Project Management Tools: Email, Spreadsheets and Solutions
Project management is all about managing the processes and activities associated with ensuring the success of any given project that an organization might want to undertake. But of all the project management tools out there, (to see how just how many there are, check out the newest marcom landscape report) how do you determine which one will be the right fit for your organization? A wide variety of project management solutions have been designed to specifically facilitate the management of the various activities and processes involved with project management, including project planning, resource allocation, task management, collaboration, status monitoring and reporting, and more. [For more on this topic, read our post "The Search for Project Management Systems That Actually Cover the Work Lifecycle."]
Unfortunately, many of these solutions actually create obstacles to successful project management, with high costs and complexity being the two most common.
The high expense of a project management solution can cause an organization to buy a limited number of licenses for the tool, which can leave some team members without access to the tool and the vital project information it contains. Tool complexity can create a similar barrier for team members that might not be technologically-savvy. Tool complexity often also raises tool expense and ramp-up time since it usually means team members have to get training to learn how to use it. It's often that complexity that drives many team members to using simpler, less efficient tools such as email and spreadsheets.
In fact, email and spreadsheets have become two of the most common tools used for project management. Some of the main reasons for the popularity of email and spreadsheets when it comes to project management is their ease of use, familiarity and accessibility. Does that mean you should run your team's activities in them? Not by a long shot.
Many project management team members will tell you they spend most of their day in email. Most popular email platforms provide some essential project management features, such as task management and calendaring. But all is not well in the world of email.
Email does have its benefits, but to position it as a primary tool for project management can lead to significant inefficiency and wasted time. For example, whenever new emails pop up, most of us check each one as if they're all high priority. Those interruptions kill productivity. Studies indicate that an average of 15 email interruptions per day results in one hour of time lost. Another study indicates that 100 email messages can consume 50 percent of a worker's day.
Not only can over-reliance on email lead to productivity losses, but when used as the primary communication vehicle for project management (a major email etiquette no-no), important details can be lost in the email ether. Key team members might be inadvertently left off a distribution list. Answers to project status might be buried somewhere in an email thread. The ad-hoc nature of email itself makes it very hard to implement any real sense of accountability among team members or project managers.
Oh, spreadsheets. While some organizations use spreadsheets for gathering, tracking and reporting on project management data, its manual nature leads to team members and project managers spending countless hours manually entering that data.
Additionally, as different teams or even different members create their own individual spreadsheets, it complicates reporting activities and creates a barrier of visibility that makes it difficult for stakeholders to even get a glimpse into a project's progress or level of success.
Finding the Right Project Management Solution
So, what's the answer? A few project management solutions do exist that offer the power and feature-rich capabilities of expensive solutions, but at a much lower price and with greater ease of use. When looking at these project management solutions, you still need to choose wisely. Look for a solution that gives you the ability to automate and customize your processes, provides the high accessibility and real-time collaboration offered by the cloud, lets you leverage and optimize the use of email, provides a central repository for all your project management documents, and gives you a single pane of glass to view, manage and collaborate on all your project management activities.
**For more tips on how you can keep email from taking over your and your team's schedules, check out this Slideshare:"