My last post was about why Use Cases should still be considered alive and well as an analysis technique in Agile projects. That begs the question: if people can dismiss Use Cases as old fashioned and a waste of time, is there any place left for traditional Requirements documents? I am not a fan of Big Requirements Up-Front. Fat requirements documents based on the premise that if you don’t ask, you don’t get, tend to accumulate very long feature lists. Crafted early in a project, they risk becoming disconnected from what the front line users will actually use. We try to mitigate this risk by prioritizing the features.  But anyone who has been through the exercise of separating a few hundred features into[…]

Effective collaboration is the result of good communication and coordination of work. So far this series has been mostly about communication tools that appeal to small teams who don’t have much formal process in the way they approach project management. Teams like that want just enough structure to organize their work without introducing much process overhead. The strength of tools like BaseCamp and OneHub is effortless delivery of functions that promote good communication without much need to formalize the way work gets done. A lot of projects happen in that kind of setting but it can be pretty casual. As organizations get larger and the number of projects in the mix increases so does the need to pay attention to[…]

With over 5 million subscribers world-wide, Basecamp rivals MS Project for most-used project management software. Yet these two tools offer very different capabilities. MS Project has a well-established place in the Project Manager’s tool kit as an aid to managing schedules and budgets. Basecamp focuses on team collaboration. This post takes a closer look at some of the features that have made Basecamp so popular. Basecamp from 37Signals is part of a suite of software-as-a-service tools for team communication. Aimed primarily at small and mid-sized organizations, this Chicago-based provider sets out to provide “frustration-free web-based apps for collaboration, sharing information, and making decisions.” The other tools in the suite include Highrise for contact management, Campfire for instant messaging and Backpack[…]

Imagine this scenario. Your project team is spread out across several organizations. You need a place to put files and share a task list, a calendar and maybe a wiki. Sound familiar? OneHub might be what you’re looking for. The home page makes a simple, straightforward claim: “Secure, fast and easy-to-use file sharing for any size business. Manage projects, share files and collaborate with others.” Open it up and you will find a site that does just that, no more and no less. In fact it offers most of the basic functionality that a SharePoint project site would have. The big difference is the almost completely effortless setup required to get a secure, customizable workspaces for collaboration and document sharing.[…]

One more word about SharePoint. A wise man once said “a fool with a tool is still a fool”. Changing behaviour is at the heart of any organization’s effort to introduce new tools, and SharePoint is no different than any other technology in that respect. SharePoint is a medium for building a project management information system but there has to be a basic understanding of what good project communication looks like for the effort to do any good. Recently I came across a presentation by Sadalit Van Buren about her work in documenting a SharePoint Maturity Model. To make a long story short the model provides a way for organizations adopting SharePoint to see where they are in relation to[…]

So, what happened to 2010. The short version is that I did the research, and it has been an interesting journey. Those who attended last year’s PMI Southwestern Ontario Spring Symposium heard part of the story. The next several posts will tell the rest with each one take an in-depth look at one solution. Let’s start with SharePoint. It’s showing up in a lot of places and, simply put, it has a lot to offer project teams. SharePoint has a number of attractions, and high on the list is its facility for managing lists. That is useful to project teams because they live in a world of lists — activity lists, issue logs, risk registers and many more. SharePoint also[…]

If Web 2.0 tools offer the promise of better project communication, what does “better” look like? Answering that means considering two broad dimensions of project communication that point in opposite directions. In one direction there’s collaboration where the priority is the individual experience of finding and sharing information. In that context “better” looks like one-stop-shopping for project information in surroundings that promote collaboration by encouraging people to engage in discussion through annotations and comments — in other words, the kinds of personal interactions that social media support. Looking the opposite way we find Enterprise Project Management systems where the priority is the transactional work of project execution. There, communication is far more structured and “better” means making it easy to[…]

My last post about Web 2.0 tools for project management led to two lines o f conversation with some colleagues. The first was about and how poor communication about requirements can lock in design mistakes early in Design / Build projects and lead to major rework costs later on. The other was about why we need to bother trying to get people to learn how to use a new communication medium. We all use email every day; isn’t that enough? Three “C” words tie these threads of conversation together: Communication, Coordination and Collaboration. Not a particularly original phrase, I admit — Lotus Notes jumped on it a long time ago to promote its (then new) groupware capabilities. Nevertheless, making it[…]

My last post began to make a case for Web 2.0 tools as something that can give project teams access to collaboration and information sharing capabilities that many organizations have viewed as simply out of reach. One of the risks in embracing a new technology is that it may consume a lot of time and resources doing well, something that wasn’t worth doing at all. After all, Project Managers often struggle with just getting things done, never mind the challenges of learning new software tools. Why is information sharing and social networking software worthy of a Project Manager’s attention? Implicit in a discussion of project team collaboration and information sharing tools is the idea of a Project Management Information System[…]

Enterprise 2.0 is gaining attention as a way to describe the way that social media tools are changing the way that people communicate at work. What (if any) relevance does that have for small and mid-sized organizations? If you perceive a hint of déjà vu it’s probably a memory of things we were saying a decade or so ago when the web was catching on as a mainstream business communications medium. The promise then was that easier information sharing and collaboration were going to transform the way that people worked. Individually we now use the web every day, but regardless of size a lot of organizations remain as tightly siloed as ever in the way they manage information. Cut away[…]