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Best Practices versus Tool Capabilities

BY:  Collin Quiring


Project Professional 2010 and Project Server 2010 come with great modifications and an improved user experience.  Part of that is to allow all sorts of flexibility in many areas of the tool.  While this is a good thing for many reasons, there is one area that has concerned me since starting to review the first versions of the 2010 version.  My concern isn’t specific to Project (or any specific 2010 product either) as this has been around for years but it seems to be a bigger issue with each newer software release and the 2010 release really brought it to the forefront of my thoughts.


The question that keeps lingering in the back of my mind is:  What do you do when best practices and the capabilities of a tool collide?  “Best practices” being broadly defined as whatever the organization considers their best practices, whether derived from their internal processes, industry standards or bodies of knowledge.


One answer is just to turn off or otherwise disable the capabilities of the tool.  That isn’t always possible or easy to do though.  And, almost every time I have done that it doesn’t take long for somebody to wildly protest that they need either that capability or a corresponding one that no longer works correctly.  Constantly reviewing “best practices” is valid as well but that never results in every capability suddenly becoming acceptable usage.  Another solution is to train everybody in the way that you want them to do things – which seems to work better in theory than reality.  It isn’t easy to force people to use a tool the way you want them to use it.  .


Some might say that you shouldn’t force people to use a tool a certain way – but, of course, we do that every day.  How many companies use a note field as a valuable reporting field and require certain characters to be put into the field in a certain order?  Or, how much variability do employees have when reporting their time for weekly payroll?  How many variations are there in Outlook to book a conference room – and yet every company I have been to has only one way to do it “right” so that it is actually reserved.


It is almost counter-intuitive but the more capabilities a tool has, the more administrative work it requires.  The administrators have to understand all the various input possibilities and deal with how that information is stored and used.  Reporting and views have to be created that allow for all the variables (even if some variables aren’t “allowed”). 


I don’t have a definitive answer to the question but as I struggle with how tool capabilities affect best practices I would love to hear if somebody has a great solution.





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