Reading Time: 4 minutes

Implementing a new project management tool in your organization is a project. Are all projects the same? Start. Plan. Execute. Monitor. Finish. In another blog, I talked about how to pick a project management tool. In this blog, I want to focus on some very specific considerations that are specific to the challenge of implementing a new project management tool.

Why are you implementing a new project management tool?

As my regular readers know, the why question is frequently my starting point. Beginning with a clear and compelling vision statement for any project helps drive your project team through the tough times.

So often I see project charters that use the phrase business need. Beginning with the business need may make sense in some organizations, but the business need may or may not sound like a clear and compelling vision statement that will inspire your team.

For example, an organization might decide to switch to a new project management tool in order to provide more accurate and needed metrics for senior management. That may be a compelling business need but it probably won’t motivate your implementation team for long.

What might be more motivational for them is a vision statement like this: Implement new project management software tool to improve team collaboration and time management, and reduce time spent creating weekly status reports and meeting minutes.

Find a clear and compelling vision statement that will drive your team. It helps to achieve the necessary team buy-in on a project when you can present the change in a way that addresses the pain points of those on the team.

When your project is being completed by outside contractors, the situation can become more complicated. The improvements from any change do not flow to the independent contractors, so you may need to rely on their professionalism to ensure commitment. And yet, when outside contractors are juggling multiple clients with limited time, the more compelling projects often get worked on first.

What data are needed?

Every project is different. Every client is different. And, every team is different. It is always a good idea to focus on the end game. What data need to be monitored?

Is tracking money, on a project done by independent contractors, a consideration? If so, your contractors need to be entering those data on a daily basis, and somebody needs to be watching it. Otherwise, your contractors can throw your project into the red in a matter of days, or even hours.

Are pieces of your project being outsourced to other vendors? If so, you’d better know what details are included in those procurement contracts, and you’d better be watching those contract requirements. Contracts are legal documents and you don’t want to find yourself in default.

Does your project involve a lot of stakeholders with hot-button issues? Is anyone uncovering and documenting those issues, and determining what kinds of communications are needed?

Is the schedule a particularly complicated schedule? This is often the case in construction projects, with multiple sub-contractors needing products stored on site and lots of dependencies. In business projects, it is often not the schedule that causes the most headaches – though the other problems can definitely throw your schedule off.

How are you managing risks, communications, and issues? Are you tracking and reporting on lessons learned during the course of the project or not until the end (when you will have forgotten some)? Does management want a weekly or monthly earned value report or a critical path diagram? How are decisions reported? All of these items can be important. Determine, at the outset, what is needed and plan accordingly.

What is the role of the project manager?

There are hundreds of project tools that companies can choose from and it is important to understand what role you want from your project manager before you even select the tool, and certainly before you go into implementation.

Are you expecting the project manager to “coach” the team for maximum effectiveness and commitment to the project objectives (i.e., think Scrum) or are you expecting a more traditional project manager, who schedules the work, produces reports, and directs traffic, so to speak?

Who will be using the software?

Projects often involve teams of people. It’s easier to get buy-in when everyone on the team is working full-time on the same project. When you have teams of people who are working on multiple projects, in the same organization or in different organizations, it can get increasingly harder to get buy-in. No one wants to be juggling a task list that is spread between four or five software tools. And many of us have our personal list in one software program already.

What training and development is needed?

Since most people learn better by doing than by watching or listening, it is most effective to train people by having them actually use the software. Depending on the level of functionality, some project software needs almost no real training.

Once you have identified the people who will be using the software, how will any training and development be accomplished? Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you will train the executives and leaders without training the teams of actual users. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that getting everyone to use the software will be easy – even if the software is easy.

Change management is tough. People are creatures of habit. Just moving people from writing their thoughts on paper to writing on a computer has come with challenges. When people are putting data in specific places on a form, it requires that they think about what they are doing. Sometimes, just writing it down on a legal pad and thinking that you will transcribe it later is tempting.

If you are moving to online software that will help your teams manage projects more effectively, all of the data need to be entered into the software in real-time.