Running any business these days requires the use of digital platforms. Everything from basic email, to managing finances, to marketing and customer relationship management, all involve using digital platforms. And for each application there are so many options available it can be staggering! I’ve reviewed and recommended platforms for some of these various needs and I have a few go-to recommendations. For example, I highly recommend Harvest for time keeping, HubSpot Free CRM for customer relationship management (if you even need that), and QuickBooks for financials.
But when it comes to project management software, I’ve never reviewed or recommended a particular system. I’ve used a few different ones, and while I like the one I use now (Teamwork), I’m not convinced that it’s better than all of the other options out there. And frankly, when it comes to project management software, if yours ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Switching project management systems involves way too much time and effort if a change is not absolutely necessary.
Do You Really Need a Project Management System?
But do you need a project management system at all? Well, unless you’re a solopreneur with a service that’s extremely simple, and that requires very little back and forth with clients, I think the answer is yes.
Whether or not your process is complex enough to require multi-phased Gantt charts, at the core, a project management system enables you to keep all project communications in one place. How many times have you lost track of an important project detail because someone emailed it to just one team member, and so it never got integrated into a project? At a minimum you should be using a project management system for all essential project communications.
Don’t Get Lost in Project Management System Extras
But of course project management systems offer a whole lot more than project communication capabilities. Most offer scheduling and calendar capabilities, time tracking and project status features, file repositories, notebooks, billing tools, and more.
Whenever I evaluate a new digital platform I always apply one important principle—beware of “all in one” solutions! You see, It’s very tempting for online platform developers to keep expanding their core features to cover more and more capabilities. There are some natural paths for this kind of expansion. For example, Email marketing platforms often include “CRM” features for managing your contact lists. But when you compare an email marketing platform CRM features to a specialized CRM the differences become obvious.
Similarly, it’s natural for project management system developers to add time tracking features into their systems. But when you compare their time capabilities to a focused time tracking platform like Harvest’s the gaps become quite large. They might cover the bases of recording time, but their time reporting capabilities will always pale in comparison with a system, like Harvest.
So when you pick a project management system, be careful not to get sucked into using each and every feature. For sure, use it’s core project management and communication capabilities, but you’ll usually be better off using other specialized platforms for time tracking, and for billing and financials.
Using a Project Management System Improves Your Professionalism
Another indirect benefit when using a project management system is that it increases your professionalism, both real and perceived. Creatives are not known for being the most organized and detail oriented people. It’s a good thing it’s not my job to project manage building a bridge—I’d certainly never drive over it. And so we may need to bolster our general lack of schedule and communication precision with software that helps keep us organized.
And when we do have a project management system in place, it’s very use will help clients overcome any fears they might have on that front. After all, they know that we creatives can get lost in the creative process. Many clients have been on the receiving end of that weakness. A project management system gives a client reassurance that we’re on top of our projects and that we’ll stay on schedule and communicate effectively.
All things considered, it’s worth the time and cost to set up a project management system and use it’s core features. That investment will reward you in the long run and keep your clients happy.