Changing the Way People Work

Michael Vizard
Slide Show

The State of Communications and Collaboration

Companies are still wrestling with how to get the most value out of their investments.

Imagine a world where information about projects flowed freely across the organization. That may sound like an impossible thing to achieve given the flawed nature of the human condition, but a new update to the AtTask software-as-a-service (SaaS) application for project management has been designed to encourage users to share information about the state of any given project.

AtTask CEO Scott Johnson says traditional project management software doesn't contribute much in the way of facilitating actual workflow. The reason for that, he says, is that traditional project management software was designed for project managers trained in methodologies known only to them. So it's little wonder that project managers in most organizations are viewed as a necessary evil that tend to get in the way of actually getting things done.

The real issue, says Johnson, is not getting people to appreciate the nuance of project management methodologies. Instead, companies should focus on encouraging their employees to organize their work using a shared application. It's not that people resist structuring their workflow, notes Johnson. They actually do it all the time using Microsoft Word documents, spreadsheets, e-mail and a host of other applications. What AtTask is trying to present is a shared workspace that is easy enough for everyone to use. In return for that, the employees gain greater visibility across the rest of the business, while project managers are presented with all the information they need to organize a project without having to constantly nag employees for updates.


To accomplish those goals, AtTask this week rolled out an update to its SaaS application that adds a Team Home feature for organizing groups of people around a specific project and Stream social networking functionality that allow users to collaborate within the context of a project. The addition of these features, says Johnson, means that users don't have to invoke separate social networking or collaboration applications outside of the context of the project just to share relevant information.

Johnson concedes that this approach requires a change in the traditional command and control approach to work that permeates most organizations. But Johnson says studies show that organizations that give employees a greater voice in their operations are inherently more productive because employees are inherently more committed to the success of a project where they have more input.

The role of project managers in such environments, says Johnson, is to teach people how to effectively manage projects rather than actually managing the project for them. That, in turn, will change the relationship between project managers and the rest of the work force for the better, says Johnson.

There's no doubt that there is need for change across corporate America. In the wake of downsizing, employees are disenfranchised more than ever. The challenge facing many business managers is how to re-engage a demoralized work force. The first step towards accomplishing that goal is finding a way that not only brings employees together, but gives them more control over their daily work schedules.

Obviously, that kind of change is not going to happen overnight no matter what the CEO says should happen from the top down. By deploying a new application, however, the seeds of that kind of change get planted in a way that, over time, changes the culture of the business for the better.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 10, 2011 11:36 AM Cheryl Conner Cheryl Conner  says:

What a great article! It's clear you really got the message of AtTask. Thanks so much for posting, Mike!


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