How to Choose the Right Project Management Tool
IT departments were early adopters, but project management software is now becoming a must-have tool in all sorts of disciplines. As the complexity of initiatives increases, so does the need for collaboration and interdependence between a company’s internal departments. Strong coordination and smooth handoffs of a project’s moving parts are also essential between organizations and their vendors.
Whether a business is developing a cutting-edge website or building a new facility, a project’s myriad parts need to come together. Project management tools provide centralized methods of assigning tasks, tracking progress, setting goals and timelines, and communicating across teams. While most applications share some basic features and functionalities, these can also vary widely between solutions.
Knowing what your business needs to get out of a project management tool is the first step toward selecting the right one. However, some other considerations and scenarios can influence your decision. This article explains how to determine which project management solution is the right fit for your team.
Prioritize Your Pain Points
Your company wouldn’t be looking for a project management solution if there weren’t underlying pain points. For example, maybe employees suggest that meetings need more structure and that there should be greater accountability for action items. Perhaps communication between staff members and departments isn’t as smooth as it needs to be. Assignments are getting dropped, and certain people on the team seem to be picking up the slack more than others.
To narrow down what you need from an app, make a list of obstacles you face during a project’s execution. By matching these needs with the features of a project management tool, you can then prioritize your list. For example, say you determine uneven workloads and poor coordination are the root causes of missed deadlines. Then, features such as customized views and automated assignment handoffs will move to the top of your list.
As you align an app’s functionalities with your pain points, ask stakeholders whether they think those features are actual solutions. For example, a tool may have an attractive interface but may not provide a helpful overview of a project’s timeline or progress. If tracking where everyone’s at with their tasks is a problem, activity logs and automated status updates will prove more valuable.
Determine the Scope of Use
A smaller business with a team of five employees may not need to share project information with external vendors. But a medium-sized company or large enterprise might want to exchange data, share project timelines, and coordinate tasks with third parties. Without a standard tool to use, deadlines and other vital information could easily fall through the cracks.
While some project management solutions are installed locally, others are cloud-based. Local applications can work well for organizations that don’t need to share project data with outside vendors. Such apps will allow internal teams to access project information as long as they’re using company-issued devices on your network. This may be the best solution if only in-house teams will be the only hands-on deck for now and the foreseeable future.
But cloud-based solutions will be more scalable and practical if remote employees or third parties need access outside of your network. You can still control who can view and edit the data, sometimes more efficiently than with local apps. You’ll also be setting the stage to accommodate future team growth and collaboration with independent contractors and remote workers.
Evaluate Potential Learning Curves
Investing in a project management app that’s scalable and has features to solve your pain points is one thing. But it’s a completely different ballgame when it comes to getting your team to use the tool you’ve provided. Purchasing a project management solution that’s difficult to understand is sometimes worse than not getting one at all.
During the selection and evaluation process, have employees try out the tools that are on your shortlist. Many project management app developers offer free trials or demos so you can experiment. Have the team go through the interface and test the features with a dummy project. If the demo or trial period is long enough, load an actual project into the tool and see how well it works.
At the end of the trial phase, gather feedback from the team to combine with your own observations. Ask whether the features and functionalities within the tool performed well. Was the interface easy to use and understand? Determine whether the features truly solve the pain points you’ve identified. List any gaps or difficulties that came up during the trial, and see whether the team thinks extensive training will be necessary.
Consider Integration and Workflow Capabilities
Project management tools are rarely limited to stand-alone or self-contained capabilities. Many of these apps can integrate with other software your business may be using. For instance, a tool might have an API that’s compatible with your customer relationship management or instant messaging software. Integration capabilities like these can sync your team’s efforts across multiple apps, saving them the headache of switching between them.
Your employees will also appreciate a tool that supports their current workflow methods and processes. For example, a software development team that’s used to working in sprints needs assignment capabilities that break down larger tasks into subtasks. Likewise, a group that prefers planning via visual cues will require capabilities that simulate Kanban boards or Gantt charts.
Since introducing another app requires employees to shift gears, integration and workflow capabilities that support existing processes can lessen resistance. As a result, the team will have an easier time acclimating to the tool and realizing its benefits. And leadership won’t have as much of an uphill battle convincing the troops why using a project management tool is necessary.
Selecting the Right Tool
Because there are so many options, choosing the right project management software for your business might seem overwhelming. It’s challenging to know where to begin and easily get distracted by a list of promises and functionality claims. That’s why it’s best to start with an internal list based on the obstacles your team sees. Whether it’s an unclear definition of roles or difficulty knowing where assignments are at, determine which pain points are the most problematic.
Once you’ve identified why your business needs a project management tool, you can go about finding the right one. Matching available features to your “why” is a good start, but you also need to figure out who will use the tool. From there, evaluating ease of use and fit will trim your shortlist down to the winning candidate.
Finally, your business will gain the solution it needs to improve project execution significantly.
Image Credit: William Fortunato; Pexels; Thank you!