Fixing Advantage – or Just About Anything

It doesn’t matter what you use, from Advantage to Workamajig, I can predict that if the agency management software you are using isn’t ‘working’, there’s more at issue than the software itself.

Blame the software. Always the first response.

In my post a couple days ago, I asked for questions/issues that you are having with Advantage, in particular. I happen to know the software very well – that’s why.

But the lessons here apply to any technology solution you are using.

I received an email from a project manager in an agency who is doing ALL of her updates after work. And these updates take her two to four hours a night. She’s really sick of it, and looking for a different job because she wants her life back.

What? Advantage is a database program, and everyone in her agency has access...that is specific to their role. She should be able to see, from her computer, the progress of her projects and make adjustments during the course of the day.

So we chatted, got online and I took a look at how she was using the software.

In her project schedule, every line entry was unique and required direct input; tasks were assigned to some employees (not everyone was available to assign); no time per task was allocated (therefore no automated resource planning). She input due dates only – manually. And only key dates.

Everything was straight data-entry.

Then she prints out her schedule every morning and during the day, hand-writes changes. After work, she spends her evenings updating everything from her hand-written notes.

This is one person in a 200-person agency. There are eight PMs. Each uses the technology differently.

They reduced a comprehensive database to an Excel spreadsheet.

Training on the appropriate use of the technology; developing a process to use it; and compliance in its use. That’s the magic formula for successfully using agency management software. - It's more work to complain about having to use the new software than it is to actually learn how to use it.

We then went where she had never gone before – how to use the software – appropriately.

Schedule templates, allocated hours for tasks, assigned employees (this required getting HR to set up everyone in their proper role). Pushing tasks out to employees – and requiring them to use their task list – plus having staff update it themselves (Gasp! which means they mark it ‘complete’ – no, that is not hard). Now, this PM wouldn't have to update everything. Herself. Every night.

Wow, they’ve been paying for this technology for years, and never used it as it was intended.

Here are their next steps: Review the setup – which really needs an overhaul. Nothing had been done since they installed it – seven years ago. Review roles and designate them appropriately. Set up appropriate tasks for the schedule (and condense it down from the 700+ that had been created) and build templates. It makes for fast work of getting all projects (large or small) in the system.

Then last, but not least, train and enforce compliance. You need management’s full support here, because this is where the whining comes in. You will actually be asking your colleagues to be a part of the solution. It’s only a mouse-click for crying out loud. Not any harder than an IM to their friends about lunch.

And I only covered project schedules here. Think of what you can do when you get the entire agency on board?