My Company Nearly Died! The Reason? My Lack of Project-Management Skills
Most entrepreneurs use at least one project-management tool whether they’re tracking client projects or organizing internal tasks. However, the tools many select aren’t always the best choices. Hobbled by a minimal skill set and knowledge, some entrepreneurs will pick the first platform that looks good, then stick with it indefinitely regardless of its limitations.
I know about this, because it's exactly what I did with my own company. Excel was my go-to project-management tool to keep track of everything. But, as the company scaled and grew to more than 20 employees, problems started. The team was frustrated and tried to suggest other platforms. Instead, I kept using Excel -- and the problems only got worse.
Here’s what I learned that could help entrepreneurs who are stuck, and why they might be wise to consider some of the latest project management tools available.
Specifically: One of the biggest challenges project managers face is organization. Unfortunately, most platforms offer an excessively simplistic way to categorize tasks, presenting the same formula and an oversimplified prioritization system with a straightforward hierarchy.
Many tools focus exclusively on managing low-level tasks. This makes it difficult for project managers to get an accurate estimate for project progress and complicates high-level resource-allocation decisions.
There are dozens of variables that can influence your project-management needs, including your philosophy, your team, your company size and your industry. Unfortunately, there aren’t many platforms that can offer you a universally effective system to address those needs.
Many project-management tools try to differentiate themselves by adding more robust functionality. However, it takes weeks to months to “learn” the platform, as you wade through tutorials and create internal operating documents.
A different approach to oroject-management tool selection
To mitigate these problems and offer a different approach, I’ve found other project-management tools that have helped my team and entrepreneurial colleagues with their specific needs.
One of my first realizations was that not every function in my company benefits from the same project-management tool. That's how I came to discover some function-specific tools like ZenHub. This tool is designed specifically for programmers and integrates project and task management with the actual work that’s being done.
Its biggest value proposition is its intuitiveness: It enables employees new to the platform to pick up the basics in a matter of mere minutes. When people are done managing projects, they then can create visual reports utilizing real-time data on their projects. These data visuals help them keep track of the drawbacks n each of their projects, and ensure that they can continue optimizing their process to improve.
For on-the-fly adaptability
By relying on the same old project-management tool, I wasn’t allowing my company or team to be as flexible to pivot as they could be with a more adaptive platform. That's how I came to learn about Quire. Quire allows managers to create hierarchical, nested tasks and subtasks, which in turn makes it easy to label and organize their work without categorization problems.
Quire is perfect if you want to brainstorm new ideas abstractly or chaotically, then drag and drop them into a more organized format, in order to start adding due dates, details and assignees.
Also, Quire utilizes a Kanban board, where project managers can switch their attention from high-level brainstorming to low-level task management. Boards can be associated with specific milestones and organized intuitively. For example, they could be sorted by assignee, so managers can monitor what each team member has on his or her plate.
For simple project management
I had stuck to Excel so long because it seemed simple, when, in reality, my company was growing and I needed more options. But if "simple" is appealing and your company is in startup mode, other simple tools are available, notably nTask.
This new project-management tool provides access to Gantt charts, task comments, risks and issues, multiple board views, time tracking and meeting management. Plus, its risk-management feature allows managers to utilize an interactive risk matrix, so they can identify and evaluate the frequency and severity of risks associated with each task or project.
For easy team-member collaboration and workflows
If you are particularly focused on creating better collaboration among your own team, especially members who are remotely based, then consider Functionfox.
One of this tool's unique features enables a team to create workflows to ensure that projects and tasks are executed exactly as intended. There are also built-in collaboration features, facilitating how team members work together.
For customized, detailed project analysis
Improvement is a central goal to any organization, so what's helpful here is a project-management tool that integrates analytics into the features set. Comindware is just such a tool; it offers you a way to analyze your processes, even as you commit to and iteratively improve them.
You’ll be able to evaluate how your team members execute different steps of your existing process and analyze whether they can be improved. You can even automate some of your workflows to eliminate manual processes that interfere with and slow own your business.
For third-party integration options
A caveat of using so many different tools is that some entrepreneurs become overwhelmed trying to make all these tools work well together. Hive has emerged as a solution for this challenge, offering flexibility and customization.
Hive also offers more than a thousand specific integrations with other apps, such as Gmail, Slack, Dropbox and Hubspot. You can mix and match different app integrations until you have the platform working as cohesively and comprehensively as you need.
For “all-in-one” integration
Some companies will still want just one project management tool to handle everything, and there’s an answer for that, too. Scoro is billed as an “all-in-one” business-management software designed to integrate projects, tasks, sales and other reports into just one platform.
Its project-management system delivers in-depth task creation, tracking and high-level analysis. You can also segment billable and non-billable work as well as view financial data to evaluate each project’s cost-effectiveness. Built-in work scheduling and tracking enables meeting scheduling and employee time-tracking. Also, Scoro’s customization flexibility means users can tweak the platform’s layout and active features to make it a better fit for your team.
No “best” project-management platform
Every company has distinct needs, a different set of existing tools and a unique team to consider. Test several different platforms to learn which features and UIs work best for your situation. However, don’t develop the mindset that your company should use one only project management tool -- as I did.
Instead, recognize that these tools are just one element of project management. Even with the perfect platform, you’ll still need to leverage the most appropriate strategies and processes to work as efficiently as you want to.