In the last post, we explored the importance of having established project management processes before buying a project management software. Once you have a basic project management framework in place, you might want to consider available project management tools that will help you in automating your processes and keeping your data organized and current.
When you are ready to investigate hundreds of options available, ask yourself those three questions before deciding on the project management software:
Who will use the tool vs who will use the data from the tool?
If the goal is to give the management team visibility into project work and high level project performance statistics that they can use in the strategy planning sessions, then you should focus on a tool that offers portfolio/program management. Those applications might be lighter on the detailed project management activities, but will produce summary reports and graphs that otherwise might take hours to put together. However, if it is your project team that would be mostly using the tool, then the focus should be on managing detailed project data and activities and overall usability. Your project teams might want to use the tool to check their task assignments, schedules, provide updates (addressed specifically in point #3) and collaborate with their peers.
Who will do the implementation and configuration of the tool?
It’s not enough to just get a licence for a project management software and start managing projects. You will have to set up users, reports, define all the required data points, configure your workflows and processes and much more in order for the tool to actually help your organization instead of creating more work. And, after all that, you will have to train your teams and communicate with them, and then communicate more. Otherwise, you might be looking at a long adoption time and frustrated team members. It might be beneficial to consider one time implementation and configuration cost rather than trying to do everything internally. Those costs might be easily recovered by making the project management software become operational faster, and most of all, having a happier team who is excited about the new tool and what it can do for them.
Who will be maintaining the data in the tool?
You have to determine the balance between the project details and the administrative tasks that you (the project manager) and/or your project teams are willing to commit to. Establish who will be maintaining the project data – PMO (i.e. project managers) or the project teams. If the expectation is that the project team will be providing detailed, task level updates, then it is crucial that they are on board with the process, have sufficient training and understand expectations. Project teams frustrated with the project’s administrative tasks might be challenging to turn around and most likely will stop using the tool altogether making it a wasteful purchase.
There are many more things to consider when selecting a project management software, but thinking about those three questions should help you narrow down your choices.