How to choose your project management software: key questions?
Your company is interested in purchasing a project or business management package and you want to identify the software on the market which meets the specific needs of your job.
Whether this is the first time you are choosing software or you are replacing an existing system, the choice of software is crucial because it represents a long-term investment in terms of cost, staff and quality assurance.
Below are some important points to consider when choosing a project management solution:
- Define and formalise your specific needs
What problems are you faced with?
- Lack of visibility over project profitability and the team occupancy rate
- Obsolete scheduling tools (protracted Excel spreadsheets, tools not adapted to your company organisation)
- Invoicing errors, lack of visibility over follow-ups that need to be made
- Tedious accounting sheets
- Lack of consistency in your processes, documents and information
- Onerous quality assurance processes
Even if in most cases it is the Managing Director, Director of Finance or the Project Manager who initiates the idea, it is still vital to include all employees in the decision process.
Identify your priorities! In your list of identified needs, mark out those which are non-negotiable from those which are secondary but would still improve your organisation and your profit margins. That will help you to make your choice.
- Choose a solution specialised in your profession or sector
Some software casts a wide net in terms of specialism (wholesale, HR, projects, production, processes), whereas others are adapted to particular professions or industries. A mistake is often made when you opt for a generalised developer. This type of solution generally involves more adaptations because the features are generic. But a solution that is specially designed for your industry will enable a quicker installation without the need for specific developments. Having the knowledge and expertise of your job will allow the developer to meet your needs more efficiently, which means increased productivity.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Does the developer have clients in my industry or sector, and is the solution adapted to my specific industry needs?
- Is the software adapted to my organisation, to the size of my company?
- System capabilities and flexibility
Your future project management solution must enable you to make quick decisions but also it must adapt itself to your business and to your expectations. You shouldn’t adapt to the software, it should adapt to you. On the contrary, it should allow you to further your company in terms of efficiency, profit margins, collaborations and quality.
The chosen software will also need to meet your most immediate needs in terms of its features but also your medium-term needs and goals.
Your choice should be made based on whether the software meets all the expectations that you have set out as priorities. If it offers more features than required, bear in mind that your company will grow and that the solution doesn’t only need to meet your criteria defined at that precise moment.
Questions to ask:
- Will the developer offer me a smooth upgrade when my company grows?
- Is the software modular or flexible enough if my needs change?
- Does it use technology that will last over time?
- Ergonomics and user experience
Having the company employees adopt and acclimate to your collaborative software is really the key to success. The more intuitive and customisable the software, the better chance you have of your team members becoming accustomed to it.
It mustn’t represent extra work for the user but improve their day-to-day: it needs to save time, facilitate projects, increase efficiency or even introduce new, more productive working methods.
Any collaborative solution should be the following:
Ask the different developers you have identified for a demo. This will allow you to check out their solution, not only in terms of features but also ergonomics and flexibility. You will also be able to fine tune your requirements, because you will probably discover other tools that you haven’t even thought about. Think about including your team members during the demonstration, because – don’t forget – the success of this transition is largely based on the whole team complying. They will be able to bring their own perspectives.
At this stage, you can now eliminate some of your choices because if you aren’t convinced by the demo, it’s unlikely you’ll be convinced later on.
Our advice: write a specifications list
So you’ve identified your requirements. Now it’s time to write down your short and medium-term goals regarding growth, organisation, human resources and quality. Check your specs with the developer and don’t be afraid to ask for details about their offer. Your choice should be made based on the developer which will help you to meet your goals.
- The cost and mode of purchase
Don’t forget that project management software is a long-term investment so it’s essential to compare total costs over several years. ERP software can be purchased under licensing agreement or by a monthly subscription. Check the offers by the different developers in your short list. The cost of such a solution will include licences and infrastructures depending on the model, the roll-out, the project and integration time, maintenance, support, the purchase of extra modules if there is no comprehensive package, as well as future upgrades whether standard or specific.
- A long-term partnership
Beyond the cost factor, it is important to choose the right partner because the human element here is key to implementing a successful collaborative tool. Don’t forget that the software developer will be by your side for many years and will guarantee the performance of the solution. Other than your rigorous checks on the years of experience and their client references, it is important to check the strategic and technological vision of the company, its desire and ability to innovate, the level of availability and quality of support, and the customer training offered.