The art of project management and business intelligence

Project management and business intelligence are both a science as well as an art form. The processes identified and laid out in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) are comprehensive, yet every project does not require every process and, knowing which processes to utilize, at the right time, for the right project and purpose is the art of project management.

One of the key talents in the art of project management is identifying actionable business intelligence to gather information and drive project success. When used correctly, metrics and actionable information can be a thing of beauty as a Project Manager (PM) identifies a problem before it escalates, develops effective strategies, and manages the project past the potential obstacle.

Yet, just like with the PMBoK processes, metrics can be cumbersome and bog a project down preventing forward momentum, tying valuable resources up in a meaningless effort with no tangible value. The art of business intelligence is defining when to use metrics, which ones to use, how to measure them, and interpreting the metrics for value.

The value of business intelligence comes from actionable information, data that provides real-time answers or leads to asking the right questions to identify issues or opportunities, that can be managed through an effective decision-making process. Actionable intelligence is information, that once acted upon, will impact the effort either positively or negatively depending on the effectiveness of the information.

Actionable intelligence is at the heart of strategic management and provides insight into complex processes and environments through performance metrics.

Now before you sigh and look away, most of us dislike metrics. We are action people who need something tangible to do and look for strategies that have an impact. Metrics are numbers that are collected because of some rule or process. However, actionable intelligence is information that is constantly changing, provides real information that can be used, and measures something that, when an external force is exerted, will change in some way.

I have often come across organizations that measure everything they can possibly slap a number on. Things like arrival time, departure time, break times, number of tasks performed, number of defects, lines of code, individual time to complete a task, etc. Most of this is not useful by itself, nor is it helpful to managing a project. Instead, the “art” of business intelligence, is to measure the people and process at completion points in such a way as to determine when issues occur. For example, I managed a team of software developers who were consistently behind schedule. While they believed their estimates were accurate, they were consistently working nights and weekends to achieve deadlines.

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