Home » Communication » Project Manager Is The Instant-On War Room Our Solution To Get The Information We Need?

Project Manager Is The Instant-On War Room Our Solution?The old IT model was to figure out which reports people wanted, capture the data, and deliver it to the key people weeks or days after the fact.  “That model is an obsolete model,” he [P&Gs CIO Filippo Passerini] says.  … The new model Passerini envisions is something of a virtual, instant-on war room, where people huddle in person or by video around the needed data …. Informationweek, Feb 27, 2012.

I still see some of the “we’ll get that data to you …” rather than just being able to pull up project or organizational data instantly.  However, I’m not sure an instant-on war room is a better approach.  Rather, everyone should have the instant data at their fingertips (via PC, tablet, phone, etc.) and be able to do ad hoc queries and analysis when a thought or question comes to them.

Instant Searching Is Our New Data Gathering Approach

Think about our internet paradigm.  If a thought occurs to me, certainly a factual one, I just pull out my phone or tablet and search for it.  I don’t have to walk to a special room or huddle with special people.  I just search for it and based upon what I find, I may shoot off an e-mail or IM or post a note on a wiki or other information site or confer with an expert.  Done.

If I want to do more intense research, it is still the same model.  I dig deeper and refine my query.  I pull up several streams of data and see how they correlate.  I show my insights and thoughts to someone else (or a community) via a collaboration tool and ask what they think or if pursuing this line of thought makes sense to them (“have you seen this on any of your projects?”).

We Don’t Want Reports Delivered By The IT Department

What I always needed IT to do for me was to instrument (e.g., turn into a web service, implement OData protocol, etc.) all those siloed information systems (marketing, requirements, warranty returns, release control, defect tracking, project management, budget, etc.) so I could pull data from them to do analysis for my projects.  What IT traditionally wanted from me was a written statement of my complete and unchanging requirements for a report and then they almost always first offered me an existing report (unchanged by my requirements) with a strong push that I should “re-use” any report they had because they often got brownie points for reusing existing reports (see how to avoid project metrics encouraging counterproductive behavior!).

Needless to say, I never found this approach very effective.  I spent many, many, hours screen scraping and pulling together data because IT had no effective mechanism nor policy for making data quickly available.

“Passerini pictures these experts sitting in on meetings about a problem to make sure the “how” to solve problems gets sorted out then and there, not postponed until everyone gets more information.”

Information Availability Encourages Fast and Effective Decision Making

What I always found myself doing was undertaking the initial research on the problem, including collecting the data, and then shooting it out to the experts and decision makers.  I would include what I felt was the desired action, based upon the data and my insights, and see if anyone had an objection. The point was to avoid a meeting, if possible (see using business rules to reduce the need for project meetings).  The nice thing about an e-mail thread was that it also documented the time and flow of the discussion and decision.  A few of us on the decision or action end of the discussion might quickly get together (IM, conference call, huddle room, etc.) for any final details and then execute.  Done.

Mass Meeting + Mass Information = Mass Confusion

The problem with any meeting is that it is a meeting which inevitably means we don’t know everything we need to know.  Trying to enable a decision meeting by having all possible information and experts together so that any and all decisions can be made is … still, I feel, a pipe dream.  These kind of meetings become, at best, workshops where people start to work through the problem and information.  Instead, we need to know how well our organization performs and in that context, fast decisions can often be made (see making fast project estimates and commitments).

I’ve seen so many meetings and approaches where the core techniques was “get all the experts together” that it is now just humorous when I hear this.  It is almost always just an admission that we don’t yet know what we need to know which means the meeting will fail  to find a solution.   If the only way people “work together” is in a mass meeting, then we probably still have an organization problem that will not be solved by more huge meetings.

The  organizations I’ve seen that leap up to the next level of performance almost always involved opening up and sharing information that had been locked away or otherwise inaccessible.  Organizations I’ve worked with that solved their “meeting madness” problems almost always used greater proactive information sharing to reduce the need for meetings.

Increase Access To More Information — Not More Mass Meetings

Great accessibility to information does not automatically guarantee any of this, but without information and good information flow, I’ve found people are always calling meetings and complaining about too many meetings and excess meetings were always a clear indicator of an organizational problem. The techniques of getting “all the experts in the room” with the assumption that we’ll make rapid decisions rarely works well in the practical world, at least in my experience.

Can your team quickly get the information they need without having to go through a third party or go to a special place to get it?

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One thought on “Project Manager Is The Instant-On War Room Our Solution To Get The Information We Need?

  1. Bruce Benson says:

    Comments from around the web:

    Richard Travisano • Our Release Management team needed to find a solution for obtaining Release Management data.

    In response with help from the team, we coded a VBA solution that gathered all relevant comments for each work instance from the web application, then, those results would be displayed on SharePoint server or within other applications.

    Real time access to this data reduced the labor monetary investment and the number of meetings as this solution allowed the RM team to have real time comment information for each work instance, instantly. That came to be an average of 60’000 records for around a 1000 work instances with a push of a button, thus giving the Release Managers real time comment data access for all work instances, in either SharePoint, Excel, DB or a web interface.

    This method worked to be very flexible in meeting the evolving business process requirements.

    Bruce Benson • Richard,

    Great example and nice job.

    We’ve used VBA in many cases as a way to pull together data that was hard to get at (logs, web screens, etc.). One of the things I’ve always loved about Microsoft products (Office, Internet Explorer, Outlook, etc.) was the underlying programmability. It put tremendous tools into our hands that most folks were not aware of, and gave us a way to automate management tasks that would normally take hours of error prone work or would simply not get done (“we’ll estimate it!”).

    The trend to having systems expose their data through web services (restful, SOA, etc.) is a great change in attitude from the days of closely guarded (or ignored) data.

    Having a few capable programmers around during a major project has made a huge difference in our efficiency and accuracy, especially for unforeseen or evolving circumstances.

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