Every project manager would love to be able to know exactly what’s happening within their project at any given time. For other stakeholders, further outside of this information loop, such a dream is even more fanciful. Outside of some kind of project visibility superpower, unfortunately, such immediate and actionable insight is impossible. However, that doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t try to get as close as possible to perfection.
The inefficient information flow between the various levels of an organization can cause project nonalignment, wasted resources and serious discord between important stakeholders. The solution is to improve visibility, though that raises the question, just what is project visibility?
Project visibility is the ease (or otherwise) with which all stakeholders with an interest in the project can access and understand what has been completed on the project, where it is at now and what it will be doing in the future.
If you want to know how to improve your project’s visibility within your organization, here are some tips:
Having a single source of truth
A common occurrence on most projects is that managers and team leaders will have various task plans and to-do lists laid out, either as hard copies (i.e. a project whiteboard) or on their computer or smart device. The problem is that, though the immediately responsible person knows what’s happening, no-one else does.
To improve visibility, it is essential to have a single location, like using a project management platform such as Clarizen, where all of the project’s information is stored, meaning that all stakeholders can easily find out the project’s status without having to email the person responsible.
Make connections between stakeholders
Getting a clear idea of how the project is performing also means understanding what each team member’s role is and how responsibility has been assigned. Creating greater visibility in this instance means connecting the various stakeholders involved. As a project manager this can include liaising with senior executives or external stakeholders to explain project functions, while within your own team the team leaders should be aware of their responsibilities to upload task plans and update progress.
Keep information relevant and updated
There is little point educating stakeholders wondering: “what is project visibility?”, if the information that they are looking at never changes. When using project management software, it is essential to also learn what should be posted and when it should be updated. Fortunately, good software will have simple task sheets that can be built, block-by-block. This means that the input necessary can be done in a few minutes, while updating a task, (e.g. First phase of design complete, review stage begun) need only take a few seconds.
There has been a running debate among many in the project management community about the use of time-tracking software to track employee productivity and progress. Besides breaking the trust between employee and employer, another major problem with this software is that it can lead project managers to micromanage and obsess over too many small details, while losing site of the bigger picture. Project visibility should be simple and easy to access, which allows for improved sharing of information, but it should avoid becoming a surveillance method used to observe and pressurize employees.