Manage and be managed: Evaluating project management software.

There is no magic bullet when it comes to selecting the best project management software for your team.  Every team has unique needs, and the majority of evaluations can lead you through an endless thread of commonalities repeated throughout various tools, all touting that they are the best of the best. To weed through the monotony of similarities, first define your team’s criteria and needs.

To determine what your team requires and how to select a product, here are a few helpful questions to ask yourselves and steps to take:

  1. How big is my group in relationship to my budget?  Budget and team size can be the most important factors in evaluating what is appropriate for your team. You may have a steak appetite on a hotdog budget, and it is easy to gravitate toward the latest, top-ofthe-line product, but that may not be realistic for your team. Determine what you can reasonably afford per user account and start shopping at that price point.
  2. What management features do we NEED?  What you want vs. what you need are two very different questions. The Rolling Stones say it best “you can’t always get what you want.” When determining the must haves, consider walking through a typical day in the life of a team member. What steps must a user take to accomplish a goal? What types of team members need to be involved throughout the process? What would make our team / team members more efficient? Where are we falling short in our process?  Answers to these types of questions will establish your criteria for selecting a software product. Try not to be distracted by tools and integrations that seem cutting edge or could be useful, and focus on what would be useful.
  3. Where do we look and compare?  There are so many forums and posts evaluating a multitude of products and processes, you can quickly be overwhelmed by information and feel less informed than when you started. Limit yourself to 3 reputable forums that provide user reviews and feature comparisons. By limiting your options you can more clearly distill common opinions about software. If you see one or two companies competing for the top rankings, chances are they both have great qualities that are similar in nature.  
  4. Try before you buy.  Most software comes with a free trial of some sort. It does not hurt to try on a pair of jeans or two before you walk out of the store convinced you have THE pair. This is true with any purchase. If you are afforded the luxury of a trial, then why not give it a shot? You don’t need to try every single product available for demo, but do select your top two or three and give them a spin. Keep a record of your running opinions about a product’s features. Create a list of likes and dislikes before you move on to the next trial. 
  5.  The big decision.  After you have established what you can comfortably afford vs. what you need and have compared various choices, it is time to select the winner. While it’s important to listen to the whole team, be sure to give more weight to the opinions of those who will be using the software on a more frequent basis. Determine who will be the primary stakeholders in the product’s daily functions and who will use the tool less frequently. You might find that there are individual team members who are vocal proponents or some who are strongly opposed to a product. Keep sight of what’s the best fit for the group overall. Whose workflow will most heavily be impeded vs. improved? In the end, you are trying to improve efficiency, not diminish it.
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Written by Trista Banfield, Technical Project Manager at Morvil Advertising + Design Group.  Trista also is a member of the Cape Fear Women in Tech Marketing Committee.

Edited by Leslie Wiegle, Project Manager, Technical Writing and Editing Professional.  Leslie is also is a member of the Cape Fear Women in Tech Marketing Committee.