How to find the best project management software in 4 steps: A guideline on the selection and implementation of PM tools

How to find the best project management software in 4 steps: A guideline on the selection and implementation of PM tools 17.04.2019 - Bundled communication. Enhanced team work. Overview of complex projects. Time savings. Standardisation for increased productivity. Goal oriented management.
To benefit from all those advantages, you need to find a tool, which suits best to your undertakings. Do you attach importance to a specific view, like a Gantt chart? Plays activity recording an important role to you? Lies your focus on strategic planning, simple organisation of tasks or an overarching management?
Apart from that specific information, there are other things you should consider before choosing a tool.

In our four-volume series of articles we will help you finding the right project management tool which fits best for you and your requirements. The following article will initially give you an overview.

The selection of a new project management tool managed as a project of its own

But first the bad news: If you decide to implement a new management software today, there won’t be a result tomorrow. There is such an enormously large range of tools in this area, that the sole research is extremely time consuming.

Financial risks

As a result of research, selection and implementation as well as all intermediate steps needed, a complex project of its own will be developed. Similar to a construction project, the selection of a new project management tool requires intensive planning, interaction with different stakeholders and is also associated with financial risks. If the software won’t take root in your company and will be abolished – you end up footing the bill anyway. Just the same as if you ordered the wrong type of roof tiles.

Individually tailored

The implementation of a new tool intervenes immediately in your current workflow. This innovation has to be well-thought-out as well as well prepared and followed up, because especially the work of your employees ought to be simplified and not to be more difficult. You want to support and improve your workflow in the long-term! After all, what’s the point of a software, which doesn’t fit to your company, your employees or tasks? A tool like this is rarely worth the effort.

Difficulties in the selection

You are aware that it is important to take enough time to make the right decision, you have allocated the necessary resources but you are still not getting closer to the goal of finding to best tool for you and your company. It’s not easy to take a decision for a suitable software, especially if you aren’t an expert on the subject of project management software.

Various providers

The number of providers in the software field is enormous. In numbers, today there are more than 750 tools available on the market, which are “supporting” the project management, task management and the collaboration.  Each tool has its own special features, functionalities and focus areas. The spectrum ranges from self-organisation and task management to controlling and documentation up to complex multi project management.

Optimised workflows in four steps

Put a nutshell: Yes, it is a challenge choosing the best fitting project management tool. But: There also exists a master plan which helps you being successful in your undertaking.

A concrete name of the appropriate tool can’t be given in this guideline, since it depends on your demand. It is important, that you decide individually, which fits best for you and your employees. Subsequently you’ll find an assistance in the course of action.

After these four steps had been accomplished, you will have found your individual project management software.

Step 1: Analysis

Before starting, you should figure out your actual situation. How is project management currently done in your company? Where is development potential? Where do you plan to use the tool?

Before implementing, a detailed state analysis of the existing work processes is unavoidable. Further it would be ideal to interview those employees who are going to work with the new software. Where do they see potential difficulties or a need for optimisation in their departments? Ask them about their opinion: which features are relevant for the new tool, which not?

In this process the importance lies not only in working out single features but also in answering this question: „Where is support needed?“. This question should be asked and answered throughout the entire company at all levels, if possible.
Step 2: Requirements

As a result of the analysis a collection of requirements or criteria can be derived. It’s essential to not only determine particular features but also a framework, industry solutions and costs. Do you, for example, attach importance to data protection or sever location? Do you put emphasis on comprehensive customer service? What does your budget look like?

Furthermore, you have to prioritise your list of requirements. Which functions are indispensable? Which feature can be skimped? Be prepared for compromises.

The one perfect tool which meets all requirements doesn’t exist. Many companies tend to create an extensive catalogue including different features, which have to be fulfilled uncompromisingly. That’s not the way to go.

The question is: What do you want to achieve with the tool? The list of requirements is intended as an orientation or rather for comparing potential tools for your company. During your research your collection of criteria should become increasingly “realistic“. Based on this collection you can choose the software for the actual test.
Step 3: Software tests

After creating a list of requirements there certainly will be loads of tools which are suitable for you. But this so-called longlist is still to detailed for an extensively testing of each software. Now it’s time to winnow those concepts down to the ones that met your targets best with the aid of your prioritisation.

The resulting shortlist shouldn’t exceed three products. With these software solutions you can start your testing phase.

Project management tools are made for using in practice, therefore trying out whether you get along with the software is indispensable. It also makes sense to involve a group of employees, at best, those who will work with the tool later on.
Step 4: Implementation

After the third step you hopefully have decided for a tool, which offers all requested features and was signed off by the testing group.

During the implementation phase the focus lies on accustoming your employees to the daily use of the new software. In any case you should communicate your decision of implementing a new tool early to prevent experienced employees to be taken by surprise. In this context trainings or workshops can be useful – depending on how many employees are involved.

If there are many employees involved, it would be appropriate to train some employees as experts, who can support colleagues if problems arise.

This step isn’t comparable to a simple IT implementation, but to a complex change process, since a PM tool should and will improve the work in a company in general.
In the next part of our series: We explain to you, what is important when doing a state analysis in your company. That’s the first step towards your ideal project management software.

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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