Project Management Tools: How to Choose?
Choosing the right project management tool for your team is a lengthy and complicated process that can drag on for months. One way to make your life easier is to follow a plan that will help you select the best product for your organization. Below are five easy steps that you can use, regardless of the size of your organization, as a basis while choosing a project management tool.
Step 1: Decide On Your Objectives
This one is critical. If you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to achieve, you’re wasting your time and money. If you don’t set measurable goals – you’re wasting your time and money. If the timeline for your objectives is unknown or longer than 6-8 months – you guessed it – you’re wasting your time and money.
Step 2: Define Requirements & Constraints
When you’re shopping for a car, you will most likely have done your homework before committing to one model or the other. You know what features are important to you, and which ones aren’t. You must have an air conditioner, but a sunroof is really optional. Naturally, you know your budget as well.
Well, it’s the same with project management software. Go back to Step #1 and review your goals. Based on these goals, you can decide what features are required to achieve them. If you’re not sure – get some free education. Find a vendor that offers free project management webinars, sign up for one, and see what’s available out there. Sometimes, you just don’t know what you don’t know.
Then put together an evaluation spreadsheet and group all features into 3 categories:
- Must Have
- Should Have
- Nice To Have
Word of caution: Don’t go too crazy. Too many features might make a product too complex and hard to adopt for your team. Ease of use will be key in gaining adoption within your organization. Therefore, be conservative when you’re labeling a feature as a must have; think about who in your team will really need that feature on a daily basis.
Once you have the list, you can measure potential vendors against it, along with the estimated cost (also, know that most products are offered with bulk discounts, so if you need more than just a handful licenses be sure to contact the vendor directly!). A big chunk of the project management tools are priced per active users, so you should know how many people in your organization are going to use the product.
Step 3: Get Buy-in From Your Team
Speaking of people – make sure you’re not the only one championing the new product. You’ll need buy-in from your entire team (or if you want to use fancy PM jargon – from all stakeholders). Both management and regular team members must support this initiative, or it’s going to fail (see Step #1 regarding time and money). In order to get this support, you’ll need to come up with personal benefits based on company’s goals and objectives. Try to personalize the case you make for each stakeholder. For executives, seeing the whole project in one screen will be valuable. For team members, easy collaboration will be important. Know your audience. Then address their pain points.
Step 4: Choose a Suitable Environment
The next decision: Cloud vs. On-Premises. For most organizations, the cloud option (also referred to as hosted or SaaS) is a no-brainer. You don’t need to worry about server maintenance, backups, security and other boring but important stuff. However if your corporate policies require that all sensitive data has to be stored in-house, and you have an internal IT department that can take care of the implementation, then you can consider a vendor that offers on-premises licensing.
Step 5: Try Before You Buy
For Step #5, we can go back to our cheesy car analogy – you’d never buy a car without taking it for a test drive. Why would you buy project management software without trying it first? Make sure that yourself and at least 2-3 people on your team (naturally, this number can vary depending on the number of final users) give the product of your choice a couple quality weeks before opening up your corporate wallet. A vendor that offers free training and easily accessible support will go a long way in getting you comfortable with the product, so see if you can find one that checks off these boxes.
Should you follow these 5 simple steps, the chances of your project management software implementation being a success will be infinitely greater than an unstructured approach, and you’ll be reaping the benefits of a well-organized and efficient team in no time.
Are there any extra steps you’d add to this list? Do you think any of these are way off? Share your thoughts with us using the comments section!
Vadim Katcherovski is the CEO of Logic Software Inc. based in Toronto, Canada. He has over 20 years of experience in the IT industry and has managed dozens of software development projects.