This is the first post in a series about applying knowledge management techniques to improve project management.

The project manager role can be hectic – you’re managing deliverables, personalities, and the schedule. Too often pre-planning gets overlooked or eliminated due to time constraints.  If you find a few hours to prepare, you can identify a few simple approaches that will improve collaboration across your project team and programs.

Knowledge Management complements project management well, and applying principles Leverage-KM-From-Project-Start-Up-to-Improve-Project-Management.jpgfrom both will help improve the performance of a team. Knowledge management is one of the techniques that connects people to relevant knowledge and to their community, which enables organizations to drive innovation, improve performance, and support business transformation. Within a project, you can better manage information and increase knowledge flow across people, processes and technology.

Implement Good KM Principles at Project Initiation

In the Initiating and Planning phases of your project, organization is essential so that you have a strong foundation for your artifacts.  Implementing the following steps will help set you up for success as you continue through the other project management phases:

1.  Identify Your Document Repositories

It is critical to maintain all your working project documentation in a central repository. If your project requires any regulatory oversight, you may have a second repository for the officially approved documentation.  As part of your prep work, determine if your project follows your software development, research, clinical, or marketing/sales lifecycle, and follow the best practices accordingly.

It may take a while for the project team to adjust, especially if they are used to saving their work to their laptops. Gently remind them that a central location provides several benefits, such as regularly scheduled backups, security, and becoming the single source of truth. Unexpected absences due to illness, jury duty, etc. can inadvertently derail a project while the team scrambles to gain access to documentation.  

2.  Secure Your Content

Follow the guidelines of your organization regarding security/access questions. Discuss with your project team who needs to have access, and you can set up a matrix describing the levels of access, per role. You may also need to designate whether or not the information is confidential.

Larger companies typically invest in a document management system to store some of their artifacts.  SharePoint provides many options for how to provide access to individuals and groups. A network drive is a simpler alternative if you want to limit who can access the information.

3.  Set Expectations with your Team

Depending on how mature your project team is, this level of organization might be new to them. There may be some growing pains, as they adjust to following a more structured approach to working. Be transparent with why you are asking them to follow this approach, and share with them the benefits.

4.  Use Project Templates

Ideally, you should have a Project Management Office (PMO) that oversees the project management activities, governance and tools that you use. If you do not, you may need to develop them as you go along. Determine which documents you will need for the project. You can use a previous project’s documentation as a starting point, removing all their prior information, but keeping the overall structure, headings, formatting, etc.

5.  Create a Dashboard

A dashboard is a great way to summarize your project status for the week. Standard information you can add includes items such as accomplishments for the week or planned activities for the next week. It is helpful to have a section where you can call out any issues, so they will get the attention they deserve. You may also want to include a list of who will be out of the office for the next month. This is particularly useful when your documents need to be reviewed and signed off by various team members.

You can create a meaningful document in many different tools, including SharePoint, Excel, or even PowerPoint. You can them keep them in their native format, or convert them to a PDF before sharing them with the project team and your stakeholders. By distributing a PDF, you reduce the risk that the information can be inadvertently changed.

In my next blog post, I’ll be discussing how to use traditional Knowledge Management techniques and behaviors to improve communication within your project team.

How have you applied Knowledge Management to improve project start-up?
 Let us know in the comment section below!