Category Archives: Project management

Listen. Observe. Question. The Art of Complex IT Project Management


By Melanie Haskell, Project Manager, GreenPages Technology Solutions

Managing complex technology projects requires cooperation from multiple resources, spanning different departments and management levels, technology manufacturers, and organizations. Due to the complexity of the modern IT environment, project management in this industry is much more than coordinating phone calls and assigning tasks. The ability to communicate effectively (listening, observing, and questioning) is crucial to positive IT project outcomes.


How do I get a networking engineer to provide me a daily status report? How do I explain that disaster recovery between sites depends on bandwidth between those sites?  How do I ensure the project I’m working to deliver is in line with the customer’s expectations?  How do I know if the customer wants to mitigate the risk of BYOD?

There are three simple rules of effective communication when managing complex IT projects:

•             Listen

•             Observe

•             Question


I was recently attending a webinar on the Importance of Listening and the presenter mentioned an interesting exercise. Ask a person three or four times to recite the word “White,” then ask them what cow’s drink. Nine times out of ten, the person will say “Milk,” not “Water.” This illustrates what happens when people try to solve, rather than listen. If you get ahead of yourself in an IT project, mistakes happen. As an IT Project Manager, my role is to not just watch for this behavior in myself (making an assumption about how a customer will test applications in a VDI pilot for example) but also in other project stakeholders. Perhaps a CTO wants additional storage up and running by the end of the week but the IT Director states he does not have the resources to meet that deadline. What is meant by “up and running?” and what “resources” does the IT Director need to meet the request? Is it a people shortage, bandwidth issues, manufacturer backorder, rack space? A project manager that listens well, can untangle the issue to keep the project on track.


Effective IT project managers have the ability to quickly gauge stakeholders’ level of technical knowledge, area of expertise, level of responsibility, etc. so they can tailor any message to be clearly heard and effectively understood. But another important skill is the power of observation. Project Managers need to ensure all stakeholders are engaged. I was recently in a meeting where I watched someone subtly tune out another person because they thought that person was discussing a topic that was not in their particular “wheelhouse.” But in the modern IT environment, we cannot function in IT silos any longer. Not only is everything connected from a technology standpoint, but all IT projects are also business projects. Effective project managers use observational skills for better project outcomes by minimizing knowledge gaps and ensuring all stakeholders are engaged.


As an IT Project Manager I work with many different customer contacts (at varying levels of an organization) daily. If I am working with a linear and nimble IT environment and I need a port opened on the firewall, most likely all I need to do is ask.  However, if the project involves a customer environment that is layered (maybe ITIL certified)  and has a team of 8 people responsible for network security and I need that same port opened on their firewall, I need to approach the request very differently (and probably have to wait for a Change window).  If  I am working with the Executive Administrative Assistant of a law firm and ask if all equipment has been received, racked, and cabled and is ready for the engineer to arrive onsite, I need to provide a deeper level of detail in my question than if I were asking the same question to an IT Manager.

By employing strong communication skills—listening, observing, and questioning—IT project managers can ensure successful, effective IT project outcomes.


New SpringBoard 6.0 Offers Greater Project Management Software Access and Control

LoadSpring Solutions has released SpringBoard Version 6.0, a newly-enhanced hosting portal.

SpringBoard allows secure access to—and control of—Project Management software and data, from any computer worldwide.

SpringBoard 6.0 preserves the same intuitive interface used globally by more than 2,000 enterprise organizations, but now offers new features and tools geared to add functionality, speed and efficiency.

SpringBoard 6.0 goes live October 6th and is designed for greater enterprise access and data control while saving effort, time and capital.

In Version 6.0, SpringBoard allows users to tap the power of the cloud, with such enhancements as:

  • Unified Access with Location Awareness. This feature assures
    fast global access and data integrity.
  • BIM hosting. BIM software is now available in a hosted model
    without performance issues. Users now truly have a single secure
    portal for all their Project Management applications.
  • Instant access to LoadSpring Academy 2.0, now with student
    tracking and quiz reporting, leading to added software compliance,
    acceptance and usage.
  • SmartSupport—LoadSpring’s automated issue resolution system is
    designed to find answers even before the user finishes asking the
    question. Quick self-fixes are available any time, or users can call
    LoadSpring directly for 1-on-1 contact.
  • Set Application roles during provisioning. Now administrators
    can assign P6r8 application roles at the same time they set-up new
    users all from 1 interface.
  • Auto Performance Indicators. SpringBoard now lets users see
    real-time connection speeds and SpringBoard performance at a glance
    allowing them to see if an issue exists.
  • Self-registration option aids administrators by letting each
    user self-register to SpringBoard.

Systemation’s New Tool Aids Project Managers

Even experienced project managers get stuck occasionally. Perhaps, they need a memory jog regarding a concept they learned in training last year. Or advice on a PM scenario they’ve never faced before. Systemation’s new e-tool, Ask My PM Coach, provides quick responses on over 1,000 project management topics, via computer or mobile device, 24/7.

“This is a new type of on-the-job aid for the project management community,” says Ben Snyder, Systemation’s CEO. “When under a deadline crunch, project managers do not have time to wade through a workbook or online curriculum to locate answers. Ask My PM Coach enables PM’s to get just-in-time responses to burning project management questions.”

The tool provides soup-to-nuts information for every phase of a project: initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing. Users can find tips for managing risk, scope, schedule, people, communication, estimating, and more, as well as tricks to get the most from project management tools.

Designed for project managers who have spent time in a classroom, it helps folks translate textbook knowledge into real-world projects.

“In most any sport, players can get advice from their coach in the middle of competition,” explains Snyder. “Ask My PM Coach provides this type of real-time support for project managers—in a friendly, relaxed, accessible way that won’t sideline your key players.”

Companies can purchase bulk licenses for all the project managers in their organization. Or project managers can purchase a license individually.

For more information on Ask My PM Coach, or to learn about Systemation, contact Laurel Bretting at 1.800.747.9783.

Citrix Podio Enables Do-It-Yourself Apps for Project Management Your Way

Citrix today announced that Citrix Podio, the cloud-based collaborative work platform, has launched three new “do-it-yourself” project management apps in the Podio App Market, created by leading project management experts Gantthead, ProjectsAtWork and Brad Egeland. Also available today through Podio’s Project Management listing in the Google Apps Marketplace™, the new apps can be modified and customized (without any technical expertise required) using the Podio App Builder to fit the way any team works. Because building Podio apps is as easy as creating a spreadsheet, even more teams and small businesses can now leverage best practices from Podio’s project management apps, customize them, or create their own apps from scratch, to streamline workflows, manage business processes and become more efficient and productive within any project.

According to Gartner Research, “citizen developers”—workers who operate outside the scope of the IT department and create or assemble new business applications for use by their peers— will build at least a quarter of new business applications themselves by 2014, permanently replacing complex legacy project management software that no longer fits the way modern teams collaborate and work together. Podio is the first place to find, create and modify hundreds of different “citizen-developed” apps to support team-based projects across today’s dispersed, cloud-driven and mobile businesses. Podio has been designed with a fundamental belief that forcing workers to fit their projects and tasks into a set process or structure is like forcing a square peg into a round hole, and that a project management tool should fit the way people work, instead of the other way around.

Using the Podio platform, teams can set up workspaces where they can connect with each other, work across different organizations and collaborate socially to be more effective. To customize their workspaces, people can access and modify more than 700 free apps from the Podio App Market, or create new apps to support their preferred workflows. Getting started is free for up to 5 employees.

Google Apps customers can also now take advantage of Podio’s customizable project management apps and collaborative work platform by installing Podio from the Google Apps Marketplace, Google’s online storefront for Google Apps™ business products and services. Google Apps customers can now use Podio project management apps to turn any email into a task, bring any Google Doc into their project workflow and track project deadlines on their Google Calendar.


Active Project Management; Facilitate, Don’t Dictate

It is estimated by the Project Management Institute that 90% of project management is communication. The tasks involved with setting up a project, identifying sponsors, defining resources, schedules, managing risks, and critical paths are all important elements of large complex projects. Facilitating the team’s communication channels is the single most important effort of a good project manager.

Rudyard Kipling once wrote “… the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”

A wolf has to support the pack but also has to be able to survive on its own abilities. When building project teams the goal is to assemble a “pack” with different strengths and opinions that can perform at their own peak level. A high performance pack has strength through the members of the project team.  An effective Project Manager needs to assemble individuals into a pack (or work with an existing pack), provide constant and useful communication, and assist as needed to guide them to their end goal together.

Five tips for building a better wolf pack:

  1. Listen
  2. Value ideas
  3. Positive thinking
  4. Try to close all conversations by asking what you can do to help
  5. Have a sense of humor

Preparing for project kickoff meetings creates an opportunity to listen to the team and get them engaged. An important part of pre-planning a successful kickoff is soliciting the team’s input and providing opportunities to talk about the project’s risks, schedules, and goals. The sooner the project manager begins to listen to the team rather than detailing his or her own thoughts on the project, the more likely and quickly the team will become engaged. Soliciting input from a diverse set of stakeholders substantially increases the chances of full engagement of the project team.

In addition to the project management role of ensuring the project meets the triple constraints of Scope, Time and Budget, taking an approach as a facilitator and understanding and deploying your team as a collaborative resource and working to integrate their skills will provide a more complete 360 degree, holistic view to the project. The project manager plays an important role in encouraging and engaging opportunities for collaborative conversations. The team’s input will allow for better commitment and buy-in from the stakeholders and the team, and ultimately better position the team to successfully meet pre-defined project objectives.

A Project Manager needs to rely on previous project experiences as well as foundations built from credentials (e.g. PMP certification). Often, tasks don’t flow exactly as expected and decisions are often made outside of planned meetings; however it is important to leverage meetings as a means to collaboratively check-in with the team on any decisions made, the impact of the decisions, and to establish meeting minutes as the reference point for the projects. The meeting minutes provide an important, literal “power of the pen” which enables Project Managers to lead and guide the project team.

On a recent Virtual Desktop Infrastructure project installation, there was a new member representing the customer’s infrastructure function, and this caused a sudden shift in the project deliverables. While a customer is not always right, the customer is most certainly paying for your ability to understand, adapt, and communicate changes within the team and manage to the approved Scope. In this particular example, the focus shift was remediated by adjusting weekly meetings to a daily standing meeting which provided for relevant and timely inputs and buy-in from the diverse team members and allowed for a very quick process adjustment and consensus for achieving Scope deliverables.

A Project Manager also relies on the team to identify critical project information in order to ideally circumvent any issue before problems may occur. When issues do occur, facilitating conversations and soliciting input from the team, both informally and formally, are usually far more effective than a project manager declaring a solution. A project team where teamwork, loyalty, and communication are the norm can provide a “howling” successful project.


SpringBoard V5.5 Makes the Cloud More Efficient for Project Managers

LoadSpring Solutions, a provider of Project Management (PM) hosting and software, is introducing a new version of their SpringBoard cloud portal.

SpringBoard is a user-friendly control console that enables easy access to PM software and information that is hosted within LoadSpring’s cloud infrastructure. It connects project teams through any computer or mobile device worldwide.

The new SpringBoard 5.5 retains the same familiar look and feel as previous versions, but with improved tools and features that afford more functionality, speed and efficiency.

Launched on July 9th, these improvements will deliver broader enterprise access and greater data control, while helping users get more done in less time and with less effort.

According to Eric Leighton, LoadSpring’s founder and CEO, “Our enhanced control console will serve as a gateway to software resources and core LoadSpring services,” adding that, “The new features will further allow our enterprise-level customers to be more productive and efficient. SpringBoard 5.5 will even link users to our new LoadSpring Academy, transforming the way people are trained to maximize their use of new software.”

The upgraded portal is part of LoadSpring’s continuing pursuit of refinements that improve the customer experience and help them realize a quicker return on investment faster.

SpringBoard 5.5 is based on strengths that users value most in previous versions, such as:

  • Easy application and data access, anywhere, on any device
  • Software deployment in days, not weeks or months
  • Simple user scaling, both up and down
  • Fast global application upgrades and version changes
  • Safe, effortless migration of large amounts of data
  • Trouble-free, corporate-wide ID management
  • Disaster recovery with more Data Rescue options than ever
  • Enterprise-level security, support and service


Autodesk Acquires Vela Systems for Construction Management

Image representing Vela Systems as depicted in...

Autodesk, Inc. has acquired Vela Systems, a provider of cloud and mobile field management software for the construction industry. The addition of Vela Systems field management products to Autodesk’s growing portfolio of cloud and mobile products is helping to extend the value of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and project data to construction customers in the field. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“BIM has tremendous value in the planning and design aspects of construction projects, but if you can’t get that rich data into the field, at the point of construction, you are leaving out the critical ‘last 100 yards’ in the process. Integrating Vela Systems and its cloud and mobile products with the Autodesk BIM portfolio transforms the business of construction, delivering valuable information to job sites anywhere in the world,” said Amar Hanspal, Senior Vice President, Information Modeling and Platform Products Group.

Based in Burlington, Massachusetts, Vela Systems extends the power of BIM with cloud and mobile technologies that enable project and company-wide programs for streamlined management of quality, safety, commissioning and field construction. The powerful reporting tools provide immediate visibility into issues in the field, allowing for proactive management and resolution, rather than time consuming and expensive overruns caused by a reactive approach. Vela Systems software and services are integrated with current Autodesk integrated project management software including Autodesk Navisworks, the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry’s standard comprehensive set of integration, analysis, and communication tools for project review.

“Vela Systems has been a longstanding partner of Autodesk, and has been leading the charge in the field. The confluence of cloud computing, iOS mobile devices like the iPad and BIM has enabled a new way to deliver and manage construction projects of all types. With the acquisition, we will accelerate this revolution in field management through a broader solution and greatly enhanced distribution,” said Josh Kanner, co-founder, of Vela Systems.

Combined with the Autodesk BIM portfolio, the Vela Systems software has already helped contractors, owners, architects and engineers accelerate project schedules, reduce project risk, and improve the flow of information, including key data and project photos, between project stakeholders. Autodesk users can now reduce reliance on manual processes to track progress, document work activities and resolve issues. With the Vela Systems integration, users can also visualize the as-designed building in the field to improve quality and fidelity to design intent; streamline reviews; save money with more efficient workflows by linking physical tasks to a virtual model; and capture critical data on materials, systems, and equipment.


Clarizen Gets $12 Million for Social Project Collabortion

Image representing Clarizen as depicted in Cru...

Clarizen today announced that it has completed a $12 million Series E financing round led by Vintage Partners. Existing Clarizen shareholders Benchmark Capital, Carmel Ventures, DAG Ventures and Opus Capital also participated. The funding will support continued expansion, strategic partnerships, and product development designed to enhance the end user experience.

Clarizen makes organizations more effective by combining the tools needed to plan and execute work within a collaborative cloud-based environment that puts data, structure, and communications all in one place. Simple to use, yet robust, Clarizen’s project management suite eliminates the need for multiple disconnected planning and communication tools. Clarizen’s unified, collaborative environment gives team members and organizations better visibility into their work and provides the tools to get projects executed more quickly.

“Clarizen’s vision for today’s social workforce reflects our understanding that successful organizations need much more than task management or another way to communicate,” said Avinoam Nowogrodski, CEO and co-founder of Clarizen. “The workplace we enable is powerful, because Clarizen helps move information and communications out of silos, gives them structure, and makes this data actionable. This funding comes at an exciting point as we look to accelerate our investment in mobile access and global expansion.”

Clarizen recently introduced its native Android application to complement its existing iPhone app, providing users with real-time access to their tasks and projects from their mobile devices. In addition, the company introduced Clarizen Anywhere, a browser-application and Microsoft Outlook-based toolbar that provides users with immediate access to Clarizen without the need to login.