Tuesday, 09 August 2016 08:17

4 Signs You Need a Different Project Management Tool

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Just because we have a project management tool that seems to be working and that we have money invested in it doesn't mean we are married to it forever.

Times change. Needs change. Organizations change. Certainly, project management infrastructures and policies change. What that means, too, is that the software or the various software tools that we use to manage our projects, our project teams, and customers may also need to change.

Change can be hard – especially when there is a significant cost and a challenging and time-consuming learning curve. Adoption in the organization can be a challenge as well – and when we are looking at tools that allow for good communication and collaboration, then we are looking for enterprise-wide adoption. Why? Because anyone can be part of a project team or a project stakeholder and they need to be ready to adopt the new software tools we are utilizing. So the enterprise population has to be considered in any choices we may make when changing the way we do things and what we use to do our jobs.

What I'd like to discuss here are four signs that your project management tool or tools may need to be reviewed and changed – and we need to understand how we are going to make those changes as well...many aspects need to be considered.

Related Article: Post-It Notes Just Might Be a Project Manager's Best Tool

So, change may need to happen when:

Collaboration isn't happening.

Do you feel like you're doing all the work and everyone is “watching”? Do you get the feeling when you're talking to your project team that you are sometimes talking directly to a wall? Maybe it's time to step your project management software solution up a notch and find one that is a bit more collaborative than the one you are currently using.

If you find you are doing all the updating, reviewing and documenting and you're the team is just watching, then get a different tool that allows the entire team to participate and trust them to be accountable. And if they don't become accountable by using the tool and updating their assigned issues and tasks, then take some action.

Progress, progress, progress – it isn't happening.

Your team keeps giving you updates to the project schedule that show progress, but no apparent progress is being made.

Here's the scenario: It's week 32 of the project and your tech lead gives you an update to a key project task of 45% to 55% completion. From that point on you are getting updates from him that are showing minimal percent progress, but still some. Yet nothing seems to be really happening. He's showing progress out of pressure and obligation but isn't making progress. I know. I've been on both sides of the equation here as PM and as Tech Lead, and I've done it. We've all done it.

You need a tool that brings your team together, cohesively and collaboratively beyond just task completion progress on a Gantt chart. Go, search, find, test, conquer. There are lots of tools out there that will force more accountability from your team.

Issues are just a blip on your project status report.

Your issues list is just an area of your status report that you cover. That's good and necessary. But there are plenty of full-featured project management tools out there that will do issue reporting and management for you – with custom reporting. Wow! will that make your job easier? Will that make project life a little more enjoyable? Yes – yes.

Project management tools aren't just about watching how tasks flow and have interdependencies. There's much more to it than that, and we all know it. It's about custom reporting; it's about having knowledge and insight into what is happening on the project and how issues are progressing toward resolution. It's about communicating the big picture of project status.

Your customer isn't getting it.

If you are shutting your customer out of the project schedule and status insight or if they don't seem to want in, it may be time to bring in something different and better.

Sharing direct insight and collaboration with the project customer isn't everyone's dream and, in fact, your organization may not allow it according to policy. But look around, there are so many full-featured and affordable project tools out there that allow all stakeholders – customers included – excellent insight into the status of a project. Some can do a lot of the project reporting for the project manager and keep customer satisfaction high even in rough times because the customer has great insight into the issues, risks, tasks, collaboration, and status, usually in real-time, so they know what's happening and that progress is, indeed, being made. Why make life as a project manager harder. Let's make it easier; we've earned it.

Summary / call for input

No matter how long you've been using project management tool 'x' or how familiar your team is with it or how comfortable senior management is with it or even what a great deal you got on all the licenses you had to buy. There are tons of options available..and I'm going to start showing you some different ones next month in this space in a feature article about several different PM related tools that you should probably consider checking out. I'm not going to endorse any or rank them, but I think that many of us have blinders on and neglect some new and potentially great offerings out on the market now...some are even very low cost or even free. And many aren't really new but were new to me when I started looking around. I think it will be an interesting trip – hopefully even a series – to consider spreading our wings and allowing our chosen project management tool to help us perform even better on our projects. If your PM tool of choice seems not to be cutting the mustard...look around.

How about our readers? What all are you looking for in a project management tool? What are your favorites? What tool or tools help you get the job done? Why do you choose the ones you choose?

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Brad Egeland

PMTopContributorBrad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

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