One of the most important aspects of a project manager’s job is choosing the right project management software. It might sound simple. They all do the same stuff, right? Wrong. Or more like Ish. As a rule, they claim to have similar features but the real, I-got-your-back-news is that not all of them are created equal. Like people, they have different strengths and weaknesses and it’s your job to figure out which software is right for you, your project and your team.
Ease of use
The number one item to look for when choosing a project management software is ease of use. This is even more important now that we’re working remotely. In the old days if a user was confused and needed assistance they could run to a co-worker’s desk but with that option removed, they need to troubleshoot on their own. Or preferably, not at all.
A project management software isn’t useful – and won’t help get the project done – if your team isn’t using it. I’ve worked on many projects where the team was so frustrated by the project management software that we had to create Google Docs to share information instead. Instead of investing in a software that had a quick learning curve we ended up sitting through countless training sessions, in the middle of production, that still didn’t help. This information was too little too late. It also wasn’t intuitive. The Google Docs had won.
When a user opens their project management software at the start of the day they should be met with an overview of the project. The Dashboard should include things like a personal to-do list, milestones, progress reports, due dates, real time key task statuses and an overview of the schedule. It can include anything that you, as a project manager, feel is important for you and your team to stay on the same page.
Dashboards should be easy to read and easy to use. They shouldn’t be littered with excess information, the goal here is to stay on top of the project with transparency. I’ve worked on projects where the project management software didn’t have a dashboard that allowed for an overarching visual of the project and everyday it meant we were starting from scratch, hunting down the information we needed to start our day and keep our teams on track. It also meant we were relying heavily on emails and morning scrums to communicate information that a Dashboard could’ve provided.
A scheduling tool is one of the most useful project management software tools. A scheduling tool needs to be easy to use, easy to understand and easy to find. With remote work the importance of a schedule the entire team has access to – understands and is able to update quickly — is even more important. It’s the lifeblood of how we keep our projects on track.
In some cases, a project management software can fail us in this regard. I’ve worked on projects where the project management software didn’t have a strong scheduling tool and as a team we were unable to rely on it. We need a robust scheduling tool and the software our company had chosen had not prioritized this. Most of us weren’t able to figure out where to find the schedules and it was such a well-known issue that we were not required to. Our project managers relied on Excel documents instead.
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File uploading and sharing
Of course, we’re using project management software as a communication tool, which means we’ll need to upload and share files. A project manager’s job is to ensure that the software is able to do just that, in the formats their specific project requires. Let’s say you’re working on an arts-oriented project and the artwork needs to be uploaded before the next department is able to start their work. If your artists constantly have to save in a different format chances are high that they are going to forget to upload the latest version. Anything that requires an extra step should be a red flag.
I have worked on projects where the project management software wasn’t intuitive and it was hard to locate uploaded or shared files. The note-taking tool was also dismal, so without doing a thorough keyword search we were never sure if we had the latest information. We were also unable to send files directly to other users which meant all teams were circling through the entire system all day. It made for A LOT of meetings.
As team members are updating task and status’ reports using the project management software we want to make sure we can use this information to compile progress reports. At a glance, these project reports should sum up where your project is at overall and per department. Progress reports depend heavily on user contribution and are ultimately useless if your team members aren’t updating their task statuses along the way.
Does that happen? YES. If a project management software isn’t the sole form of communication – if team members are hopping around from emails to chat to meetings to informal catch-ups in the hallway – updating tasks statuses can feel like a useless task. If no one is really looking at them then keeping them updated won’t be a priority. I’ve worked on projects where we were so busy communicating updates through other means that we barely had time to keep our task statuses up to date. It wasn’t an ideal situation and often there were errors in the progress reports.
Overall, a project management software should be where your project lives and like any living, breathing organism, it should thrive in that environment. In a work-from-home world a project management software that does exactly what you need it to, is easy to use and integrates well with other tools used on the project, is what matters most.
Nutcache is a robust project management software that all project managers should look into. It may be the difference between a project that successfully reaches its end goal without too many hiccups or a project that fails to do so.