Project Management Tools: Sophistication Does Not Mean Success?
It’s a familiar story. An organization is suffering from poor project performance… a high level leader sees a fancy tool that will seemingly answer all the questions about the organization's projects… mandates its use by the organization expecting immediate compliance and corresponding great results. Not!!!
Don’t get me wrong... as an engineer techno-geek I love sophisticated tools!
My most prized fishing reel is the Alutecnos 50 Wide 2 Speed Fishing Reel… literally the Lamborghini of fishing reels… Italian made of the finest materials and engineering. Sometimes I go in my garage, polish it and just turn the crank. As a fishing reel, you can’t get a much more sophisticated tool. With a quality rod the cost is well over one thousand U.S. dollars. Contrast that with the Yo Yo hand fishing reel I buy at Wal-Mart for three dollars.
Which reel have a caught the biggest fish of my life on… you guessed it... the three dollar Yo Yo. For all the sophistication of the Alutecnos, the three dollar Yo Yo is just better at pulling a one hundred and fifty pound Goliath Grouper off the bottom of the ocean. Simple is sometimes more powerful!
Five things to remember about project management tools
A project management tool is as only as good as its content. If the content is incomplete or inaccurate the tool is useless. Getting quality content is where the real work lies and is independent of the tool!
If the tool is cumbersome to use, project managers won’t use it. Good project managers are too busy to spend time stumbling and bumbling around a burdensome tool. I know many project managers that run their project out of a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel and put just enough information in the mandated tool to keep the PMO police from throwing them in jail. The truth is good project managers should not be using tools at all!
The primary purpose of the project management tool is to communicate. You should evaluate tools on their ability to foster communication among stakeholders. If the output of the tool has to be translated or transposed to allow communication you may need a different tool.
Start Simple. It is always best to start simple. Stay simple until the value added of a more sophisticated tool is clear. From a simple spreadsheet point of view the book The One Page Project Manager is a good starting point. When it comes to project management tools nothing is wrong with homemade!
Think! Use of a tool does not prohibit thinking… is not a short cut to thinking… and any tools output should always be questioned by the judgment of a seasoned project manager or leader.
Odds are there is or has been a leader in your organization drooling over a tool the way I drool over my prized fishing reel... thinking of the possibilities. The first question out of the mouth of you or any other leader when a sophisticated tool is proposed is “Have we mastered simple?” Your organization should not get sophisticated until it has mastered simple.