I remember how reading the sunday paper while living in Michigan was a sunday morning ritual. The classified section was huge and I used to love to go through look at what people are selling and buying, from houses to puppy dogs. It was so much fun.
But the classified sections are no more. They are on their way to extinction. Online lists are taking over where people can go in list and look for items at the touch of the button, live and any time, not only on sunday. So, today the sunday paper comes out meager and not half what it used to be. I am not sulking. Well, maybe I am but the point is that things are changing in the world and it is amazing how oblivious we can be to the change.
In Project Management, a look at the world “then” and the world now will show how far project management has come along in certain areas while it is still struggling in other areas. When it comes to technology and collaboration, software has come a long way. Still, most software seem to be developed by programmers who know little about the real needs of project managers in the field.
For example, Why do project managers have to go in always to the same dull software main menu when managing their projects? Why are they not looking at a customized screen specific to their company? I know most software houses will jump up and say “but we do offer that.” However, unless the user can immediately identify the menu as “my own company’s methodology and projects,” This is still a problem.
Another area where project management software is still lacking is the integration between business process management and project management. Organizations need a tool that acknowledges the specific processes of the company and guide them through the process seamlessly as they are using the tool. That also, regardless of what software houses claim, does not exist.
Finally, the project management reporting is still lacking. Most have to start from a template report from a report library, or have to go through “customizing” the report. Unfortunately there is not much “customizing” in customizing. All you can do is pick predefined fields, or text and number fields and do simple calculations. However, no real facility that allows easy integration of information across domains.
Security priveleges and access is still lacking. For example, some project management software force you to buy a license for anyone who needs to access project management data from the system. Even though an executive will not use 90% of the functionality in the software, he has to buy a copy of the software.
Luckily for those in the project management consulting industry, there is lots of value they can deliver to their customers to cover for the shortcomings of the off the shelf software. However, these consultants are very rare and few worldwide. The problem is that many software houses claim to be able to do this customization when they are software experts but not project management experts. On the other side of the spectrum, you find strategic consultants claiming to be able to get it done, but they lack the project management as well as the software understanding.
Even if they possessed the project management, business process, portfolio management, and software competences, consultants still have to face the task of having to read customer requirements well, and understand the real needs of the Customer’s project managers. This is harder than it sounds given that many customers do not know what they need, as they are new to project management at the organizational level. Most consultans would prefer to stick to superficial customization than get exposed by tackling the real issue.
“I do not know how anyone can deliver to customer satisfaction” one marketing expert once told me, in relation to the type of project management services consultants offer. I think he understands well the challenges faced in the project management consulting industry, and I think the software issues I mentioned above are only a small part of it. There are also issues related to customer awareness, passive resistance, hidden agendas, competent resources and much much more. However, I believe that the software house that cracks this “tough nut” open will have a heyday in the market. Also, project management consultants who build the competence and deliver effectively will do well too. It is a difficult formula in the project management consulting world, but whoever figures it out will reap the benefits.