If you are like most project managers out there you likely reach frustration points at certain points in your career – perhaps even monthly or weekly – when you reach limitations in the PM tools available to you to do your job. I’m sure if we all had enough time in our days – and enough confidence in our abilities – we could map out exactly what we need and get someone to build the perfect PM tool for us…whatever your key job or responsibility may be. From a project management perspective, that is usually a scheduling and reporting tool that can wrap the process of task management up with the burden of status reporting along with the rose colored glasses view of collaboration and come up with one PM tool that does it all for us and puts us on easy street for the rest of the day or week. Does that sound like something you’ve dreamed about before? Maybe five minutes ago? Am I getting warmer?
Since around 2010 or so, the number of available Project Management tool options have increased exponentially. I was amazed, personally, when I started looking around for the usual MS Project alternative and started seeing new offerings from smaller companies in the US and around the world, with new ones popping up every week or month. If you’re in the market for a change, how do you choose what to switch to or even which ones to check out because you can’t feasibly test hundreds of options (and yes, there are literally hundreds of options now)? And if you’re in the market for your first Project Management software tool, how do you even begin to start rummaging through the options?
Well, for me it comes down to three key considerations…
Who will use the PM tool?
Any Project Management software assessment needs to include the thought of who will be using the PM tool. If the entire team will be collaborating (or if that is your hoped for scenario), then you need a very collaborative option. If your client will be using it as well, then you may need the ability to hide certain fields depending on the sensitivity of the data you are inputting into the software. These are impossible to discuss thoroughly here – it depends on the project needs, the customer wants and needs, and the complexity of the data you will be dealing with.
What does the PM tool need to accomplish?
What does the PM software tool need to accomplish. Most of the available options on the market today will give you much of the functionality that any PM organization could want. Gantt charts, resource loading, resource leveling, financial management, task and resource expense tracking, task dependencies, etc. Where the differences will come to light will be in the ability to customize the PM product for your specific and/or project-by-project needs. Some allow you to brand the software so if your PM client is looking directly at it, it looks like your PM solution… it continues company branding through the PM solution. Nearly all will allow some report customization, but a few available options allow for you to really do some major dashboard configuration and report modification and new development. Some allow you to customize screens for easier data capture and to ensure you are inputting and saving the exact information you need for your processes and reporting. This is important because it can make your weekly project status reporting to the client much more streamlined if you can customize the PM tool itself to force out the information you need to show the client on each project. That can differ between projects as well as between different clients. It’s all about preferences and what each client needs.
In Part 2 of this two part series on figuring out what PM tool best meets your needs, we will look at how best to deal with the budget aspect – if you even have one – and close it out with some brief thoughts on keeping it simple and not going crazy in the process of sifting through the available options in the overpopulated PM software landscape.