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By Debra A. Porter, Project Manager

I have been doing project management work for 18 years now at a variety of organizations. What I love about this role is the opportunity to establish good working relationships with new people who all have a common desire: change business processes to make others’ lives better.

From my years of experience, I can confidently say what makes this job a successful one, so before jumping into a project, here are a few pieces of advice for enterprise content management (ECM) project managers (PM).

Establish the Project Leaders

For every enterprise content management project we work on, we urge our clients to have two project managers on the team. One from Pyramid Solutions who manages resources, time, work allocation, budgets, hiccups, vacations, etc. for our team, and one from the client’s side who manages the same tasks for their team.  

Having two project managers gives both teams a clear understanding of who the project leaders are from each side and it provides a mediation point if any issues arise. The two then work it out from their perspective without hindering the progress of the project.

When a project does not have clearly-defined leaders, challenges often arise. If a project team receives directions from multiple people and those directions are not in sync, the team experiences confusion and misdirection, which ultimately leads to poor communication and usually extends the life of the project.

Establish Good, Working Relationships With Your Teams  

By this, I don’t mean simply being polite and cordial. I find ECM projects to be most successful when I establish a solid relationship with the entire team – my internal team members and my client’s team members. I make it a point to do this because it builds trust among the team. I like to talk to the client, not just about the project, but also non-project-related topics. By getting to know everyone on a personal level, I find that they’re more willing to work with me to get things done even when we experience project hiccups.

Contributing to good relationships is trust. To be a successful ECM PM, you have to trust your team – in their skills, knowledge and abilities. If you operate as if you don’t trust them, then they’ll feel the same about you. Of course there is risk involved, but usually when employees know that they’re trusted and respected, they will demonstrate those attributes in return.

Facilitate Teamwork

An atmosphere of teamwork is critical for successful project management. For the projects I manage, this means everyone is open to new ways of doing things, has each other’s backs, can rely on each other to overcome obstacles, trusts in each others knowledge and expertise, and willingly offers (and accepts!) advice and constructive criticism. Any project will be successful if there’s teamwork making it happen. It is through brainstorming, problem-solving, questioning and learning that we can produce exceptional results.

To facilitate teamwork, I apply three specific strategies:

  1. I aim to understand and communicate each team member’s role and responsibilities. Doing this demonstrates that each person’s role in the project was considered and carefully planned.
  2. I involve all key players in meetings and discussions to encourages partnership.
  3. I seek commitment, give thanks and acknowledge their willingness to assist and contribute.

Offer ECM Training and Development Opportunities

Did you know there are seven different learning styles? Every person learns and works differently and as a PM you have to take that into consideration. When training employees, I recommend having learning and training material available to accommodate each of the learning styles. If your team doesn’t understand something, they won’t be able to give their all, so it is important to teach in a way they can understand.

To do this, I ask team members what their preferred method of training is.

How do you learn the best?  

Do you prefer formal training from a professional training institution?  

Do you prefer to watch and then demonstrate?  

Do you prefer to read and follow instructions?

There is no right or wrong way to learn. It is important to determine what works best for the individual and proceed from there.

Secondly, I create detailed desk procedures that anyone can follow. Desk procedures are short, step-by-step instructions on how to complete a task or process without a lot of “fluff.” It provides information that a team member “needs to know” instead of what is  “good to know” to complete the task. The latter is summarized at the end of a task instead of being part of the task. It saves time for the person doing the work and gives them additional information that they can read at a later date if desired.

Pyramid Solutions also requires that PMs go through IBM ECM professional certification courses. I really appreciate this because it increases our skillset and knowledge and makes us more proficient so we can apply our knowledge to clients.

Develop Strong Documentation

Comprehensive documentation of company processes is another contributor to successful ECM project management. Documentation on the PMO process and the agile process provides clarity to a PM as to what his/her role and objectives are. This is helpful because we can share this documentation with our client’s PM which provides consistency and a reference point for everyone. When we undergo unique projects or obstacles, process documentation that explains how to handle those situations ensures that we approach them consistently.

Documentation also creates a platform for improvement. If a PM doesn’t know how to perform specific processes, then how can they improve!

If you’re a decision maker at your organization who is about to start a new enterprise content management project, I highly recommend having a project manager for your team and one on your partner’s team. Having clearly-defined ECM project leaders sets the groundwork for effective collaboration and a successful project.


About the Author: What I enjoy most about working at Pyramid Solutions is that each senior leader has their own style and way of relaying information. I continually learn by receiving feedback that is direct and presented kindly. Outside of work, I enjoy traveling, fine dining, movies, being outdoors and being in the company of good friends and relatives.