Project management tools serve a variety of purposes, from automating task assignment and allocating resources to tracking project phases and milestones.
These solutions are gaining importance now more than ever. With COVID-19 pushing digitalization worldwide, online tools that help with communication and coordination become the first staple for the work-from-home kit. Think of your Monday planning meetings or Friday reflecting sessions; all of the discussion points in these meetups can happen online. In this article, we will deep dive into project management tools to see how this is made possible.
When talking about project management software, we basically see three needs that the software should support: enabling digital communication, data storage on shared drives, as well as task management and tracking.
There Is No All-in-One Software for Project Management
It is unfortunate, but we could not find one project management software to “rule” them all. We also do not know any consultancy which found the “one” perfect solution to help support the teams in their daily operations. All the consultancies we know rely on a combination of multiple tools and in best case driving their partial integration – implementation of some digital workflows. If there would be one tool to recommend, I would say give monday.com a try.
Communication Tools for Consultancies
There are many internal and external team members involved in a single project – different functional teams, clients’ representatives, and so on. There are tools that help communicate efficiently, with features like private messaging, group discussions, real-time chat, video/audio calls, and conferences. These solutions give you the possibility to share ideas, documents, links, or images. While in Microsoft Universe MS Teams seems to make the race, Zoom is on top of the world. Slack is still strong, with many fans also across consultancies, but as video calls have limited functionality, the tool is losing some ground now.
Shared Drives and End of Sharepoint?
Since years, corporates and consultancies have been trying to avoid emails – marked as a relic of the last century. When it comes to shared drives, Sharepoint is the front runner – especially when long term projects integrate with the client. But you do not want the hustle of having to find files and folders where your documents are. And let alone the struggle of knowing which is the latest version of the file. As a solution, we have cloud drives. These online platforms can store and share documents instantaneously and with all parties involved. They also have very flexible privacy features that allow you to share files only with the people you choose. And with easy sync ability, they are also available offline and easy to access when you are on the go. OneDrive and Box seem to offer the best packages for consultancies, while Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud remain insignificant in the consulting industry.
Planning, Task Management, and Tracking
For collaborative approaches within a team, or between different teams, project management tools for planning and tracking tasks are essential. It allows users to organize themselves and also to structure tasks within defined workspaces and projects. Their interfaces have features such as “to-do lists” that allow tracking progress and moving on projects together – often well suited for agile working methods like SCRUM. For management, with such a tool it becomes easy to create tasks, assign members, get notified on progress, and track the project status in real-time. While most management consultancies use Trello and Asana, we would definitely recommend having a look at monday.com as well. Monday.com offers unseen options for the individual configuration of boards and implementation of specific processes or workflows in a very pleasant user interface.
How Can a Consulting Firm Decide on the Most Suitable Project Management Tool?
You have probably heard this saying, “A fool with a tool is still a fool”. Just having a project management tool won’t solve your purpose, but choosing the right one is still important. When trying to decide on a specific project management solution, discussing the following factors could help narrow down options.
Goal. For instance, you have a firm that is now opening new offices and taking more projects, so the tool must be able to fulfill the twin challenge of accommodating multiple projects and also integrate global teams.
Data security. Different firms have different requirements when it comes to data security. Some companies prefer that their employees can only access data on the office premise, while others choose to give the flexibility of working from home. Tools provide a great range of features to choose from, ranging from desktop-only software to cloud-based solutions, helping companies match their demands with these offerings.
User’s patience. Some software solutions can be really complex and can imply a lot of time wasted on training and learning how to use them. Consultants are smart guys, but usually too busy to spend hours and days to learn a new tool. The simpler, the better.
Integrations. Probably you are already using different tools; drives, calendars, conferencing, etc. Many project management solutions can be integrated with them, to help you have one common interface for your tasks. You have to think in ecosystems.
Cost. It is an obvious point, but it is still best to discuss it as there are many hidden costs with software. For instance, you might have to pay extra for a license or for increasing the number of users, for customizations, and so on. Discussing beforehand with the vendor about your usage goals and the costs associated with it could help you avoid any surprises.
Maintenance, upgrades. If they are not delivered as SaaS, tools might require a lot of maintenance from your IT team and internal support. Or could require you to pay for multiple upgrades to use all the features. It is advisable to know beforehand what the after purchase support looks like for the software.
Steve Jobs said that “you can never mandate productivity, you must provide the tools to let people become their best”. To perform, and be efficient, a consulting firm must be organized and use the right tools. This not only saves you time but also money by investing in only one equipped product.
In the journey of being more efficient, besides looking into project management tools, it is worthwhile to also consider solutions based on artificial intelligence. Brian, for example, is an AI-based digital assistant that can help save a lot of your team’s valuable time by helping them with tasks such as translating documents, changing file formats, fetching data and statistics, picking the right icon for PowerPoint decks, and so on. With a simple request to the assistant via email (adding Slack and MS Teams integration in the near future), you can get many of your tasks automated and increase the efficiency of your team and resources. You can check it out here.