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Projects are the lifeblood of any organization. However, all too often, deadlines are missed, projects fail, and company reputations are tarnished. A recent KPMG survey with Project Managers highlighted serious issues with the industry today:

  • More than half of those surveyed could not align projects to corporate strategy
  • More than 50% of respondents did not consistently achieve intended project results
  • Two in three did not or could not measure ROI of their projects

With similar findings, a survey by analyst firm PWC highlighted three key reasons for project failure: poor estimates at the planning phase, changes in scope mid-project and insufficient resources. PWC carries out its Global PPM (Program and Portfolio Management) survey every four years, and has consistently discovered the same issues in PM over the last four surveys. There’s a clear need for improving Project Management, and PWC recommends the following steps be implemented by organizations:

  1. Optimize your portfolios.
  2. Become more flexible.
  3. Enable employees to deliver success by providing the right tools, environment and training.
  4. Boost connections between the executive team and project delivery teams.
  5. Measure progress and be prepared to change course.

Now, while some of these recommendations will require better planning, better trained project managers and an improved use of tools like Microsoft Project; others can be achieved easily. Points three and four on the above list in particular are ‘low hanging fruit’. By providing project teams with better technology and improved communication with executive teams, project outcomes can be improved in no time.

1. Skype for Business

Skype for Business is Microsoft’s rebranded, repackaged and improved version of Lync. Improvements over previous iterations include better integration with email and calendar, conference calling, any-device connections and simplicity.

Skype for Business can be incredibly useful for project teams in a wide range of scenarios. Because colleagues can connect to conference calls via mobile, they can give instant updates from ‘the field’ and use their device’s camera and video features to share real-time updates. This is far more compelling than a long email describing a problem, and less likely to lead to misunderstandings too.

On the front of communications with executive teams, Skype for Business is clearly all about communication. The project team might not currently be in the same physical space as the management team, and using Skype for Business removes those boundaries. This ensures everyone can be ‘on the same page’ and understand exactly what management expectations are. And with its latest update allowing you to broadcast a meeting for up-to 10,000 people, the opportunity to engage with larger audiences, who can interact in real-time with Yammer, has real potential.

2. Office 365 Groups

Office 365 Groups are an exciting new feature of Microsoft’s online collaboration tools. They provide a ‘digital workspace’ where team members can set up a project site within Office 365 which has its own email inbox (separate from their Outlook mail, helping avoid ‘email overload’). Groups boast a range of features that make staying up to date with project progress much easier. These include:

  • A newsfeed, where the latest Group announcements are shared so all Group members understand progress levels.
  • Tie-in with OneDrive, making it easy to discuss and share documents for small groups or temporary projects.
  • Easy online collaboration. Groups allow users to open Word Online (and other Office apps) and collaborate in real time.

3. Mobile working

Mobile has changed the way the world works. Access to work place apps from any of the major mobile Operating Systems is now the norm. If your project teams are unable to collaborate and communicate from their smartphones and tablets, it shouldn’t be surprising if they miss deadlines and get left behind. Mobile allows users to access the full Office 365 experience from their handheld devices – including SharePoint, Yammer and Office. When used in conjunction with Collage, they can connect with popular CRMs such as Salesforce and business apps.

4. Manage email better

Email can be a major productivity killer. When employees receive too many messages, files get lost and their inboxes become impossible to manage. This is especially risky in the project team situation. Lengthy email chains about some particular aspect of the project mean key documents and messages get lost along the way. This situation is made even worse when colleagues who join the project late don’t have access to every single email that has bounced around the team. Email can resolve this problem by bringing Microsoft collaboration tools into a convenient sidebar within Outlook. Email allows users to drag and drop messages into SharePoint – meaning every single email can be accessed later if, for example, a new colleague is trying to ‘get up to speed’ with the project’s progress.

Use what’s already available to you

Office 365 is such an incredibly powerful platform. It can give a real boost to a team’s productivity, and avoid the kinds of delays, misunderstandings and miscommunications which characterize so many project failures. When enhanced with’s apps and add-ins, you can expect even better project results.

David Lavenda
Chief Product Officer