Some people cringe when they hear any reference to implementing process. They associate it with stringent rules, regulations and paperwork. This reaction is understandable—I have worked for small companies that feel the need to implement big corporate process and enterprise software just to claim that they have a process. What happens after that investment? Most of the time, the new process isn’t being followed and no one is using the software.
On the other hand, I have worked for companies that have no process at all—many projects being worked on simultaneously, no one managing them, priorities shift daily and no visibility into project status or who’s working on what. This way of operating is not efficient or productive, and usually ends with an overworked and unmotivated team.
Is there a happy medium? Yes, but it takes some planning before determining the right balance of process and automation required to take your company to the next level. In the meantime, here are some tips that can help you avoid the standard pitfalls that occur due to process overload or lack of process:
Basic Project Documentation
Ask yourself: Is it really necessary to require teams to complete layers of documentation throughout a project lifecycle? If you are an SMB and new to process, why not start by documenting things like high level requirements, tasks and meeting discussions, including critical decisions or changes made? These can be posted on a shared drive or collaboration tool so that everyone has access to it. If this helps, then you can assess next steps for improvement. Starting off with small changes won’t be as overwhelming to a team that is used to operating in their own way.
Project Intake and Prioritization
New projects are being informally opened via email, hallway conversations or meetings—and they’re all top priority. Sound familiar? Obviously, a team cannot effectively work on all projects at once, so having a basic intake and prioritization process will ensure that they are working on the right things at the right time. The first step is to determine what constitutes a project within your organization – i.e. complexity, length of time involved, etc. From there, the intake process can be as simple as an email request with management determining priority based on selected criteria.
No visibility into project status or resource allocations? There are many free project status reporting templates (Excel, Word, etc.) and project management tools available that will provide the information that management is looking for. Basic information such as project name and scope, estimated complete vs. actual complete, major issues/risks and overall project health - red, yellow, green - will provide management with valuable information to better understand what their teams are working on, as well as delivery performance.
If your organization is new to process, try implementing in a phased approach. It will be easier to make changes along the way and will be more readily accepted by the teams. If you’ve recently implemented process and tools but you aren’t seeing the return on investment, consider enlisting a specialized consulting company that can provide guidance to get your company and teams back on track to success.