They say one size fits all. I know that doesn't really work out so well in the real world, but we have all been sold that type of product as consumers. We fall for it – sometimes it's ok and sometimes that one size really only fits about two people in the world.
Now, what about an all-in-one project management solution? You've used all-in-one printers, I'm sure. That's really all most of us buy anymore... some work great, some are problematic, but basically do the job. The same goes for all-in-one project management software. But what does all-in-one really mean for a PM system? Let's first consider some of the core all around functionality most of us would want in such a software package. My top features would probably be these: task management, resource management, status reporting, some sort of pricing or budgeting function, a dashboard view or views, and an issue or bug tracker of some kind. That would likely carry most project managers, teams, customers and all stakeholders through 98% of what is really needed on a daily basis for each project or creative initiative being managed.
We can argue all day over what else might be included. Collaboration? Hopefully that's covered through joint access to the above. Though document sharing would be a nice touch. Change order tracking? Could probably be handled in “issue tracking” but a separate change order mechanism would be nice and probably helpful. Others? Please share your thoughts and wish lists...
Now, what would be the benefits of going after an all-in-one project management software solution? For me, a few – basically four – key benefits come to mind (and yes, they overlap a bit)...
Cost savings. The obvious one is cost savings. Usually you are going to save money by having an all-in-one software. However, you often will lose some functionality along the way because the software vendors can't build Cadillacs for each function... something usually has to give. Be mindful in your search. Pay attention to individual strengths in different areas of each software and choose what fits best for you.
One learning curve for users. One learning curve. Long learning curves are what turn inexpensive software into expensive software. Buying an all-in-one piece of PM software doesn't guarantee a shorter learning curve. Though, since it comes from the same developers, the features likely have some carry over shared functionality making it more intuitive to learn everything about the software. An easier learning curve means faster and more enterprise-wide adoption and that's always a good thing.
Everyone is on the same page. If everyone is using the same software, then everyone is on the same page, sharing the same type of information, helping each other out with the same knowledge base and speaking the same project language. It's a win-win whether you realize it right away or not. Trust me, ...and if all the functions fit your organization well, then it's win-win-win.
Upward sharing of status is easier. Not only is everyone on the same page, but your senior management should benefit because sharing project information – and hopefully project portfolio roll-up information – will be easier and faster. The same holds true for the customer side and their sharing of project info across and up their organization.
Summary / call for input
I'm not a fan of piece-mealing everything. I do that on my own often because I'm used to using Excel separately for financial tracking on projects – I can be old school that way just out of stubbornness. But if there is a tool that can cover the bases on those functions that are key to the daily operations of the project engagement, then I'm all for it.
How about our readers? What are your thoughts on all-in-one PM software? What features would you consider basic and critical to be included in such software?