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    How to simplify projects by using web-based tools

    on 4 June 2015

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    Whiteboard manual organisation frustration

    Have you ever been involved in a project where you’ve not been certain you’re looking at the correct (or latest documents), you’re not sure whether the project is really on track or exactly what you’re supposed to be doing? Maybe you’ve been snowed under by a deluge of emails demanding that you do something that you don’t recognise as your task, or you made painstaking changes to a document only to find you’ve been working on the wrong version. If you’ve experienced this, or are experiencing it now, you probably need to review your project management tools.

    Software Advice conducted a recent survey looking at the use of software tools for Project Management. One of their findings was that small business software buyers overwhelmingly preferred using web based project management tools to in-house tools. This is not that surprising when you think about it. People are increasingly working on projects with people in different locations, where the need for fast, reliable integrated tools is essential. They found that:

    1. Most people want a single tool for project management.
    2. Seventy percent currently do project management manually.
    3. Time tracking and task management are the most important software functionality.
    4. Improving organization and workflow efficiency are the reasons for buying Web-based Project Management software.

    What is a project?

    At this point it is worth clarifying exactly what a project is as, often, people will dismiss the use of tools as being too much for their situation. Whereas I believe that ALL projects wil benefit from the use of tools. According to the APM (Association for Project Management) “A project is a unique, transient endeavour, undertaken to achieve planned objectives, which could be defined in terms of outputs, outcomes or benefits. A project is usually deemed to be a success if it achieves the objectives according to their acceptance criteria, within an agreed timescale and budget.”

    Phew! It sounds like this only applies to really complex stuff. This is why most projects are managed manually. But if you’ve ever had the experience mentioned at the beginning of this blog, you’ll agree that this is a situation that needs to improve.

    Want to make sure your next project goes off without a hitch? Here’s how to make a work plan, with expert advice from successful project managers.

    How can tools help?

    Most projects have a defined time scale and budget, so the ability to track what people are supposed to be doing when is rather essential. This is especially true when some or all of the team are remote where you can’t see what they are doing. However big or small the project, tracking people’s time is essential to managing the budget and ensuring the budget doesn’t overrun.

    Equally, being able to manage the tasks people are doing is important too. As soon as a project gets beyond a few tasks, it becomes very difficult to know who is doing what. Not keeping track can quickly lead to a project becoming unmanageable or being a constant round of meetings.

    The great thing about using software tools is their ability to track time and tasks automatically. They improve organization and workflow efficiency. They also make information about progress available to anyone who needs to know, whether inside or outside of the project team. When these tools are web based, they have the added benefit of being available anywhere, anytime.

    Of course these are not the only things that need to be managed. A web based tool that is integrated into a wider collaboration system e.g. Glasscubes, gives you the added benefit of being able to manage your reports and other project documentation. They enable better communication both within the project team and between the project team and other stakeholders.

    Tools don’t have to have to be scary

    You may now be thinking that this sounds like a big, complex and scary monolith of a tool! But the great thing about the modern web based project management tool is the way it seamlessly integrates into the way you already work. For example they will enable you to share all your non project documents as well as your project documents, meaning you only have to worry about one way to manage documents.

    Simple is often enough

    One of the many reasons people persist in using manual methods e.g. white boards, or tools such as Excel, is that they are familiar and easy to use. But these miss out on the ability to account for changes like an automated web based software tool does. For example the ability to manage milestones can make task and time management a great deal easier. Not every project needs a complex tool that requires hours of set-up time. Often, all you need is an easy to use tool with the basics delivered with just the option you need - a tool that enables you hit the ground running.

    Integration makes it easier

    Web based project management tools that are designed to integrate with other means of communication like document folders, online discussions and email, make it easier to both manage your project and to fit it into the other essential organisational activity.

    Wondering what features a SaaS project management tool should have to support your methodology? This article can help.

     

    Glasscubes is a UK based collaboration tool vendor, with integrated project management.

    Find out more about how it could help you manage your projects more effectively by calling +44 (0)20 3274 2310