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Do These Five Things Before Buying Project Management Software


Our president of Aquent On Demand, Patrick Campbell knows a thing or two about project management. For one, his team launched the PM tool RoboHead, which has helped over 700 clients and 20,000 users better manage people, dates and deadlines, as well as their creative deliverables.

He’s also spoken at industry conferences such as the HOW Conference, Graphics of the Americas, Cre8, as well as been heard on the AMA's webcast and radio show.

We’re happy to share his advice on the five things you need to do before you purchase your PM software.

A couple of questions for you: Right now, at this very minute, do you know exactly where your projects are? Do you know who’s working on what? Are you on budget for each one of your projects? Can you easily report on metrics that drive your business? Have you missed any deadlines recently?

With creative and marketing organizations constantly being asked to do more work with fewer resources, the effective management of those resources is more important than ever.

You’ve been saying it for years: you need a better way of doing the PM job. But the overabundance of project management software offerings can be daunting. That is, unless you know exactly what you’re looking for.

Over my many years doing this, I’ve talked to a lot of creative and marketing organizations about how to do things better. That is, without the fire drills, missed deadlines, or blown budgets. 

Have no fear! I can say (with a pretty high degree of certainty) that following these five tips before you start inputting tasks and dates will help you better manage your projects and greatly reduce the amount of time that you’re running around with your hair on fire.

Tip #1 – Start at the End

Wait. What? Yes, exactly what I said! 

The idea here is to think about what you want to get out of any project management system before you start using one. Getting a surprise from your stakeholders at the 11th hour is never fun. Especially if you’re the one who has to deliver the news to your team. Knowing what information you want to get out of your system allows you to make sure that you gather it initially.

Be sure to carefully think about the entire scope of your implementation. This will include who and where the users are, how they will utilize the system, and exactly what type of information you will need to report on.

Tip #2 – Get the Right Information the First Time

Creative briefs. Job request forms. Word docs. PDFs. They’re all forms of one type or another, right? We’re talking about job initiation here—gathering the information from the client/requestor that allows you to give the job a thorough vetting, determine the work effort, the timing, and the costs. Well, when you use some type of form. And if it’s fully filled out.  Correctly. And it rarely happens.

How many times have you gotten your form from the client/requestor and the most of the fields are barely filled out so you have to circle back to get the information you need to really get this job started? A few? Most? All?

Choose an online tool that enforces required information from the requestor. That way you get the information needed the first time. Every time. They should do the work–not you.

Tip #3 – Keep an Eye on the Horizon

Old time sailors used to say “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning”. In today’s visual, color-coded world, I might say “Green projects at night, project manager’s delight. Red projects in the morning, PMs take warning.”

What I’m saying here is that you should be able to take a view of all your projects, quickly scan them, and be able to immediately see where you have problems, where you should need to jump in, and where things are okay.  

Choose a PM tool that allows for quick, visual indicators of the health of your projects. Being able to do this swiftly, will give you more time for crucial areas like strategizing and—if you’re lucky—eating lunch!

Tip #4 – Power to the (Right) People

You manage projects. You manage resources. You have to keep clients happy. It’s kinda scary. But it doesn’t have to be if you have the tools to see where things are, who is working on what, and who has bandwidth.  

You’ve been doing this a while, so you generally “know” where things are, right? But what if you had hard data? What if you were able to look at a person’s workload and easily see if they’ve got half a day a week from Tuesday to work on a project. Or if you could look at a project and simply drag the timeline to move the dates and duration and then automatically let the affected party know. Now that would be kinda cool.  

Make sure any tool you implement gives you an accurate view into everyone’s bandwidth so you can effectively assign work. And when it comes to managing dates and deadlines, a visual representation of the project with “drag and drop” functionality will make managing projects a breeze. 

Tip #5 – Report for Duty

You know this drill, right? It’s the end of the month / quarter / year and it’s time for that scramble. The one where you have to say what you did, who you did it for, what you spent, and basically justify your existence.   

Remember Tip #1? The one where you were advised to think about what you wanted to get out of a system? Here’s the payoff. By gathering that data initially, you can now generate reports that you need to show how great you and your team are. 

Don’t scrimp when it comes to reporting–the more robust the reporting tool, the better you’ll be able to generate accurate insights into your organization. A reporting tool that allows you to create reports, save them, and then schedule them to run automatically is ideal.

So, with these handy tips in hand, go forth and conquer your project management selection and implementation!

Of course, we’d recommend putting Aquent’s project management solution, RoboHead on your shortlist!

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