According to research, 70% of organizations have suffered at least one project failure in the prior 12 months. Over the years we’ve talked to many people who managed these projects to better understand their needs and what could have helped them succeed. Most have counted on traditional project management software to align their projects and teams, but they have consistently attributed four common problems to their failure: resources, visibility, alignment of priorities, and scheduling issues. Over the next month, we’ll be double clicking on each of the problems and the ramifications they have on organizations. WARNING: Unless you are already using LiquidPlanner, some of these problems may hit a little too close to home.
We all know that clear deliverables and collaboration are keys to a successful project, yet how many times have you heard “we don’t have visibility of what the team is working on”? 52% of strategic leaders at high-performing organizations say that increased communication is necessary to meet their strategic initiatives.
At its core, project visibility refers to a clear picture of how a project is performing, including resource allocation and potential risks. Increased visibility ensures everyone involved in the project understands what the objective of the project is and their role in meeting this goal. Leveraging a work management tool may help, but you still need to ensure people have visibility of what’s in it. So we asked project managers all over the world what their top visibility issues were and here’s what they said:
What are your most common visibility problems?
1. My team doesn’t seem to understand their roles or expectations.
When each member of your team has clear, consistent communication about their responsibility within a project, they become a more effective, efficient project team member. Studies show that when a project provides clear communication and visibility, common errors that cost time and money decrease by 34%.
At a minimum, your team needs to know the overall project goals, the people responsible for each of the moving parts and to be able to have real-time updates about the project. When they don’t know the full scope of your project, they make decisions in a vacuum. Or even worse, they don’t make them at all. With visibility, they can see trends and have actionable insights to drive the right decisions at the right time. When curveballs are thrown their way, they can quickly make smart business trade-offs.
2. I am spending a lot of my time updating and communicating with stakeholders.
Your stakeholders need to have a general sense of the ultimate goal of the project and to be able to see the moving parts associated with accomplishing the outcomes. But often, project managers are missing the tools to achieve real visibility. You’re busy continually updating sheets, sending messages, answering calls, emailing new info – and yet, somehow, nobody knows what the current status is. Time, effort, and energy is lost without any transparency achieved.
The answer isn’t more emails or status meetings, it’s being able to visualize actual progress in the moment. The key is to have software that can offer customizable and shareable dashboards with real-time reporting. Consistent communications with the right level of detail for each stakeholder – whether that be project costs, progress, status and profitability, or resource utilization and productivity – can save time.
3. My team is complaining that they don’t have enough time to do their work.
Did you know that enterprise workers are devoting just 45% of their time to their primary job duties? In order for your project to be successful, you need their time and talent, but they are knee deep in busy work. Take away the manual tracking and reporting, and you may see that number tick up a few percentage points.
Even a team firmly committed to the principle of visibility needs an easy, intuitive, automatic way to report and track their work or transparency will suffer. Here are some clues that you’re relying too much on manual reporting:
- You hold frequent status meetings
- You send an email to notify someone of completed tasks
- You send Slack messages or schedule times to virtually connect to ask whether projects are on track
- You have a complex spreadsheet with project details, like budget and delivery dates
- You have employees tracking time by hand
Give your team the gift of time so they can do their best work; have a source of truth that shows all involved the progress and detail in real-time.
4. We use a whiteboard to track and communicate progress.
Whiteboards and information radiators work great for some teams but there’s always a big drawback: they’re only visible when people are physically in the office. Even worse, executives and other stakeholders remain in the dark with this method unless they wander into the team’s workspace. Given the transition to more remote work with COVID-19 – where roughly a third of Americans worked from home – it’s important to make the electronic transition.
Look for a customizable solution that can show the information you really care about day-to-day and that has a great workload view. If you like the physical display aspect of the old whiteboard, install a large monitor that displays your new electronic dashboard in a public area.
5. I can’t always see potential risks and threats to my project.
Project managers need to see risk right away – the moment scope increases or new priorities are added to the portfolio – and have instant visibility to how it impacts their project. Without factoring in potential risks, you’re bound to have an unrealistic schedule. The more disciplined your process is for identifying and managing risks, the better prepared your team will be to adapt to change. Building best case/worst case estimates into your schedules from the beginning can help you avoid much of this rework as ranged estimation provides the cushion your team needs to navigate through uncertainty.
Be sure to set attainable deadlines during each stage of the project and check in with your team as the project progresses and more information is gained. By placing realistic time frames and proactively communicating risks, you will ensure alignment and add an element of accountability with your team members and your stakeholders.
6. I don’t know where time was spent in retrospect.
Being able to track where time was spent at the end of the project is one of your greatest means of documenting achievements and reflecting on future opportunities for improvement. Leveraging time management tracking in software will help you make the most of your resources. it will also allow you to have a data-driven approach to assessing important metrics such as cycle time, work in progress, and throughput.
For example, if your average cycle time was going up, this was an indicator that the team process was slowed down and had delays. The team could then discuss where work was getting stalled out and dig into the deeper reasons for the shift. If cycle time was going down, it would indicate an optimization was working, resources had been added to the team or a new factor in the process resulted in faster pace of delivery. Similarly, the team could investigate the reason behind the faster pace and capitalize on it.
7. We’re falling behind because we can’t see what’s next.
Visibility isn’t just important across a single project, it’s important to have it across the portfolio too. Managing projects without a centralized source of truth – across your entire portfolio of projects – will consistently make you feel like you’re lagging. How can you keep up when you can’t see the path? Rest assured that you are not alone: 53% of project managers claim they lacked visibility across all of their projects.
A scalable project management system is critical to planning future resources and seeing potential risks. Without it, your team is likely wasting time on plans that can’t survive the week. As the pace of change has increased, what you need from your project management software is increasing too. It’s not enough to have tools that show one project at a time or that provide limited snapshots of what each person is working on. To keep your competitive advantage, it’s critical that your business has a system to navigate through uncertainty and changing priorities.
Why is visibility so important?
The short answer is that project visibility can improve how teams communicate, optimize processes, and manage resources. It’s an effective way to build transparency, accountability, and information sharing into your project workflows. When done correctly, visibility will equate to less time on back and forth communications and drastic improvements in your team’s performance.
LiquidPlanner is a transformative project management solution that uses predictive scheduling to dynamically adapt to change and manage uncertainty. It helps teams prioritize, predict and perform with confidence. Rated the best software for complex projects by PC Magazine, smarter planning – and smarter resource management – is a click away. FREE SIGN UP.