I was sitting in a sales meeting with a consulting firm, growing increasingly aware of one of the project managers in the room. Something was up.
Although the meeting was going well, this PM was intently checking his cellphone, perhaps worried, clearly distracted. As the meeting went on, he leapt up several times, quite apologetic, to run out of the room to take urgent calls.
Maybe the meeting wasn't going so well after wall?
I was curious, and after the meeting had wrapped I asked him had happened. He graciously explained that he'd been alerted to a crisis on one of the construction projects he was managing. Everyone had been forced to stop all work, people were scrambling for answers, and crews and progress were at a standstill. I asked what the problem was. That's when he really surprised me.
"A bird's nest!" he said.
He told me that the onsite contractors discovered a wild birds nest in the land clearing area, forcing work to stop so the situation could be assessed. His phone had been buzzing and beeping all afternoon, questions coming at him, and he was relaying a constant stream of messages between the contractors and his client.
Everyone was trying to fill in details about the site and pinpoint the exact location of the birds nest, and he was trying to mitigate the situation remotely. On one side, the contractors were idling on the field and costing money hour by hour, on the other side, his client wanted answers and details, and was growing impatient.
I really felt for him because I've been in that kind of stuck-in-the-middle situation before. It's something I think many project managers have experienced, when you're stretched between different teams and diverging priorities, and trying to align all your information to make the right call.
At that moment I really understood what a good collaboration tool has to deliver for people, and how important it is. It's about communicating information in the most effective way possible, and breaking down barriers between everyone involved.
A team of professionals faced with a simple birds nest can struggle to communicate without the right process. Can they all visualize where it is on the worksite? Do they all understand the problem? Are the right people being alerted to help make decisions?
In the case of this particular consulting company, I was there talking about Arkit, and the birds nest provided a serendipitous example of exactly how we could help. But if you're just starting out on researching project collaboration tools, there are many affordable SaaS (software-as-a-service) solutions available. Each has a slightly different flavour depending on the industries they are serving, and the specific kinds of tasks being handled.
Don't be afraid of trying a new tool, and don't put it off. My approach would be to get demos for your team and a client or two to see if it would work for the people you work with most. Add a few projects as a test where everyone can access all the information on a real-time basis. Chances are people will be better connected to your project plans, and you'll get more consistent and clear updates on work as it happens.
No more phone tag, no more frantic emails, and no more interrupted meetings. In the end, adopting a simple collaboration tool can have a significant impact on building trust and improving productivity.
Not even a birds nest will stand in your way!