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What Is the Best Digital Project Management Tool?

I recently came across this question on Quora, and it is something I get asked a lot.

I replied and reprint/expand on the answer here.

Question: Out of the seeming hundreds of project management tools out there - Basecamp, Timework, Asana, etc, which one is the BEST? 

Here is the secret.

The best project management tool (web based or otherwise) is the one you use consistantly to improve your business.

A PM tool will not replace project management. It will not make decisions based on the data presented. It will not create a culture of proactive management, accountability and data-driven decision making.

But the right PM tool that fits your process can support all of the above.

At Sonjara, we have analyzed multiple tools for ourselves and our clients. There is no "one-size-fits-all" tool. Most offer what you expect - email integration, collaboration spaces, timecard tracking, etc. But they all have slightly different approaches and workflows.

So how to figure it out?

I suggest anyone looking at integrating a digital PM tool to map your current PM processes and find the biggest points of pain plus the "hard to change" areas. Your mapping needs to include all "online" and "offline" components.

Then figure out what tool workflow and feature set matches most closely to your exisiting infrastructure.

Then pilot it out with a few projects and team members to find the rough edges.

(Too busy to do the above? This is a service that Sonjara also offers to manage for you).

Another secret - initial productivity boosts often do not last

Any new tool or system will cause productivity boosts in the first month or so. That boost is not due to the tool but rather the attention you (and others on the team) are spending focusing on the process. The real measure comes months later when everyone goes back to business as usual and uses the typical shortcuts.

This is why mapping your exisiting processes is so important -- it is less for your team to learn and remember to do when they are distracted and busy.

Finally, it isn't about the tool -- it is about how it is used.

And the process of mapping out your processes may (and should) reveal process gaps and bottlenecks that technology can't (or shouldn't) solve. A great report on overdue tasks is meaningless if no one reads it - or does anything about it.

As I wrote above, a PM tool will not replace project management; but it can be a way to usher in needed improvements in your project management culture and processes.

The key is to include time and accountability points for senior management as well as regular staff. A good tool will help make your team's job easier and allow good practices to shine, and bad ones to be clear as day. Thinking about what you will do with this information is as important as which tool to use.

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