Flipping the Switch: How to Transition From Desktop to Cloud-Based Project Management Software
Embracing the current generation of cloud-based project management software can be a bit thorny for some enterprises.
For starters, there can be negative preconceptions on the part of project managers and teams who are accustomed to desktop project management tools. More importantly, security concerns over how project information is distributed—and made transparent—in collaboration software change the relationship between the traditional project manager and team members. This switch isn’t easy for everyone (or every team, or organization).
Here are some tips to help you and your team embrace a cloud-based project management software.
Focus on security, starting at the selection process
When making the move from a desktop to a cloud solution, put security at the top of your list of requirements. Here are some security considerations to ask about up front during your platform selection process:
- Are hosting provider security policies in place?
- What are the PM vs. hosting vendor access rights to the application and data?
- What about data center access?
Even if your business data isn’t governed by a compliance program, you still need to ask some critical questions as to how the data from your project management platform is secured and backed up by your provider.
User account access is another concern to address when embracing an online project management solution. If your enterprise uses a directory service like Single Sign On (SSO) to secure user access, then your users should be able to log in to the project management platform using the same login they use to access other corporate applications.
Start small with the first project
Desktop project management applications have a history you can trail back to the days of the dot matrix printer. Moving to a more transparent tool could be disruptive for some project teams for multiple reasons. For starters, the cloud democratizes project management information for everyone from the new employee to the C-level sponsor of the project. There isn’t a chosen few governing the project schedules, plans and information.
If you’re the person bringing a new tool into the organization, choose a project team with receptive members to take the software for a maiden voyage. Take their feedback during this process, and make adjustments as needed to the configuration options.
Identify the software champions
As early as possible, or at least after the first few projects migrate to your new software, identify a Champion for your new platform. Your champions are important ambassadors for the software and help the team mobilize behind a new way of doing things. I like to look for champion users from the user community who are already power users and who have expressed what they have to gain from a collaboration project management platform. Other end users go to these users for help. You want the champion users on your side to help the wider user community of your teams embrace the platform.
Promote platform tuning and customization
Spend some time up front working with your team members to set up their views into project data and other options. While the Gantt chart was tunnel vision for the average desktop project management application user, newer project management tools have a range of views over project information. Also take note of customizing your alerts and notification so they give you meaningful, and not annoying, updates.
Introduce new features iteratively
Desktop project management application features too often languish in obscurity (buried 3 – 4 layers in sub-menus). This is not the case with today’s project management software, because they roll out new features iteratively (often on a quarterly basis).
Make sure that team members using the software know when the new features are going to be available. To keep everyone in the know, provide new feature information to people who need it. Do everything you can within the cultural norms of your organization to talk up the new features to promote their adoption.
Shutdown project emails one at a time
Your new PM software should replace some, if not all, of the usual emails that project teams generate. While this move can be welcome to some team members, email is so embedded into the culture of some organizations that it can be hard to kick to the curb.
My advice is to shut down email channels one at a time. For example, you might first want to move a project update to a newsfeed or a threaded discussion. Encourage and remind team members to reference the software interface, or the notifications generated, rather than relying on their inbox as much.
Collaborate on project life cycle adjustments
Tell the story of how managing projects in a more social and democratic system will change the current workflow. Identify how team members can streamline processes or even fix pain points that deal with project scheduling, collaboration and communications. Work with individuals to identify these areas so they feel a part of the transition.
The biggest workflow change is that there’s going to be less dependency on the project manager for schedule insight. I’ve seen this change be both a welcome development, and viewed as a potential burden by project teams. Do what you can to dispel any thoughts that you are shifting the project manager’s work over to the team.
Get the whole team involved
It’s a team effort to use collaborative project management software successfully. Take it one step at a time and continue to encourage and motivate your team to make it a focal point. The more each person uses it, the sooner you’ll get the big embrace from the entire group, and your new software will become business as usual. Soon enough, you won’t know how you ever managed without it!