Project Management buyers guide

Project management isn’t as specialist as you might think. Almost every business needs to manage projects that have to be completed by a specific time, fit specific needs and have specific people working on them, whether that’s shipping a product, moving offices or changing Internet provider. Getting such projects done on time and on budget is beyond the scope of a simple to-do list. It involves handling requirements and constraints and changing priorities, working out which competing ideas are possible and which will be the most valuable to the company, tracking how different parts of a project are going, and keeping everyone updated.

That doesn’t mean you want to put full-power project management tools on everyone’s desk. Not only can that be prohibitively expensive, but you don’t want to make an executive who only needs to monitor progress on a number projects wade through an interface designed for juggling details. Instead you want a system that lets you communicate the costs, goals and progress of a project, and the availability of the people involved to everyone who needs to be up to date.

But those who are running projects do need to work with detailed calendars; they do need to assign resources and manage conflicts, measure progress and track what’s changed, see multiple projects and consolidate them if necessary, and possibly manage a whole portfolio of projects in a co-ordinated way. They also need to be able to give managers their schedules, get the latest costs for the finance team, and give their bosses the strategic overview, and that means being able to check whether everything is on track and on budget – and if not, why not.

Meanwhile, those working on projects need to see their allotted tasks, fill in timesheets and flag up problems, both before and after they happen, preferably without leaving the tools they’re actually working with. Executives and strategic planners need a portfolio view where they can see costs, constraints and potential results across multiple projects, allowing them to set priorities at a higher level and have that cascade down to specific projects and workers. And all of this needs to be done not necessarily in the same tools, but in a set of tools that work together seamlessly and give you the features you need, rather than swamp you with everything that’s possible.

Furthermore, with the increasing drive for mobility and collaboration between partners, suppliers and customers, you need to look at cross-platform tools and may want to consider a cloud-hosted system that can make it easier to get everyone connected.

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