Collaborative project management is a method used to plan, coordinate, control, and monitor distributed and complex projects. It enables project teams to collaborate across departmental, corporate, and national boundaries and to master growing project complexity. Everybody in the project has access to the information in the project such as tasks, messages, and documents etc. This information is updated in real-time when changes occur. With the advent of Collaborative software more project teams use collaboration tools in their projects.
Faced with unresolved issues in the management of complex product development projects that were beyond the capability of classical techniques such as network planning or critical path analysis, Dr. Rupert Stuffer developed the methodology of collaborative project management in the '90s. Initial projects at industrial companies such as BMW and Bosch demonstrated the practicability of the methodology which was then further refined.
Since then, Dr. Stuffer has given papers on this methodological approach at a large number of events by specialist organizations such as GPM, 1998, at management congresses e.g. Munich Management Colloquium, 2001, and at industrial companies e.g. IBM, 2003; BMW, 2005. In recent years Collaborative project management has gained new meaning with the advent of new technological breakthroughs. Social media has been a big driver of this change. In 2002 PMI wrote an article on this subject. Recent articles expanding the definition of collaborative project management.
Collaborative project management is based on the principle of actively involving all project members in the planning and control process and of networking them using information, communication, and collaboration modules. Management is not regarded as an activity reserved solely for managers but as an integral part of the project work of all team members.
Collaborative project management makes extensive use of localized control loops. Complex projects are broken down into smaller "more tangible" sub-systems which are then assigned to members of the relevant departments. Consequently, planning and control responsibility is assumed by those who are also responsible for project content.
Sub-plans are networked and synchronized to tie all partners into the system of planning and control and to promote a common understanding of overall planning. Changes and/or delays are communicated directly to the relevant project members without active intervention in their areas of responsibility.
The technical platform on which collaborative project management builds is a central database that makes current and consistent planning data available to all project participants wherever they may be located.
Communication and collaboration are the basis for early identification of the impact of potential problems on linked sub-projects. They create a high level of transparency and a shared awareness of quality among team members.
Examples of communication and collaboration tools used are message boards like slack, live chat, interactive whiteboard, and instant notification when an action takes place in the project.
Collaborative project management has been employed in the business and government sectors. For example, within the Federal Government, the United States Agency for International Development USAID is employing a collaborative project management approach that focuses on incorporating collaboration, learning, and adaptation. CLA involves three concepts. First, collaborating intentionally with stakeholders to share knowledge and reduce duplication of effort, learn systematically by drawing on evidence from a variety of sources and taking time to reflect on implementation, and adapt strategically based on applied learning. The CLA approach is detailed for USAID staff in the recently revised ADS 201 guidance that details the project management.
Ever shorter product lifecycles and faster time-to-market coupled with the individualization of products and services are giving rise to value networks between suppliers, customers, and partners. And new technologies, such as electromobility, increasingly demand collaboration in cross-company and cross-industry development networks that are characterized particularly by the following features:
Partners in different sectors bundle their expertise to research and develop materials and manufacturing processes. Coordination of schedules and activities becomes a decisive factor in collaboration, and an efficient method of cross-company interaction across the product development processes is needed.
This applies to all sectors that feature the following:
Such sectors include, for example, the automotive, aerospace, mechanical engineering, IT, and energy industries.
The collaborative project management methodology provides adequate support for the widespread practice of working in development teams with direct responsibility.
Automobile makers, such as BMW, face growing pressure through shorter development cycles and higher productivity targets – often in a globalized development environment. One of the biggest challenges is cross-enterprise collaboration along the value chain. Complex and cross-company collaboration processes cannot be mastered without end-to-end IT support.
The consequence is:
For this reason and for many years now, most German OEMs have put their faith in the collaborative project management methodology, the de facto standard in the German automotive industry, to plan and manage their development processes.
Like the auto industry, the IT industry has been quick on adapting Collaborative project management. This has been due partly to globalization as more companies hire people at different locations, and partly due to recent advances in technology which make remote collaboration a reality.
New tools for storing and managing code, continuous delivery, Test Automation, and real-time collaboration have made colocation less of a priority for software development teams.