Your 5 Step Plan to Find the Top Project Management Software

Picking a project management program doesn't have to just be an annoying tongue-twister or blind dart toss at the myriad available options. Ivan Gil has a strategy to help you navigate towards the application that will give your agency the best results.
top project management software
By Caitlin Wittlif Jun 24, 2020

If you’re in the market for project management software, you might be feeling overwhelmed. With the wealth of options available from a cursory Google search, how do you know the app you’re picking is truly the top project management software? If you feel a little like this, you might benefit from a more strategic approach to picking the right online project management tools for your agency. Luckily, Ivan Gil, the co-founder of Picture + Story, is an expert in project management software, and has a process.

Step One:  Determine Use Cases

In order to narrow down your options for the best marketing project management software, you need to decide how your agency will be using the application. “You want to figure out what the different use cases are, and what problems you’re trying to solve by having project management,” Ivan says. “At the end of the day, project management is helping solve and prevent problems. We want to make sure we stay ahead of that by understanding the current lay of the land.” Do you want software that’s going to help keep all of your logos and brand assets in one place? Maybe you’re looking for an application that can help your team organize their tasks and hit deadlines. You might want a tool that promotes creative collaboration — or one that encompasses all of the above. By identifying the scenarios you want to use project management tools and techniques, you can come up with a specific set of requirements that the appropriate application will need to meet. 

Step Two:  Go for the Demo

Before you fully commit to online project management tools, Ivan recommends testing out the final contenders. “I love actually getting my hands on tools before making a decision,” he says. “I ask for a temporary account or demo that I can play with — and I like to break things.” By putting your potential PM tool through the ringer, you’ll be able to understand how it meets your team’s needs, and what the potential weak spots might be. You’ll also be able to tell how much on-ramp your colleagues will need to get used to the tool, which can be important for your team’s adoption (more on that later).

Step Three:  Read the Report

When you’re finalizing your choice, Ivan says you should identify whether or not the tool can track time you spend on activities — and report that back to you. “Reporting is key,” Ivan says. “You need to be able to measure if your software is working. Just because you’re putting a new tool in place, doesn’t equate to automatic success — are you seeing the time savings you want? Figure out those key metrics, from implementation to post-implementation. That includes hard metrics, like emails sent, but also qualitative data, which is what is and isn’t working for your employees.” If you pre-plan the kinds of reporting you want to get out of the tool you select, you can make sure you’re tracking the right information before, during, and after implementation, which can give you more concrete evidence as to the success of the PM software on your team.

Step Four:  Buy In

According to Ivan, adoption is the most key aspect to implementing project management software at your agency. If you have the most whiz-bang, feature-laden software there is, but nobody on your team is using it — it just isn’t a good investment. “One key thing is you need to be able to have adoption across the organization, and specifically at the top,” Ivan says. “You have to have complete buy in from the top down.” You should also make sure you plan for training your team in your new software, and even doing a little internal marketing. “At [my job at] Big Brothers Big Sisters, the platforms we grew out were heavily adopted,” Ivan shares. “We marketed it in such a way that it seemed too good to be true, and then when the team got in the tool, it lived up to expectations.” Ivan suggests finding a tool that has some flexibility in workflow, since different people work differently — but ultimately have a shared structure so everyone can follow along and be on the same page, too.

Step Five:  Partner Up

Finally, Ivan says that selecting the right software means selecting the right software partners, too. If the tool developers are available and open to communicating with you, you’ll find yourself enjoying white glove treatment instead of a whole lot of “no.” “When you have a really good partner, they don’t just say no we can’t do that,” Ivan says. “Instead they might say, no we can’t do that right now, but here’s an existing solution with our tools as-is, and here’s how we can incorporate your feedback moving forward.” A responsive software partner will be “willing to hear out your situation,” Ivan says. Even if you’re working with software where you can’t get face time with the developers, pay attention to the feedback process. Is there an easy way for you to submit bugs and requests? Is the chain of command responsive? By ensuring you’re going to get great customer service with your software, you’re truly setting yourself up for success.

It may feel overwhelming to dive into project management software adoption, but if you keep Ivan’s five steps in mind, you’ll get a tool that meets your team’s needs, that demonstrates its own value via reporting, and that your team actually wants to use. And as Ivan says, “You’re not just picking a tool. You’re picking a partner.” 

If you’re ready to partner up, check out CROOW — a project management platform built by creatives, for creatives.

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