The Necessity of Project Management Tools

Posted in Agency Life
Use the right tool for the job

4 Issues to Avoid When Using Project Management Tools

Project management tools have been widely touted as must-haves when it comes to effectively managing a project. However, for all the ballyhoo over these solutions, it’s not at all clear that project management software is a panacea when it comes to managing a project. Using such tools can cause several problems that make it harder to efficiently manage a project – which is just the reverse of what they claim to do. These issues and how they affect project management are discussed in detail below.

Think Globally, Manage Locally

Many project management tools have difficulty integrating day-to-day task planning with the overall impact such tasks have on the company’s efforts to achieve its goals. This can serve as an impediment to the efficient performance of tasks, as people are typically more inspired to complete a task when they feel they are working for some larger objective.

An effective project management tool needs to provide a big picture view of the project. This enables you to both accurately track progress using a number of metrics while at the same time not losing sight of the ultimate objective. A tool which focuses strictly on task completion in isolation can have negative consequences by causing team members to become excessively focused on completing single tasks without reference to how their actions affect the overall project.

To successfully integrate a project management tool into your process, make sure to stress to your team members that use of the software shouldn’t deflect attention from the overall goal of the project. Failing to make this clear can derail successful project implementation by causing team members to lose focus on the ultimate project objective.

Failed Strategies Call Project Management into Question

Executing a strategy is often seen by company leaders as a significant challenge. While outlining a strategy is typically a fairly straightforward proposition, putting it into effect is much more difficult. To successfully implement a project, a project manager needs more than just a project management tool, he or she needs a vision of what success will look like. Excessive reliance on the technical details of completing a project risks losing sight of what must be done to make the project a success.

If all the metrics provided by your project management tool show that the project is progressing well, but the actual state of the project does not match up to this rosy outlook, the strategy being used to complete the project is likely to be flawed. By disguising this fact, the software impedes your ability to manage the project. This calls into question the efficacy of project management itself.

Rather than let yourself be managed by your project management tool, make sure that you are the one driving the overall approach to the project. The metrics provided by the tool can be useful to monitor project progress, but when they become the focal point of the project things can quickly go awry. Prevent this from happening by defining project success without reference to the software being used to manage the project. This ensures that it will be your vision for success that guides the project, not the metrics generated by your project management tool.

An effective project management tool needs to provide a big picture view of the project. Click To Tweet

Project Management Requires Strategic Leadership

Learning project management skills is, of course, an important part of being a good project manager. However, too much focus is often paid on technical skills such as laying out a project schedule, planning tasks and assigning them to team members, managing risks, budgeting, etc. While these skills are important, to successfully complete a project it can be even more important to use leadership skills such as building consensus, motivating team members, and providing them with effective guidance.

Excessive reliance on project management tools can weaken your ability to strategically organize and plan a project. This requires both strong interpersonal skills and the ability to see the big picture when it comes to project implementation. Blending knowledge of the order in which tasks should be performed and selecting which team members should perform which tasks requires good judgement and strategic expertise.

If you spend the majority of your time working with your project management tool at the expense of exercising leadership by interacting with team members, hearing their concerns, and keeping them on track, it can negatively affect project implementation. Effective personnel management is key to successfully completing a project: your project management tool should enhance this process, rather than obstructing it.

Using project management tools to perform such duties can result in suboptimal results by neglecting to take into account the experience and knowledge of the project manager. While these tools can be used to provide the raw data needed to make such decisions, the project manager should ultimately take ownership of the overall strategic approach being used to keep the project on course and achieve its objectives.

Software Should Not Be a Chore to Use

Motivated team members are essential to successfully completing a project. Unfortunately, in many cases workers feel stymied by project management tools rather than empowered by them. These tools may offer certain helpful functions, but often learning to use them and then putting that knowledge into effect can take so much time that your employees feel that using the tool is counterproductive.

To avoid this, look for a project management tool that is as close to plug and play as possible, or at least has a very gentle learning curve. Team members should be able to put the tool to work without needing to undertake extensive training. Furthermore, the tool should not require members to add extensive data sets before providing useful information.

Another aspect of project management tools that can make their use a chore is when there is a mismatch between the tool’s data and what is actually happening in the field. If a team member must frequently revise the data received from the system, buy-in among employees for its use is likely to decline. To avoid this, look for a tool with functionality that enables it to effectively model the types of projects you manage. The software can be used to its full potential if you and your team members are able to trust the data the tool provides without constantly having to check its accuracy.