There are several reasons for considering a project management system or method for your team. Maybe you have recently grown, increased your contractor pool, or merged with another company. Whatever your reason, several online project management tools available today can keep you on task and stay organized.Do I really need one of these project management systems? Click To Tweet
Project management advantages
But, you may ask, do I really need one of these project management systems? Are one of these systems worth the financial and learning curve investments? The answer is yes, any size company can benefit from a project management tool. Here are some key reasons to choose a project management system:
1. Team collaboration
Chances are you have a project that involves several people and maybe several departments. A project management tool can be a forum for asking/answering questions, bringing up project bugs, and suggesting changes. Most of these systems let you attach files, reports, and other pertinent notes within a given project. This keeps everyone on the project organized and in constant communication with each other.
2. Delegate tasks
Tired of getting employees on the phone or answering an email? Online project management takes this back and forth communication away. Simply add all of your employees to a project management system and select which team members are responsible for which tasks. Everything is documented within a project, and it’s easy to double check if the team members or a manager are unsure what the assigned project roles are.
3. Documented project timelines
Whether you are running an internal project or something for an outside client, every project has a deadline. Project management tools allow you to track projects against these due dates, a valuable way to see if you are on track to finish or need to readjust the projected date. If you go over the due date with an external client, running a report to show this client why more time should be added to the project is easy. Or if a certain team member is holding up a project, finding the bottleneck is simple.
4. New team member/consultant learning curve
If you realize mid-project you need to hire more team members, online project management can help get these people up to speed on a project quickly. This is especially useful for a freelancer who may be hired for a specific need within a project. These new team members can look through the project timeline, see what has been completed on the project, and read any notes to cut down on the training time.
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5. Security access
Depending on your company, your team may consist of vendors, clients, internal employees, stakeholders, and freelancers. What you want one employee to see within a project may vary considerably from another. Most of these project management tools allow you to set security accesses. So, for example, you may want a vendor to just see information pertaining to sign design while the internal employees would see the overall new product launch.
6. Budget tracking
Besides tracking time, project management tools can keep track of budget. If the budget is off mid-project, showing management or a client why more money is needed to complete the project successfully is easy.
You know the saying “It doesn’t always go as planned?” Well, in business this is often true. You can lay out a plan to complete a project, but once it begins, it could take a new direction. With project management software, making changes along the way without slowing the project down is simple. Plus, every team member is on board with these changes since they are documented within the system.
8. Work environment
Since all team members and any external clients can be added to a project within a project management tool, the work keeps moving, everyone is invested, and more projects meet deadlines and budgets on time. This leads to repeat business, increased efficiency, and overall better communication. A recipe for a happy team is a willingness to put in the work and feel valued.
Cloud versus self-hosted project management toolsLearn more about cloud versus self-hosted project management tools. Click To Tweet
Now that you see some of the reasons to choose a project management tool, you’ll need to decide if an online or downloadable format is best for you. To help make your decision, here are the key features of both. Each feature comes with pluses or minuses depending on how you or your company operates.
Cloud project management features
Cloud-based project management systems are hosted by a third-party and housed off-site. This is less maintenance for you, and you won’t have to worry about making room to manage this project management system on your servers. On the other hand, you won’t have managerial control with things like system updates.
With cloud-based applications, the project management company makes sure your business’s sensitive information is secure. There is no need to invest in the latest spyware or assign an employee to monitor security issues. This could be a negative, however, if your company has strict security rules that won’t work with a pre-built project management system.
Online project management companies provide automatic updates for any known bugs and system upgrades. Usually these changes will be made behind the scenes at no inconvenience to you. On the other hand, if you do have an issue with the system, you’ll need to suggest a change which may not be implemented.
If you are not super tech-savvy or do not have a dedicated IT department, most cloud-based companies provide online assistance. Having help a phone call or email away is useful for quick questions without taking too much time away from managing your projects.
All cloud-based project management companies provide storage for your projects. Usually the initial packages are enough for most companies. If more storage is needed, these companies offer additional storage, usually with a higher price tag attached.
With a cloud-based system, you can have multiple users. But usually these systems charge more if you exceed a certain number of employees. And if you do, you’ll have to bump to a higher monthly fee and package.
Most cloud-based project management systems charge a monthly subscription fee. Usually, they feature a free trial and then a few plans to choose from based on the number of users and features you need. Since most of these systems charge a fee, you’ll need to factor this cost into your budget.
Self-hosted project management featuresLearn more about self-hosted project management features. Click To Tweet
Just like the name suggests, if you choose a self-managed project management system, you’re maintaining it on your own. This can be a good thing because it’s on your server, allowing you more control. Plus, you won’t be subjected to possible system updates or system outages, and it will be fast. However, if you have a smaller company, you won’t have third-party support for issues.
Security on you
Since these are downloadable project management systems, security is provided by you or your company. You can control setup, bandwidth, and storage space, plus the level of security needed. This is especially helpful if your company has strict data exposure and storage policies. However, you’ll need to monitor your project management system to make sure no sensitive information gets out.
System upgrades on you
Self-hosted systems require you to make updates. This can be a pain. Plus, if something goes wrong during the update, it could interrupt workflow.
Storage based on servers
Since these self-hosted systems run on your servers, you determine the storage size you need for all your files. There is no limitation for what or how much you can store. This may be particularly helpful if you are in a creative field with a lot of large design files.
Usually you can have as many users as you want with a downloadable version. The only drawback may be if some of these users are outside contractors, vendors, or stakeholders. Chances are you do not want everyone having the same security clearance, so you would need to monitor this yourself.
Larger upfront cost
Usually if you go with a downloadable version, you will have a larger upfront cost since it will be a one-time fee. This could be good if your company prefers budget items accounted for all at once. This could be bad if you are a smaller company that can’t afford the larger upfront cost. Plus, once you purchase it, you can’t return it or stop like a monthly fee plan.
Unique features offered through project management tools
Although many, if not all, project management software solutions come standard with multiple users, project tracking, and the ability to attach notes within a project, some systems offer unique features. If you have a specific need, study up on your project management tool options, and odds are you’ll find one to fit. Here are a few highlights of truly unique project management features.
Unique project view: Many project management systems use Kanban boards or a system where you need to scroll from one view to the next to get a project overview. Wrike gives you all your project details in a three-way screenshot. The first view is your project menu, the second window is a list of all project tasks, and the third is task details.
Customizable: Clarizen offers six views and several project templates, making this system flexible by nature. Plus, the learning curve is easier since you choose which option works best for your work environment.
Easy storage: This system offers central storage, making it easy to share files. You can name files for easy sorting and locating. You can also search for events, tasks and posts.
Prioritizing tasks easy. Projectplace is great at showing you what tasks need to be completed and by what dates. This allows you to easily plan ahead and assign tasks to team members before a project begins.
Track time easily. This system allows for easy time tracking on each project. You can track by duration or start/stop values. This gives users a lot of flexibility if you have external clients that all charge differently.
More for your money. Unlike other systems, Trello’s software helps you execute projects of any size. Plus, you can invite any number of people to your board for free.
Organize work and home. This app is simple enough to work for your business life as well as your personal one. The more time you spend with a project management tool, the easier it will be to use it.
Great for small teams. If you are a start-up or just have a few employees, this is a simple project management tool for you. Team members reply to an email about what they have completed for the day. The next day, everyone gets a recap via email of what has been done for the day on a given project. Super simple with zero learning curve.
Ranking task priority. When you have large projects, you add in all the tasks needed to be completed. The issue is what to tackle first. With Pivotal Tracker, you can rank tasks in order of importance. That way if a team member has several project tasks assigned to them, they know what needs to be done first.
Strong project history. Most project management tools help you move forward throughout a project, but sometimes it’s necessary to go backwards. Redmine tracks project history so you can go back and reference any relevant tasks. This is ideal if you run into bugs or if tasks need to be modified. This is also helpful when starting a new similar project.
What questions to ask to make a final choice
Although we’ve talked about overall features, pricing, and types of project management, every industry is unique, and every company is unique. What works for one company won’t work for the next. So it’s important to ask yourself a few questions before making your final project management choice.
What features does my company need?
As we’ve mentioned, every project management tool available has similar features while some are unique. Look at what your project needs are. Do you have several users? Are you a large or small company? Do you have multiple tasks? Do you attach a lot of files within projects?
Also, think about what type of project you typically create. If you have complex projects that require company buy-in, you may need reports and graphs to export. On the flipside, if your projects are similar and rather linear, you may find a free tool with basic functions is all you need.
How tailored should your project management tool be?
Project management tools, especially some cloud-based ones, are not super flexible. If you research project management tools and find you like features of several tools, you may be better off with a self-hosted site where you can tweak what doesn’t work for you. Or if you need some basic capabilities and you can live with a few minor complaints, a cloud-based platform may work better.How tailored should your project management tool be? Learn more. Click To Tweet
Also, think about your employees or team members who have to utilize a new project management system. Chances are you already have something in place. You want the change to be seamless and resemble the system you are replacing. Is a new learning curve feasible? How much time will it take to get up to speed? You certainly don’t want to implement a program that makes employees feel their jobs are harder or, worse, causes them to make mistakes.
Does this new system need to integrate with other company programs?
Do you use separate payroll, time tracking, or bug tracking programs? If your company has several integrations already, you’ll want to take this into account when choosing a project management tool. Most project management systems have integrations, but they all don’t integrate with the same programs. It’s a lot harder on your end to make these integrations work if they are not already offered as part of the package.
Does your project management tool need to manage software releases?
If your company needs to manage software development, you need different tools than the basic project management features. You’ll want features like Scrum and Kanban boards.
Will your clients, stakeholders or vendors be part of your project management system?
Whether you’re an agency or a publicly held company building a new website, collaboration may be necessary beyond internal departments. Can all these players access all your files within your project management system? The answer is usually no. The files you share with a one-time freelancer is different than a stakeholder, which is still different from a logo design vendor. If this sounds like your company, then carefully consider your security levels. You’ll want a project management tool that can account for multiple layers of permissions.
What is the pricing model?
Although every one of these is important, price is usually a final factor in selecting one project management tool over another. Every company, no matter how big or small, has a budget. If you are a small company, a free option may work well for you. Maybe you have a company who likes one-time fees for software, so a self-hosted site would work best.
The other factor: time is money. You want to choose a tool that is easy to implement without a lot of resources.Price is usually a final factor in selecting one project management tool over another. Learn more. Click To Tweet
Project management personalized
Deciding on a new project management tool can be a daunting task, but looking at the needs of your company makes it easier. We’ve laid out some things to take into consideration, but ultimately whatever system you choose should make your projects run faster, smoother, and be more organized.
Do you use a project management tool? If so, which one and why? Or have you recently switched online project management programs? What were your reasons for the change? Please comment below and let us know your thoughts.