project management tool

A good project management tool makes planning, executing, and monitoring project progress a total breeze. They create a transparent record so everyone knows who is doing what and when.

The problem is finding a project management tool that:

1) Has the features the project manager needs

2) Is something your entire team will be willing to use

Too often, team leaders buy a project management tool only to find in a few months they’re the only one using it.

With thousands of tools on the market, it can be daunting finding the right one for your team. We’ve developed six steps that guarantee your team finds the best tool for their needs.

Are you ready to get organized?

1. Define your needs for your Project Management Tool

The first step to finding a project management tool is identifying the current problems in the way your team works.

It’s important to write these pain points in a list you can refer to later. Possible problems could include:

  • Lack of communication between departments
  • Disorganized projects and missed deadlines
  • Uneven workload between team members
  • Overflowing email inbox
  • Too many time-wasting meetings

When you are looking at all options for a project management tool, you need to ask: does it solve these problems?

If the answer is no, remove the tool from your list to prevent you from getting distracted by flashy demos, pretty UI, or powerful features you’ll never use.

You can also use this list as a starting point to define what features you do want in a project management tool. Mark each feature as high, medium, or low priority to know quickly if a potential tool is going to work.

2. Research, Research, Research

With your needs defined, now it’s time to see what options are available. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Ask colleagues what they liked using in the past
  • Talk to other project managers in your industry
  • Check out recommendations on industry websites
  • Read software review websites

Start by prioritizing feedback from your team — knowing what they liked in previous tools will make company adoption easier.

Compare the feature list and pricing for each option against your list of needs. It’s worth spending a little extra time looking for that perfect fit. Does your team need Gantt charts? What about Kanban boards?

Once you’ve evaluated the options, narrow it down to about five finalists.

3. Take the Project Management Tool for a Test Drive

Now it’s time to kick the tires. Almost all project management tools come with a free trial. Even if they don’t, many companies are happy to offer one if you ask.

Gather together a small group to pilot the tool together. Choose people who have different functions and working styles. Diverse opinions are critical to preventing future issues.

It’s also a good idea (if possible) to have the pilot team work on a real project. It’s easy to play around with the features for five minutes, but you need to see how it performs when you use it to get something done. Otherwise, you won’t truly understand its benefits and drawbacks.

It’s also important to test out the customer service. Implementing a new tool, even if it’s a great fit, takes work. A provider that supports you can make all the difference.

Ask the support team a question and see how long it takes them to respond. Check out their help center and resources to see if they have assets that will help you get started. Ask your sales representative how they plan to support you if you make the switch.

4. Get feedback

After you’ve completed the trial, it’s time to gather feedback by reaching out to everyone on the pilot of your potential project management tool.

Things you should ask about:

  • Would the project management tool make their workflow more efficient?
  • How much time would be spent updating it?
  • What did they like the most/least about the tool?
  • How much time did it take them to get started?
  • How likely would they be to recommend the tool?

Next, go back to your list of pain points from the first step. Check to see how well each option solves your main problems.

It’s also important to think about how the project management tool works with external parties to prevent your team from doing duplicate work.

For example, if you’re a marketing agency, you may want your tool to easily share project progress with your clients. Otherwise, your team will have to duplicate work in order to keep clients up to date.

You also need to consider how easy it is to work with other departments. Let’s say your customer service team needs notifications from the CRM to start an implementation. If the project management tool doesn’t integrate with it, it’s going to slow down everything down.

5. Evaluate the cost

Consider not only the price per user, but also the time it would take to implement the tool. Weigh that against the cost of continuing to work the same way. Think about the time wasted, opportunities lost, and problems caused by your current workflow. How could this new tool change that?

If you can see long-term savings, then you’ve found a good option.

You should also consider what payment method works best. Do you prefer monthly subscription or annual payment? Do you want to commit to 3 months and then reevaluate? This is an investment. Figure out what is the best use of your company’s resources.

6. Implementation

Congrats! You’ve found your project management tool! The research is done and you have the perfect option.

But don’t forget an implementation plan.

Most teams are resistant to change so you need a plan that makes the rollout as smooth as possible.

Key items to consider:

  • Timeline: When do you want to bring everyone on? Do you want to spread it out or do it all at once?
  • Training: What training do various people need? Who will provide it? How will it be provided?
  • Champions: Who are going to be the key advocates for this tool? How do you get them to buy-in? What will they do to encourage others?
  • Integrations: When are you going to set up key integrations? Who will be responsible for setting them up?

Once you’ve got everyone onboard, it is critical that you set a good example. Make sure you continuously use the tool and are available to answer any questions.