Jack Dahlgren talks here about the perceived dangers (not ‘evils’ as I said earlier. Sorry Jack) of project management systems like Project Server that use tools like timesheets to gather status information. He also points to Glen Alleman’s post here about the same subject.
Both are basically saying that systems like this are bad because they automate the interaction between project manager and team member and are not as good as face to face interactions between the PM and the team. They are saying that such systems are bad for teams because they do not allow for the transfer of project knowledge or “project wisdom”.
I could not agree more with both Glen and Jack. HOWEVER. the big problem with this is that both Jack and Glen are assuming that teams that use such software never speak. They seem to be assuming that the PM never has any meetings with the team and that the PM never goes and talks with the team. Any team doing this is just flat out wrong. No caveats. No exceptions. I will put it in bold print so there is no mistakes:
Any project manager that expects an Enterprise Project Management application like Project Server to be the only avenue of communication between themselves and their team is not only wrong, they are TRAGICALLY WRONG!
It is not the software. I can tell you with some confidence having worked many times with the team that designed Project Server that it was not designed to replace face to face communication between Project Manager and Team. What Jack and Glen are describing are organizations that are fundamentally broken. The software just helps them be broken faster.
In my work deploying Project Server with QuantumPM we (myself and the other consultants at QPM) were always very clear about the GRAVE dangers of assuming that Project Server timesheets would replace or fix broken lines of communication within the Project Team.
Glen says that PMs should be asking “…simple questions - what do you mean when you say "we're making progress”. I agree. Project Server (and other tools like it) allows for the efficient collection of the progress information in the detailed kind of way that things like Earned Value and many organizations demand (timesheets) This allows the PM to spend their face to face interactions asking the good questions instead of collecting Actual Work numbers and allows them to ask these good questions armed with the data they might need to ask them well.
So in closing: Project Server does not kill process and interaction, bad PMs do.