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5 Must Have Features of a Social Project Management Tool
By Kelly Kazimer

A quality project management solution can save time, money, and no small amount of frustration for anyone tasked with getting a project done. But like any software, at the end of the day, you want to make sure it’s working for you, not the other way around.

There are a wide variety of software applications that can help manage and support project work. I know many people would recommend a formalized process when determining what solution is right for you; a detailed list of requirements could be created and circulated to the people you work with for feedback and suggestions; after a few iterations of this, you could then use that list to go out to the market, and do a scan to determine which solutions appear to meet those requirements; a short list of vendors could be created and then you could establish an evaluation period to compare and contract potential solutions. And then, eventually, 6-8 months after you need it, you’ll have a solution.

But as the saying goes, time is money. Sometimes a common sense approach can go a long way to helping you reach the right answer. And as long as it doesn’t involve a significant outlay of your cash, a couple of errors-amongst-the-trials can be a much cheaper way to get you what you need.

I’ve been working in the world of projects, all different sizes and types, for the past 16 years, and here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that will hopefully help you in your search.

  1. One Solution is Better Than Five

    As obvious as this seems, a lot of people seem to struggle with it. If you’re working on or managing a project, you’ll want to keep all of your project “stuff” in one place. It just makes sense. Not only does it cost you time to use several different software tools, it also costs you money in unnecessary additional licenses, extra training and learning curves for people, and more support costs.

  2. One Solution For Everyone

    Something that I’ve seen frequently, which always struck me as odd, are projects that have project management software available to the managers and leaders, but not available to other project participants. Instead, those people have to rely on the manager or coordinator to track and update project information, and then relay it back to them at regular intervals. Conversely, the other project participants have no way to update project information, except by relaying it back through the manager/leader/coordinator. And hopefully all of this back and forth occurs often enough to avoid communication gaps or downtime or misunderstandings. So not only is there a directive to spend time on “he said/she said”, there’s a directive to do so as often as possible! Is this really a smart way to work? Makes much more sense to have one solution, where everyone can see the work, and update it, and discuss it. And if you go with an online or cloud solution, then you empower people to work, update, and discuss without needing to be tied to a specific computer or location.

  3. Get Social

    It’s not 1995. Email is about the most inefficient and ineffectual tool you can use to store and share work content. If someone quits or moves on from the project, there goes a ton of knowledge, locked in their email account on a server somewhere, that you now need to track down and Hansel-and-Gretel your way through a myriad of bureaucracy and processes just to get access to all of the project information you should have at your fingertips. Social project management tools offer the best of all worlds, supporting project work and communication. Someone leaves the project? No problem, all of the communication and all of the content is still accessible within your social project management tool.

  4. It’s All About, and Always About, The People

    Software tools don’t manage anything. Nor do they get work done. Nor do they solve problems, not really. They’re just tools, that we use, to make the things we do easier or better or more fun. People use Facebook to connect to other people. Facebook doesn’t read your mind and update your status automatically (thank goodness!). So the argument from some folks that says “but people need to update the data for it to be useful” holds no weight with me. Yes, people have to update information and interact with any tool to be useful. When everything becomes completely automated, we can all admire the robots who’ve replaced us, and pay homage to our machine overlords.

  5. It Only Works If It Works For You

    This is probably the most important thing to keep in mind, and it should be the most obvious. But it’s one that seems to trip people up. Time and again, people seem to be drawn to solutions that address more problems than they have. Whether it’s human nature to believe that “more is better” or whether it’s an ego-centric belief that we need the biggest, most expensive, most comprehensive thing on the market today, we all fall victim at one time or another. This is especially dangerous in the area of software, where buying more results in paying more – not just in up front, but over time, in additional training, lost opportunity, frustrated resources, and goals never achieved.

So take a hard, honest look at what you really need. What features are you most likely to use on a regular basis? If your day-to-day focus is making sure that the right people are doing the right things at the right times, then you likely don’t need software that focuses on long-term trending, EV and predictive analysis. Look for software that supports what you need, and be sure to apply the 80/20 rule.

There are no perfect solutions. But there are perfectly useful ones.

Kelly Kazimer is a founding partner of Upstart Industries. Upstart Industries are the creators of Vantage: The Social Approach to Project Management.

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