Dear Elizabeth: Process or tool—which comes first? Our executive team disagrees about this every time we evaluate our project and work processes and start to consider software tools—current and new ones. I fall on the side that process comes first, then you use the right tool to support it. Others argue that you get the right tool and processes fall into place. What are your thoughts? – Process Fan
Dear Process Fan: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I think in this case that you’re both right. Or wrong. Whichever way you want to look at it.
Tools are often built around industry-standard best practices. Adopting your work processes to align with the way the tool works can add efficiencies. However, every business has its unique quirks and you might find that there’s a particularly critical process for you that isn’t an out-of-the-box feature.
If you were starting from scratch, I’d say that a tool can really help you set up your business for success, as the built-in processes will kick start your own project management approach.
Since you’re not starting from scratch, I would say that an iterative, evolving approach is the best. Accept that your business process may have to change to suit your tool, but where your processes are “better” than what your tool provides (whatever “better” means for you) then you may have to customize the solution to make it work smoothly.
Your challenge now becomes being able to help your executive team move beyond the processes/tools discussion and towards one that revolves around outcomes and business value. When you focus on your end goal – something that you do have in common! – you’re more likely to have productive conversations about how to get there.
Look for a tool that is going to grow with you as your needs change over time. You’re going to have to tweak both your processes and the way you use your software to get the best performance for your team.
Dear Elizabeth: Budgets are getting cut at my current job, and I’d like to stay around! I work as a senior-level project manager in an IT organization. Do you have any advice or wise tips on actions I can take to make myself more valuable to my team? – Love My Job
Dear Love My Job: If budgets are being cut now it might be too late. But let’s plan for the best-case scenario and talk about what you can do to quickly show yourself as a really valuable member of the team.
- First, make sure you are solid at the basics. Follow through on actions. Deliver on your promises. Be the safe pair of hands. If you have outstanding tasks, or people are waiting on you for things, smash through your list.
- Second, cultivate a positive attitude. No whining, gossiping or moaning. Be a ray of sunshine for your office without being fake about it. People like to work with positive people.
- Next, be assertive with your helpfulness. Be helpful and serve your colleagues, but without being a pushover. It’s great to show willingness; just don’t end up being the office doormat. Don’t worry that saying no sometimes will disadvantage you when it comes to the selection process. As long as you do it politely and with reason, it’s a show of assertiveness.
- Finally, if you don’t do it already, think big picture. As a senior-level project manager, you should be always acutely aware of the business context of your projects and actions. Working in IT can get a bit siloed at times, so think about how your objectives fit in to those of the business overall. And then, make sure people know you are thinking. Find ways to demonstrate that you know how your piece of the business links to others and how your work adds value to the company.
Be awesome! And cross your fingers.
Wait, there’s more! If you want some insightful and practical solutions to common PM problems, download the eBook, “How to Solve the Top 9 Project Management Challenges.”