Project Management Applications For Small Businesses

If you manage a small business or project, using email communications, Excel spreadsheets and company hard drives for managing and storing project information might be okay on a temporary basis, but as the number of your projects grow (and your number of collaborators grow with it) you’ll need to consider a more sophisticated system to incorporate in your business processes.

In fact, it has been proven that for small businesses having a collaborative tool providing multiple features including task assignment, time tracking, CRM, document management, mobile connectivity and third party invoicing can make a huge difference in company’s bottom line.

For large organizations, systems like Primavera, MS Project or SharePoint are the most popular software programs for project planning, reporting, document sharing, progress updating and tracking. They are used worldwide and have their own benefits and disadvantages.

On the other hand, for small businesses or small projects (such as creating new websites, new software programs, new mobile apps or even a minor manufacturing projects) Primavera and MS Project might not be the best solutions, the most important disadvantages being higher costs, heavy platform environment, learning curve, the need for sophisticated support team and unavoidable staff training.

Deciding which project management application or software to incorporate into your small business processes can be a daunting task as there is quite a wide selection to choose from and they are all continually evolving and advancing. To make matters more difficult, each software creator provides different packages to choose from, depending on the number of projects, the number of users (collaborators) and the storage space offered.

On the lower end, developers seem to categorize their packages based on one of these two choices:

  • Unlimited collaborators, but limited number of projects
  • Unlimited projects, but limited number of collaborators

But, they also offer unlimited projects/collaborators packages at much higher monthly rates.

Even if you select a low-end package to start with, as a growing business the high-end packages should be an important criteria for your selection because in a few years when your number of projects/users grow you would want to be able to keep the same platform, and avoid having to transfer all your files to a less costly solution.

Storage is also another differentiator for choosing your package. Depending on the type of projects your organization is managing, and the size of files your team members share on a daily basis, this could become a make-or-break factor in your selection.

The ability to use the software on your mobile smartphone or tablet is another factor to take into consideration, if that is indeed important to you or your organization. Some applications are just web-based, others use HTML5 code that fits and adapts to any screen size, and others provide their own iOS, Android or Windows Phone apps for the most popular devices such as iPhone or iPad.

Another factor to consider is whether you want (or need) to work with Gantt charts that are simpler versions of MS Project and Primavera. Some project management apps offer visual Gantt-based (rather than a task-assignment based) software.

In a nutshell, if the essence of project management is the breaking down of multi-faceted projects into smaller tasks and milestones assigned to various collaborators, then project management applications and software should assist you in organizing and breaking those complex operations and individual tasks down into specific data available at your fingertips; thus, providing more efficiency into the process than contemporary paper documents and spreadsheets offer. Therefore, your decision to purchase a project management software for your small business should be a long-term strategy for your organization:

  • Make a list of features you need today (and maybe in the future)
  • Assign weights to each feature based on its importance to your business
  • Review each software platform (start on their website)
  • Use a simplified QFD chart to compare various programs and narrow down your choice to just a few
  • Test the waters by emailing/calling each software provider to evaluate their customer support and agility to respond to your requests in a timely manner.

A final note of caution: Not all these project management software programs will survive today’s competitive marketplace, and one can easily predict that only a few will remain in a few years. So make sure your selection is not just based on price and short-term advantages, but also looks further on the horizon.