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Project management advances stress collaboration on projects

Project management is heading into a new phase in which projects have more collaboration and project management tasks are eliminated, freeing project managers to be project visionaries rather than taskmasters. Andrew Filev, founder of Wrike, explains this shift and talks about skills essential for project managers.

Andrew Filev, founder, CEO, Wrike
Andrew Filev, founder, Wrike

You have used the term "Project Management 2.0". Can you explain what this is and why it came about?
Andrew McAfee, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, coined the term Enterprise 2.0 and described the power of two simple practices -- collective intelligence and emergent structures. These practices, supported by tools, processes and people, bring a dramatic increase in key performance indicators for companies. Collective intelligence and emergent structures transform the whole notion of project management.

The software industry was the first to adopt these new practices. Agile project management, as it is called in software development, easily took over the software industry in several years because of the benefits it brings to companies. Now, thanks to the influence of Enterprise 2.0 practices, project management is evolving on a broader scale in a diverse set of industries that range from professional services to manufacturing. Project Management 2.0 is a term that highlights the importance of Enterprise 2.0 practices in the project management discipline and project management tools. What makes Project Management 2.0 different from traditional project management?
Project Management 2.0 represents a huge shift toward placing collaboration in the center of managing projects. Traditionally, project management discipline and tools put an enormous burden on the project manager's shoulders. He or she has to collect information, build and update project plans, communicate changes to team members and report to executives. Routine work often leaves little time for leadership and strategic thinking.

The new generation of project management tools takes care of the routine part of a project manager's work: reminding team members about deadlines, merging status updates into a project plan, communicating changes and building reports. This could not be done without leveraging the collaborative power of the whole team. With the help of Project Management 2.0 tools, people collaborate and share information easily. This helps the project manager to become a project visionary instead of a taskmaster. Do you know if many companies follow Project Management 2.0 practices?
The Project Management 2.0 trend is relatively new, although thousands of small companies and big corporations are already taking advantage of the new applications. Project blogs and wikis are very popular today, as they are easy to use and effective for collaboration. Companies like Microsoft, IBM, Google, Sun Microsystems and SAP write project blogs on a regular basis. The number of non-technology organizations that have their own project blogs is rapidly growing, too. One of the most prominent examples is the From Edison's Desk blog -- a blog for the GE Global Research project. It gives technology enthusiasts from all over the world an opportunity to discuss the future of technology with top GE researchers.

With the help of Project Management 2.0 tools, people collaborate and share information easily. This helps the project manager to become a project visionary instead of a taskmaster.

Wikis are also popular, as they are accumulating the knowledge that was traditionally buried in email. A good example would be Dresdner Kleinwort. The investment banking division of Dresdner Bank AG was able to reduce email traffic volume by 75%. They also slashed meeting time in half.

Though wikis and blogs are becoming more popular each month, they are generic tools. There is great productivity boost potential in collaborative planning and management software. New collaboration applications and platforms combine the level of control associated with traditional project management software with the benefits of Web 2.0 applications. The best tools in this field are integrated with email, easy and inexpensive to adopt. Corporations like McDonalds, Walt Disney, Apple, Toyota and Capgemini utilize second-generation project management applications within their departments. I work for one of the companies that leads the collaborative planning space, Wrike. You are the co-founder of Wrike, which makes a Web-based application that bridges the gap between email, project management tools and collaboration tools. Can you explain further how it works and what it does?
Certainly! I guess it makes sense to tell a few words about those gaps, as they currently exist in many businesses. First, there's a gap between strategic plans and the daily agenda of employees. Too many companies have separate strategic plans, quarterly plans, project plans and daily to-do lists of team members. All of these plans should be a part of one master plan.

Second, there is a gap between email and project management software that made project management software inefficient. Email is the most widely used software tool in project management, and at the same time traditional project management tools, like Microsoft Project, ignore this fact. This builds a gap between the everyday project management tool (email) and project planning (Microsoft Project, Excel). This gap seriously decreases productivity on all levels of the organization, including top managers' productivity. It is hard to get a picture of where the business stands if you simply rely on thousands of emails spread across hundreds of mailboxes. Email buries a lot of valuable information.

The third gap is between project management tools and Web 2.0 tools. Web 2.0 collaboration tools, like wikis, are much more powerful than traditional project management software because they leverage collective intelligence and emerging structures. At the same time, they lack some pieces that are crucial in order to use them as effective management tools.

Wrike is designed to bridge all these gaps. It easily turns team members' emails into daily to-do lists, merges daily to-do lists into project plans and turns project plans into a bigger picture. Wrike allows managers to combine top-down and bottom-up planning. With Wrike, the whole structure is transparent and can be traced from the quarterly goal to the daily task of a team member. This is a real-time visibility into the company that lets corporate executives lead their business in the right direction.

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To cover the gap between email and project management software, Wrike built the best email integration in the market. Wrike's Intelligent Email Engine makes it very easy and convenient to use Wrike. You can create a task from your email by simply adding to the email recipients. The task immediately uploads into Wrike and becomes shared with the team. If anybody makes updates, you are automatically informed about those updates via email notification.

Wrike's Flexible Structures help you to turn email mess into organized projects. You group similar tasks by team, product, department, process, etc. You build hierarchies and put tasks in several groups, if necessary. In short, you organize your plans in Wrike just the way you keep them in your mind. Therefore, Wrike helps you get visibility across multiple projects.

Wrike is a simple, agile and inexpensive tool used by whole companies from top managers to employees. It greatly increases productivity of employees, and it makes managers' job easier. How does Wrike compare with other project management tools?
Thanks to our innovative technologies, like the Intelligent Email Engine, Wrike is very easy to use. Without any software installations, you can create and update tasks from your favorite email client, be it Microsoft Outlook, BlackBerry or any other software. We invest a lot of resources into keeping the leading edge in email integration.

Wrike is very flexible software. It allows you to build multi-level folder/subfolder hierarchies. A folder in Wrike unites tasks that revolve around a common topic or activity. A folder may represent a project, product, department, branch, office, feature, person, event, etc. Each folder can consist of a hierarchy of subfolders and tasks, so your plan is organized logically. You can overlap your hierarchies and include an item or a folder in many folders. So you can slice a project by departments, steps or vendors and still keep it as one interconnected plan for people who have full visibility into the project.

None of our competitors has that feature -- not that I am aware of. This feature gives project managers a perfect way to organize their data and slice the project in different ways. Project marketers, business analysts, engineers and QA people have their own pictures of the same project. This means that an organization can be fully covered by Wrike with every employee contributing to his part of the bigger picture. This closes the gap between daily to-do lists, project plans and strategic plans. The collaborative features of Wrike help to keep this picture up-to-date and evolve it over time. How important are tools such as Wrike when it comes to Project Management 2.0?
People, processes and tools should be in balance. Tools alone can hardly do the whole job, but they can empower people, and they can catalyze changes in processes. Just like blogs democratized media, tools like Wrike will democratize project management. Democratizing project management will be advantageous for stakeholders, managers and teams. Even if someone in a company recognizes a tool that could help, the trick is getting the others to buy into it, don't you think? Because if others aren't willing to use the tool, it will just sit there.
Sure, and this was the exact problem with traditional project management tools. They were complex, they were expensive, and they did not work with your emails. On the contrary, the second-generation tools like Wrike are lightweight and easy-to-use. They require no installation and no training. Simplicity is the key driver of adoption. When people like the software, they not only use the tool, they refer it to other people. Blogs are a great example of a simple tool that spread virally. Let's talk about project management in general. What skills are important for project managers to have?
Project managers should have the same skills as any other managers: They need to get things done. They need to be good communicators. They need to have strong analytical skills, and they should be able to lead people. Comparing the differences between managers in general and project managers, the latter usually have to be better at analyzing potential risks and thinking about different what-if scenarios. Project management can be compared to playing chess, but real life has many more variables. What are your thoughts on project management certification? Some people criticize certification -- or hiring based on applicants' certifications.
The question about the certification should rise during the interview when a company has fairly complex projects with a fixed scope, like big construction and manufacturing projects. There is no physical possibility to use agile methods in those projects, so a lot of things should be done using the approaches described in PMBOK. In these cases, the certification is an interview short-cut that saves some time for an applicant and a recruiter.

The reality is that a lot of projects are managed by people who do not consider themselves project managers, so the whole certification question is out of scope for them. Where do you see project management going, say 10 years from now? Will project managers still be struggling with the same problems? Or will there be new ones to grapple with?
We have seen the rise of outsourcing, globalization and mass customization in the last 15 years. That certainly caused some changes in project management. Enterprises are becoming more agile, and people are becoming more productive. Project management adapts to these changes.

A good example is the software industry. Project management practices there have greatly evolved during the last 10 years with the wide adoption of agile methods.

Another good example is the rise in popularity of collaboration tools. They use a broadband Internet connection to bring headquarters, remote offices and outsourcing partners together. So they help to solve new challenges brought by globalization and outsourcing by leveraging new opportunities brought by advanced technologies.

In the next 10 years, tools will do more routine work for us, leaving us more time for creative thinking. Wrike is one of those tools.


Andrew Filev is founder and CEO of Wrike. He has been managing software teams in a global environment since 2001. His technical expertise and his management vision are reflected in online and offline articles, and his ideas on new trends in project management are published in Project Management 2.0 blog. Andrew has given speeches on new trends in project management and deployment of the next-generation, Web-based applications on deferent events, including the PMI Silicon Valley Tools and Techniques Forum and the Office 2.0 Conference (Project Management panel).

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