What is a Project Management Tool.
A project management software is any program that helps to automate the processes of assigning, controlling, and completing projects. This is usually accomplished by displaying the projects on a timeline, and it often includes a way to mark completed, late, or on time projects. Besides the basic framework of the tool, there are some other features that can be useful when considering what might be valuable to you. The ability to know the status of your labor force can be invaluable asset when considering how to move forward and is a daily necessity for many businesses.
A beautiful interface is only as good as the functionality and software behind it. Without a well-built back end support structure, a design might have a pleasing appearance but won't have the functionality that is required for a more effective workflow. A good support structure will add value to your day to day activities.
Two important concepts for understanding user workflow include User Experience and user Interface often referred to as UX and UI for short.
UI: Back end of the user Interface. Deals with good response times, button functions, information storage, and customizable capabilities.
UX: The appearance of the interface, text fonts, button layouts, color changes, how the information is presented.
Which features provide the most value?
When choosing tools to help aid in organization and time saving efforts, it is important to consider the following features. Many of them are common to most project managing tools though a few of them are more specific depending on business type and industry. The features that you may use most frequently will also vary depending on your needs and requirements. Below are some of the features you might want to consider.
A common and useful way to visualize timelines and project data is to use a Gantt chart.
Tasks are represented by a line that covers a certain distance on the x axis, with the project name or number on the y axis.
The unit measure of time can be chosen depending on your needs often separated into days, weeks, months, or Quarters.
In the example below you can also see color coded projects:
Gantt charts can vary quite significantly between different softwares which makes it important to find out how customizable a particular product is. It is better to determine up front what your requirements will be than to wait until after you are locked into a tool. Make sure to questions to pin down if that particular solution will be right for you.
In the example below you can see that many projects have thin yellow lines beneath them. These lines represent workflow through dependent sub-tasks. Requirements that need to be completed in order for the overall parent task or milestone to be considered finished.
Larger tasks can be broken down into subtasks in order to assign workload more effectively.
As an example, if your parent task is Building a website and you estimate two weeks of development, the child tasks might include:
•Hire a web developer.
•Test the website for bugs.
•reviewing the website with a project manager,
Dependent tasks can be added as necessary as new details arise and the subtask percentage of the overall parent task can be changed by your project managers to accurately track progress.
Dynamic dependent tasks are a unique feature lacking in many project managing softwares. It is important to use a software function in order to determine if you would find it useful or not. A free trial can be a useful way to vet out potential project management softwares.
Work with the end in mind
Setting larger tasks first, then separating them into smaller components keep the purpose and direction of labor following the plan of action. This will ultimately make estimating labor costs and organizing billing information less time consuming and more accurate.
Labor Cost Estimation
The time of punchcards is over, and even though there are many different software options for employees to input time into a company system, many of them don't track where those hours were being assigned. For industries that bill by the hour it is important for the company to be able to organize hours and build quotes.
It can be difficult to know exactly how much time a project will take, but having a dynamic way to sort hours based on the expected finishing date streamlines both estimation of labor costs and billing.
Being able to bill clients based on hours can save time when trying to quote projects and deliverables. The ability for clients to see the time and hours spent is also an option depending upon the relationship and can be a useful tool to keep both sides up to date.
The organization from Labor cost, to billing, to quoting projects is made more reasonable and accurate helping to aid in the process of developing new client relationships. As said before this is particularly useful for companies that bill per hour of service and can also be used to track the flow of labor from various departments. It can also be used to estimate the return on investment.
Few project management solutions have the ability to track labor costs and another software is often required.
Some administrative features give the option to share data with customers more effectively.
As conveyed here, the ability to regulate the access of clients and departments can allow for companies to share timeline information with customers instantaneously without worrying about data being stolen. This ability increases collaborative efforts and effective communication. Providing customers with your timeline can keep them up to date as to the development of a project and help manage expectations.
Using the system across departments can also allow for a more effective cooperation. A shared understanding of the holistic picture of project completion will give a better idea of what needs to completed to finish a milestone.
Understanding what works for you.
Choosing a project management tool might be a simple decision in theory, but in practice finding a tool that adds value day after day might only come from experience. A trial period can be invaluable when determining what your needs are and whether or not a software is right for you. Consulting with your team, trying out new features, and speaking with the software provider are also important considerations.
• Use a trial Period.
• Assess which features provide the most value.
• Ask questions to the software provider.
• Consult with your team.
These are some quick steps that can be of use when trying to find the appropriate tool, however actually using a software may be the only way to determine if it's a good fit for you.
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