The term "Project Management" usually brings pained looks to business people because they associate it with Microsoft Project. The tool may make their lives easier, but the software costs hundreds of dollars per user, and worse, the desktop-centric management application of yesterday doesn't fit well with the distributed workforce reality of today. What's more, when you take the plunge, getting up to speed on the methodology takes time before you see results.
But take a look at the modern world of project management software: online, easier to use, and cheaper to try. If you have avoided the pain of project management software in the past, you may be amazed at the growth of hosted project management tools. My search for "hosted project management" returned 2,680,000 hits. That's a lot of project management options. Don't let the project of finding a project management tool drive you away.
Scott Ellis, Manager of the Forensics and Litigation Technology Practice for RGL, recently waded in. RGL provides forensic accounting and consulting services to insurance companies and legal groups wading through sometimes millions of documents and accounting records. These may be on paper, electronic files, or subpoenaed hard drives. Projects may use as many as 40 employees spread throughout RGL's 23 offices worldwide, all digging into thousands of data items for every job.
Ellis describes RGL as a "firm that embraces project management philosophy and techniques but hasn't, up until now, codified that philosophy with any sort of a firm-wide protocol." Even if RGL is bigger than your company, it has the same problem you do: a need to be better organized that is up against employee resistance and the "We've always done it this way" attitude.
Microsoft Project, the long-time leader in desktop PM software, had a presence in RGL, Ellis says. "Microsoft Project is used, but not widely. It's not a tool conducive to sharing because it's all on the desktop." Since a single project may run across many of RGL's small offices, a desktop-bound solution wouldn't work. Ellis and other RGL managers had their fill of trying to juggle e-mails, spreadsheets, Microsoft Outlook shared tasks, and paper notes to manage big projects. So Ellis went searching for a better answer.
At a conference in Las Vegas Ellis met some people from Clarizen, a company with the tag line of "Projects Made Real." He looked around at the conference and didn't see anything he liked better, so he tried some Clarizen demonstrations. "I got a good response from Clarizen, and some training," says Ellis. So he signed up for a few licenses to try to manage an insurance project RGL just received.
"There are seven parts to one huge insurance loss," Ellis says. "The managing partner must know where all seven parts are at all times."
Ellis just named the single best way to introduce project management into a company. "The person at the top said everyone must use this so he knows what's going on, so people are using Clarizen."
Typically, any new project management application -- or any other application for that matter -- will be welcomed with open arms. By that, I mean all the employees will say it sounds great, but I have two arms open wide to carry all the work I have now, and no time to learn something new.