Project managers are deft professionals who wear multiple hats throughout the course of a single project. They initiate, plan, execute and monitor, they ensure quality, manage risks, control the variables and neatly close the project once it has run its course.
The difference between an effective and capable project manager and a poor one can have an enormous impact on the outcome of the project itself, and the company’s bottom line.
When the Project Management Institute released the 2015 Pulse of the Profession report, the company revealed that US companies are wasting US$109 million for every US$1 billion spent on such projects.
This waste comes from the fact that just 12 per cent of organisations can count themselves as ‘high performers’ in the field, meaning 80 per cent or more of their projects come in on time and budget. These companies may still waste time or funds on projects, but overall manage to lose 13 times less the money than other companies.
With so many responsibilities on their plate, and so much at stake, it’s important for a project manager to have a variety of practical tools at their disposal.
Here is a breakdown of some of the most important tools for any project management toolbox.
While teamwork is an important factor for any job, Teamwork is a great tool in particular to work on projects.
This online software is favoured by more than 170,000 companies around the world. It features customisable navigation so that your team can decide on the layout that best suits the project, and an easy drag-drop system to alter timelines.
The private messaging option for either individuals or groups helps keep lines of communication open throughout the job. When PMI asked project managers what the most critical factor was for success, 55 per cent of them said it was effective communication to all parties – making tools for this function invaluable.
Many jobs require multiple departments, hours of research, novels of notes and pages of references. Evernote helps to bring all of that information together onto one platform that’s easy to use, boundless in capacity and serves as its own directory for information.
This app and website lets you create endless notebooks for different organisational tasks, letting you link between them for easy navigation and offering useful search functions to help you track down particular aspects of the job.
Join for free or pay for a premium account for further benefits such as offline access, improved search and extra storage space.
A Gantt chart is a staple for many projects, which is why many tools will help to create, update and monitor these sheets. They show what tasks need to be done, who is in charge of doing it, how long each one is expected to take and when it needs to be completed. This system is more than 100 years old and holds an enduring place in the field.
Gantter is one of many tools available to help do this. Its popularity stems from the fact that you can seamlessly integrate the software with Google Docs. It is a free, simple, cloud-based service that works in any industry.
Trello is essentially a system of highly organised, tidy and practical post it notes. In late 2014, the company celebrated reaching 5 million users, including major names such as the New York Times and Tumblr.
The interface is comprised of a ‘board’, which is covered in ‘cards’, and you can have as many boards and cards as you like. You can share cards with a whole team or just one person, and use each card as a separate project, line of research, to-do list or just about anything you can imagine. Post comments and questions, drag cards around the board or update work in real time.
Trello is free, but offers a gold subscription that offers a few extra features.
One of the hardest tasks of project management is allotting time to certain aspects, estimating how long each one will take and ensuring the right people are on the job for that amount of time.
The purpose of Liquid Planner is to offer you realistic timelines for tasks based on best- and worst-case scenarios. It tracks the time it takes for each job, helps prioritise certain activities over others, shows which workers have room available for extra projects and allows notes for obstacles that may impede the work.
Forrester Wave research found this tool to be one a strong performer in its Portfolio Management for the BT Agenda analysis.
The basis behind Mavenlink is simple – rather than just a piece of project management software, it also brings together tools for billing, reporting, file storage, tasks and time.It is designed to integrate with major platforms such as Google, Salesforce, PayPal, QuickBooks and Jira for seamless collaboration between tasks. Mavenlink has more than 500,000 users, including the likes of Stanford University, and seems to have a permanent spot on Google’s top installs for project management apps.
AffinityLive lists itself as the number-one professional services automation product out there. It automatically syncs with your calendars, task lists and inbox, and easily integrates with Google Drive, Twitter, Salesforce, MailChimp and more.
Its real-time schedule updates offer warnings if projects look likely to take more time than expected or cost more than budgeted. You can create Gantt charts, easily assign projects and create invoices. It adapts to processes unique to your company with custom progressions, and offers project templates to keep track of the work.
Basic plans are US$16/month, or you can upgrade to the US$34/month plan for unlimited custom projects and more.
According to the PMI, there will be a need for 1.57 new project managers every single year worldwide, meaning these skills and these toolboxes will be in high demand as the industry continues to grow.