Project Management Tools Are for Productivity, Not Perfection

Posted September 2, 2014 by   in Marketing Strategy


Like any craft, having the right tools for the job can help make your work easier. However, it’s also possible to get so bogged down in programs that optimizing productivity becomes its own time-suck. A balance must be struck. What will increase my productivity without adding unnecessary work? Is this a good tool for my personal use, or does it scale to a team? Does the tool do too little, requiring more programs, or too much, making it too complicated to use?

I have a background in logistics, where the underlying goal is always efficiency. What is the quickest way to get my cargo from point A to point B without sacrificing quality? The answer seems simple, but the execution often involves multiple resources and tools acting in coordination. I’ve found that project management tools work the same way. What are the right tools for each step in the supply chain? How does this project get completed efficiently, who are the best resources to use, and what is our quality-control process? Demand for quality and efficiency require a project manager and the right tools.

I’ve heard some complaints amounting to “more tools, more problems,” but it’s never as simple as cutting everything. From what I have seen, most PM tools excel in one component of project management and have a lackluster approach to the others. I would rather utilize multiple tools that excel in their own area versus trying to force one tool to work for every need.

Project Management Tools We Love

Google Docs and Dropbox are a great start, but far from the last word in project management tools. As with anything in marketing, project management needs are constantly changing and processes need to be evaluated. I’m not saying this list is the end all-be all, but here is the combination of tools that I’ve found work best for our nine-person agency’s needs at this time.

Basecamp

A popular project management tool suitable for managing day-to-day tasks and mapping out project plans. Basecamp is the program that can serve as a productivity swiss army knife, accepting lots of different information inputs. But its real strength is in its collaborative features. Everything from meeting notes to important emails can be imported and tracked inside Basecamp and shared with other people on the project. This tool can be relied on for tasking out the major to-dos for each project phase, but also for tracking changes made to a site or campaign.

Building a website or launching a new marketing campaign involves a lot of steps, so keeping all checklists within Basecamp can ensure that there’s one place where project members can reliably find the information they need. As a project gets more complicated and extends over a longer span of time, accountability becomes increasingly important. Basecamp automatically tracks who makes changes and when, allowing for easy auditing of your progress.

But it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a checklist.

Harvest Time Tracker

This tool is exactly what it sounds like, a piece of farming equipment that plows time. Okay, so not quite exactly what it sounds like. It is, however, a great tool for logging time spent on projects. Harvest can be used to organize budgets for each phase of a project and can automatically track how well we stick to those budgets. It basically allows us to evaluate which phases of projects are consistently going over budget to help improve our scoping and budgeting process.

Roadmap

Basecamp provides the project plan and Harvest tracks the actual time spent on that project, but we also need to understand the overall picture of the capacity each staff member has on a given week, or even day. Roadmap is the tool that helps bring it all together. Its easy integration with Basecamp helps me assign projected hours to tasks and see capacity based on these tasks being completed or their estimated completion date. It also fills a missing gap with Basecamp where it shows tasks needing completed stretched through the whole duration of the task, not just the day it is due.

No matter how organized you are, you aren’t going to remember everything. And you don’t have to. There are many project management tools available, and when used correctly, they can help increase the productivity of your projects and team members.

What has worked for you? If you are using multiple tools, are they integrated? What allows you to be most efficient?