There are so many choices today when selecting Project Management Software. There are Enterprise PPM solutions, Cloud based or desktop based choices. We can even select apps to use on our mobile devices. There are tools which specialize in communication, collaboration, task management, gantt charts and more. Are you needing a tool for yourself, a small team, small or mid-sized business or perhaps a large corporation. Do you practice traditional Project Management, Agile, or hybrid methodology? So many selection criteria to assess. So how do you pick the right tool for your particular need?
If you are reading this then I'll assume your a Project Manager. So what do we PMs do best? Thats right, we lead Projects. Treat your PM software selection as a Project and take our own medicine! If you are a mid-sized or large organization I recommend you get assistance in selecting your tool. Finding a partner which specializes in Project Management tool selection can be a big time value add as they will most likely save you time, money and headaches! If you are a smaller organization or individual you can most likely make a good selection by following these steps.
First Step is document your Problem Statement. What is the problem you are trying to solve? Perhaps you are a PMO Manager/Director and need a tool which is strong with Resource Management as you have dispersed teams and an ever changing Project Portfolio. Maybe your team is transitioning to Agile and your old tool isn't strong with collaboration or handling User Stories. Once you have a solid Problem Statement and understand why you need the software you will be able to narrow your list of potential solutions.
Second Step is Define your Requirements. By defining your Problem Statement you know why you are needing a PM tool. By Defining the Requirements you are listing out the key functionality you need from your tool. While not typical, I recommend you identify your budget here as a requirement as well. Items to consider, do you have an in-house team which can support the tool or will you need a hosted solution? Will resources be required to log timesheets within the tool. Do the Projects need to roll up to a larger Portfolio(s). Do Resource Managers need to approve project assignments? I think you have the idea.
Now that you know why you need the software and what you want the software to do it time for the Third Step, Evaluate Project Management Software options. It could take quite a bit of time and energy to contact all the different vendors. Luckily for all of us there are some great sites which have consolidated the choices. Software Insider has a very comprehensive listing. PC Mag has a nice listing and review. Performing a good Google search will get you a bunch more sites to visit to get lists and reviews.
Once you have identified a few solutions which meet your Requirements it time for Step Four, Test it out! Most of the reputable vendors will allow you to get a trial of the software. Prior to beginning your trial, build an evaluation sheet with each of your Requirements listed for scoring. Determine who on your team will be evaluating. Select more than one person and if possible at different levels of the organization and on different teams. This prep time prior to the trial is critical. You may only get once chance to have a free trial so be prepared. Also, use the same resources and scoring criteria for each differnt solution you are testing.
Finally, Step Five is Making the Purchase. Be sure you are getting enough licenses to account for any growth in your organization. Also, be sure you are getting Post Implementation Support, Training and Documentation. As we know Project Management teams go through frequent changes and you want to have materials to use for onboarding your new resources. You should also retain your Evaluation sheets and any proposals or notes from your selection process.
Selecting any software is an important process for an organization and Project Management Software selection can be quite a challenge. If you don't have the proper expertise on your team it is wise to select a vendor to help you through the process. If you are prepared to take on the process internally then treat it as a Project. Walk through your standard Project process and be sure to identify your Problem Statement, Define your Requirements, Evaluate the Project Management Software options, Give it a try and Make the Purchase!