Project Collaboration: The Right Way To Do Project Management

What's the difference between project collaboration and project management?

While the terms might be similar, project collaboration and project management are two distinct things.

 

Project management, the more well-known discipline, refers to the centralized management of a project's workflow.  The classic project management tool is Microsoft Project, which is descended from the classic Critical Path Model (CPM) pioneered in the 1950s.  Project management is the job of the project manager, a single person who maintains the project plan (whether on paper or in software).  Often, this involves the project manager speaking with individual contributors to get status updates on their work.

 

Project collaboration refers to the decentralized execution of a project's tasks by the project team.  Project collaboration addresses one of the main shortfalls of classic project management, which is the centralization of information and communication to a single bottleneck--the project manager.  Teams that practice project collaboration are somewhat self-managing, and interact with each other as well as with a central project manager.

 

What does a project collaboration tool need to do?

The key to project collaboration is giving each member of the team two critical yet somewhat contradictory types of information.  Each individual contributor needs to know both the big picture of the project's objectives and the team's progress towards those goals, as well as the small picture of his or her individual tasks, including the answer to the key question, "Who does what by when?" (AKA Horstman's Law of Project Management)

 

Armed with this information, each individual contributor knows what to do (the little picture), but can carry out the task with the broader goals in mind (the big picture).

 

Using PBworks for project collaboration

PBworks helps project managers and teams see both the big picture and the little picture.

 

1) High-level goals and objectives can be embodied in Workspace Properties.  This structured data is visible to all, and can be rolled up into high-level management reports for senior managers.

 

2) The Summary tab provides a single-page view of the entire project.  This includes those high-level goals and objectives, upcoming tasks, and recent activity.  Anyone ranging from senior managers to individual contributors can visit the Summary to understand how the project is going.

 

3) The Tasks tab lets the project manager and the other team members create and assign tasks.  Each task provides the answer to "who does what by when," and incorporates and activity stream that records the history of the task.  Each task can also be linked to a wiki page or file, allowing the task creator to tie together workflow and deliverables.

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