Very few solutions are one size fits all. Project management software is no exception. Every team communicates about projects, tracks tasks, and reports progress differently. But with so many different management methodologies and the diversity of needs in organizations and teams themselves, it’s impossible that any one tool can do everything for everyone.
PM software has proliferated in recent years. It’s great to have so many options, but when you need something to manage projects, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. This quick primer breaks it down into three phases, with some concrete suggestions to help you determine which software best fits your project management needs.
Assess your current situation and determine your needs
Before diving into the selection process, it’s essential to get a handle on your current situation. Whether you’ve been a PM for years or started yesterday, do some observation and analysis of what’s been working and what hasn’t. Ask questions like:
- What software has the team used in the past? Why were some solutions chosen over others?
- What’s the team’s workload, and how involved are the projects?
- Who would be the users of the PM software?
- What project methodology do you use? Have you used others in the past?
- How important is it that the software aligns with your project methodology?
If your team is small and local enough, then an upgrade from spreadsheets to a simple tool with limited functionality should do the trick. Alternatively, if you’ve got a ton of complicated projects going on at once, with many deliverables, lots of milestones, and a plethora of vendors and stakeholders involved, you’ll need a sturdy workhorse of a solution.
It’s also possible that you’re managing things pretty well, but there’s one area of weakness that needs improvement with better tools — like tracking progress or reporting.
Research and test out the top options
Now it’s time for the fun part: the test drive!
With the results of Step 1 in mind, make a list of providers and solutions that might meet your needs. You can get some great recommendations via word of mouth — or even good old-fashioned Googling, but here’s a starting point of some great options for your list (in no particular order):
Trello – Great for task management, with lots of fun features and integrations to customize it for your team. Trello is visual, incorporating boards, cards, and lists.
Smartsheet – A sophisticated solution with spreadsheet-based tools, but also offering much more, like Gantt charts, calendars, dashboards, and other functionality.
Basecamp – Comprehensive management and communication solution, with a charming host of features. Expect a smooth onboarding process for your team.
Jira – An old favorite for many, Jira is reliable and widely-used, offering a highly-customizable solution that can integrate with pretty much any other application your team uses.
Zoho Projects – Flexible enough for large and small projects, Zoho is excellent for breaking down tasks and tracking to deadlines.
Asana – Intuitive, great for collaboration, and able to incorporate tasks, calendars, files, notes, and more. The timeline view allows you to keep track of complexities.
Wrike – Like Basecamp, Wrike has an easy learning curve, allowing your team to jump in. Offers features like lists and feeds, plus timekeeping and options for managing ongoing work.
Teamweek – Grown out of a need for better time management, this straightforward tool is great for creating visual roadmaps.
Now that you have your list, cull it down to five or so options. Reach out to vendors and request a free trial. Some may offer a demo, but it’s crucial for you and your team to get an authentic feel of tools with test runs. So be firm and persistent in asking for a trial.
Through the analysis and research phases, keep your project management methodology style at the forefront of your mind. For example, don’t get enamored with a Kanban-based solution when you have a Scrum team. Make sure the software is the right fit for you.
Choosing and implementing the solution
During the free-trial phase, ask your team members to take notes and evaluate each solution. Ask them to rank each option or provide scores on how well the tool meets the needs defined in Step 1. Using this method, a quantifiable favorite should emerge.
Next, it’s up to you to balance the team favorite with other variables that go into the choice. For example, you need to consider security. Keeping things locked is particularly crucial if you bring in external stakeholders or clients on projects.
Also, do you have a budget? What about your preferred subscription options and contract length? While the best fit for your team’s needs should be your number one consideration, there are other factors involved.
After going through this process, you should be able to sign on the dotted line for the winning solutions. Congratulations! You’re on your way to more effective and efficient project management. Next up is implementation — and you’re sure to be occupied with integrations, security protocols, and setting up training for your team. Happy planning!