36 posts categorized "Selecting"


Second Capterra Post: Making Project Management Software Work For You

It has been a busy month here at Team Interactions, but I have some more interesting topics about project management software tools that I will be posting in the coming days and weeks.

In the meantime, here is a link to the second blog post from the interview with Capterra that I did.  If you missed the first post, you can find that here.

Read the Post


Could You Benefit from Project Management Software?

The nice folks at Capterra recently interviewed me about the benefits and implementation of project management software.  You can read part 1 here.  I will post again when they publish part 2.


Why Do We Choose the Project Management Software Tools We Do?

IStock_000005289430XSmall I often think about why we choose a particular project management software platform (or why we should choose).  There were the usual reasons: the right features, pricing, fit with my organization, service, support, etc.  Then I came across an article by Ted Hardy that provided some food for thought.

There are the reasons we should choose a particular project management software platform, and then there are the reasons that we sometimes do choose a particular project management software platform.  Here are some the reasons I think that we sometimes do choose a platform:


Sometimes we choose a system that we are comfortable with.  This explains why so many people use spreadsheets as a project management software tool.  Is that the best tool for project management?  In most cases no, there is no built in project management functionality and it is difficult to pull any sort of analytics across multiple projects / spreadsheets.  But many people are very comfortable with it and so it gets used.


What do you have access to?  Using spreadsheets again as an example, most people have access to a spreadsheet program.  That makes it cheap and simple to use.

Lowest Risk

It is sometimes personally less risky to go with a "well-known" system (aka Microsoft Project) even if that is not the best system.  Why?  Because it is well known and so it would be hard for someone to come back and argue why that was a poor choice, even when the system may not pan out well.


It is easier for us to implement a simple solution than a more complex one.  I am a big proponent of keeping things simple, but that has to be compared to the needs of the organization.  Perhaps we choose a system because it is so simple that it can be understood immediately, even though our needs may require something a little more complex.  For example, we may choose a simple system that makes it really easy to enter tasks, whereas the best system may also provide the capability to store documents, track time, enter dependencies, and track issues and risks.


If we have used software before (such as in a previous position), we are more inclined to use it again, even if it may not fit the current situation and organization.  It is hard for us to be open-minded and evaluate from a blank slate, even though the organization and needs may be very different from our previous history.  This correlates with familiarity.

Political Influence

Perhaps there is some sort of political influence - a director with a preference - that is the real reason for our decision.

Be honest now.  What reasons have you used to choose software systems in the past?


Article: Comparison Between Project Management Software and Spreadsheets

The differences between project management software and spreadsheets may seem obvious.  However, since so many people use spreadsheets, I decided to document a comparison.  What really are the differences and advantages of each?  Are there things that you are not considering?

Read the article here


5 Reasons Not to Use Project Standard

Project is still the most widely used tool for project management.  I discussed some reasons to use Project.  Here are some reasons to consider not using Project for your day-to-day project management needs.  This is specifically geared towards the Project Standard Edition (the desktop version).


You have a number of projects to manage.


IStock_000004021750XSmall Project Standard is a desktop tool, meaning it is installed on an individual computer and is designed for an individual user working on an individual project.  A desktop tool is simply not designed to manage a number of different projects.  Each project has to have its own separate file and can be updated by only one person at a time.  That means you miss key capabilities such as cross-project reporting, data mining, and resource management.


If you have a number of projects to manage, you need to use a tool designed to manage a number of projects.


Your projects are not overly complicated.


If your projects are complicated, MS Project is a good tool to schedule and manage those individual projects.  If your projects are fairly simple or not considerably large, a simpler more straightforward tool may be more appropriate.  For example, if you have a 1,500 task project, you need a desktop-based, fairly

complex scheduling tool.  If you have a 25 task project, you simply do not.


You have a number of people to manage.


Project Standard is not designed to be accessed by multiple people or to view information about multiple projects.  I know that you can create master project files, but that is not the same thing.  Managing people (i.e. resources) is very important in today’s environment of trimmed staff and being pushed to do more with less.  It is simply difficult to manage resources with a desktop tool.  Here is what you are missing: access by your people to view their assignments and update status, views of how your resources are allocated across all projects, and reports on who is performing well and who is falling behind.


You do not want to buy it for all of your people.


Project Standard requires a license and installation for everyone that will use it.  That can be quite expensive when you start to ramp up the number of people that will use it.  You may want to consider a hosted solution or a solution where there are at least varying levels of user pricing.


Your project managers do not have good Project expertise.


Project Standard requires a minimum amount of expertise to use it successfully.  Unless people understand concepts such as dependencies, constraints, actual vs. baseline vs. scheduled dates, and are familiar with Gantt Views, they will have a hard time using Project.  One of the considerations is that there is no other interface except for the “project manager” interface.  For those that are not operating in a project manager capacity, or do not have the fundamental knowledge of project management scheduling, there is no other interface.

This is where a tool that provides multiple interfaces for different user roles becomes important, or a tool that is simpler to use than MS Project.


An alternative scenario to consider if you do have a mix of people that are skilled vs. people that are not skilled is to implement a tool that supports both an interface with MS Project and provides an alternative for project scheduling.


Consider these when making the determination to use Project Standard throughout your organization to support your key project processes.


4 Reasons You Should Use Microsoft Project Standard Edition

It is no secret that the mention of Microsoft Project brings out certain emotions in people.  Generally, they love it or they hate it (that is a separate topic all to itself).  But Microsoft Project is the most popular tool out there to manage project schedules and we should not simply discard it offhand.  There are reasons to use it and reasons not to use it.



Before we get to that, understand that Microsoft Project comes in different flavors these days.  The Standard Edition is the desktop tool that is installed on your computer and enables you to schedule a single project (I know some of you are going to talk to me about master project schedules, but that is not really what it was designed to do).  “Project Server” or “Project EPM” is the high-end server system.  We’ll cover that in a future post.

Here are four reasons you should use Microsoft Project Standard.

You have complicated schedules.

If you have schedules with a lot of tasks (hundreds or thousands), or complex schedules (lots of different types of dependencies and constraints), you should use Microsoft Project Standard.  It does a good job at managing an individual project schedule that is large or complex.  Of course, you have to know how to use it, but that also is a separate post.

You are a Microsoft Project expert. 

If you are an expert at Microsoft Project, you should use that expertise.  It is a good tool in the hands of a skilled user.

You work with vendors, partners, or customers who require the exchange of project plans in Microsoft Project format.

This is self explanatory.  You either need Microsoft Project or a system that easily interchanges Microsoft Project formats.

You do not have a lot of different projects.

If you use Microsoft Project Standard, you will need to open up each project individually to update it.  If you have a lot of different projects, the management of these becomes very cumbersome.  You really are going to want to use a more centralized system for the management of these projects.

Next we’ll look at reasons not to use Microsoft Project Standard.



Final Considerations

We are wrapping up a discussion series on selecting and evaluating project management software. Here are a few considerations before making your final decision.

At this point, you should have a good idea of which vendor you want to select. However, there are some remaining (but not unimportant) tasks to complete.

Ensure that you understand the complete cost of the implementation.

If you have not done so already (which you should have), obtain a written quotation of the costs involved. Review this with the vendor to be sure that you understand it. Ask questions such as "what happens if in two months we need your help", etc. Will the vendor be charging you for a lot of professional services time or is what you see up front what you get? Can you do the implementation yourself, or will you be paying the vendor to do it? What if you want to add more licenses or subscriptions down the road?

Talk to other customers as appropriate.

Talk to some of the vendor's other customers and see what their experience has been like. What type of support have they received? Did they pay more than they expected? What is the vendor like to work with?

Review the contract.

Be sure that you understand the contract (or order form) that you will sign. How will future upgrades be handled? Even if you will be doing the implementation yourself, how much will it cost to get the vendor's help if needed? Does the contract say what you believe to be the true cost?

Let me also say that you need to understand the type of software that you are procuring. If you are purchasing a $200 stand-alone desktop application, you are probably not going to get a written quotation and talk with customers, as you would with a $20,000 package. So use some common sense there.

Review your objectives again.

Go back to your comparison chart and objectives and be sure that your selection is going to help you meet those goals. It is difficult at this point to keep the emotion out of it, including the "I just want this process to be over with" emotion.

Plan the implementation.

Don't forget to plan the implementation. This is relevant to the current discussion because you want to be sure you are ready, know when you want to complete the implementation, and be sure the vendor is on board (if applicable) with your plans. Plus you don't want to lose momentum. You want to keep the ball rolling and move into executing your plan.

Don't forget to leave your comments or email blog@teaminteractions.com with your feedback on what has been successful for you.


What's Next Part 2

We have just a couple of posts left before wrapping up our series on selecting and evaluating project management software.

After compiling and scoring the different vendors, as indicated in the last post (part 1), you want to decide on a final project management software tool or a couple of final tools. Either way, I recommend that you ask for a second demonstration. The purpose of this demonstration is to confirm your previous findings, identify areas that you missed in the first demonstration, and go a little deeper to make a final decision. If you still have two vendors in the running, this will help you make a final decision. If you have narrowed the list down to one, this will still help you confirm your decision. You will find things that you missed in the first go-around.

In addition, you should use this as an opportunity to start planning your implementation. How will you use and configure the software? How are you going to implement your processes within the software? What will you try to accomplish in the first phase? Second phase? This all helps to get started on the right foot and make sure you are making the right decision.

You can also use this as an opportunity to interact with the vendor about the project management software implementation. Ask questions about this. What does the implementation entail? Who will do it? What do they recommend as a best practice? This is another tool in your belt for a successful implementation.

Now there are just a couple of things to wrap up...


What's Next? Part 1

If you are following along with our posts, you realize that we are reviewing the process of selecting and evaluating project management software. We discussed things like Preparation, Finding Tools, and Evaluation Methods.

What's next? What happens after going through a software demonstration and trial of your top systems / vendors?

It is important that you are following a process so that you are not simply leaning towards a system because the salesperson is outgoing or the system looks neat. The idea is that the system will strategically help you accomplish business objectives. That is why we talked about preparation, identifying your objectives, creating a comparison chart, etc. Now is a good time to review that work. We all have a tendency to get bogged down with evaluating tools and forget the forest for the trees. Review your objectives and other preparation materials before making further decisions.

After you have done that, take a look at the project management software systems you have reviewed and your comparison chart. Hopefully you have documented things along the way and have notes on your comparison chart for the various tools. Your goal here is to make a decision on either a final tool or no more than two final tools. Several things may happen here. It may be inherently obvious which tool will best help you meet your objectives. You may realize that none of the tools really meet your objectives in which case you probably selected the wrong ones and you need to go back and review how you selected the "finalists". Most likely, more than one of the tools in your final grouping that you just got done evaluating will look good and could work.

In that case, if you have not done so already, you will want to score the different items in your criteria chart according to importance, and use somewhat of an analytical method of determining a total score for a tool. For example you may score each capability a score of 1 to 5 for each tool, and also weight each capability a 1-3 in terms of its importance to your organization. Then you can create some formulas to create a total scoring weighting the more important capabilities / features. If you do this, be sure that you don't just include features. Remember things like pricing, responsiveness, flexibility, etc. Those are just as important, if not more so, than pure features.

What do you do with this score? That will be part two...


When should you do demos and trials?

I wanted to clear up a point about when to do project management software demonstrations and trials. It is not appropriate to do them for every software system that you may evaluate.

If you have not already done so, check out our posts on the project management software categories or download our Project Management Software Buyer's Guide. These will provide you with a snapshot of the available categories in the market today.

I reference these because they are relevant for when you should do software demonstrations and trials. Here are some general guidelines:

Simple / Stand Alone Tools: you will most likely not get a software demonstration with these tools, but most of them will have a free trial.

Collaborative Tools: these tools will most likely have a free trial, and some may also offer demonstrations.

Mid-Size Tools: these tools often times offer both software demonstrations and trials.

High-End and PPM Tools: these tools almost always offer software demonstrations, but not always software trials.

I hope that clears things up and give you an idea of what to expect. I can see those poor stand-alone vendors now getting requests to give live software demonstrations!



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