know what is happening, who is doing the work and what the outcome really is. People need to easily be able to collaborate on jobs and with colleagues, communicate with many people, and easily report the facts. This needs to be a change of work habits with a limited number of steps.

Companies cannot improve performance and the bottom line by introducing a multiplier number of steps, actions and hoops to jump through as part of "change" and expect positive results. Executives need to work from the top down, in a transparent yet governed environment. Individuals need to work bottom-up, and across, to make more of an impact and be part of the solution -- not a drag on the process.

Project management remains a growing science and practitioner competency that delivers quantifiable results: it’s a proven business practice. Project management brings us virtually everything in our work and home life, from entertainment, to new structures, to special occasions. How each project is defined and managed varies widely.

The trend of project management as a fundamental benefit in the corporate world is to collaborate and deliver results. People need the ability to deliver "just the right amount" of project information to business users. That means having a culture that elicits just enough input to provide the appropriate amount of data for decision makers to realize peak results. Too many project details and you begin to constrain the decision makers’ ability to quickly identify the right decisions. Limited project details marginalize the effectiveness and value of project management all together.

Project Management On Your Terms (PMOYTsm)

Productive employees lead to positive results. Provide workers with the right tools and direction, and your bottom-line will improve. The workforce is diversifying more, globally, and is doing so in a way that enables more autonomy, innovation and participation of teams based on their collective skillset, locations, experiences, etc.

Companies have been transforming their businesses to better adapt to the evolving work force. The socialization of the work force and sharing of information is critical to the success of this team diversification movement. Corporate executives recognize that generational differences impact the corporate culture.

The new, aspiring influencers are comfortable with the freedom of expression, ad hoc technologies and combining many different processes to get the job done. The more seasoned subject matter experts who have experienced the ebb and flows of economic shifts try to balance bleeding edge technology with proven practices to optimize the execution of tasks.

It would be nearly impossible to design a technical and/or process-automation solution that meets the needs of all workers. So how about allowing workers the advantages of using the technology and processes with which they feel most comfortable, while enforcing expectations, governance and tracking towards predictable outcomes?

Business trends, corporate cultural shifts and the introduction of technology have led to each worker being a productive member of a project team -- often with the responsibility of delivering projects. The age of the reluctant project manager is here and the new release of Microsoft SharePoint 2013 with Project Online may serve as a complementary tool set for the reluctant project manager.

Reluctant Project Manager

Any person who needs to manage multiple tasks involving multiple persons and who has a deadline to meet, can use project management.

Projects are subject to spatial dynamics where users or stakeholders end up managing projects on paper, in Outlook or Excel, or even a mobile phone calendar. All these methods are inefficient and even inaccurate in some cases. The reluctant PM may be, for example, in any of the following roles:

  1. Sales and marketing
  2. Human resources
  3. Finance
  4. Top management
  5. Any role

Collaborative Project Management

Being a successful company is a team effort. It requires more than mass communication and information sharing. It requires a structure and agreement to "play to win" by all. Collaborative project management allows people and groups to work on projects based on their strengths and rely on their teams to mitigate their weaknesses.

People don’t want to wait for an assignment to appear in their email inbox, or hope they have the chance to offer their expert advice on a situation. In a collaborative environment, people can participate in the delivery of projects by:

  1. Co-authoring documents
  2. Creating/updating lists
  3. Linking various content and updates to their email and often their mobile devices
  4. Tag, stream and provide input to various content
  5. Build intellectual properties
  6. Ask for assistance, or take on an assignment
  7. Review a program update via a blog post, or better yet, an RSS feed
  8. Send microblog updates about their task status
  9. Build a personal business dashboard
  10. Customize a search for any project artifact or person

These are only a few of the things that the SharePoint 2013 platform does in support of collaborative project management. Standalone Project/Portfolio Management (PPM) systems are required for more structured project-based departments that are able to adopt a PM technology effectively. However, for the rest of the company, having a business platform that allows people to congregate, offer insight, participate in actions and take on responsibility is critical. Collaborative project management is the new PMO for the reluctant project manager.

Microsoft SharePoint 2013 and Project Online

On July 16, 2012 Microsoft released the Beta version of SharePoint 2013, Office 2013 and Project 2013 (with Project Online). Previous versions of Project with SharePoint (Project Server with Project Professional) were respectable releases in the context of team collaboration, communication management and reporting capabilities. The ability to use a Project Professional schedule, synchronized to SharePoint task lists was a great way to enable reluctant project managers to use the technology without being tool experts. There was still some gap between the general habits of project workers and the available technology.

The pending release of the new Microsoft Office will be a highly influential technological release for businesses. I consistently work with companies and help them leverage a technical platform that serves as "one version of the business truth." Not a one-stop shop, but a dynamic platform that has all data related to the business.

With all data in one platform, companies can then open the intake and allow virtually limitless amounts of data in, and it will have a home. Reporting offers infinite options for forecasting, what-if planning and testing the assumptions of any business market scenario. SharePoint 2013 is a business platform that allows people to work collaboratively on problems, a platform to convert any task, any email, any piece of data, into project information.

Look for additional articles about this new release from Microsoft, as well as the evolving collaborative project management that enable people to manage projects on their terms!

Here are some links for you to dive in and try today:

  1. Project Preview
  2. Microsoft Sharepoint Team Blog
  3. Apps for Office and Sharepoint Blog

Editor's Note: You might be interested in other articles by Tim Cermak:

-- Evolution of SharePoint Project Governance: Best Practices for Today