Using visibility as leverage for project success

 |  By: Steve Johnson In: Job costing | Visibility

You wouldn’t try to steer a battleship without radar. You wouldn’t even want to walk around your own street if you were blindfolded.

Yet every day, managers of project-based businesses such as creative agencies or service-based companies work with outdated data, or partial data, or even out-and-out wrong data. How can you possibly be expected to make smart decisions under those conditions?

Project tracking needs smart tools to deliver intelligently. Here are two culprits that get in the way:

1. Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are silos of information. Trying to run a business from separate silos is hard, even dangerous.

Spreadsheets can be linked, but few are. That’s because they proliferate by stealth, person by person, and they usually remain separate due to the complexities and separate perspectives involved. As a manager you don’t even know where all the spreadsheets are or who relies on which ones, or what they do with them, or which spreadsheet is up to date.

Spreadsheets are therefore a mixed bag, created by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons, and hidden formula errors and data entry mistakes are very hard to spot. Different spreadsheets often even use their own definitions and descriptions so it’s particularly hard to compare like with like.

And each is updated at a separate time. So how do you know which is reliable at any one moment?

Throw in issues about wasted time searching for information, the lack of scalability, and spreadsheet owners leaving the company or going on holiday, and you have accidents waiting to happen all over the place.

2. Separate software modules

It can be tempting to sign up for an online service that seems to solve a particular problem. For example you might look at examples of project tracking software and find some of them appealing.

But in reality, everything in your business is connected to everything else. You don’t run ten tiny companies, you run one rather complex one, with each function interlinked with the others.

So, project tracking needs to be linked to timesheets, costing, estimating, billing, the accounting system, purchasing, scheduling, capacity planning, reporting, dashboards and the tracking of opportunities in the pipeline. They’re all part of one living, breathing, organic whole, and if something happens to one it has an impact on the others too.

Returning to the battleship analogy, you wouldn’t want to go into combat if your information was piecemeal, had to be entered multiple times, was never all quite up to date and wasn’t trusted. Similarly, the power of project tracking software comes alive only when everything is visible in real time.