Following a Project Management System

In my previous posts, I talked about the benefit of using a project management system to efficiently manage your workflow. So, after you’ve gone through the process of selecting a system, configuring it, and taking it live, what happens next? Most likely, you will be faced with some challenges getting your team to use it effectively. We all know that change is hard and is often faced with some resistance. When it comes to introducing a PM system to a group of creatives who are more right-brained than left-brained, the resistance can be strong. Imagine asking them to not only use the system, but also to record hours spent on each project? It gets even tougher.

After some experimenting and talking to peers in the PM user community, it seems that there are largely two schools of thoughts to successfully implementing a new system.

One is the bottom-up approach whereby you as the operations manager “sell” the system to the users through various workshops, training sessions, and extensive hand-holding. This is time consuming but if done well, users will feel connected to the project management system and embrace it— eventually becoming evangelists themselves. If you take this approach, involve core users before the system is selected, configured, and implemented. Select people from both the creative team and the client side who will interact with the system. Call a focus-group meeting to generate a wish-list for the project management system, bring the user group in to evaluate potential systems and have them participate in the testing and training phase. This way, even before the system is launched, you will have a set of user champions who can familiarize others with the system. After the launch, you can field complaints by inviting users to coffee and running feedback sessions and learning events to brainstorm ways to enhance the system.

The second approach to implementing a new system is the top-down approach, which makes the use of a PM system mandatory. You can run daily, weekly or monthly usage reports—and go after those who are not complying. It gets a bit tricky, however, when you encounter clients who refuse to use the system and prefer to keep all projects moving through face-to-face meetings, emails, or phone calls. This approach can result in an immediate surge in usage, but you might not have users who embrace the system as much.

Last but not the least, we should never forget that the PM system is there to help project management run smoothly and efficiently. If the upkeep and administration of the system starts to take up too much of the creative talent and project managers’ time, you may want to rethink the whole setup. Recording charges, keeping a project log, and monitoring progress in the system should not become a burden. Rather, it should become a natural part of the team’s day to look up project information, share project progress, and retrieve files. To ensure this, the system should be well designed to serve the needs of the people, so that the people don’t end up serving the system.