After several years of using Basecamp as our in-house project management support tool we’ve recently been feeling that something’s missing somewhere. We surveyed more than a 100 different tools that are available out there and maybe it’s a sign of the times, but we found that there are now a lot of tools that seemed to be more about social collaboration as opposed to traditional Gantt charts with tasks, timelines and dependencies.
That made us think. Is a project more about a set of people to whom we assign tasks, or is it more about a set of tasks to which we assign people?
We think that the right answer depends on two things:
- How mature and proactive your people are in terms of managing their own work schedules and their interactions with other team members.
- How firm a project’s work breakdown structure remains over the delivery life cycle. Does it need to be altered because the sequence and duration of certain tasks can’t completely be known in advance?
In our situation of delivering digital creativity we felt that we needed primarily a traditional Gantt approach along with the added support of social collaboration to deal with the more uncertain phases of each project.
At a certain level, our projects can be defined in terms of a waterfall of fixed tasks with dates and dependencies. But if we zoom into some of these tasks such as creative design, we see that they come with the uncertainty of time and effort required to finish that task to perfection.
We need to let the creative guys know what their micro tasks are and let them share documents easily, but without a broader and firmer project structure to guide them they’d probably lose the forest for the trees and go through endless iterations and revised end dates. We think that the Gantt chart helps manage the forest view, and the collaboration helps to focus on each of the trees.
Managing projects purely with collaborative tools may be useful in situations where teams are small, and each team member is not only a subject matter expert but a very independent individual who can be relied on to manage herself without the guidance of a higher level project structure.
Larger project teams are more likely to require a mix of both senior and less experienced people that are likely to just get lost in a forest of micro tasks if they don’t have the larger picture put in place for them.
About Mario: A leader in business process optimization with over 20 years experience in IT services and consulting across a number of industry domains worldwide, Mario Lewis is a strategic thinker who has helped companies successfully manage projects with his uncanny ability to see the big picture while continuing to excel in details.
You can connect with Mario at: