With teams now stretching across time zones and continents, instead of simply to the floor above, we have to come up with creative ways to get everyone engaged and to encourage individuals to work together without silos. That’s a long-winded way of saying that collaboration is essential to the modern business.
In fact, a Deltek white paper calls collaboration one of the six elements of visibility required for financial and business control. So it follows that better collaboration will help you achieve better control of your project portfolios. But how do you get better at collaborating? Here are some ideas to share with your team.
1. Create one view of the truth
Get everyone on the same page with software that consolidates all project data into a single data repository. When everyone is looking at the same data sources you can have confidence that they are all seeing the same information. Dashboards and standard reporting templates across all projects will help here, and once they are set up they are easy to use time and time again.
Standardized information sources like this make working together easier because you all have the same view of the projects and programs. It reduces the risk of someone pulling up data processed in a different way to argue why a different route forward for a program is more appropriate. Of course, they can still argue that they want to move forward differently, but they’ll have to use the same data as everyone else to do so!
2. Stop subjectivity
OK, you’ll always get people applying their own personal take on things, and a degree of subjectivity when it comes to projects is a good thing. After all, project management is part art, part science. However, you can make it easier for teams to make the right decisions if you have clear performance measures, targets, metrics and evaluations.
Use real time data to display information on dashboards in a way that makes it obvious what the status is. No one wants to sit in an hour long planning workshop spending the first 30 minutes disputing schedule performance. Make your technology work for you and set it all up to give you those answers quickly, so the team can move on to what they do best: acting on that information.
3. Alert yourself
Even in a crisis you need a few moments to process the situation and make a decision about what to do. You collaborate best when you’ve got the time to reflect on the problem and establish the solution. You’ll probably have heard the phrase ‘no surprises’ in the context of project management and alerts will help you achieve that.
Set up alerts from your enterprise systems so that you get early warnings of problems. Then you can call the team together and address the issues collectively, with enough time to take preventative action before the situation gets out of hand.
4. Be transparent
Collaboration relies on an open communication style. You can’t expect people to want to share information and come together for project work if they don’t understand how they fit into the picture or constantly hit the answer, “You don’t need to know that.”
If it’s commercially confidential and can’t be shared, say so. People appreciate knowing the reason behind why data or decisions are kept from them and will understand that it’s appropriate to do that in certain situations.
Share what you can. It might not seem particularly relevant to you, but it could spark something in someone else’s mind which in turn could help you avoid problems in the future or add a new dimension to your portfolio planning. And it’s just a nice thing to do to help team members feel included and valued.
5. Make it easy!
Collaboration works best when it’s easy. If there are too many obstacles for people when it comes to working together, they simply won’t do it. They will ask the opinion of the people in the vicinity and move forward on that basis, or they won’t move forward at all. Make sure that everyone knows how to find the most up-to-date project information and that they have active logins and passwords. It’s also worth making sure that they know what the tools can do. Tools should be there to make your life easier, so hold some little workshops if necessary to point out all the features and explain to team members how they can tap into the technology to facilitate working together.
Offer training, involve your colleagues, and most importantly, model the collaborative behaviours that you want to see. They will take their cues from you, so show them what you expect!