Bryan Nielson is the Chief Marketing Officer at AtTask explains how to slay the dragon of work chaos in four simple steps.

IT teams are under tremendous pressure to keep the proverbial lights on when it comes to ensuring critical connectivity and compute power for the business.

Unfortunately, in today’s competitive marketplace, many are also forced to do more with less, as companies have felt the squeeze to cut costs and reduce staff. That means the lucky few who remain must take on more responsibility and more assignments to pick up the slack.

New projects, like system upgrades and new software integration, only add fuel to the fire, creating a tinderbox of stress, confusion and inefficiency, especially for project managers and those tasked with critical deliverables and meeting deadlines. Project work feels more like a treadmill stuck on sprint speed instead of a worthy endeavour that moves the company forward in meeting its strategic goals.

The breakneck pace under constant pressure results in sheer project chaos: missed deadlines, lack of sufficient resources or ineffective allocation, escalating project costs and overworked and overwhelmed staff are par for the course in many organisations, despite managers’ best efforts to keep things under control.

These problems scamper about like pesky little lizards on the individual level, but taken together add up to one gigantic, nasty, fire-breathing, hard-to-ignore dragon: the dragon of work chaos.

Learn to spot the dragon

With each new project, the team resolves, ‘this one will be different,’ and you’ll finally gain control. But, far too often, the cycle continues and the team is sucked back into the same routine of putting out fires. Why? IT is the ideal habitat with perfect conditions that make it oh-so-comfortable for the dragon of work chaos to thrive:

  • Requests fly in from multiple directions and sources. Emails, phone calls, sticky notes tacked to your monitor. The to-do list exists in so many forms, it’s virtually impossible to keep track and keep up. What you really want to-do is dump them all in the incinerator. Even small tasks add up to consume huge chunks of time, and you spend more time than you’d like stopping and starting to deal with demands. Who has time to devise a better plan when you’re so busy putting out fires?
  • You’ve got lots of tools, but that’s part of the problem. Project management and productivity software like email and spreadsheets offer some ways to make sense of the melee, but even these solutions create bottlenecks, communication barriers, and inefficiencies that only fan the flames and waste time. That wasted time comes at a price: if your staff wastes just three hours a day looking for information, sitting in meetings, and slogging through email, at an average annual salary of £50,000, that’s a £19,000 burn rate.
  • Information silos lead to communication breakdown, making it difficult for the entire team to stay on the same page with assignments, status updates, and timelines. Meaningful and efficient collaboration is nearly impossible with team members toiling away to put out fires on their own desk to save their own necks, with little time for effective teamwork toward the greater good.

As a result, the staff is overworked, overwhelmed and stressed out, feeling the pressure from management to deliver under the intense heat. At its worst, projects are over budget and behind schedule, which leads directly to higher overall costs, lower ROI, and missed opportunities. There has to be a better way.

In fact, there is. Applying best practices of enterprise work management (EWM) provides the ultimate weapon for slaying the dragon of work chaos once and for all, transforming any project process into a seamless, unified collaborative system that works across every step of the work life cycle to prevent the burn of project pandemonium and stop the fire drill before it even starts.

Prepare for battle

But, before we pull out the big guns, let’s start by getting prepared. Unleash your inner project warrior with some strategic battle planning.

  • Step 1: identify and prioritise. Standardise the process for project inputs and requests so they arrive in the same way and to the same place, won’t get overlooked, and can be properly prioritised. Once the inflow is organized, establish an actual system for prioritizing (beyond the pants on fire approach). Set realistic expectations, make sure project requests align with strategic business goals and thresholds for ROI, and don’t be afraid to say no when you can justify it. Last, but not least: identify what success looks like, so you can measure against it later.
  • Step 2: plan and coordinate. Involve team members in the planning process early to keep everyone in the loop on capacity, process, and expectations. Once you’re off and running, get out of the way of work. Empower people with the ability to accept/reject assignments based on their workload, make visible commitments and decisions, and collaborate as needed to get the job done.
  • Step 3: execute and deliver. Embrace prescribed processes, templates, and standardization. Sure, not every project will be exactly the same, but certainly many aspects are repeatable. Standardizing these workflows prevents your team from having to reinvent the wheel each time and reduces mistakes. Make incremental outcomes achievable and the results accessible. Save best practices, effective routines, and other “what worked” situations in a central location you can refer back to later.
  • Step 4: measure. Establish a unified system for tracking documents, resources, and other necessary components so these are accessible and measurable to provide a snapshot of project success after the fact. Set up protocols for recording and reviewing lessons learned before the project starts, so that these can be incorporated into a formalised battle plan moving forward.

The right weapon makes all the difference

As work dragons have grown larger and more complex, trying to slay the beast with conventional weapons becomes increasingly ineffective. Enterprise work management systems offer a more efficient and effective way to complete projects on time, on budget and without the typical approach to putting out fires.

Unlike traditional project management programs, Gantt charts, email, and spreadsheets, EWM solutions unify all aspects of the work process into a single, seamless system that tears down silos and eliminates the disconnect across the entire project life cycle.

Robust, cloud-based systems support task assignment and tracking, integrated communication and collaboration with social-style posts and messaging built in, time and budget management, resource and personnel allocation and real-time status updates and reporting.

With the entire project landscape available at-a-glance to the entire team in an easily accessible dashboard, everyone can stay up-to-date, on the same page, and working together toward the common goal. And, when hiccups arise along the way, an unexpected creep in scope or a delay in some part of the process, the whole team can see exactly how that influences deliverables and timelines.

Using EWM unifies and simplifies the tools and processes required to get the job done, eliminating redundancies and switching back and forth between disparate software. With better visibility and collaboration within the context of their work, team members feel more connected, engaged, appreciated, and motivated, rather than overworked and overwhelmed.

And, with the time and money saved by slaying the work dragon with the modern efficiency of EWM solutions, IT can spend those newfound resources where it really matters: on implementing truly effective solutions that contribute to company growth and bottom line, rather than putting out fires.

Now don your shiniest armour and pick up that colossal EWM weapon, Dragon Slayer. It’s time to go to battle and get work done.