Project management

How to choose the right project management tool

October 08, 2018

It’s important for advertising agencies (like Vendi) to continually manage time between planning and executing. Our clients rely on us to guarantee projects seamlessly stay on time and on budget. So how do we do it? We leverage online project management tools that ensure deadlines and communication don’t “slip through the cracks.”

Advantages of using an online project management tool

1. Communication between project managers and the team stays fluid

2. Project updates are universal and automatic

3. Project milestones stay top of mind

4. Process stays consistent among projects

5. Records and examples of past work are accessible and useful for future reference

The decision process

While finding an online project management tool may seem like a simple solution, the large number of available tools makes choosing one difficult. Each one of these project management tools has a unique structure designed with specific needs in mind. It’s imperative to choose a program that has your needs at the forefront of its structure. To make finding the right tool less daunting, determine the role the online project management tool will play in your company.

Is your goal communication?

If you are looking for a system that simply minimizes emails and connects team members, the project management tool should reflect those needs. Make sure the system has messaging capabilities—both group messaging and direct messaging. Also, look for “tagging” capabilities that allow team members to notify other team members when there is a conversation relevant to them. It is easy to become distracted by the complex, advanced capabilities of many online project management tools, but try not to get sidetracked with the features you may never use. Slack, an industry leader in communication tools, simply facilitates conversation, thus minimizing the need for email.

Is your goal to track project progress?

You may be looking for a sophisticated system that extensively tracks timelines and progress. Tools like Breeze allow team members to easily track tasks by marking them as “blocked,” “on hold,” “done” or “ready.” This is a simple way for the project manager to receive a status update without having to send an email or follow up with a team in person. If your team is looking to rely solely on a single resource for tracking, then investigate the tool’s ability to embed third party features within the program. Having all the needed tools in one place eliminates both confusion and a browser full of open tabs. Some project managers, like Basecamp 2, allow you to embed third-party time-tracking software that documents the amount of time being spent on a project.

Is your goal to visualize milestones?

In some cases, it is unnecessary to track every single task related to a project. Sometimes you simply don’t need a complex system that employees must use every day. It may be useful to exclusively mark major project milestones for the sole purpose of visualizing a general project timeline. If this is the case, then you must have a project management tool that includes a functional calendar view. The calendar should also include options that allow you to filter the view based on the type of task, type of project and range of dates. It is important to view the calendar using different criteria so assigning tasks and determining workload is easier. While a calendar view is a common requirement among businesses, many programs only offer this feature in a free version for a trial period. Programs like Asana, Basecamp 2, LiquidPlanner and Easy Projects all allow users to take advantage of an advanced calendar feature.

Is your goal all these features combined?

In choosing a project management tool, you may need all these features: communication, task management and milestone visualization. You can likely find a program that includes all of them, but it may take some research and a financial investment. Use a program you will use effectively and consistently. Investing in a tool that works for you could be well worth the expense if your team becomes more efficient.

Tips for finding the right project management fit

Be sure to take advantage of free trials so you can determine what role the tool will play in your business (be sure the system will integrate well with your work process before you buy). During the trial period:

1. Test the efficiency, organization and overall interface of the workflow

2. Consider whether your team has capacity to learn a new process, and when the right timing may be right to do so

3. Consider the amount of time you have available to manage and roll-out the new program

4. Contact a system representative if you need more time for testing before deciding

We’ve jump started some of your research by comparing some of the most popular project management tools. Criteria in the following table are based on factors Vendi finds important in our own project management tools. In choosing a system, your company will likely need to upgrade and pay for the premium version to fulfill all your needs, but the investment could dramatically speed up the process of your work.

Project management tools
Information accurate as of July 1, 2018

Taking time to choose the right project management tool will save you trouble in the long run. If used correctly, deadlines won’t be missed, updates are seamless, milestones are at the forefront, workflow is consistent and past projects are documented. Of course, be sure to determine your needs before investing.  

If you’re looking for creative work with an agency that prioritizes project management, contact Vendi with your next project.

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