10 Tips to Help You Choose Project Management Software

Choosing a piece of software to support your project management activities can be incredibly useful if done well but it can turn into an expensive white elephant if done poorly. The 10 tips that follow are based on years of both helping and observing organisations start the process of implementing, or improving, project management software.

  1. Start with the listing and determining the functionality of all the existing software that you already have installed. There have been numerous times I have witnessed organisations using existing software for about 5% of what it is capable of. It is quite probable that you have software already that you are not using to its maximum extent and capability
  2. Take time to fully document all of the functionality that you need right now and also all of the functionality that you may need in the future to support the growing operations of the company.
  3. Is it just me or does it seem that every sales representative of potential software promises that their software can do everything you need with a simple installation on a computer. One way around the promises that salespeople make is to simply ask for referees of people who have installed their software before and ask for their contact details and to speak with them without the sales representative around. Of course they will give you only what they think are positive storeys so it also pays to ask around your network 4 instances where the vendor was not selected and find out why, and also to find out any bad news storeys about the installation process.
  4. Go with a trusted vendor that has been in business for some time and can offer you the support you need. I remember working for an organisation several years ago that had selected a single vendor who developed the code himself for the software and then essentially held the company to ransom over his fees because he was the only one who understood the software and there was no way that they could move onto another bit of software without his approval.
  5. Make sure that you have in-house capability for making any adjustments to the software once it is installed or bringing on extra functionality. Otherwise you will be contacting the vendor constantly to make small changes and these come with large costs. The most successful implementations of project management software that I have seen have also included training up a small number of key personnel to become super users and this means that small changes can be done fast and at very low cost.
  6. Spend a lot of time getting all of the requirements that all of potential users will have of the software and don’t simply ask them for what they think they need. If possible try to run them through simulations of the software in action or at least process flowcharts about how information will be handled and displayed.
  7. An incredibly important part of the process of choosing you software is to make sure that it communicates seamlessly, and automatically, with your existing software. This is particularly important if you are going to keep on using a financial system for organisational accounting but your project management software needs to exchange information with this. There is nothing more irritating than spending a lot of money on a new piece of software and then manually having to extract CSV files to upload them between the two bits of software.
  8. Treat the introduction of the software as a change management project and make sure that people understand the reasons for the change, support the change and get excited about deficiencies in their job as a result of using the software. If you fail to do this you will end up with opposition from people who see software as just process for the sake of process. So focus on the benefits that it will bring to them and to the organisation. Make sure that you prepare and introduce easy to use training for existing staff and also for new staff as part of any induction package. And if you make changes to the software make sure everybody is aware of the changes and is fully trained and how to use them.
  9. The decision you make to have a new piece of project management software will be with your organisation for many many years, and as such it is worth putting an extra time up front to make sure you get the decision right. The flip side of this can be paralysis by analysis where there are simply too many options and you do not do not know which ones to take. So develop a robust decision making process and criteria to help you know when and how to make this decision.
  10. And finally, I shudder to think of the number of times I have been witness two pieces of software that costs thousands and thousands of dollars a year in licencing fees that doesn’t do everything it was expected to do and it’s still only running at 10% of what it could do yet the extra functionality is not needed by the organisation. The process of deciding what piece of software is best for you and your organisation requires you to think about your needs today and also your needs in the next two to five years. It requires you to look at your existing software and what information needs to be exchanged between this existing software and any gnu software. It requires you to look at how easy it is to train people to use the software and also how easy it is to host the software. There are a million different ways to get this wrong and I have to be perfectly honest and say that there are very few times where I actually see software being used for its full functionality as promised to actually contribute to greater tracking and reporting of project management activities.