Buying project management software may seem like a straightforward process on the surface, but there’s a little more to it than you might think.
Project management practices differ based on the type of work you’re doing, and vendors develop software with this in mind. Additionally, different tools offer different kinds of automated process, integrations, and industry customizations. Going with a tool that isn’t a good fit for your company can cause frustration and big expenses later, so it’s best to do a little more research up front to find a good fit that will last a long time.
There are many different solutions out there, but at TechnologyAdvice, we help people with their software searches all day. Based on our experience with project management software, here are our recommendations for a smooth buying experience.
1. Define your feature requirements
Some teams prefer project management tools that offer a variety of different tools, but other teams are just looking for something simple to help visualize their workflows. The easiest way you can find out exactly what your team is looking is by asking them.
You’ll want to take some time to familiarize yourself with current processes before jumping right in. Project managers will be familiar with these different management styles, but learning more about them will make the buying process go faster for you and will decrease your dependence on other people to guide your decision.
Does your team primarily work using Kanban, Gantt charts, calendars, burndown charts, a different method, or a mix of a few different methods?
If your team engages in a lot of repetitive work, you’ll want to ask them about this so you can look for systems that offer appropriate automations. Most project management solutions offer some automation features, but your team might specifically need to repeat weekly tasks or automatically update project statuses.
Knowing which automation tools your team needs can prevent you from spending money on features they won’t use.
2. Choose a shortlist
Once you know which features your team wants, you can start conducting research on different product offerings. Google and other search engines are your friend here, but you’ll also want to consider websites like TechnologyAdvice that provide free, unbiased buyer’s guides and product reviews from real users of the software.
On our website, we offer a free Product Selection Tool that you can use to read product reviews, features, industries, company size, price ranges, and more. You can also use the product selection tool to compare vendors against one another in one easy view. If you’re short on time, feel free to call us at 877.822.9526 for a five-minute consultation or email us at email@example.com.
3. Use free trials
Most project management software solutions offer free trials for anywhere from 10 to 14 days. Seeing as you only get one free trial per software, be judicious about which systems you decide to trial. You get one shot to get a good feel for the software outside of a scheduled product demo, so use this time wisely to view the features you deem important and evaluate its ease of use.
Before going into a free trial, have a written, well-thought-out list of the various aspects of the software you’re looking at. If you won’t be the primary user of the software, take detailed notes or save a screen recording of your trial experience, if you can. This will provide valuable insight to your primary user group so they can give you feedback on whether or not it seems like a good fit.
4. Expect to move rapidly
Once you’re ready to make a purchase, expect a quick shift in pace as you install and onboard the new system. You should know up-front, but cloud-based project management systems will either bill on an annual or monthly subscription. On-premise solutions will probably come at a one-time licensing fee or will be priced by the number of seats you need for the software.
Unlike other systems such as CRM, ERP, or HRIS, project management systems require little onboarding and setup, as there will likely be little to no data migration. As soon as the software is installed or ready for access, your team is ready to start using it right away. There might be a small learning curve as team members adjust to the new software, but otherwise project management solutions are relatively easy to start using.
5. Plan for training and using your resources
Training employees on a new project management system isn’t as involved as training for other software solutions like HRIS or CRM, but you’ll still want to set aside time before implementation begins to plan out your company’s training. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the software so you can do a better job of training others.
Set up your team’s main projects, user roles, dashboards, reports, and any important automations, documenting your process in a company wiki or a public folder. Provide links or referrals to other resources in these documents so you don’t wind up being the only point of contact for any questions that arise. Giving employees access to vendor training videos, complementary documentation, and vendor support is more fair to both you and your employees.
Process documentation is great, but nothing beats having an expert there in real time to answer any questions that arise. You don’t have to hire any outside trainers for this—just look within your own organization to identify any users who naturally pick up on the software better than others and ask them if they’re willing to help with training.
6. Track your metrics
Once training is done, you’ll want to conduct regular pulse checks to see if it was effective. The best way to do this is by checking in on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to view user engagement reports and status updates on projects, reports, and data access within the system.
Look also to other managers using the software. Has their team’s productivity increased? Has the software had any effect on how they plan or prepare for projects? In addition to serving as a gauge for ROI, ask other managers how they use the software to get ideas for how you can improve your own use of the software.
As a final recommendation, check back in with the product experts you recruited earlier to help with training. They may have found problems or bugs in the software that you didn’t notice before, and they may not be using all the features the system offers after all. Use the answers they provide to identify areas for additional training.
TechnologyAdvice can help
If you’re in the market for a project management solution, our Technology Advisors are standing by to help. After a five-minute consultation, we’ll put together a shortlist of the best project management software for you based on your specific needs.
Give us a call today at 877.822.9526 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to learn more about project management software before picking up the phone, feel free to check out our Project Management Product Selection Tool for more information.