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5 Questions To Ask Yourself When Evaluating Project Management Tools
By Paul Marculescu

Students participate in online groups to chat and share information. Small companies use emails for communication and network drives for storing documents. Non-profit organization may rely on a free online solution. Software departments could keep the schedule in an Excel file. Some individuals use notebooks and pens to put down appointments in a paper agenda or type reminder items in an online or desktop solution on the computer.

The name and the complexity of the tools used vary with the type of organization and the activity performed. All organizations, from big companies to individuals, use a mechanism for project management, even if they don’t call it like this.

In this article we will try to identify a few preliminary questions that may be asked to assess the needs for an online type of project management solution. It is not meant to be a complete and exhausted list of questions, but more of a guide for choosing a solution that will best suit the needs.

1. What is the structure and behavior of your organization?

Project-driven organizations have different internal processes than functional-driven ones.

Examples of project-driven organizations are: a construction company who builds wooden houses, a group of students working on a class assignment or even a wedding photographer doing assignments.

A functional-driven organization is usually a service or information company, like a small family hotel or a department in a bank working with processing checks. Such an organization may need to define either small multiple projects, which can be archived when becoming inactive or define fewer ongoing ones for each type of activity.

2. What is the complexity of your projects?

The number of people involved and the estimated activity must be taken into account. A project generating a lot of data, with a high posting frequency needs a fast solution on the web and options to filter and group the data for easier retrieval. Searching is a must, since it’s easier to archive and look for, instead of spending time classifying the data.

3. What is the life expectancy of a project?

Some projects don’t have a deadline, like an on-going activity for a functional-driven organization. They may require task grouping under milestones, though. A project with a long life span faces the challenge of getting old data out of the way, but being able to retrieve it at any times.

4. Are the projects internal?

If everything is public for everyone in the project, a solution with complicated privacy policies is not needed. But if you need your clients to have a peek once in a while, you probably don’t want to expose everything from under the hood.

5. Are you already using any software for disciplines related to your activity?

If there is already an established procedure for certain disciplines involved in the project, like requirements management or issue tracking, the transition to the new solution must be as smooth as possible. The learning curve for your team should be as easy to climb as possible. Trying to keep the same type of workflow can save a lot of time.

This list doesn’t cover many aspects related to choosing a solution, for instance there is nothing about security. I wanted to keep the list focused on the workflow of the team.

Simple tools like online todo lists, text or Excel files may be more efficient than a complex solution, so it’s important to identify the requirements prior to deciding for a given solution.

Paul Marculescu is part of the team that created Teamness, an online project management and collaboration platform intended to provide a human way of managing projects. You may find insights about this startup, along with posts about project management and collaboration, on the Teamness blog.

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