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How to pick the right project management tool: 6 essential tips

Katarzyna Dorosz-Zurkowska - 23 July 2018 - 0 comments

Smart team leaders make sure that their teams are equipped with project management software that matches their needs and preferences. As a team leader, I can confirm that running a team without a project management tool in place is incredibly difficult.

It’s simple:

The right project management platform helps with every aspect of running a project – from planning and scheduling to cost control, resource management, and reporting. Teams can also use it to communicate and collaborate, ensuring optimal project transparency for all stakeholders to enjoy.

It’s impossible to run a successful project efficiently without the support of a project management tool that centralizes all project-related tasks, helping team leaders to control the project’s progress better.

In this article, I wanted to share some tips to help you pick the right project management tool for your team.

1. Audit your current solution

The first step is taking a closer look at the current tool you’re using. I’m assuming you must have some tool in place – it can even be an Excel spreadsheet.

Take a good look at your tool and check where it stops supporting your team. Does it complicate your process to match? Does your team find it problematic to schedule and plan work? Or perhaps resource allocation is what you find most challenging?

For example, if tracking an issue’s progress is your main problem, you need to look into project management solutions that allow project schedule tracking and reporting. Visual resource planning tools come in handy to teams that find managing resources troublesome.

Also, consider what types of features you would like your future tool have that the current one doesn’t – for example, allowing internal communications or estimating resources.

2. Understand your needs

The next step is making a list of all the features your team needs. Once you have that list, divide it into the features which you must have, should have and could have to understand the priorities of your team and the importance of individual features.

Consider what your team will be using that solution for. Will it be more important for planning, scheduling, or reporting? Write down everything you need in your project management software and check whether there are any compliance requirements you have to match as well.

Also, if you follow a particular project management methodology such as agile, make sure that your new solution is able to support that methodology. You don’t want to change your team’s process to match your new tool – instead, pick a tool that can be adjusted to your methods easily.

3. Decide who will use the tool and for what

Once you have a clear idea about the kind of tool you want to have, it’s time to consider the future users of the tool.

Are your stakeholders all internal or do you plan to include external ones as well? Will you be using the tool for in-house project management only? In that case, you might benefit more from a less formal approach and structure. However, if you’re going to share this tool with clients, you need to look professional – and that will also determine the choice of your tool.

Also, make sure to roughly estimate the size of the team that will be using the tool. In general, small teams with a simple process and uncomplicated tasks can get away with a simple solution. However, larger team or teams that deal with complex, multi-stage tasks will a more advanced piece of software.

4. Review the market

Now that you know all the requirements for your project management tool, it’s time to have a look around the market to find your best pick. Ask other project managers for recommendations and have a look at specialized reviews or magazines. Do your research – the more you look, the lower the chance that you overlook a potential match.

Gather together as many providers as possible to have a wide range of options to choose from. Once you’ve got your list ready, narrow down your selection. Check which solutions provide all the features you need. That should allow you to narrow your list to around 4-5 providers to test.

Consider that a technological question as well and assess how much it would cost to switch to that solution. While some providers might simply be too expensive, others might not match your team’s process.

And trust me, you don’t want to invest in a tool that your team will have to work hard to get used to. It’s better to pick one that is highly flexible and customizable like Jira, which allows teams to maintain and streamline their existing processes. Why reinvent the wheel when you can go on doing a great job, only now supported with a functional platform?

5. Test tools to evaluate them against your needs

That is probably the hardest part of the job. But you need to test these project management solutions to check how they match your needs. Get in touch with different software providers for demos. They will show you how the product works and whether it matches your needs. Free trials are very popular, and you can get them as either a limited account or for a limited period of time.

When testing, mimic the real processes in your team. Only then you’ll get a clear idea whether the tool is a genuinely good pick for your team. Keep communication lines open during the process because the feedback from your team is critical.

Create a system that will help you to evaluate each provider. Assessing each solution with the help of grades (from 1 to 10) or adjectives (user-friendly) to make your choice easier. Don’t forget to double check the data security in your solution, that’s especially important if you’re going to use it when working with external clients.

6. Take costs and implementation into account

Before making the final decision, have a looked at the costs of implementing different tools. These will vary a lot from provider to provider, but essentially you need to assess the value the provider’s tool and configuration will bring to your organization.

Don’t forget to check the implementation and adoption costs as well. For example, if you like a solution but it will take a long time to implement it, the benefits it will eventually bring to your team might not be as significant as you would like.

Atlassian’s Jira is one of the most efficient project management tools on the market. Even though it was designed with development teams in mind, Jira is being successfully used by teams ranging from legal to HR for organizing tasks and seeing projects through completion.

Would you like to learn more about Jira and how it helps teams manage projects?

Reach out to me at – I help organizations implement agile approaches and tools that increase team collaboration.

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