No One Has the Perfect Project Management Toolkit…

…in fact, one of the most spirited discussions to take place at February’s Digital Project Manager Summit centered around the question of which tools get what done.

For example:

I use OmniPlan for personal to-do’s, but Trello for shared tasks. I take notes in TextEdit, but we use GoogleDocs to collect them. We use Sifter to capture bug reports, but PivotalTracker to document progress.

We all need these tools to keep things running, so much so that the goal at this point isn’t even to have fewer apps — the more the merrier, provided it can help get more done better.

The trouble begins, and only compounds itself, when we let the search for the perfect app keep us from solving the real problem. You may have fallen into a similar trap if you’ve ever

  • Let your team’s workflow be determined by an app you’re still learning
  • Tried to cram existing processes through a new app’s swim lanes
  • Given your team (or self) whiplash from changing tools too quickly
  • Sacrificed team values or client satisfaction for the perceived value of a newer technology

Questions to Ask When Updating Your Project Management Toolkit

  • Am I looking for a new tool or an improved process? I often find that I’m perennially searching for the former when I’m, in reality, in dire need of the latter. Taking on a new technology is often an easier itch to scratch than tackling the real problem; make sure your solution is not just a superficial one.
  • Can I easily visualize how this tool fits into my workflow?Take a moment and sketch out what you’re hoping to accomplish with the new app. Draw a diagram, outline the workflow, and ensure that the app you’re investigating can fit into that. Not vice versa. Of course, doing that requires that you have two new items in your Perfect Toolkit: pen and paper.
  • How much will implementing this new tool cost me?You’re not just purchasing software. You (and your team) may need to dedicate a significant amount of time to learning, re-learning, battling, and re-learning how this tool needs to be used in your business.
  • How will we decide to abandon the tool?Don’t just stick with it because you’ve started it. Give yourself an exit strategy, including a trial period timeline and some metrics to help make that call.
  • How do I get my team to buy in to this new tool?Often you’re not the only one that needs to adopt. Try to remember that we all have mental, emotional, and even physical relationships to the tools that we use and that change often works best with support.

    And, lastly…

  • What apps are others using?Don’t forget to use your peers as a resource. Learning how and how successfully others use tools can help determine what you’re missing in your toolkit — or help you realize that you’ve been taking your own apps for granted.