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Tired of paperwork?
Managing a project can be quite challenging, given the industry, size of the project, number of shareholders, timeline and more. If you would ask us, the size of the project is one of the more daunting aspects of project management. By size, we are referring to the relationship between the budget and the team size. Some of these teams may be in-house while others operate as contractors, partners or freelance collaborators. And because of these very differences among team members, there is an extensive degree of collaboration needed to successfully manage a project.
Considering that project management is only one of the many hats a business owner has to wear, creating a timeline that depicts how time is spent across activities is paramount to success. After all, the better you manage your time, the more you will have of it and the more you will be able to allocate towards leisure, work or other activities of interest.
Thanks to a wide range of digital solutions, you do not have to do it all on your own. Project management tools are designed to assist you in coordinating tasks and employees to execute projects effectively. Each tool drives upon unique techniques that can help small businesses make accurate decisions.
Note: In today’s world, tools are often referred to as web or mobile apps. Therefore when you hear the word “tools”, bear in mind that we are referring to both web and mobile applications.
Why look for a project management tool?
These tools are known to assist project managers in the following areas:
- Planning - You can plan, schedule and delegate work.
- Collaborating - You and your team can discuss ideas, give and receive feedback, and add on to each other’s work.
- Documenting - You have a database of all files that were shared and edited between the team members in one centralized place.
- Evaluating - You can measure productivity levels through readily available insights on progress and performance.
What to look for in a project management tool?
An effective project management tool has to deliver on a number of key areas and/or functions:
Ability to deliver a user-friendly experience
As with other purchases, an effective project management tool should satisfy your customer needs. If there are certain features that you are looking for, or features that the nature of your job requires, make sure that the tool has them. If not, you will be left relying on other tools to fill those gaps, making the process a whole lot complicated. Therefore, pay attention to the design, functionality, as well as integrated features to understand the app’s relevance to your business.
Integration of team members across functions
A good project management tool enables and encourages teamwork. The main driver behind obtaining such a tool is to allow you and your team to collaborate on a certain project in a centralized platform. What we mean by this is that as a business owner, you want to be able to add/remove members, upgrade roles, manage work performance at an individual level, as well as on a team level. At the same time, you want to be able to easily move data to your favorite data analytics tools - i.e. Excel - when needed.
Make sure that the tool you obtain gives team members enough room for contribution. This can happen through notes or messaging features within the tool.
Integration with other tools
When searching for a project management tool, it is in your interest to consider what other apps you use to complete your daily tasks. Then, consider whether the project management tool you’re obtaining integrates well with these other essential apps. For example, MS Excel is one of the most used apps by businesses of all sizes and across industries. As such, if most of your reports are stored in excel than make sure that whichever tool your plan to obtain has some sort of integration with excel - i.e. exporting fully configured excel reports.
What are the core techniques for managing projects?
The most useful project management tools and techniques have changed very little over the past decades. In fact, the only variable that has changed is the technology where these tools and techniques are being implemented.
Until the last 5 years, most companies operated projects on the basis of the “Waterfall Technique”. It is called Waterfall because of its top-down flow of tasks. The Gantt chart is a traditional tool that helps visualize the waterfall technique. Tasks begin at the top and they flow down with respect to time. Historically, compiling Gantt charts was a time-consuming activity which is why experts have started developing more agile, or faster, approaches to managing projects. Plus, technology has paved the way for digital tools that do all the work for the managers.
However, Gantt charts are only one of the many techniques that have drastically changed as a result of technology. We have already compiled a list of activities that help managers stay ahead of their projects in our “How do Time Management Activities Boost Productivity?” blog post.
Once you learn about the core techniques and their different functionalities, you are ready to jump into a digital tool that requires only monitoring and slight interpretations from the manager’s side.Related: Exploring 3 Strategies that Boost Work PerformanceAsana
Relevant for: Marketing, Banking, Software Development
Asana’s main characteristics are:
- Workload: Workloads give you insight about your team member’s level of engagement by allowing you to see how much work they are actually doing. This can help you see whether the workload is distributed well and use the data to determine how much more work a certain individual or team can take upon themselves.
- Calendar: The calendar lets you keep track of tasks and deadlines. It makes for a perfect source to see when a task is due, who is assigned to the task and what comments there are for you to address (in case of uncertainty).
- Timelines: Asana offers insights into project timelines in a visualized manner. You can physically see the progress of your project through Asana’s visual timeline features.
- Image proofing: The image proofing feature lets you tap into a specific area of the image you want to give feedback on. Graphic designers and project managers have now found a common language when collaborating on tasks and projects.
Relevant for: Small Businesses, Landscaping, Construction, Homecare, Painting, Cleaning
Atto’s main characteristics are:
- Mobile Time Clock: Whether you are the office, on the move or at a job site, the Atto mobile time clock does not leave any hour unaccounted for. Your team can clock in and out from a mobile device from anywhere the minute they start working
- Team Activity Insights: Stay updated on your team’s daily activity with real-time updates. You can keep track of who’s on and off the clock at the click of a button. Group your team into department, job site, or role to stay organized with Atto.
- Automated Timesheets: You no longer have to spend endless time going through and employee timesheets. Let Atto collect timesheets and send them to you right away, so you can focus on the big picture.
- PDF/Excel Reports: Atto’s automated reporting feature makes sure that you receive employee information when you need it the most. In fact, you can schedule reporting based on the payroll period to ensure employees are rightfully compensated for their work.
- Job Codes: You can create and track tasks with the job code feature, helping you stay on top of task progress and completion.
- Custom Integrations: In addition to the given features, Atto lets you customize integrations to fit your specific needs, depending on the size and nature of your business.
Relevant for: Real Estate, Accounting, Healthcare, Construction
Podio’s main characteristics are:
- Customization: Podio offers extensive customization features, letting you decide what features are relevant to the nature of your work, thereby adding and removing features as needed.
- Integrated CRM: The customer relationship management feature lets you gather information on customer management, track customer’s purchasing journeys, track leads and more.
- Communication: Keep up with the latest activity and the status of tasks from different members. You can chat with team members and schedule online meetings for more effective communication.
Relevant for: Computer Software, Retail, Information Technology, and Services, Marketing and Advertising
Basecamp’s main characteristics are:
- Instant Messaging: Forget about emails, the instant messaging feature of basecamp helps you navigate conversations with relative ease.
- Client access: You can give clients access to the work in progress. You are in full control of what the client has access to.
- To-do lists: Every project has its own to-do list. This feature gives you automatic notifications and reminders about tasks you’ve set out for the team.
- Message boards: You and your team can brainstorm and give each other feedback on your ideas through Basecamp’s message board
- Documentation: You and the team can share files and documents with each other, and even across Google Drives. Every upload is saved and every update is automatically recognized as a new version.