Using the Right Tools

July 27, 2017 by The FlexPro Group

As we’ve talked about in the past, project management is multi-faceted. No two projects are ever going to be exactly alike, nor should we approach them that way.  As PM’s we are tasked with pulling our team and resources together towards a common goal. We use our knowledge and previous experience as a valuable tool in creating the best and most efficient project plan and we work closely with our team on its execution. Just as the expert craftsman who is building a table needs to select the finest cuts of wood for his project, his work will still only be as good as the resources he has available – i.e. the tools in his toolbox. As PM’s we can learn a lot from this craftsman. Yes, we can assemble the finest team and devise the greatest project plan, yet still only be as good as the tools in our “toolbox”. There are many critical factors involved in reaching a successful project conclusion, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked is choosing the right project management tool.

Throughout FlexPro’s extensive work in the Project Management field, the gold standard of managing projects is Microsoft Project, which is probably the most used project management tool in the world. While most complex projects really benefit from this excellent tool, there are plenty of other software tools out there that get the job done when you get down to basics. The key here I’d like to focus on is the “basics“. Not everyone and every project needs the power and functionality of a Microsoft Project. Sometimes simple is better and even cost can be factored in here. There are quite a few great tools out there that are free in their basic form with upgrades being quite cost effective.

Project Management in its most basic form, starts with three things:

  • WHAT needs to get done
  • WHO needs to do it
  • WHEN does it need to be finished

These 3 simple things, when identified, really help to get things done and move a project forward.  It’s project management at the simplest level, yet it increases the whole team’s accountability. Keeping that in mind, we were searching for a new tool for our toolbox that would speak to what we needed. Recently, the FlexPro corporate office started to use a tool called Asana (www.asana.com), to better manage our strategic initiatives and operational projects. Asana allows team members to manage projects and tasks online without the use of email. With the use of workspaces which contain multiple projects, teams collaborate while tasks are managed. Through tasks, team members can add comments, notes, attachments and tags. Each member can follow the project and tasks and see when the state of a project or task changes while also getting updates about the changes in their inboxes on their computers or on their smartphones.

It’s early yet, and we are all still learning the nuances of our new tool, but we are pleased with the capabilities of Asana in accomplishing some of our goals, including increased visibility, real-time team communication, and accountability. In our search we found there are a lot of other tools out there with varying degrees of features, including adding team communication, file storage, dashboards and reporting, etc.  They all have varying bells and whistles on the basics, and it’s well worth the time investigating which has the options you require without bogging you down with a lot of extra’s you don’t need. Each organization may require a different tool, and with all of the options available, there’s really no need to make what may have been perfect for one organization try and fit another.

Here are a few alternatives to check out if you’re looking for a SIMPLE project management tool:

If you are using any of these “simple” project management tools, or have found a different tool that’s got just the right functionality for your purposes, I’d love to hear what’s working for you?  What’s your favorite and why?

-Lynn Faughey, FlexPro COO

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