Selecting Project Management Software

Written by on May 31, 2015 in Personal Productivity with 0 Comments

Hands on keyboard computer whiteI’m getting ready to start a new project.  One of the first considerations I have is how am I going to communicate with multiple team players and the executive team.  This project involves a great deal of travel so I won’t be able to just pop into the office and provide an update.  I want to get started on the right foot so everyone knows what’s expected and how to use the tools for the project.  Here are some of the questions I’m asking as I make this decision:

What Are The Requirements?

Before selecting any software to use on a project, it’s important to know the business requirements.  For example, I know that there are multiple locations, some larger than others.  At each location there will be multiple people to contact and schedule meetings with.  The results and commitments of each meeting must be documented and tracked.  The executive committee wants a project scorecard each week reporting on the percent complete by location and function.  Therefore, some of the important requirements include:

  • Tracking Milestones and Tasks
  • Documenting Meeting Results and Commitments (including file attachments?)
  • Tracking Meeting Schedules (including contact information?)
  • Task Assignment Capability (including email notification?)
  • Project Status by Percent Completed by Location and Function
  • Reporting Capability (scorecards?)
  • Cloud Based/Remote Access
  • Resource Allocation
  • Budget Tracking

Be sure to evaluate each software package against your requirements.  You want to be able to track your requirements easily so you can focus on getting the project completed, not spending all your time in software work-arounds.

What Software Do We Use Currently?

Before deciding we need something new, it’s important to take a look around and see what the organization is already using.  In some cases, the software will be adequate to the task.  For example, organizations generally have spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel and Outlook for email.  Occasionally, the organization will use Microsoft Office Project software to track milestones and tasks.  These are good programs if you are on-site, but not necessarily the best options for working remotely.   It’s also not easy to track project completion and create scorecards.

In today’s business climate, sharing information and having information available immediately is crucial for project success.  Programs that worked 5 years ago are not adequate to the task today.  So how do you know what software to use?

Reviewing Options

One popular site for checking out business software is Capterra (http://www.capterra.com/project-management-software/).  This site allows you to filter by requirements and access the list of software options directly from their site.  They provide a “Top 10 list” and “Most Popular” so you can see what’s new.

Another site is Software Advice (http://www.softwareadvice.com/project-management/top-ten/).  At this posting, they report they have reviewed 41 Project Management software options.  Answer a few questions and they will help you narrow down your search.  They also provide a list of “Top 10” and show a list with the best recommendations.

There are other options, so look around and pick one you trust.  Click on each software link and watch the product videos, take the product tours, and read the list of options and pricing.  This will help you narrow down the list significantly.

Test the Software

Many of the software packages offer a free 30 day trial.  I suggest that you sign up for the offer for the sites you identify as most likely to work for your needs and the organization.  Add a project and milestones/tasks and see how easy it is for you to use.    You should be able to tell almost immediately if the software will match your project management style and meet your needs.

Get Team Involved

Get your team involved in the decision.  They are going to be using the software too.  Get their buy-in on the process and procedures well in advance.  That way there are no surprises and the team has some say in the software selection.  They are more likely to use the software if their input was considered in the selection process.

Deb Miller is a Project Manager with 18+ years of experience providing project management and coaching services.  Contact Deb for more information at MillerProductivity.com

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