Have you ever seen weekly status updates pass for actual project visibility?
Well, I have, and they shouldn't!
Project visibility is so much more than a short update via email. More importantly, it plays a crucial role in project success and alignment between organizational levels or stakeholders. This is why it is worrying when some project managers neglect it.
However, even when the importance of project visibility is acknowledged, PMs often miss the tools to achieve real visibility in their projects. Many of them are busy continually updating sheets, sending messages, answering calls, and emailing new info. Still, somehow, nobody knows what the current status is. Much time, effort, and energy are lost without any transparency achieved.
What Is Project Visibility?
Project visibility refers to the extent to which project stakeholders, team members, and decision-makers have access to relevant and up-to-date information about projects' status, progress, potential risks, resource allocation, and other critical factors. It involves providing transparency and clear communication throughout the entire project delivery process.
Why Is Project Visibility Critical for Project Success?
Project visibility ensures all relevant stakeholders have a clear picture of the project performance, including potential risks, distribution of responsibilities, and the overall project goals. It also enables project managers to uncover bottlenecks and other potential risks that may have a negative impact on project efficiency.
Furthermore, providing all stakeholders with visibility into work and project progress secures alignment and adds an element of accountability. Seeing in real-time how projects are progressing enables effective decision-making and empowers your team to work more nimbly.
Scaling your visibility from а project to the company level is a further optimization potential you should not neglect.
Benefits of Improved Project Visibility
Being listed as a top benefit for teams adopting the Agile approach to project management, increased project visibility brings various advantages. Among them, the three most crucial benefits are:
- Better Decision Making: Improved project visibility provides stakeholders with real-time data and insights on the project's status, progress, and performance. Let's say that there is a potential delay due to a critical bug discovered during testing. With improved project visibility, leaders can instantly see the bug's impact on the timeline, its severity, and the potential consequences of the delay in deliverables.
- Efficient Resource Allocation: Clear visibility enables project managers to optimize resource allocation, preventing overallocation or underutilization. This can help to reduce project delays and cost overruns, leading to improved productivity and project efficiency.
- Improved Risk Management: Thanks to high project visibility, stakeholders can monitor emerging risks and implement prompt mitigation strategies. Timely risk management prevents issues from becoming major problems, reducing project failure risks. Transparent risk views aid in prioritizing critical tasks and allocating resources efficiently.
Benefits of adopting the Agile practices to project management, Image credit: State of Agile Report
How to Bring Your Project Visibility to the Next Level in 4 Steps?
Every project is a complicated system of its own, with its specific dependencies, requirements, documentation, approval processes, and more. As a project manager, usually, you are juggling several projects simultaneously, meaning you are overloaded with information that sometimes no one else has.
However, the struggle should not be to communicate faster but to manage your projects in a meaningful way. While back in the day, project managers often took an intermediary role, nowadays, managing a project is more about process optimization, value delivery, and efficiency. To be able to refocus your energy in this direction, you first need to create a system that facilitates better project visibility.
1. Bring All Work in a Single Place
A significant project visibility blocker is a fragmented flow of information caused by too many communication channels, as well as too many project management tools, with no real connection between them. Often you exchange documents via email. Then you might upload them in Google Drive and, afterward, send the link in your instant messaging channel to the rest of the team. Soon, finding up-to-date information looks more like playing "Where's Waldo" than working.
To achieve high-level project visibility, first, you need to bring all project-related information to one place. This means no more emails as approval tools, no more instant messaging for critical questions, no more sheets for time tracking, or heavy Gantt charts for updating project status. It means bringing every bit of the work process into one place. The key is to find an effective way to streamline information - from work status and projections to links, comments, and reviews - so nobody wastes time searching.
In our own product, for example, we achieve this by visualizing our projects on a dedicated Timeline that is part of our Kanban Boards. As next, we structure the project tasks into Kanban cards.
This way, with the Timeline, we have a calendar overview of the project status. In turn, with the Kanban board, we have visualized the execution process with all its steps. And with the Kanban cards, we have all work-related information directly on the card: description, size, owner, deadline, attachments, and external links, among other details.
2. Choose a Powerful Tool
Tracking your work in one place also means managing the work of your whole company in the same system. Finding and introducing project management software for one project can be the first step. But having five project managers using different tools for their work is a no-go.
For senior managers, the goal should be to scale team visibility on a company level by visualizing strategic goals and projects in the same software that is used for project management. This way, strategy and execution will meet under one roof to deliver a new type of visibility, clarifying which company projects are contributing to which strategic goals. Without such transparency, you risk an inefficient flow of information between the different company levels, causing misalignment and potentially wasted resources.
3. Define Clear Project Management Guidelines
Aside from project management software, achieving project visibility also requires explicit project policies. How and where we communicate, what kind of meetings we host, how we deliver work items, what is the review process, and so on should be explicitly defined. In Kanban, one of the leading practices is "Making process policies explicit" by visualizing them. From our personal experience, the Kanban policies practice can be 100% transferred to managing projects. You cannot optimize a system that you do not understand. So, to deliver more with less in your projects, first, make sure it is clear to everyone how the project delivery moves forward.
4. Track Real-Time Project Status
The ultimate project visibility goal is real-time status at a glance for all stakeholders.
To achieve this, make sure you choose software that automatically updates the status of work items and the project completion rate. The need for manual work automatically kills the real-time aspect.
For you, as a project manager, having a real-time overview of work status, blocked work items, or work ready for review opens new optimization potential. It also enables you to spend your time on valuable work and look for ways to improve your projects' flow efficiency.
Let me give you a simple example of our daily operations at Businessmap. Here you see a project in progress; you see it only contains two work items, and you also see 50% completion. Hoovering over the single cards related to your project, you can have a short glance at their status (at what stage the work is, deadlines, etc.).
This way, we eliminate the need for constant status reports without compromising our project visibility.
How Is Project Visibility Different than Project Transparency?
Although related, the concepts of project visibility and project transparency have their fair share of differences. Project visibility refers to the extent of access stakeholders have to real-time data and information about a project's status, progress, and performance. On the other hand, project transparency goes beyond data accessibility and entails openness, honesty, and clear communication about project decisions, challenges, and risks. While project visibility focuses on providing information, project transparency emphasizes fostering trust and understanding among stakeholders. For example, a project with high visibility may have real-time dashboards showcasing key metrics, but a project with high transparency ensures that stakeholders are openly informed about the reasoning behind project changes and the steps taken to address risks.
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