Is task and work management enough? What is right for me?

I have seen many customers solving the dilemma of processes
and tools in the Task, Project and Portfolio Management world and jumping among
different software tools and trying to find the best option. Here are few
thoughts that might answer some of the questions organized by need (and by
maturity). (This article focuses on processes rather than tools – but be
assured that in every single scenario you can benefit from integrated Microsoft on-premises or cloud solutions.)

Is task and work management enough? What is right for me?

People, teams and organizations are looking for smart ways
to plan and track their work. Almost all are looking for software tools that
seamlessly blend into their needs – this post highlights important
considerations on the journey from individual task management to
cross-organizational portfolio management.

Tasks - Individuals, daily work, accountabilities, making the work done.

On personal level individuals maintain a set of “tasks”–
usually in different forms (from pen and paper to software tools) to track and
remind themselves what needs to be done. There is indeed plenty of options,
it’s up to everyone’s taste. The most important is how to prioritize and tackle
possibly ever-growing list of tasks so it does not become a graveyard of the
past… It almost seems that many prefer to block their time on calendar, rather
than capture a task that levitates above all the workload.

As you see - just adding a task either on paper or in a tool
- is not enough. There must be a will and desire of the individual to use the
list effectively. Yes I agree it’s simple to do and everyone can figure out
what works the best. The important takeaway is - as we move further in the
complexity to work, project and portfolio management all individuals need to be
enlightened, trained and motivated… because they work on a team effort.

Work Management – working with and through others

Work management is means of organizing and managing work in collaborative
environment. The focus is on what and who. This is a natural evolution of task
management, where individual “tasks” are no longer only your own – but you
share them with your teammates to ask them for their contribution. Now clearly this
could be challenging situation as different people have different priorities
and participating in your work management effort could - for some - be
additional agenda.

These activities can become complex rather quickly,
especially if you are interested in sequencing the work, involving more people
across departments, creating dependencies and tracking what was done and when –
and this is where the more formalized and structured cousin - project management
comes in.

Project Management – deliver measurable outcomes and deliver the result

Projects typically are complex one-time activities lasting
months. The process of leading the entire project is usually controlled by
project manager. Projects typically have lifecycle starting with idea that needs
to evolve into a business case – summary
of key outcomes and key goals of the entire project. After approval – the right
resources are found and project execution starts. Project manager needs to
balance the project delivery – deliver project goals and keep eye on budget and
resources. Once project is successfully completed evaluation is done.  

And since projects can be very complex they often fail to
either deliver the intended result or fail completely mid-way. Project Managers
and organizations demand analytics and insights that would reveal and highlight
problems to be addressed as soon as possible.

Now it’s clear that there is a necessity of rigor, processes
and habits that the organization has to establish for all this to work
properly. You don’t want to become a fool with a tool! Are you thinking this is
too much for your organization? Is it too big investment? Do an ROI analysis –
and decide accordingly… In this cloud era – the tools are becoming simpler to implement – but the process is what
takes the most and it is the most important

Portfolio Management - solving the next big priority for the entire

Multi-project, cross-departmental environment – where tens
of projects with different goals are running and competing for funding at the
same time. This environment is usually controlled and aligned with
organizational strategy that dictates priorities and funding.

OK, so which one is right for us?

The biggest challenge of task and work management is that
they are not aligned with the organizational strategy, they are bottom-up
driven and usually lack the big picture, especially in larger organizations. They are great to make things done, but not
as good to make sure the right things are done.
This may not be a concern
for really small organizations, but for larger – this could be a huge
deficiency. It’s not surprising however that all the above techniques and tools
usually co-exist side-by-side. With co-existence it’s important to ask the
right questions about integration and how all data captured in any system can
flow upstream or downstream and seamlessly integrate in dashboards and provide
the right level of visibility on all levels. There great one-vendor tools (hint:
Microsoft) with consistent user interface and seamless integration to make the
“toolset” decision super-easy.

Maturity, processes, training and habits.

Maturity, processes, training and habits. Here we are again.
The lack of project and portfolio management (PPM) maturity or processes – caused by poor project management
implementation is effectively “degrading” PPM to work management.

It’s very clear that as we move from task management to
portfolio management – the right processes need to be in place BEFORE the tools
can start delivering results. This does not mean that you should stay with work
management forever – this means that since project and portfolio management is
more complex due to scope, duration, cost and impact – it requires more
thinking, more preparation and more attention during execution. This however
also means that more people are involved and they need to understand why and
how to do things right.

It’s obvious however that if your organization was to easily replace project management tools with
work management – then CLEARLY you don’t have the right PPM processes and/or
PPM was poorly implemented or you simply don’t need PPM (which I’m happy to challenge :) )

Thought? Feedback?