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Interview with Andrew Filev, CEO of

Please enjoy the podcast of a conversation between Andrew Filev and Gina Abudi. The podcast focuses on Project Management 2.0. The transcript is provided below.

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Andrew Filev

Today we are interviewing Andrew Filev, CEO of and author of the popular Project Management 2.0 blog.

Andrew Filev is a successful entrepreneur, an experienced project manager, a popular author and a Project Management 2.0 evangelist. He founded Wrike, spelled w-r-i-k-e, a company that democratized project management software. It has won the hearts of thousands of customers all over the world, making it easier for them to collaborate in their teams, and control their projects.

Andrew is a also known as a leading voice of Project Management 2.0, a new approach to managing projects focused on collective intelligence, productivity and project leadership as the basic factors of project success. You may find Andrew’s publications and interviews on his Project Management 2.0 blog, as well as on many influential project management and Enterprise 2.0 sites, such as TechRepublic, ZDNet, Web 2.0 Journal, to name just a few.

Additionally, his blog has been listed by Business Computing World in May 2010 as one of the Top 10 Best Project Management Blogs – that’s very exciting!

GINA: I’d like to start by asking you to define “project management 2.0.”

ANDREW:  In very short I call Project Management 2.0 a new look on project management and its, so to say, democratization.
As you know traditional project management discipline came out of industrial mega-projects after the Second World War. At that time, the focus of the discipline was managing expensive and long projects in a predictable way through the use of heavy processes.  What we’ve seen in the last decades is computerization, globalization, much better communication tools, infrastructure, and, more importantly, the rise of information workers. About a billion people now spend their working day sitting in front of their computer. With the focus shifting from industrial economy to creative economy, the focus of project management discipline inevitably shifts to smaller and more nimble teams. In such teams the contribution and talent of each individual employee is very important, just as well as the efficient collaboration of the whole team. The schedule is no longer the only king of the hill. With the business environment being very volatile and uncertain today, agility and ability of managers to adjust their project plans to changes are really important. It’s not a matter of taking industrial project management practices and applying them on a smaller team. Industrial processes and expensive tools supporting those processes are rarely used in today’s small business environment, because the burden of those heavy tools is bigger than the benefits they provide. So, there’s a need for a more lightweight approach to project management that is focused on collaboration, agility, productivity and leadership. I call this new approach Project Management 2.0. This is a little bit sarcastic, a little bit in a reference to Web 2.0 technologies that are quite helpful in it. The approach takes project management out of project management offices, so called “PMO’s”, and puts it into the hands of regular information workers. In a sense, it democratizes it. Technology is an important supporting factor in this process, so the “2.0” moniker in the name plays well with the so-called “web 2.0” and “enterprise 2.0” tools.

GINA:Can you provide us an example, Andrew?

ANDREW: I’ve seen many of them. Some in lean start-ups – the way they manage their business through the quick feedback cycles and customer development, very efficient collaboration inside the team, a very flat structure and efficient collaboration with the outside world. I’ve seen them in marketing agencies executing campaigns for their customers, say, a new product launch. I’ve seen them in software teams.

In essence, it’s not a self-defined Project Management 2.0 process or a ‘project manager 2.0’. It’s an approach, the style that people manage their projects, the focus of their effort, how they approach leadership, their project planning, project execution and collaboration in the team. That’s the essence of it.

GINA: So, certainly an approach that today, when you think about the global economy and how everybody, regardless of the size of the company they’re in, is working on a virtual team, is certainly needed in order to be successful.

How do project managers apply innovative technologies to their projects and to project management in general? What is the value?  What are the benefits to doing so?

ANDREW: Let’s step back a little bit and see what’s happening today for the majority of project managers and their teams. Today many teams still use email as their main tool for project collaboration. You could have hundreds of new emails in your inbox every day. In this situation, constructing a big picture of a project is really hard and time-consuming. And because you have zero visibility into inboxes of your peers and team members, the problem becomes even bigger. Information is buried or, as they call it, ‘siloed’ in inboxes. If you’re in charge of 10 projects, as it often is in small business environment – a project manager can have many simultaneous projects, some of them small, some of them bigger, but the pain really escalates as it becomes nearly impossible to keep track of all those projects simply based on email. So, it’s an unproductive way to manage multiple projects in an agile environment, and many of us have been in such situations wondering what Joe or Alice were doing last week, or when the project will get delivered to the customer.

The traditional approach to this problem was to put a dedicated and educated professional project manager in the center of all project communications. She needs to continuously collect status updates from all team members, aggregate this picture, put it in writing or in a software file and communicated it to the team and stakeholders on a continuous basis. This process doesn’t scale well as the number of employees or projects grow. Even the smartest person becomes burdened by such a great amount of routine work, forcing to spend nearly all time on secretary work instead of leading the team. As a metaphor, think of a person who would try to write an encyclopedia by calling experts, asking their opinions, aggregating that knowledge, and updating the central document. That can certainly be done, but there is a better, much scalable way, which leverages today’s technology, teamwork and collaboration. Wikipedia shows us a great example of it and the benefit of collaborative approach to writing an encyclopedia. Thousands of businesses now leverage collaboration to become more effective in what they do. In the future this could scale well to larger companies, to much more companies, as I’ve already mentioned, we’re moving to the creative economy.

The new wave collaboration tools are easy to use and intuitive, so they are quickly adopted by the whole team. The best tools integrate with email and aggregate all the data from various disconnected messages and attachments. The tools help to gather valuable knowledge, organize it and share it with everyone. Such tools make communications more effective and it results in a great productivity boost for the whole team, obviously, including the manager who benefits the most. With the new generation of project management apps everyone involved in the project is able to contribute to the collaborative space directly, not through feedback solicited by the manager, but direct collaboration and contribution to the shared space. It’s really easy for a team member to update a project plan and see updates contributed by the colleagues and be able to connect that with the day-to-day agenda. Everybody on the team, and what’s most important, the project manager, as well as the stakeholders, has the up-to-date information at hand.

When it’s clear for a manager what every team member is busy with and what exactly is going on with every project, that’s when project operations become more transparent, projects become more controllable and project management more adaptable. The project manager’s role in that case is transformed from the traditional taskmaster to a project visionary, as managers focus more on the leadership, than on mere puling information from his team and reminding them about dead-lines. The new-generation tools take away the boring part, the secretary and babysitting work, of a project manager’s routine, allowing more time for creative part of the job. Transparent operations and enhanced productivity has a positive effect on the whole company, not only on the team, as the company becomes more flexible and can easily adapt to the changes in the outside business environment.

GINA: Your company has a collaboration tool that has gotten some absolutely fantastic feedback. Tell us a little bit about your particular tool, please.

ANDREW: There are several key pillars of our approach. Obviously, it very much aligns with what I’ve said before, because it reflects our philosophy for the business. Our tool is very lightweight and agile. It helps you to manage multiple projects simultaneously in a distributed environment where you can selectively share data, you can plug in your outside contractors, your boss, your clients, and everybody will have their own visibility into the system. A good comparison is a social network. In a social network, like Facebook, you have a graph of people and graph of things that are shared between them.  On Facebook, you have five hundred million people being connected to each other, but that doesn’t mean they all see the same thing, and they can still very productively share information with each other and stay in the loop. It doesn’t take a lot of training for you to do that. We share the same approach.

In our system, you have kind of a board graph that allows you to manage your work easily, collaborate with your peers, both inside and outside the organization. It allows you to organize all your data in one place, so you don’t have to open ten different files or visit ten different web sites and click through many tabs. It’s all on your screen, very visual and easy to use. You see familiar faces there with avatar pictures for everyone, so it’s very easy to quickly see who is doing what, what was created in the Activity stream. If you’re familiar with Twitter, in our product you’ll see a lot of features that you’re already familiar with. You can follow people and tasks, whole projects. You can easily share files, you don’t need to set up Windows sharing directory to do that. You can attach files directly to your projects and tasks. You can collaboratively work on project schedules and you can easily open the Gantt chart to see the timeline and drag-n-drop things around, all in the background. It all works on Windows, Mac and Linux.

The tool is integrated with email, which is the feature our customers love. You can start a discussion online, then continue it on your Blackberry or iPhone, then get back online and continue there. You can go back and forth between different devices, between email and web interface. You can create tasks through email. For instance, you can send an email to your designer asking her to create a new logo for your product. Wrike can easily convert it into a task on the fly. In the subject line you say ‘Get it done by 11/15.’ Wrike will accept November 15 as the due date and will send a reminder to the designer and to you reminding when the task is due. It will keep track of your whole discussion. What’s important, it aggregates all those single emails and discussions into a bigger picture. When you discuss, say, a new feature of the product, it’ll be aggregated within one particular task.

When I explain it in such a short time, it might all sound a bit complex, but a great thing about our product is that no complexity is seen by the user. When you go to the web site and sign up for a trial, it’s really easy to create a new project, create a task and share it. One of our customers told us that the team adopted the product from day one. This is one of the key things that define our success.

GINA: I was about to say that a very comprehensive tool that is easy to use is absolutely key. I do know people go to where they will be able to read testimonials of some people who use it and they were able to start using it immediately. It’s certainly a tool that would benefit any project manager, any size project.
I do have a couple of other questions for you. Where do you see project management heading?  What is the future outlook of project management?  How will projects be managed and what skills will be important for future project managers?

ANDREW: As I said Project Management 2.0 offers light weight processes and cheap collaboration tools vs. focus on more predictable, bigger projects and expensive PPM software solutions. What’s even more important, Project Management 2.0 offers a major shift of focus from control to collaboration. This might sound subtle and subjective, but again, if you look at industrial projects, they were all about managing the resources. If you look at the creative projects – they’re all about managing the talent. That requires different leadership skills, processes and practices. So I see the growing importance of team’s role in project planning as one of the major directions in the development of project management.

Obviously, today’s talent economy makes leadership skills more important than ever. It’s no longer enough for project managers to master the schedule. To succeed today, project managers need to lead teams to their maximum creative potential and productivity.

GINA: What would you tell the project manager of today to do to start preparing for the future of project management?  What would you tell someone just starting out in project management?

ANDREW: That’s a great question. What I would recommend to someone new in the industry – never stop learning. I’m not only speaking about books, blogs, podcasts and seminars. Your day-to-day work process can be your best teacher. Say, your employee has an interesting idea. Figure out a way to inexpensively test this idea, try it in action, see the results, check the metrics. Did it work? What can you learn from it? Apply the same approach to everything that you and your team do. You should be learning from every estimate, deliverable, project, and campaign, be it success or failure. Anything might be a good lesson for you. That knowledge should be implemented in process revisions, and optimizations. The quicker is the feedback loop, the faster you’ll optimize. If you make this continuous learning part of your team’s culture, you’ll see amazing results. This simple and generic idea is explained in detail and specific applications in lean and agile methodologies, so I advise you to check those out. You can start by googling “Lean startup” and you’ll get a good starting point for your journey.

Also, remember that your biggest asset is your team. Your job as a manager is to embrace collaboration and improve productivity of everyone on your team. Institute the right project collaboration tools and leverage them in the day-to-day work. Make sure that the tools are easy to use and they’re adopted by the whole team. This way, you’ll get the most out of them. As soon as you find the right tool, you and your team will realize the positive impact. The well known triangle of people, processes and tools is interconnected, and you should be taking care of all three components.

GINA: Thanks for much for spending the time with us today Andrew.  I enjoyed our conversation and have no doubt others have also!  I encourage everyone to visit Andrew’s Project Management 2.0 blog. Also, go visit and check out the collaboration tool. Feel free to contact Andrew through his blog.