Choosing Project Management Tools: 5 Must Have Capabilities
Keeping a project organized can be a challenging task, especially when there are multiple team members handling multiple workloads. Making sure your team can collaborate and communicate with one another easily is important to your ability to successfully complete the project on time. Because of this, you will want to make use of project management software.
Your project won't just benefit from the use of a project management tool, it may even depend on it. Many projects fail or succeed based on the effectiveness of the project management tool used. However, it's worth noting that not all project management software is the same, which means it is wise to compare tools before choosing which one to implement.
Start by Looking at What you want to Achieve
Project management tools can vary widely. Some offer very basic features, while others are much more comprehensive. Some are designed for use over a variety of different industries while others are specifically designed for certain types of projects or companies. Because of this, you'll want to compare project management tools carefully before you make your choice.
Before you begin comparing project management tools, determine what it is you want your project management software to do for you. This will make it much easier to identify which features will be helpful to your team and which features won't have that big of an impact.Keeping that in mind, here are five important capabilities your project management software should have.
1. Access and Control of Vital Data
Arguably one of the most important capabilities a project management tool should offer is the ability to share data and to communicate and collaborate with team members. These features are vital to the efficiency of your project and your team members' ability to work with each other effectively. Let's take a look at how a good project management tool should address these needs:
Effective Project Management Requires Team Collaboration
Most project management tools these days make use of the cloud, thereby allowing you to upload documents and data that everyone in the team can access, even if they are in remote locations. Team members should be able to upload or share their work in an instant. This makes it much easier to share important documents as opposed to having thousands of emails being sent back and forth with attachments that continually have to be downloaded and printed out.
The ability to collaborate in such a way makes it easier and quicker to access important data and helps keep everything organized. Some of the collaboration features you should look for include not just the ability to share, but the ability to edit, to retrieve previous versions of a document, and to synchronize files on the platform with the hard drive that a team member is using.
Good project management tools will not only allow document sharing between team members, but will allow team members to communicate in real time. This can be done with features such as one-on-one chat, team chat, and/or team video/audio chat. Such features also help save time since it requires fewer meetings for members to stay up to date with one another's progress. Collaboration and communication features are necessary capabilities that any good project management tool should provide.
Your Business Needs Granular Control of Who Sees What
Making project data more accessible to your team will make things more efficient. However, you'll want to have some control over who can access the platform and view any documents or work that has been shared or uploaded, especially if sensitive data is involved. Look for a project management tool that provides encryption on documents that are uploaded and shared. Reputable project management tools also allow the ability to automatically create multiple backups a day to ensure that all of your work is safe in the event that your system crashes. Lastly, find a tool that has privacy controls so that you can limit access. You may not want all of the project's team members to have access to certain information.
Odds are the project your team is working on is going to take a good bit of their time and effort so you won't want them wasting any of it deciphering the user interface of a project management tool. You will want to use software that has an easy to follow workflow and that is customizable to fit the unique needs of your team.
Easy to Follow WorkFlow
Team members should be able to figure out how to share documents, collaborate and communicate with teammates, identify their tasks, check the progress of the project, and view upcoming deadlines with ease. Tools that make users jump through hoops to figure out how to use their features effectively or that make it difficult to keep everything organized are going to be a drag on your project's efficiency. If a tool is difficult to use, your team members are more likely to get sidetracked from the task at hand and may be more prone to making errors as well.
The Ability to Customize the UX to Your Unique Needs
esides having a user-friendly interface that allows your team to get the most out of it with minimal training, you'll want to find a project management software that can be customized to help meet the specific needs of your team. Good developers are often open to customizing your software, whether it's making a few tweaks to make the tool easier for your team to use, or adding features that will improve your team's ability to complete the project successfully.
The ability to make your own minor customizations to features within the platform is a big benefit as well. For example, you’ll want the ability to customize reports so that key data and metrics are showcased in an effective manner. Even being able to customize the color schemes and logos on your reports can be a helpful perk.
Most businesses will want to use a project management software that acts as the hub for all of their team's work. However, there's a pretty good chance your team will still be using other systems and applications outside of the chosen project management software, such as native calendars and email. To make the use of these other systems and applications more efficient and more effective for your team, you'll want to find a project management tool that's integration-friendly.
For example, integrating your project management software with Gmail will allow team members to bring in filtered sets of emails into the project automatically, thereby reducing the amount of time they spend checking their email outside of the platform. Identify the apps and systems you would like to integrate beforehand and also ask about integration capabilities in general before choosing a project management software.
4. Help and Support
Considering the importance of your projects and the deadlines that must be met, the last thing you want is to be stuck in the wilderness because there's nobody to help you solve a glitch in your project management software or your team simply cannot figure out how to use one of its features. This is where a good support team should come in to save the day.
Make sure that the software you choose has a developer behind it that has a dedicated customer support team. Their support team should not only help solve any issues you might have with the platform, but should also help onboard your team quickly by walking them through the software step-by-step when you first implement it.
Find out what their support line is and whether you'll actually talk to a human when you call it. You should also pay attention to their availability -- will you be able to request and receive support off hours and during the weekends? Look for other support channels as well, such as live chat on their website or the ability to reach them through social media.
5. Active and Responsive Roadmaps of Future Functionality
Not only will your team have different needs for different projects, but new needs may develop over the course of a single project. A developer's ability to meet those new needs depends on whether they have active and responsive roadmaps for future functionality in place. The following are a few ways that you can tell:
The Ability to Request New Features
Look for a developer that welcomes requests for new features. This allows you to directly bring up the specific needs that your team has over the course of a project. A developer that actively welcomes feature requests is more likely to implement those features in updated versions of the software in order to meet your needs.
The Ability to See What Functionality Will be Coming Soon
Developers that keep their clients up-to-date on new features being tested or that are rolling out during upcoming updates or versions of the software are actively working to improve functionality and aren't just settling for what their current platform provides or what the current standards are. The effort to keep clients informed about future features is a good indication of their quality.
Define What You Need, Understand What You Want, Then Make Your Choice
These are five capabilities that you'll want to make sure the project management software you choose can provide; however, make sure that you know exactly what you want and what your team needs in order to make a more informed decision.