November 18, 2017

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

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Product Development for Telecommunications Company

Project Success StoryThis story from project manager, Candice Adams, is about a project in the telecommunications industry with the goal of establishing a new Business Model to create a system whereby mobile services could be sold in bulk as part of B2B services.

The project was innovative and it was difficult to find resources with experience. This made the company’s stakeholders who were new to the concept, very dependent on a service provider for domain specific knowledge. It took about two years to complete.

The Customers knew more than the company which put a lot of pressure on the company to establish a model and service package. It took time to work out what is of mutual benefit.

Strained Business Relationships

What worked in the project’s favour was the fact that they had dedicated project team members and good support from IT management.

Initially they didn’t have Business support and they had to build trust over time. Due to the corporate nature of the company, there were the usual challenges with having a Silo effect and different teams working independently.

This challenge was overcome by communicating with the Business stakeholders regularly. The project was executed as part of business strategy and the business stakeholders had to become part of the journey. IT didn’t pretend to know everything.  The relationship became more transparent, business stakeholders were part of decision making and they felt empowered.

Multiple Challenges

In order to address the high dependency on the software provider, the project manager had to source subject matter experts (SME’s) in-house to assist with communications with the software provider from an overseas company who didn’t know the company culture, in order to challenge their ideas.

The business was not trusting IT with how the solution needed to be packaged and delivered. This improved as the relationships between IT and the business stakeholders became stronger.

The external dependency on the network in order to make the new business model work, was particularly challenging, because it wasn’t always stable or optimal. The project was formulating a bulk service solution, but standard services were not stable yet, for example, when calls dropped.

The Business Case determined a launch date a year into the future. This date couldn’t move out, as it was advertised already.  Much money was spent on marketing the future bulk service solution. For certain customers, there was a small window of opportunity to offer this service to their existing clients – this caused an immovable end date for go live of the solution.

Lessons Learned

Project success storyOn a strategic business project of this nature the buy-in from business stakeholders is mandatary and it requires transparent communications in terms of how the solution is developed.

A big factor in the success of the project was the on-boarding of SME’s to become part of the project team. This allowed better negotiation with the software providers in terms of what is required for the new business model. The SME’s also played a major role in transitioning to operations.

Sponsor Support and Communications

Through-out the project sponsor support was critical. The sponsor had to provide updates to the Board of Directors and he had to assist with addressing major project issues that were escalated.

Project communications were done through daily stand-ups with the entire project team (IT and Business) to keep team members aligned, first thing in the morning. Informal conversations also helped to overcome the silo’s. It addressed the questioning of motives and it helped to build trust. Evidence of the trust relationship was seen in how business stakeholders would defend IT if there were delays.

Key take-aways

The project manager had some big take-aways from the project experience, like the importance of being open and transparent. A project manager needs to keep an eye on the pulse of activities and progress. Also stay close to how people are feeling and how the team is experiencing the project. In conclusion the project manager learnt the value of being supportive and managing expectations.

About the project manager:

Candice Adams has started in Systems Management policies and procedures in a Petro-chemical company. She did business process analysis before she moved into project management, where she worked on projects in ERP, like SAP or Oracle and in Retail IT for the past 12 years. She plans to become PMP certified next.

Candice may be contacted on candicead@gmail.com

Project Communication Management Best Practice

Find out how to apply project communications management as a best practice and why excellent communication skills are a top skill for successful project managers

 

Communication Challenges for Virtual Project Teams Part 2

Have you ever worked with virtual teams as a project manager? (Click for related articles) From my experience of working with virtual teams who are distributed and working remotely, we have to overcome the communication challenges by using tools like tele-conference facilities, instant messaging and email.

This article is Part 2 of a discussion of research findings about the challenges virtual teams face, communication preferences and recommendations. It is based on an online survey done by Software Advice’s Noel Radley (*) with professionals who regularly work on virtual projects, and who had an opinion on the challenges of virtual projects.

Virtual Team Members’ Preferred Communication Channels

Virtual team's preferred Communication channels

 

Preferred Communication Tools

The survey confirmed recent reports that email usage has not yet declined to the extent some predicted. To the contrary, 41 percent of virtual team members surveyed selected email as their most preferred communication tool. However, it was also stated as problematic by some (23%) due to long email threads.

After email, phone was selected by 36 percent of those surveyed as their preferred communication channel perhaps due to the benefits of a “real-time” collaboration tool. Surprisingly, tools designed for online collaboration were selected by the fewest respondents. Only 12 percent selected virtual conferencing as a preferred communication channel, and discussion forums and chat rooms were selected by just 10 percent.

Miller recommends instant messaging (or chat) as one of the more effective real-time communication channels for virtual teams. It’s a much better way to collaborate on something that’s in active progress, or to reach a final decision on an issue. It can also be used to link directly to Web pages or relevant documents that may come up in conversation.

When facing virtual workers who prefer traditional communication channels, managers may need to push adoption in order to help bridge the gap between the tools team members are accustomed to and the tools that help them collaborate most effectively.

Communication Channel Preferences by Age

To add further complexity, our findings revealed a shift in communication preference based on age. Generally speaking, the preference for digital mediums (such as email) decreased with age, while the preference for analog communications (namely, phone) increased with age.

Demographics: Communication Channel Preferences by Age

Preferred communication tools by age

 

 

 

Email preferences were greatest among the youngest team members surveyed: nearly half of those aged 25-34 had a top preference for email (46 percent). This preference was slightly less for 35- to 44-year-olds (41 percent), and lower still for 45- to 54-year-olds (36 percent).

The greatest preference for phone was held by team members in the 45-54 age category, at 41 percent, while 34 percent of the 35-44 age bracket and 29 percent of the 25-34 age bracket preferred communicating by phone.

These trends change when it comes to video conferencing and discussion forums and chat. The 35-44 group is less likely to prefer virtual conferencing and more likely to prefer chats and discussion forums than both the older and the younger age groups.

These differences may mean that companies with trans-generational teams run into subtle misunderstandings, as diverse communication preferences result in people not answering the phone or not replying to emails. To keep distributed teams on the same page, Miller recommends a “multifaceted” approach.

Recommended Solutions

In addition to using instant messaging, also consider mailing lists, a project wiki, and a project blog. A conference or face-to-face sessions where active project members are invited to get together is also a good solution. This works well at the beginning and end of projects.

Successful virtual projects, therefore, require more than just selecting the right communication tool for your team to use. Managers and project leaders for remote teams should supplement communication channels with engaging online information, collaborative environments and even perhaps in-person events to ensure that all team members stay in the loop.

Conclusions

Effectively managed communication will be more of a solution than a problem for a variety of issues, such as task management and team members with commitments to multiple projects.

Moreover, a multi-pronged approach, including instant messaging, agile project management tools, blogging and wikis, should be used to engage teams and foster effective communication. When confronting teams with diverse preferences, a comprehensive communication strategy involving a variety of tools and techniques can help solidify team connections, as well as improve project visibility.

According to Miller it’s important to keep enthusiasm and engagement high, and to make sure that team members’ direct managers or sponsors have easy access to meaningful information showing the value of the work and the overall return.

For reference, you can find the full report here:

http://blog.softwareadvice.com/articles/project-management/survey-communication-virtual-projects-0714/

(*) Software Advice is a company that researches and evaluates project management technology.

Communication Challenges for Virtual Project Teams Part 1

Have you ever worked with virtual teams as a project manager? (Click for related articles) From my experience of working with virtual teams who are distributed and working remotely, we have to overcome the communication challenges by using tools like tele-conference facilities, instant messaging and email.

This article is discussing research findings about the challenges virtual teams face. It is based on an online survey done by Noel Radley of Software Advice (a company that researches and evaluates project management technology) with professionals who regularly work on virtual projects, and who had an opinion on the challenges of virtual projects. It is divided into two parts. Part 1 is about the main challenges virtual teams are faced with and task management as a top threat to effective project communication.

Top challenges

  • Thirty-eight percent of team members said communication was difficult on virtual projects, making it the top-cited challenge.
  • Poor communication regarding task management was perceived as the top threat to project success, selected by 41 percent of team members.
  • Email was a preferred channel for 41 percent of respondents—though 23 percent noted long email threads were a communication pitfall.
  • The lack of the right software or technology was given by 33 percent.
  • A lack of productivity was seen as the biggest threat to project success by 28 percent, since many team members believed those who work remotely are held less accountable.

In addition to communication challenges there are also others based on feedback from Matthew Miller, a project leader at the open source technology company Red Hat who has worked with thousands of contributors on open-source operating system called the Fedora Project.

A deeper challenge of most remote teams is the fact that members are typically “drawn from other teams,” and thus have only partial responsibility to their virtual projects. Miller said that typically there’s more work that needs to be done than time to do it, and often commitments to virtual teams are the easiest to break. In view of the productivity challenge stated above, the issue may simply be that they have other commitments that take priority. Managers may need to consider analyzing the scope of a team’s commitments when assigning tasks or attempting to pinpoint problems.

Virtual Team Members’ Top Project-Communication Problems

Virtual Team Members’ Top Project-Communication Problems

Task Management

When analysing the top communication-related challenges of remote projects it was found that approximately 41 percent of respondents answered that the failure to clearly assign and update tasks, was the top threat to effective project communication.

For 23 percent of respondents, long email threads were the top obstacle to communicating effectively. For others (19 percent), they most experienced trouble scheduling virtual meetings and conference calls. And 16 percent of virtual team members experienced confusion about which communication channel—phone, chat or email—to turn to for which tasks.

Many turn to software solutions for task management. Software Advice found in a recent report that 52 percent of project management software buyers were seeking a task management application.

Although tools are important, Miller emphasized the importance of having established processes in place for your team, like regular group interactions for shared tasks for example.

For reference, you can find the full report here:

http://blog.softwareadvice.com/articles/project-management/survey-communication-virtual-projects-0714/

Please subscribe (top right) not to miss Part 2 and future articles!

Leadership Style – Servant Leadership and Communication

By Bill Flint

This article is part of a series of Leadership Style articles about Servant Leadership.

Servant Leaders Communication and Conflict Resolution skillsOne of the most common challenges in today’s work-place, is to find the time to improve on communication and conflict resolution skills.

Leaders complain about people being lazy or not doing their jobs right, or people complain about the leaders being so busy that they don’t have time to spend with their people.  The workforce complains their leaders don’t set expectations, don’t ask for feedback and don’t really care about them. Then we wonder why companies have a gap between their vision and the results they are achieving. Everything in life and business revolves not just around communication but the “right kind of communication.”

Communication is the # 1 problem in almost all businesses

Why is communication considered as the main problem in many businesses?

  • It keeps the people and the organization from reaching their potential.
  • It’s not because people aren’t talking, but in most cases, it’s the “wrong kind” of communication or a “lack of the right kind.”
  • People are talking at each other, but not getting through.

Servant Leaders and communication

What Servant Leaders have learned about great communication is:

  • Setting Goals
  • Helping people understand what is expected and why?
  • What they will be measured by?
  • Performance reviews—how they are doing, what are they doing well and the areas they need to improve on.
  • Asking people for their ideas and suggestions.
  • Providing, inspiration, encouragement and motivation.
  • Discipline
  • Conflict Resolution
  • I’m your “coach not your boss.” I’m here for you.

Servant leaders know it’s their goal to “help both the people and the bottom line  grow.”

It’s not an either or. You need both for a business and its people to build a sustainable competitive advantage.

Communication and Conflict Resolution

Servant Leaders need to realize about communication and conflict resolution: [Read more…]

Leadership and Your Communication Style

To be a successful project manager, it is important to develop your Leadership skills. You need to regocnize the behaviours that define you as a leader. One such leadership skill is to know and develop your communication style.

It means you have a natural style of communicating. This is the way that is the most comfortable for you to communicate, it includes whether you prefer written (email or other) or verbal (on the phone vs. in-person) communication and whether or not you are careful and deliberate in your communications or more comfortable thinking out loud.

This includes how you like to send communication and how you like to receive it. You might prefer to walk down the hall to see someone when you have something to say, but you might want people to email you things when they have things to say so that you have them in writing or so that you can refer back to them later or add them to your calendar.

You also have an adapted style of communication, this means how we communicate when we are upset or under pressure or during a conflict.

It is important to understand your natural approach/style and your adapted approach.

Then you can begin to understand the styles of others and how/when your styles work with others or not.

There is a lot to consider. And the most important question; is your communication style working for you?

Overall how do you know?

Well, to explore these questions; I invite you to attend a FREE Webinar entitled:

‘Mitigate Yourself! What to Do When the Risk is You’.

Margaret Meloni of Meloni Coaching Solutions will be hosting this live Webinar on 24 January 2012 from 12:00-13:00 PST.

Margaret delivers soft-skill, personal development products and coaching for Project Managers worldwide. Her coaching products help make successful Project Manager regardless of their industry. Learn more about her: margaretmeloni.com

Please Register, even if you cannot make it, you receive a free recording and can earn a Professional Development Unit (PDU).

In this Webinar you will learn:

  • You have a natural and adapted style of communications (meaning; how you communicate normally and when you are upset or under pressure).
  • Why it’s important to understand both.
  • How you can begin to recognize and understand the styles of others and understand when your style works and when it does not.

Be there to learn more about your communication styles and how they affect your success in the workplace and the success of your team.

Register today as seating is limited and when you do register please be sure to tell Margaret I sent you by filling in the ‘Who Referred You’ information.

5 Practical Tips for Good Communication Practices on Projects

Most project managers know that communications is 90% of what they do every day. If you understand the importance of good communication practices, shouldn’t you incorporate it in your core skill set?
Good communication practices on projects
Here are five practical tips to help you enhance your communication skills and to implement consistently.  When possible, try to see the team members often for what I jokingly call “eyeball management”.

  1. Reports: Generate project progress or status reports once a week to see if your project is on track. Then distribute those reports to your customer and management team. Explain any deviations from the plan and what you’re doing to correct them.
  2. Team Meetings: Hold a weekly meeting with your project team, even if it’s only 30 minutes. Plan each meeting against an agenda and any key objectives in order to keep it focused.  Communicate the status of the project. Discuss with them the goals, deliverables and timeframes that need to be achieved. Obtain feedback about the progress made in the past week and agree on the planned activities for the next week or two. Obtain buy-in from each team member. It is important to align team members as this will help to keep them motivated, and committed to the project outcome.
  3. Minutes: Always take minutes recording the decisions made and to keep track of actions due. Send the minutes to those people that will be affected by the decisions and actions and then store the minutes in your project folder. When projects involve external customers, minutes can/will be considered as a legal entity if a dispute may arise around certain decisions made.
  4. Email: Use mail to make arrangements en only when something needs to be done or if it’s important.  Keep email to a minimum as too much mail makes communication less effective. Also try not to copy the whole team for every mail, but always think who is the message intended for and who else needs to know about it. As a project manager it’s usually a good arrangement to be copied in on team members emails to stay informed of what is going on.
  5. Tools: Collaborate with your team online, using software tools that will allow you to have discussions, share files and send messages (instant messaging). It is also recommended to have a time capturing tool to track the time spent per team member as part of your cost management.

In general you want to be respectful of other people’s time. Agree the communications plan with the team and other stakeholders. Explain your expectations as a project manager so that the team members will understand why they need to attend the weekly meetings and why you want them to read the minutes, as they are used not only for communication, but also as a management tool.

By minimizing email, meetings and discussions and keeping them focused and short, you’re avoiding all of the usual “noise” that project teams usually generate. Find a weekly routine that works for your team and be consistent with your communication practices.

As an effective project manager, it is good to have an approach like: “always be communicating”.  This will greatly improve your chances of success.

Essential Communication Skills For Project Managers

Jo Ann Sweeney,  a communications consultant based in London, wrote an article about one of the essential communication skills for project managers, namely Active Listening.

Active Listening

I was one of the project managers in March that was interviewed by Jo Ann Sweeney. She did research about the top five communication skills project managers need to lead their teams.

“Active listening is the most important leadership skill for any project,” said South African Linky Van Der Merwe PMP. “We need to listen so we can understand requirements and needs, especially with regard to stakeholders.This should happen throughout the project, not just at the beginning.”

Read the rest of her article here.

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