As budgets and staff decrease, it may be more difficult than ever to effectively manage your business’ multitude of work projects efficiently.
Years ago, if you wanted software to manage your projects, your choice was easy: Microsoft Project ruled the market. While this is still a great option, there are now hundreds of project management solutions in all price ranges: Jira, Asana, Trello, Zoho, Podio, Wrike, Clarizen, Volerro, and many others. With so many choices, how do you find the best one for your project?
Before choosing any type of software, the most important thing to know is why and what you need it for. Here are some questions you should ask as you figure this out.
• What kind of project are you managing? Are you constructing a home or office? Organizing a corporate event or planning a wedding? Are you tracking all tasks that must be completed before you can launch your new website? Some project management tools have specialized features designed with a particular kind of project in mind.
• What is your biggest challenge? For many of us, paper, a white board, or a spreadsheet may not be fulfilling all of your project management needs. Some of the biggest business challenges you face are simply too complex for this type of tracking:
Keeping track of all the tasks: Post it notes are great, but not a project management solution.
Communicating with the team: It’s a big morale booster to have someone finish a task and then find out it was changed or – worse – deleted.
Version control: There are so many copies of the project plan floating around that you’re the only one who knows which one is correct.
Keeping up with planned vs. actual results: It can quickly become difficult to quantify a project’s performance compared to the plan.
• How many people are on the team? If you’re a one-person team, you may not need collaboration tools. The number of people who will use the project management software also impacts cost. There are a number of options available for a low monthly fee for up to five users, and if you only need one license for the software, there are free choices.
• Who is on your team? If you’re managing a group of writers who are updating the content on your website, you have a creative team that needs to collaborate, including sharing ideas, documents, and images. If you’re managing a team of scientists, you may want a tool that clearly presents each quantifiable task. What is the deliverable? Who is responsible? When does it start? When is it due?
• How will you present your results? If you need to present detailed charts and graphs at a weekly meeting, you need a tool with strong reporting features. If you are going to give a short monthly update about the status of key deliverables, you need software that lets you track progress against milestones, and graphs and charts may be less important to you.
You have plenty of choices, so do your research regarding what tools are the best fit for your needs. Create a list of requirements and shop for a solution that will meet them. In addition to ensuring you pick software that will do exactly what you need, your requirements list will also keep you from being distracted by very cool features that you will never use.
With all the great project management software choices available to you, stop losing sleep over questions like, “Did I remember to add that task that John mentioned in the hallway today to my white board?” Identify the problem you need to solve, list your requirements, and find a solution that can simplify management of your projects.
About the Author
Sylvia Garner is President of DragonPoint, a software development firm founded in 1988 that specializes in designing and developing custom software applications to meet unique business needs. Sylvia has managed software development projects as large as 25,000+ hours. Sylvia has served as a board member and IGNITE mentor with weVENTURE.
Columnist series sponsored by weVENTURE, powered by the Florida Institute of Technology. weVENTURE has locations in Melbourne, Rockledge and Orlando. The Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
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