Definitive Guide to Collaborative Project Management

Collaborative Project Management or CPM is the application of tools and processes to help employees working on projects to collaborate more effectively.  It is not a separate or standalone Project Management methodology. It applies equally well to all project management methodologies like Agile, Lean, Waterfall, and Hybrid.   Collaborative project management is based on best practices for using tools and processes to tap into the collective knowledge of all employees. This process helps to achieve project objectives faster and hence increases productivity.

The adoption of Collaborative Project Management practices requires enterprise-wide acceptance and buy-in by people at all levels of the company. From the CEO down, all stakeholders have to commit to this process. The implementation impacts the organization from a People, Process, and Technology perspective.

Collaborative Project Management has become both a buzzword and at the same time increasingly illusive aim to achieve for most corporations.  In 10 years since Harvard Business Review published about this subject, little has changed.  Companies spend Billions of Dollars on improving collaboration and productivity.  But unfortunately, have little to show for it. The HBR research shows that there are four factors that affect collaborative team building in organizations:

  1. Size: Today Project Managers can tap into a vast network of employees in the local market and abroad. It is not uncommon for teams to have 20 or more members.  The unintended consequence of large teams is that effective communication becomes less frequent and focused. In these teams, members are less likely to collaborate and communicate.
  1. Virtual Environment: We no longer expect team members to be in the same office, country, or even time zone.  A lack of physical contact can reduce the level of collaboration between members. In extreme cases, some members may never have met their colleagues in person.
  1. Cultural Diversity: Research suggests that team members are more likely to collaborate if they see themselves as alike.   Cultural differences and language barriers have been shown to reduce collaboration.
  1. Education Level: Although not necessarily an intuitive finding, HBR research indicated that more skilled workers tend to value collaboration less. These workers value independent work or collective work.

Despite the concerns above, Collaborative Project Management can thrive. This is done when the management is committed to the concept and helps to change the culture, process, and technology.  The organization should encourage collaboration across all departments in the company.

3 Elements of collaborative project management


  • Identify the executive or executives who will sponsor the project to enhance collaboration across all teams.
  • Divide stakeholders into groups like development team, design, manufacturing, etc.
  • Spend time on team-building practices within each group. If your team is distributed this takes more urgency and you need to use the right tools to achieve this.
  • Establish collaboration methods and objectives within groups and between groups in the organization.
  • Identify tools and methods to be used by everyone in the organization for collaboration & communication. A standard tool works best, but if needed different tools could be used by each department within the organization.
  • Establish guidelines on how the team collaborates and communicates and the cost to the company if the guidelines are not followed.
  • Build a culture based on trust and open communication to encourage collaboration.
  • Establish incentives for collaboration, teamwork, and meeting deadlines.
  • Identify individuals who refuse or are unable to collaborate effectively. Provide training first, if that does not work get rid of the employee.


  • Start every project by making sure all team members are aware of the importance of collaboration to the success of the project.
  • Have a training session for new team members not familiar with collaborative project management
  • Mandate group collaboration and how, when, and where collaboration takes place. Make sure there is buying from the workforce.
  • Set metrics on how to monitor and measure collaboration in your team.
  • Select a project management methodology that your team loves to use. Some project management methods encourage collaboration more than others.
  • Make sure the team is familiar with the methodology chosen for collaboration and project management. If the tool is new provide training.
  • Set incentives for when goals are met and penalties for when deadlines are missed.


  • Select a collaborative project management tool that supports the following at a minimum:
    1. Robust task management including graphical views like Gantt charts,  burn-down charts, and other project statistics.
    2. Collaboration features similar to social media which most people are familiar with.
    3. Communication tool for in-project discussions
    4. Brainstorming tool that lets team members collaborate regardless of where they are located
    5. Document Management and Collaboration tools including document versioning, tagging, and commenting.
  • Integration of the PM tool with third-party applications helps their acceptance in the organization.  It also helps to reduce the learning needed for new applications.

As project management software is moving into the cloud and is becoming more and more software as a service (SaaS), it becomes easier to add collaboration tools to the application. Most PM applications in the market today support some sort of communication among the team. The challenge is not just communication but better collaboration. Only a few PM tools on the market today really help with collaboration and Binfire is the leader in Collaborative project management software.

David Robins


David Robins is the founder and CEO of Binfire. David studied at both Cornell and MIT, and was the Director of Software Engineering at Polaroid for 11 years.

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