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Author: Deeana Radley

Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting Project Management Software

There are a wide variety of project management software programs on the market.

However, having many competing solutions to choose from can create confusion and cause project managers and business professionals to feel overwhelmed. Selecting the wrong software program lends itself to a wide array of problems, such as reductions in the flow of communication, reporting, billing, and overall productivity. Basically, choosing the wrong project management software can increase the risk of making larger, unforeseen mistakes that can cost your company money.

Proper software selection is important, and it can start by avoiding some all too common mistakes. If you wish to avoid the sorts of mistakes associated with selecting project management software that isn’t right for your requirements, the information below will be helpful.

Mistake #1: Failing to Examine Your Business Processes and Match Them to Software Offerings

Just as with any type of selection project, it pays to start with a clear idea of what your requirements are. It is imperative to consider how projects come into being within your company, including which teams are usually involved, and what they need for optimal collaboration. What is working well in terms of how projects are currently managed and what could use improvement? (I.e., are there any requirements gaps?) Many projects managers should become more aware of what’s typically included in project management software solutions before making a purchase. They can accomplish this by spending more time analyzing project management software programs beforehand. As you read about what competing solutions offer, think about how those features fit with what your company needs.

If you find that there is not a lot of overlap between how your company manages projects and the approach taken by new project management software solutions, it’s worth considering revising how projects are managed to take full advantage of all of the software’s efficiencies. This is because many professional software products are designed to incorporate industry best practices. If your company’s project management practices have remained unchanged for a very long time, it’s possible that some proven best practices are being missed. However, this is not always the case. If some software provides features that seem to match up well with the way your company works and other software products do not, you obviously need to look for the ones that offer a good degree of compatibility.

The key here is to begin by performing a thorough needs analysis before making a final purchasing decision. An analysis will allow project managers to address the needs of the company’s projects in their totality. This includes:

  • Assessing how the organization communicates with all those working on projects, including both internal and external team members
  • Considering how file sharing is performed between team members
  • Analyzing how the company tracks resources such as costs, material, and human resources
  • Determining the types of reports that need to be prepared and their frequency

Basically, project managers should perform a detailed and thorough analysis of every step of the project management process. Beyond just accurately tracking projects, they should consider all aspects involved in the project management process to formulate a precise listing of their requirements.

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Mistake #2: Selecting the Solution That Has It All

It’s tempting to gravitate to project management software solutions that offer a wide array of features. The problem is that having too many features that will likely never be used can overwhelm and complicate the learning curve and sometimes even the software implementation process. This mistake leads to overspending and to staff members underusing the system. This is mainly because the more complicated the system is, the more difficult employees will find using it, and that increases the chance of errors.

A larger system, like Microsoft Project, might be perfect if you have long-term projects spanning many departments that require long-term planning. But if the projects you’re trying to wrangle are much smaller in scope and shorter in duration, you might consider a lighter application like BaseCamp or Trello. Regardless, careful thought and consideration should be put into software-related purchasing decisions long before making the purchase. And remember, the more features a software program has the more likely there will be additional costs to purchase and implement it. If many of those features are unnecessary, that extra expense will have been wasted.

There is an effective approach to minimizing the risk associated with selecting software solutions that have it all. Project managers can do something as simple as creating a checklist with prioritized needs. Create a list of prioritized features in the following order:

  • The “must-haves,” meaning the features that are absolutely necessary
  • A list of features that are not necessarily required would be nice to have
  • A list of features that are not completely unnecessary for your company

Prioritizing your needs in this type of organized manner will help you make better informed software purchasing decisions.

Mistake #3: Not Planning Ahead

Be wary of only considering project management software solutions that address current issues. When evaluating a software solutions, one must imagine it growing with the business. In other words, long-term considerations should also be taken into account during the initial evaluation stages. Project managers should look out for software that offers things such as flexibility as well as scalable solutions that meet both their current immediate needs as well as their projected future needs.

An alternative that could support your company‘s growth plan is adding features to your software as your company grows and requires more licenses for new staff members. Project managers that do not plan ahead in this regard often end up causing their companies to spend more money in the long run.

Successful businesses are profitable, and this leads to expansion in most all cases. Failing to plan ahead often results in higher costs and a reduction in production. Avoid this mistake by ensuring the solution is open to updates, upgrades, and the addition of custom features. Ask if the software tools you’re considering have the flexibility to handle other types of projects that may emerge in the future.

If you are interested in reducing the risks associated with purchasing the wrong project management software, then careful attention, planning, and forethought must go into choosing the right software solution for your company. That includes giving careful consideration not only to the company’s current needs, but also to future needs that can be anticipated due to growth.

Lastly, project managers and business professionals who invest time into seeking out the right project management software program—meaning the one that’s most compatible with their operations will experience the best results. They will see a more streamlined flow of information and processes that improves areas including the tracking of projects, billing, task assignment, and reporting.