“We need to talk about the project budget…”
No phrase can strike fear into the heart of junior and senior management alike quite like an urgent email to discuss the budget.
If you’re a project manager, you know all too well how difficult it can be to keep projects on time and on budget. Between changing project scope, unrealistic client demands, and unexpected setbacks, managing a project can oftentimes feel like herding cats.
If you find your team routinely running over budget (even if the initial budget seemed completely within the ballpark), the problem might not lie with your team, your leadership or your client, but with the tools you’re using. Yes, I’m talking about that expensive (and confusing) project management platform you’re using.
Choosing the wrong online project management tool can set your business up for a host of problems. It’s one of the most common ways that businesses can end up wasting some serious cash without even realizing it. Are you struggling to pick the right project management software or not sure if your current platform is the right fit for your team’s needs?
Watch out for the following red flags:
Red Flag No. 1
Project planning and ad-hoc work do not use the same platform.
Project managers spend 90 percent of their time communicating. Shouldn’t your project management software make this process easier?
When selecting a project management system, opt for a platform that makes it easy to track all aspects of your projects from a single system. This way when ad-hoc tasks pop up, you’ll be able to add these tasks to the same project platform, making it easier to track each team member’s workload and availability.
Easily identify which members have more time in their schedule and which are over-committed to seamlessly shift workload as priorities and availability change.
Red Flag No. 2
There’s no standardized onboarding.
When you’re managing a virtual team, the first step for success is to standardize the onboarding process.
Get everyone on the same page from the beginning with a basic how-to tutorial for using the new platform. Set expectations for availability with a communication guidebook and contact information sheet.
The best project management platforms include virtual chat tools and internal messaging programs. Using the same chat tool that’s included with the project management software means you can instantly tweak task assignments, add notes to different jobs, or shift deadlines without ever leaving the program.
Red Flag No. 3
You use one service for project management and another for cloud file sharing.
Yes, DropBox and Google Docs are great, but I find that when I’m managing a major project, it’s much easier to keep all the files in the same location as the to-do lists and screensharing/collaborative meetings.
I have my team include a version number in every file name and the initials of the last person to make any edits to the file. This way, if there’s a question about the content or what was changed, I instantly know who to contact. This helps keep files from being buried in an email chain and edits from being duplicated.
Regardless of the file naming convention you choose, put a system in place from day one for managing and tracking files and keep them all in one place.
Red Flag No. 4
There’s no space for collaborative discussions or virtual meetings.
There’s more to project management software than just tracking tasks and storing files.
When you’re running a virtual team, regular meetings can be a challenge. That said, without clear communication, the entire project could fall apart. Pick a day and time (like Mondays at 10am and Thursdays at 2 p.m.) to have a weekly project status check-in session.
Be considerate of team members who live in different time zones; midday meetings are generally easiest for everyone to “attend”. Having a specific day and time consistently scheduled in advance keeps everyone on the same page and the project moving forward.
Red Flag No. 5
Plenty of bells and whistles, yet not enough core functionality.
When selecting a project management platform, it’s tempting to pick the one with the fanciest features.
Be sure the core functionality backs up these bells and whistles. Whether that’s full integration with Gmail and DropBox, one-click transformation from email to project task, or instant messaging within a shared workspace, pick the features that are right for your virtual team.
Wrike, Zoho Projects, and Clarizen are three popular web-based options for project collaboration that offer similar features. Before committing to a single platform, take them for a test drive to determine which is best suited for your needs.
Completed projects don’t materialize through sheer willpower. Spending too much money on expensive project management platforms that don’t get the job done not only hurts your company’s bottom line, but also slows down productivity and drags out deadlines.
Get back on track with a project management platform that tracks tasks, overviews, stores files, offers a full team member overview, and provides easy virtual meetings/instant messaging all from the same place.
Bandaged Wound Photo via Shutterstock