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Author: Asya Karapetyan

15 Little Known Tools for Project Managers, that may Suit Team Needs Perfectly

 Today a huge line-up of apps is available for managing projects. You can find absolutely any software suitable for company and team needs.

The problem is, of course, knowing which program to choose. In this article I am not going to cover such well known and sophisticated software as Microsoft Visio, Gantt Pro, Jira and others. But let’s take a look at some less well known apps for project managers. Although they may be unknown to you, some have great features and may suit your team perfectly.

1. Redbooth – an online PM program available on any platform. The service is especially convenient for developers because it allows you to track bugs, plan activities and projects, manage resources and assign tasks to colleagues, set deadlines and monitor project expenditure as well as share files. It also can be synchronized with Gmail, Google Drive and Outlook.

Pros: simple and user-friendly interface; tags and chats; ability to create reports and integrate with other services.
Cons: no possibility for prioritizing tasks; does not show billing percentages upon task completion.

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2. Easy Redmine – Open Source software for planning and managing large projects with extensions for resource management, finance, CRM, etc.

Pros: the software can be installed on your own server; great for serving big teams
Cons: no general visualization for projects; inconvenient navigation; planning design sprints quickly is not possible

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3. Freedcamp service – an organized workspace for immediate viewing of the whole project, billing and assigning tasks with the use of “stickers” and a calendar. Freedcamp provides add-ons for CRM, preparation of invoices, bug tracking, and creating wiki pages.

Pros: ability to prioritize tasks; convenient tabs to separate different projects; easy to use; fast with responsive customer support.
Cons: no ability to view progress and percentage completion of tasks.

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4. Merlin – software to create Gantt charts for Mac with the ability to monitor costs and project budget.

Pros: software can be installed on your own server.
Cons: no unique features; low mobility; available for macOS users only.

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5. Zoho Projects – a project management program that allows you to plan your project in collaboration with team members; also to create and assign tasks, monitor updates, export reports and analyze their effectiveness, commenting and discussing the challenges while obtaining a summary of discussions for each task.

Pros: except for Zoho Projects, you can also use Zoho Mail, Zoho CRM, Zoho documents, depending on the your company’s needs.
Cons: too many features make the software too complicated; slow file download.

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6. VSDX Annotator – an application to view and annotate Visio files on Mac. While Microsoft Visio is widely used by project managers, there is a problem when Mac users want to view vsd, vsdx and vdx files. VSDX Annotator helps to solve this problem and provides the possibility of annotating files, exporting in PDF and even saving back in .vsdx for editing the files later in Visio.

Pros: high resolution when displaying huge Visio files; wide range of annotation tools; easy to use; low price
Cons: no possibility for editing files; no version for iOS devices.

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7. Podio – an application that allows you to work on projects simultaneously with the team as well as manage projects or tasks for storing and sharing files. The application can be used as a CRM system or as an intranet in which team members can share ideas.

Pros: flexibility and customization with most products; ability to assign resources and track numbers (budget, expenses, etc.)
Cons: inconvenient for navigation.

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8. Wrike – a unified system for working on projects with extensive functional features. It allows you to assign roles and create a workspace for each department to formulate and discuss problems, monitor their status and progress, share files, display project tasks on Gantt charts and receive weekly reports.

Pros: suitable for both large and small teams; possibility of creating separate folders for different projects.
Cons: with so many branched in multi-level projects the user could get lost in the navigation.

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9. Acunote – a task manager app for developers, which allows planning sprints, making tasks in the backlog, assigning tasks to team members, putting up estimates, following up on task implementation, and even performing a Review of codes.

Pros: one of the most popular and reliable SaaS solutions to manage your tasks, with instant notification and the possibility of analyzing your efficiency.
Cons: with no mobile applications or optimization, UX/UI is far from being user-friendly.

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10. Insightly – a CRM system and project management tool with integration with Gmail, Google Apps, Outlook 2013 and Office365. It allows you to quickly manage tasks and monitor the status of marketing and sales.

Pros: simple and friendly interface; easy to set up; has iOS application.
Cons: suitable only for tasks involving customer relations.

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11. SprintGround – a task manager supported by Agile/Scrum. It allows planning sprints and releases, tracking progress of projects, reporting bugs and requesting new features based on user feedback.

Pros: free for small businesses; optimized for Agile.
Cons: no synchronization with Mail or Cloud services.

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12. ISETIA – a project management service that combines the Kanban board, a hierarchical structure of tasks, with Gantt charts. It allows users to share documents and files in the system.

Pros: simple interface; ability to visualize data in various forms.
Cons: seems to lack service support.

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13. eXo Platform – a service that connects all employees, developers and customers. It is a kind of combination of all communication channels, from the intranet, mailboxes to social networking and blogs.

Pros: an impressive extended functionality.
Cons: can be difficult to initiate this service; frequently hangs.

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14. RunMyProcess – the service is not only focused on app integrity and integration but also interfaces with other services. Its main aim is to build your own solutions, connecting with services already in use and communications channels.

Pros: convenient, especially for those who cannot find a service that meets all the needs of a team or company.
Cons: despite its apparent simplicity of use, creating applications based on RunMyProcess could be time consuming.

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15. Smartsheet – one of the first services for project management on the market. It allows you to create Gantt charts for your projects, open tasks and assign them to project stakeholders, set deadlines, monitor implementation progress, attach files and carry out numerous other functions.

Pros: a serious tool for project management, which should be considered as a long-term investment for your company.
Cons: unsuitable for small teams; slow tech support; take too much time to learn to work with the program.

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Worldwide Advice from Successful Project Managers

Project Managers are responsible for the implementation of project tasks within the prescribed terms, and using existing resources.

The project manager builds a development plan, organizes a team, establishes the processes of working on a project which control the quality and delivery of products in time, and more. Several world class project managers shared their recommendations* for the sake of novices in this field. In this article, you will find useful rules and approaches that successful project managers apply in their work.

Always Be Composed

Remember that nobody will respect a flustered team leader. Try to always remain calm and collected in any situation. Plan your work and follow it. During the execution always work on your most complex pieces of work or sites first. If you do this, you will have a sufficient time for recovery, if required. Make use of task managers, world time clock, and programs for better productivity.
– Julie Craig, Melbourne, Australia

Build Trust

When you communicate with your team, listen to them attentively, making sure that their understanding and expectations are clear and precise. Build trust, support your team and respect their points of view, even if you fundamentally disagree with them. If you do not have faith in your team members’ skills, you cannot fully rely on them, and vice versa. If you plan to implement many successful projects, you need to learn how to build an open relationship of trust.

Think thoroughly, seek input, make decisions and act. Be flexible – don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but be ready to correct and change them.

– Hammad Khan, San Francisco Bay Area, USA

Discuss the Risks and Challenges

  1. No surprises. Make sure that key stakeholders are told about issues and risks before they are raised at meetings. Tell them what the possible options are for resolving or mitigating them and what you recommend. However, make it clear that it is their call. In this case, they will have time to reflect and decide – often choosing the option that you have suggested.
  2. Proper planning. You should have a proper plan with milestones, dependencies, durations, resources to do your job successfully. You will need appropriate information as you move up the stakeholder chain. Usually Chief Executives want a detailed picture on one page with key milestones and indicative dates – not the whole plan, but they must have it if it is needed.
  3. Governance. Successful project management is impossible without a fully constituted, regular and well-attended Steering Committee, which makes decisions and supports you. A proper project hierarchy includes having all the key roles identified and filled with agreed job descriptions. Also, there should be an internal project meeting structure with weekly or daily one-to-one sessions as appropriate and an up-to-date Escalation Matrix so that everyone knows who to contact when things go wrong.

– Chris Clegg, Kempshott, United Kingdom

Ask Questions Constantly

Keep digging and asking why. You need to know all about your project – planning features, objectives and results of the tasks as well as a monitoring plan, which identifies key performance indicators and tools. Organize your work clearly; keep a tracker of all activities and tasks. Keep all Stakeholders and Team members engaged in the work and make sure the tasks that are being monitored are regularly updated.

– Anonymous Author

Keep Detailed Project Documentation

You should monitor the status of completed tasks and never stop communicating with the team. Keep detailed documentation of the project and constantly keep all the team members posted of the latest news of the project.

– Pietro Cordier, Zurich Area, Switzerland

First, Determine the Objectives

Define the project scope well and avoid assumptions as much as possible. Clear the definition of the project terms and concentrate on the stated goals.

– Serge Nalivayko, Las Vegas, USA

Develop Communication Skills

The most important quality of an effective project manager is communication skills. Communication with the team members allows us to promptly identify any inconsistencies. Interacting with customers makes it possible to quickly identify any changes in the requirements for the project.

Build motivated teams and trust them to do the job. The success or failure of your project depends on each member. Therefore, in addition to knowledge and skills, you will need the ability to effectively motivate and manage people.

Plans are alive, so always reiterate them. Collate the task’s progress with the plan. For effective risk management, you should be able to adapt quickly to any fluctuations and make changes if they needed.

– Islam Kotb Ismail, Munich Area, Germany

Adhere to Triangle of Cost, Time and Deliverables

While planning, and implementing the tasks, adhere to the Triangle: Cost, Time and Deliverables. Ensure that the stakeholders have the same frameworks.

Eliminate or Reduce Risks and Resolve Risks. To develop an effective strategy and to implement the project within the stated terms, it is necessary to constantly monitor the risks that may arise during the project, and to have at hand a plan to reduce risks.

Work hard and persevere with every task. You cannot know everything but take every opportunity to acquire new knowledge.

– Christo Farmer, Cape Town Area, South Africa

Honesty, Flexibility, Consistency

Consistency in the team is the key to success. Keep trustful and honest relations with clients and colleagues. Promise less than you can, but do more than promised. Regularly develop new skills and be flexible in the choice of methods used in project management.

– Andrew Soswa, Greater Chicago Area, USA

Prioritize the Project’s Tasks

Communication is never over. Communicate to quickly identify any changes and issues.

Have daily planning, assessment, and prioritization. Coordinate your priorities, distribute power and responsibilities among the project participants and achieve project implementation.

Get as much knowledgeable experience and expertise as possible. Experience is the most valuable resource of effective project managers, which comes only with years of hard work, mistakes and the invaluable advice of mentors.

– Robert Hunt, Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul Area, USA

Impugn the Ideas to Make Them Better

Your task is to manage projects effectively. Your team’s task is to provide the necessary knowledge and experience. Therefore, it is often useful to ask for clarification of what you are told. If you don’t have the necessary technical knowledge base, ask the technical experts to explain their proposed solutions to ensure their validity and effectiveness.

– Scott Larnet, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Be Creative

The key quality of a successful project manager is the ability to interact, troubleshoot problems and make decisions. Think innovatively and outside the template, but keep in mind the strategic picture of the whole project.

– Melanie Williams, London, England

Keep Team Proposals and Ideas on Track

During the meeting, it is important to stay focused and direct the discussion back on track. Note the ideas, requirements, comments and problems of the participants; try to divide them into categories for practical implementation. Thus, you will be able to focus the participants’ attention on specific agenda items, and assign responsibilities effectively.

– Michael Hammud, Greater Chicago Area, USA

Want to Share Your Tips?

Share with us your suggestions and ideas in the comments below. Tell us your rules for successful project management and the software you use in your work.

Editor’s Note: Some quotes and statements were edited from their original form for readability.