One of our values at Bottle Rocket, is "be restless". To us this means never settling and always actively improving ourselves and our work. This includes the tools we use to run our business. One of the big initiatives we took in 2011 was implementing a new project management system so that we could get a better handle on how our resources were being allocated. In this past year, we have learned many things about the evolving project/process management of a rapidly growing company operating at the leading edge of design and technology.
Outdated Information Leads to Incorrect Results
Using a project management system is a great way to log tasks, have conversations, share files and collaborate. But, if you aren't keeping the system up-to-date constantly, no one will trust the data and use of the system will decline over time. If your Project Managers are not updating tasks as parts of the project change, then people are relying on bad data. You may be asking a team member to work late on something that isn't important or might not be utilizing an available resource during a window of opportunity. As a Project Manager, it's your responsibility to communicate to the appropriate internal team members and failure to do so leads to mistrust. Eventually entire teams will stop using the system and the process will fail. But when data is kept fresh, the system becomes the trusted source for accurate information and use skyrockets.
Timing is Everything
Before we got our new project management system, we were able to estimate the amount of time a project would take, but it was always a rough estimate. We now are recording time so that we can monitor employee's workloads and make sure our estimates are accurate. It was a strong conviction of the management team to make sure people understood why we were logging time - not to be the timesheet police, but to help maintain a work/life balance for our team members. Time tracking helps us determine when new resources are needed, forecast potential resource gaps and optimize our use of time.
You Won't Get It Right on the First Try
No matter how much set up time or training you have, the system will never be perfect when you begin. The important thing to remember is that implementing a new project management system can be a full-time job, especially in the first few months before and after the implementation. It's important to get people's approval on the system and get constant feedback and consensus from all disciplines in your business. If people see value in the system, they will use it. If not, your efforts will be wasted. Put yourself in the shoes of each person in your organization and ask yourself "how will this make me more efficient so that I can focus on what I really love to do."
Being a part of a company that has grown four times its size in the past year has been an amazing challenge. But with an unwavering focus on constant improvement and "being restless", it is a challenge that we have met successfully.
What challenges have you experienced as your company grows? We would love to get some insight or provide you some encouragement.