Project management tools are a hard sell to employees

Employees and management don’t always see eye-to-eye, and that was definitely the case when Royal Bank Financial Group implemented a new project management tool, ABT Corp.’s Results Management Suite 5.

ABT Repository 5 stores methods, best practices and project plans in a central location. Project managers and executives can draw on the information to create project templates populated by past failures and successes. Using the ABT Planner 5 module, project managers can take advantage of best practices to create plans for new projects.

“There’s a general fear that this is the police – you know a Big-Brother type of approach,” said Les Bell, project office manager at Royal Bank in Toronto.

The tool, which Bell is convinced will ultimately prove invaluable to the company, requires his employees to change the format they work in, as well as log in the amount of time spent on each project.

“For us, to bring in time management to that extent had a very negative connotation to it. And so we’ve been very careful to position ourselves as, ‘We’re not here to watch you, we’re here to provide you with two very careful things – a tool that supports the management of projects and a tool that supports the gathering of information so that our executives can make quick decisions on projects based on scientifically held and gathered information,'” Bell said.

To ease transition, Bell introduced the management tool in stages and he is currently in the process of rolling out the final wave of the product to his employees. Before Results Management was introduced, all the project managers were using their own approach to keeping track of their projects. Managers were using everything from Microsoft Project to napkins, Bell said.

With an average of between 2,400 to 2,500 projects per fiscal year and between 500 and 600 projects running at any given time in the systems and technology department at Royal Bank, Results Management is a way to pool the experiences of the various projects.

Project management is not a “process steeped in creativity. Actually, what you should be looking for is a move towards repeatability. That’s the value of bringing standard processes and tools and templates to the table, because people can hit the ground running. They get a head start on a project without having to think from scratch,” Bell said.

The ABT Planner comes pre-loaded with sample project plans for maintenance, Y2K, systems development and Internet development projects, said Brian Gonzalez, vice-president of product marketing at ABT in New York. And as companies use the planner, they can add to its repertoire with their own experiences.

“The purpose of [ABT Planner] is to help you come up with a plan. When someone uses Microsoft Project, or even (ABT’s) Project Workbench, it’s misnomered as a planning tool. It’s a scheduling tool, because you still have to come up with a plan. What do we need to do? How much effort is it going to take. This tool helps you get to those answers,” Gonzalez said.

ABT is also flexible enough to accommodate those projects that are out of the norm, and that might not benefit from existing templates, Gonzalez said.

And those project managers accustomed to working with Microsoft Project as their desktop scheduler can continue to use their software of choice since ABT is compatible with Microsoft. Users can either use Microsoft or ABT’s own Workbench 5 to schedule, analyse and control their projects.

As well, ABT can be integrated with existing legacy and ERP systems through ABT Integrator 5, a client/server application with a database and component modules designed to facilitate integration.

Howard Adams, a director at the Giga Information Group in Arizona, believes ABT is a “leader in the industry” and that the Results Management Suite is a good product, but he added that all such offerings need to do more in terms of integration.

Results Management “and every other product out there, could do a lot more with integration, integrating into finance or ERP and so forth. Yes, they allow you to import and export information, but nobody’s really come up with a project management enterprise data model to really makes it very fluid,” he said.

He adds that, like other project management tools, ABT’s will eventually result in better-planned, less-delayed and closer-to-budget projects.

Bell agrees. “Bringing in an integrated tool suite for something that a lot of people consider an art form — project management — is obviously going to generate a lot of organizational resistance. That’s exactly what happened here. But I’m utterly convinced that in the long run, in three or four years, when this is entrenched in the way we do things and we look back on it, we’ll all know that it’s provided a tremendous amount of value and a tremendous amount of consistency, and we’ll certainly be able to leverage it a long time into the future,” Bell said.

Pricing for Result’s Management ( varies with configuration.

ABT in Mississauga, Ont., can be reached at (905) 803-8030.