As your business grows, you’ll typically find that the work you’re doing involves more people, more variables, and is becoming increasingly difficult to manage manually without errors and mistakes. When you reach this point in your small business, it’s most likely time for you to leverage a project management tool to keep your work, deadlines, and employees on track.
Understanding exactly what your business needs to work more efficiently as you’re navigating projects is key to choosing tools that will support (and not hinder) your goals. Adding a software solution just to have more tools, without understanding exactly what you truly need may, in fact, cause increased or unnecessary costs and frustration on your small team.
Determining Your Project Management Needs
There are different types of project management tools available in the market, and deciding on what type of project management software your company needs will depend on many factors, but to get you started on searching out solutions that are tailor-fit to your needs, explore these tips:
Make a list of the last 10 projects you’ve completed and rank them in order of most to least effective
Think about the things that went right during those projects.
Make a list of things that could have been easier or better, and list out any tools you think could help streamline your projects.
This short exercise will help you identify which tools will be most impactful on the types of projects that you’re working on as you continue to grow your business. From there, take closer look at the 4 best project management tools available for the needs (and budget) of small businesses.
1. Basic Project Management Tools
Basic project management tools that allow you to communicate/collaborate easily with the rest of your team, spreadsheets, scheduling devices that keep you on track with your coworkers and software that allows you to quickly and easily share data all fall under the project management umbrella. Typically, these tool focus on one project, per user, at once. Freedcamp is an example of a basic project management tool that is free for users, and can help you manage your workload, including projects, with a variety of different tools.
2. Tools Geared Toward Collaboration
Project management tools are specifically designed for project team communication/sharing and tend to have more collaboration options for your team’s projects. Asana is a great example of a collaboration-driven tool that keeps teams connected and drive project goals forward seamlessly amongst multiple team members. This tool is free up to 15 users, making it perfect for small businesses.
Expect the focus of collaborative tools to be slightly narrow, however. One might be great for scheduling, while another is excellent for file-sharing—rarely will you find a jack-of-all-trades software in this category, and if you do, don’t expect it to be particularly powerful or customizable. As a small team, those are things to keep in mind when it’s time to scale.
3. Multi-Project “Jack of All Trades” Management Tools
Multi-project, multi-use “Jack-of-all-trades” project management solutions like Basecamp generally contain a collection of tools ranging from basic project management and collaboration to more complex tools leaning toward enterprise level needs. Their features and options cover a broad range, and you’ll need to plan a deployment and training strategy before going live.
4. Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Tools
When your company’s projects become numerous enough, and their reliance upon others’ success becomes indisputable, it may be time for your organization to consider PPM (project portfolio management) software.
This is the best project software management type if you need a way for senior management to efficiently examine related projects and how they relate synergistically. PPM suites represent a shift in your company’s strategy, and in its vision.
Jeni Rogers is the Editor at Wheelhouse.com, where she studies business software innovations and trends and drives content initiatives with her amazing team.