What should you look for in project management suppliers?

Contrary to popular opinion not everyone who attends Project Challenge is a seasoned project manager. Many delegates are business people from different fields, who are increasingly recognising the value of project management tools and techniques as a differentiator in business success – and who are keen to learn more.

But if you don’t know the project management space inside out it can be tricky to find the right project management supplier – especially in what is now a crowded marketplace. Amy Hatton, Editor of the UK’s leading independent PM magazine Project Manager Today, explains why you should look beyond the whistles and bells to ensure that your project management solutions are fit for purpose.

The next generation of project management software

In my role as Project Manager Today’s Editor I naturally interview many project management suppliers. They exist in a space where clients are hungry for the next project management solution that will streamline their activities, achieve cost ratio benefits, and ultimately deliver better, faster and more profitable business solutions.

All of these suppliers are proud of their products – and in many cases rightly so. Speaking as someone who still remembers getting excited about email, I remain constantly in awe of today’s technological advances. But integrating project management software can be a complex process, and if it’s not done carefully the results can lead to more headaches, not less.

Funnily enough, though, when you examine cases of software disappointment it’s often not the technology itself that has let the customer down. In my experience, there are wider factors it’s important to consider when you’re choosing and integrating a project management tool to support your business. Here are just some of them…

Aligning the tool to the project management technique

It might seem obvious that you need to source software that matches your PMs’ methodologies and processes. But the principle goes beyond that. Increasingly, the business world is recognising the importance of softer and more holistic skills in driving innovation and success. It follows that your project management software should reflect your organisational culture and how your people behave. For example, if your projects are dependent on a large number of team members who are not immediately immersed in project management skills (marketing, finance, etc), then you need to consider the intuitive usability of your software to avoid over inflated training bills. If you teams are disparate amongst multiple locations then project management software with a strong social communication edge may be beneficial, and so on.

Planning the project management software integration process

There’s a whole range of tools on the market these days – from out of the box to highly bespoke. Naturally, the level of complexity affects the price. But if you match the wrong project management tool to your organisational processes you’re in for nothing but frustration.

Consider the level of integration you’re going to need. Are your projects simple enough to use an out of the box model and hit the ground running? Do you have specific reporting needs that will demand a level of tailored setup? How many departments and stakeholders will use the system? Are there other systems that might be dependent on how you configure your project management software? Server or Cloud? All of these questions will help you to whittle down the options and invite the right project management suppliers to tender.

Look at the bigger picture

One of the common situations I come across is a mismatch between the level of sophistication the client demands from their project management tools and the level of ongoing support they expect to invest in. In fairness to the project management suppliers, this mismatch tends to be caused on the clients’ side. Naturally we all want to save money but it’s all too common to jump in feet first and neglect to budget properly for upgrades, ongoing support and the like.

Perhaps even more importantly than that (and I know the project management suppliers will back me up on this) is the supplier/client relationship. That has to be right, it has to be productive and it has to be nurtured on both sides. Because, believe me, the right project management tool with the right support can make a profound impact on your business efficiency. It’s not always about the most financially competitive offering. In this complex, competitive and rapidly evolving space, it’s about equipping yourself with the tools and the supporting services that will enable your business to run with faster, stronger legs – and recognising the value of that investment.

If you’re looking for a new project management supplier you’ll find a distinguished selection at Project Challenge this Autumn. View our exhibitor’s list here, and register free to explore their services.