11 Tips to Get the Most Out of Project Management Software

IT executives and project management experts share their tips on how to choose the right PM software for your organization and how to get your employees to use it effectively.

By Jennifer Lonoff Schiff
Wed, October 10, 2012

CIO — The best project management software in the world will not help your organization complete projects faster or more efficiently if employees don't or won't use it. So how do you choose the right project management solution (software) for your business? CIO.com surveyed dozens of IT executives and project management experts to find out. Following are their tips for getting the most out of project management software.

1. Start with a needs analysis. "Project management solutions come in all shapes and sizes. The first step is to determine what kind of project management and/or collaboration you need," says Catherine Brown, vice president of Marketing at Mavenlink, a provider of project management and collaboration solutions.

"For example, are all your projects internal, or are you also working with external vendors and clients?" Brown says. "Do you need to assign tasks and deliverables or just create a space where everyone can collaborate? Will your projects involve budgets and invoices?"

2. Consider a cloud-based service. "I selected a cloud-based project management system for a number of factors, including ease of deployment and overall cost of ownership," says Sid Haas, vice president of Business Development at LKCS, a marketing services provider.

"We have been using the same [cloud] platform for about three years and have saved tens of thousands of dollars over a software solution we would install and manage," Haas says. In addition, he says, because their project management solution is web-based, "users [can] access the system from anywhere, on any device, and system enhancements and upgrades are delivered automatically as they become available."

[Related: 12 Common Project Management Mistakes--and How to Avoid Them]

3. Make sure the software is easy to use. "Look for project management software that is both intuitive and generally in-line with how your organization works," says Jon Payne, president, Ephricon Web Marketing. "If it doesn't meet your specifics out-of-the-box, then be sure to choose a solution that has built-in custom fields and the ability to rename fields and categories," he says. "You should change the labels in your software to suit your business, not the other way around."

4. Choose a project management solution that can scale. "Implementing a project management solution throughout an organization is a long-term project in itself," says Haas. "So select a solution that will grow with you and offers features that you may not even think of utilizing at the start."

5. Solicit input from the departments and people who will actually be using the software. "Choosing software that will be a good overall fit is important. The best way to do this is to include the whole team in the selection process," says Lynne Henslee, president, e2b teknologies, a business technology and services provider.

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