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How to find the best project management software in 4 steps– Step 1: Analysis

How to find the best project management software in 4 steps– Step 1: Analysis 10.05.2019 - High effort, many providers, individual solutions, financial risks. You won’t find the best fitting project management tool for you from one day to the next.

Our series of articles provides a guideline on the selection and implementation of PM tools in your company. There won‘t be an “all-round solution“ because the project management solution must be tailormade for your company and your requirements.

In this following second volume you will get familiarise with step number one – the analysis.

Our first overview article can be found here.
 

The analysis is a necessity

Regardless of your undertaking – e.g. developing a campaign, changing processes or implementing new software solutions – an extensive analysis always will be the first step. Only if you know your starting position, you can identify your needs. Your requirements can be derived perfectly from your actual state, which builds the basis for developing the target state.
 

Basis for your software solution
„We already know ourselves. Our needs are familiar to us.“ No. Especially in large organisations such analyses pose inevitable regularities. There is no “one and only solution” which is always perfectly fitting. Similar to the working world in general, also companies have to change and adapt their structures.

As already mentioned, a good analysis lays the foundation for your solution. Furthermore, you can estimate the expenditure as well as detecting and eliminating weaknesses in advance.
 

Continuous development and improvement
Not only in the concrete case of a new introduction of a software, but also at any point in time, it won’t do any harm to check existing work structures, detect errors and continuously develop the organisation.
 


The state alanysis

„What is the current situation in your company?“ This question should be asked initially when implementing a new project management tool. Certainly, it makes sense to take a look at the areas of management.
  • How is project management done at the moment?
  • Are there development potentials?
  • Where the tool should be used?
  • Where do you need support in general?

Identifying problems and potential for improvement
A project management tool is intended to reduce employees‘ workload and simplify work processes. This is the reason why shortcomings and weaknesses – viz. potential for optimisation – should be discovered during the analysis with the help of the software..

Such weaknesses in project management can be as follows:
  • Tasks: incomplete or poorly documented tasks, unclear task definition, lack of task prioritisation
  • Information: missing, difficult to find or incomplete information
  • Processes: too much feedback, double work, unclear process activation and undefined end, missing continuous improvement process, missing or insufficient documentation
  • Functions (positions, competencies): lack of consolidation of tasks, competences and responsibilities, complicated communication channels

Such problems can be perfectly solved by means of PM tools, e.g. by structuring and simplifying communication and documentation as well as allocating tasks and sorting them according to their level of urgency.
 


Using the right methods to achieve the right result

According to your focus, an analysis should include as follows:
  • Strategical analysis and evaluation of tasks in the specific area
  • Analysis of existing processes,
  • Preparation of processing times and quantities and
  • Scrutiny of organisational structures.

For this purpose, in practise there is a variety of different analysis methods. It isn’t necessary to carry out all of them during an analysis – finally you have to decide on your own which method is relevant at the moment for your company and for achieving your goals.

 
Methods for a process analysis
First and foremost a project management tool should support your processes and workflows. This is the reason, why the analysis phase is vitally important in the process analysis.

How do your workflows work? Are there any problems or delays which can be avoided?

The process analysis is considered as a continuous task of the corporate and organisational development.

Mostly in the first step higher level processes, main processes and core processes are identified, modelled, described and – afterwards – analysed and evaluated. Sub-processes will play a role only in the second step.

Sometimes process analyses start from the very beginning. This means, that often the most important goals and success factors are used as evaluation criteria, to sort processes.

Hereafter we assume that you already have filtered out certain processes. There are versatile methods and diagrams which can help you undertaking the description, analysis and cause study. We will give you three examples.
 

SWOT analysis
The SWOT analysis is probably one of the best-known analyses in the business administration. In general future strengths and weaknesses are juxtaposed with opportunities and threats.
  • Strengths: How is the process characterised? What works optimally?
  • Weaknesses: What are the weaknesses of the process? In which area the process doesn’t work as desired? Which are the concrete deficits - costs, time, quality?
  • Opportunities: Which possibilities are there to further improve the process? Which potentials are hidden by the process?
  • Threats: What hazards or risks could arise? Where could performance be impaired? 

​Portfolio analysis
This analysis maps processes referring to two comparison features in a matrix (portfolio diagram). As an example, let’s take:
  • The strategic relevance (contribution to the achievement of goals and implementation of strategies) and
  • The potential for improvement (nature, extent and feasibility of improvement measures)

This way – for example – important core processes can be compared regarding the two mentioned characteristics.  As a result, the diagram gives an overview about problem processes.

 
Ishikawa diagram
High error rates, delays and insufficient quality – something is obviously wrong here. But sometimes the origin of the problems – the root cause – is not evident. And exactly this problem is the raison d’être of so-called cause-effect analyses. A tool fitting got this purpose is the Ishikawa diagram.

In-depth analyses, evaluations of documents and employee dialogues are expected to justify shortcomings.

According to Ishikawa there are following sources of errors:
  • Machine: The used technology doesn’t work reliable.
  • Man: The employees aren’t qualified or committed in a sufficient way. Knowledge, experience or concentration are missing.
  • Material: Resources or materials are defective or incomplete.
  • Method: The instructions for the implementation don’t fit this process purpose or are not oriented towards overarching goals. The entire process is misconceived. Individual steps aren’t coordinated.
  • Medium/ measurement: Different framework conditions harm the process flow.

The Ishikawa diagram points up those 5-M, to find and justify weak points in a process.

 

Most important source: The employees


Among all processes and workflows, you mustn’t forget the most important – your employees. They are close to the source, so they can identify emerging issues. They also can help you simplifying the workflows in your company.

Therefore, your employees are – in addition to analyses – another reliable source to get information about weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.

Moreover, employees are those who will work with the tool and should benefit from the tool’s support. So listen carefully, be aware of your employees‘ needs and act corresponding to it.

In this way you will not only include theoretical processes but also actual working processes whereby (environmental) impacts and disruptive effects can be determined.

It is also important to involve affected employees in all preparations for the implementation of the new tool. That way the acceptance of a new software will be increased and you can calm your employees due to fears concerning possible changes.

The possibilities to involve your employees are versatile:
  • Interviews (employee surveys)
  • Questionnaires
  • Observations
  • Reporting methods (employees describe a topic in written form)
  • Inventory methods (checking written documents for quality, completeness and topicality)

How ever you do your analysis – don’t forget to integrate your employees and don’t analyse behind closed doors. You will not only gain the acceptance of your employees – which will play an important role in the implementation phase – but also concrete hands-on support, that is mandatory for you to take the right decision for a project management tool.
 


Technical requirements

In the last-gasp part of your analysis you can start thinking of your future software. After checking your actual processes and possibly finding weaknesses, you will have a sketchy idea of your tool.

In general, what will be important for your project management tool? Do you need an installed software or do you prefer a cloud solution? You can start specifying technical requirements and writing your „list of requirements”
 

In the next part of our series: After the actual state analysis, you have identified many needs and you are motivated to solve all problems? We will explain to you what is important when formulating the requirements for your project management tool and how you can get one step closer to your goal.
 


About the author: Denise Rüffer has a passion for communication, software and tools. After studying media communication & journalism and gaining initial experience at Westfalenblatt and RTL Hessen, she is currently an editor at Schuchert Managementberatung. She focuses on project management and collaboration. She regularly shares tips and tools for successful collaboration on the factro blog. 

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