When I first started managing projects early in my career, the tool I was using was under DOS. Now there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of tools and options for managing projects. There are hundreds of desktop and cloud-based project management scheduling tools to choose from – some free and some still fairly costly like MS Project (I love it with Excel). There are some that focus solely on task management. Some are specialized for different industries – technical project management, creative industry project management, construction project management, etc. And many of these can actually work pretty well across all industries even if they are targeting a specific genre.
Various types of tools for our project needs
What else are we looking for in PM tools? Resource management? Yes. Risk management? Definitely. Collaboration? That’s the big buzzword now… collaborative tools are critical to team and customer engagement and project success. There are software solutions targeting the financial management aspects of project management as well as some that only focus on resource management. While still others focus almost exclusively on risk management – and often overlooked and excluded area of project management. Mind mapping is also critical when planning out projects and managing the work and decision processes on key engagements.
Managing our project customers
We also have great software tools to manage our current and potential project customers with – most notably good customer relationship management (CRM) tools that often interface well with whatever project management software solution we choose. Among other things, a good CRM tool can offer the following:
➢ Better insight into customer information. With a good CRM tool, account or sales representatives can see all their accounts, contacts, opportunities, tasks, and events in a single place.
➢ Easier account planning. With a good CRM tool, account sales representatives can do their own account planning leading to better customer management and, hopefully, more projects.
➢ Detailed and customized reporting. Account representatives should be able to run their own customized reports…some of which would likely include the following:
➢ Accounts they haven’t visited in a while
➢ Opportunities in the pipeline, including won opportunities and lost opportunities
➢ Products they’ve sold
➢ Activities and tasks they’ve completed
Again, all of these account representative advantages of the CRM tools lead to more projects, and more opportunities to serve our customers.
Social media as a project management tool
One thing we need to be sure not to overlook is the possibility of using social media as a project management and collaboration tool on our project engagements. I’ve used social media apps and social media sites for project communication and project collaboration tools. I’ve created closed Facebook groups to use for project communication among project team members. At this point, nearly everyone is familiar with and comfortable using several different social media tools – don’t overlook these as free and familiar options to share key project information to your team quickly.
Summary / call for input
There are so many options now that we have no excuses to just be using a spreadsheet anymore. Though spreadsheets still definitely serve a great purpose for many of us. I still use Excel to forecast some project resource needs – depending on the project – as well as to manage project financials and budgets and perform detailed project financial forecasting and analysis.