June 30, 2014

Should You Be Using More Than One Project Management Software?

Project management platforms often market themselves as all in one solutions, but do brand promises align with the reality project managers face on a daily basis? Increasingly, it appears the answer is no. Though it’s difficult to quantify an exact percentage, it’s typical for organizations to use more than one PM software in the same office.

The question is why.

Screenpush‘s Chief Technology Officer Alex Brown adds some perspective:

“I’ve learned that using multiple systems on a departmental basis enables us to find the right system for the process and not just a system that only partially does what we need.”

From organizations at the enterprise level down to startups, communication is critical, and certain software lends itself to easy visualization of workflow. In an enterprise, this allows departments heads to quickly sift through the tremendous output of the employees under them to make sure their throughput is at a satisfactory level. For startups and SMBs, this means keeping everyone agile and combating scope creep to keep projects under budget.

But if certain solutions excel at communication, what are the benefits of using a respective software to manage projects at a department level, and are there any drawbacks associated with this model?

Benefits

For a developer projects will differ greatly from those of a sales manager; therefore the software each uses should align with their respective needs rather than try to service such vastly different requirements under one roof. In this scenario, the sales manager will likely use a customer relationship management platform to manage his clients. In contrast, the developer needs software with powerful issue tracking capabilities – functionality someone in sales has no use for.

So the major benefit of using more than one project management solution in the same office is efficiency. Though it depends on the capabilities of your organization, providing respective departments with PM tools that align with the specifics of their job functions can increase efficiency, rather than creating a user adoption bottleneck that actually injures productivity.

Outside of efficiency, using PM applications that fit the needs of different departments can increase morale. If department heads are included in the buying process, they’ll gain a greater sense of autonomy by contributing to the advancement of their department.

Drawbacks

While improving employee efficiency with department specific PM platforms is important, it’s not without its drawbacks.

“When other departments have no visibility into what you might be working on, collaboration and communication either becomes completely manual (lots of emails and meetings) or just doesn’t happen at all,” said Brody Dorland, Cofounder of project management platform DivvyHQ.

“When the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, it’s kinda hard to build something great.”

“When the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, it’s kinda hard to build something great.”

Dorland’s point is an excellent one: by catering to the individual needs of each department, organizations can effectively create a self-fulfilling prophecy in which departments work in silos of because of their project management software and therefore require a second system to communicate with colleagues who aren’t on their specific platform. It’s a difficult decision to make: boosting efficiency may come at the cost of transparency and collaboration outside other a specific department.

In this system, cross department collaboration becomes substantially more process-oriented, which invariably slows down the project. For sales to collaborate with development on a client portal that could boost customer retention, a sales rep must first go through his manager who must then assign the project to the developer on their specific software as well as on the communication software the manager is using.

In this context, it seems that using two project management systems isn’t just a choice, but a necessity – the platform that’s more suited to communication is required to connect siloed departments.

How to Know if You Need Two

Like any software purchase, implementing a second project management software must be driven by a business need. Though the communication and task based model of using two systems isn’t always ideal for collaboration, it may be required once your organization grows to a particular size.

Analyze the productivity of each of your departments: does one seem to be lagging behind the others? Perhaps their current project management solution isn’t effectively augmenting their workflow, or perhaps the department head doesn’t have a clear enough view of throughput. This scenario could be grounds for choosing a supplementary solution to manage this department’s projects.

If you do choose to implement another solution, be patient in your search, and demo each software in your consideration set to ensure it actually works for your team.

 

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