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Simple Complexity – Projects, Portfolios, Dashboards and Twitter

By: Collin Quiring


I’m a detail oriented person and that is part of why I enjoy being a Project Manager – I get to dive into all the gory details and nuances.  But, like many people, I am busy and anything that isn’t a Project that I am involved with, I just want the high-level overview.  I read the headlines on the news websites and if a story interests me, I will drill down on it but may still only read the first few paragraphs.  Today, I was scanning a case study by Apple about Twitter and I read a sentence that jumped out at me:  “Twitter’s meteoric rise to ubiquity is proof positive that the world, in all its complexity, is eager to embrace simplicity.”


While this was about Twitter specifically, it struck me that this really is the point of Project and Portfolio Management.  One of my goals as a Project Manager is to summarize information for users of all levels – I like to use dashboards.  At one glance, an Executive can see a summary of a Project or Portfolio of Projects based upon criteria that is important to them.  Or, a Team Member can see information that is important to them.  And, since it is a dashboard view, they don’t have to get too involved or wade through too much information.  This is simple complexity – a Project can be a very complex set of interdependent tasks, processes, work flows, organizations, people and a myriad of other variables that create a complex labyrinth.  We simplify all those variables with a few colored symbols on a dashboard.


In recent months I have seen articles about the rise of Twitter.  And, I have seen articles by Project Managers talking about how they can use Twitter to send information to interested parties.  I am not there yet – but I see that this is one more way to produce simplicity from the complex.  So far, I let Microsoft Project automatically email my users and Executives that I have created a new dashboard, or that an existing dashboard is updated.  Maybe one day I will provide something more simple – sending a Tweet with a tiny url pointing to the dashboard.  But, then my users will want something even more simple – a dashboard summary in their Tweet; perhaps where a character represents what I now put into the dashboard.


At some point, we are trying to oversimplify the complex though.  What do you think?


Apple Case Study referenced:



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