By David Berget
Project management, as a profession, has grown immensely in recent years. It was just last year, in fact, that the Bureau of Labor Statistics cited project management in its own occupational category. Yet in today’s climate, project managers are increasingly being asked to run more projects with fewer people.
Project Managers in the learning and development (L&D) field are not immune to the burgeoning workload. With more and more tasks added to their plate, project managers are juggling the responsibilities of a never-ending stream duties fighting for attention, from scoping new projects to coordinating with SMEs. Clearly, organization and productivity is essential. And, let’s be honest, letting things accumulate in your inbox is a recipe for disaster.
To help you step up and do more with less, check out these project management tools recommended by highly productive project managers. Biting the bullet and paying for any of the numerous complete project management apps or services on the market will, without a doubt, provide most (if not all) of the features discussed below. But those can be costly, and sometimes all of the features are unnecessary.
“Collaboration software” is exactly what it sounds like: apps and services designed to save your team time, including everything from conference calls (some with video capabilities!) to editing documents at the same time.
Most project management tools will incorporate the apps that your team is probably already using, like Slack, HipChat, and Google Docs. But whether ease of collaboration is built into the project management tool or implemented through an outside app, the name of the game is to make your team's ability to complete a job as smooth sailing as possible.
Collecting the latest version of your team's notes and providing space for everyone to have their questions answered where everyone else can see relevant responses is why collaboration software can be so important. Once you realize how important collaboration and communication are, you’ll come to find why a favorite feature among the Dashe team is the chat function in Skype for Business. Not that everyone is required to use the chat function, but it's nice to have the option to bypass the wait time associated with email. Chat functionality is also included in Zoho Projects, Volerro, and Clarizen.
Tracking tasks is perhaps the most well-advertised of a project manager's responsibilities, and you can bet any project management app on the market will have some sort of task management feature. But price-conscious PMs can apps specifically for task management without all the other fluff.
Everyone seems to know about Asana, which some call a "workflow management tool," since PMs can assign tasks and deadlines to specific individuals complete with attached documents. What sets Asana apart from standard project management software, however, is its versatility. To a certain extent, PMs can customize Asana to be exactly what they need it to be.
Looking for something besides Asana? Remember the Milk, available as an application both on the web and a mobile device, allows you to create several categories of tasks, grouped by project, and manage them accordingly. The best part? Remember the Milk allows you to set tasks as recurring, so if you need to check in on certain accounts weekly or monthly, you'll get a reminder.
For project managers who don't operate as an island, Nozbe brings your team onto a single app. Meaning less back and forth over email and playing phone tag.
Microsoft Project also receives its fair share of publicity because it integrates so well with the rest of the Microsoft Office suite. Similar to programs like Microsoft Excel, the chances that you'll use this software to its fullest capability is unlikely. Luckily, there are countless resources available to help you understand the complexities of Microsoft Project.
To-do apps, though similar, are distinctly different from those designed for project management. Some to-do apps are collaborative (like Todoist and Wunderlist), allowing you to assign a to-do to members of your team, give a deadline, and follow the task to completion. But they're not to be confused with project management apps.
Similar to the task management apps discussed above, to-do list software isn't going to be terribly helpful in tracking a large, complex project. For lightweight work, collaborative to-do apps are the way to go. Apps like Taskworld will keep you organized. For PMs who are cheerleaders for the Kanban visual representation, Taskworld is your friend.
Stephen Covey explained the challenge with balancing urgent versus important tasks in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Successfully managing both without calendar management tools is unlikely. Getting out of the stand-bys like Google, Outlook, and iCal allows for some flexibility, especially when it comes to mobile devices.
Most of the time, the struggle with these calendars is they're not terribly user friendly while on the go, but Week Cal integrates beautifully with Google Calendar, even syncing with iPad and Apple Watch so you never miss an appointment reminder. What's more, Week Cal pulls in Google Maps to lead you to your next appointment.
For the manager who is always beeing pulled into a meeting or conference call, Schedule Once is a great tool, especially if attendees operate outside of your organization. Create your calendar availability and share your link to anyone you do work with for them to easily request an appointment. This resource is like gold for consultants and coaches.
The importance of keeping your information organized and available goes without saying. Everyone has heard of Google Drive and Dropbox, but maybe you’re looking for something else.
Evernote is by far the most popular, with over 90 million users. Go digital and do away with traditional notebooks with Evernote: store notes, ideas, outlines, and anything else you can think of. The upgraded option, Evernote Business, provides added storage and the option to share content with others.
For brainstorming and organizing your thoughts, Cardsmith combines the best features of whiteboards and sticky notes. No more erasing ideas to reorganize or having sticky notes lose their "stick," since Cardsmith allows users to rearrange notes as they wish.
But not all of our lives are run by lists, which is when iMindQ’s mind mapping tool might be worth a look. Bonus! iMindQ has templates at your disposal, preventing the overwhelming feeling of looking at a blank screen and not knowing where to start.
No matter your project management style, there are apps at your disposal to use as you need, either highlighting your strengths or giving some added support for your weaknesses. Experiment to discover the tools that fit your style and budget.