When you bought your project management software did you really take all the tutorials and go through what it can actually do? Chances are all you did was work out what features and functionality the PM solution has that you are particularly interested in, and then you got those to work, made yourself and team familiar with the setup and away you went. The problem is you probably ignored 80% of what your PM tool can do for you.
Depending on the tool you have, you will probably find a common core of functionality that is core to all PM tools. There has been a trend towards streamlining as much as is practical, in order to remove superfluous features which add complexity to the tool, without providing much additional utility. Some tools still retain the mindset of “give them everything and let them sort it out!”, so you’ll just have to figure out which one you have.
Either way, the odds are you have a great deal of unused functionality which could be put to productive use, so it pays to make a thorough assessment of what you have.
Here are some common tips and tricks to unlocking usable functionality with your project management tool:
Alerts & Notifications
It is common to overlook the email notifications which can be generated automatically. It is almost unheard of for a PM tool not to have email alert functionality, so take some time to find it on yours. With automatic email alerts, you will never have to worry about being advised when a task is becoming due, overdue or is actually started.
You can also typically customize alerts, not only for the data you want to receive, but also who within the team is going to receive them aside from yourself.
Maintain Resource Calendars
Task management and PM solutions will invariably come with a resource calendar, but they typically are set to show a working day or 9-til-5, Monday thru’ Friday, or some such stereotypical working week. They do not typically take into account non-working time in their default settings, but you should when planning a project, especially if you need some slack in the planning and timeline.
You should also ensure that international teams have resource calendars set so that whatever national holidays they have (and they are not the same as the standard holidays in the US), are taken into account.
Allow staff to manage their own calendars wherever practical, and also ensure that any synch ability with your operational calendar is enabled, e.g. synch resource calendar to Outlook.
Create Central Document Repository with Online Folders
If you are going to be effective with your information strategy, then document storage is important. Team members should be able to access the latest versions of documents instantly, because the alternative is wasting a great deal of time tracking documents across disparate files/folders and never being able to be sure you are working with the latest version, or even if someone else is working on the same document as you at that time.
Check out the default folder structure offered by your PM tool, because it probably incorporates best document management practice. That said, don’t be afraid to customize it to your needs!
Jane Wrythe is a business and technology writer with a focus on task management and project management software, such as JobTraQ.