How Project Management Software Can Revolutionize Your Small Business

1 Feb, 2012  |  Written by  |  under Project Management

Small business owners may feel they don’t need project management (PM) software, as their businesses and their projects are…well…small. But, small businesses can get a boost from using software programs that can train, gather information, guide, and track business and business projects. Using a PM software program can help owners stay on track and provide ways to communicate that can save time and money. Additionally, PM programs can increase the chances of success for any event and make any small business owner a fledgling project manager. Learn more about the benefits — and some drawbacks — to using project management software, and we’ll share a few programs that are free and easy to use.

PM Software Benefits

Project Management Team

  1. Get Up to Speed: Starting a new project or building an existing project takes time. But, project management software such as Project and Visio can provide a framework and a clear picture of what to do and when to do it. Even if someone steps in for the first time, PM software can get that person up to speed quickly.
  2. Marketing: If you know what you’re doing with your business, then you want your clients to know about your expertise. PM software can prove valuable in its capacity for detailed planning and project tracking. You can use this information to tackle any new job and how you intend to market that job.
  3. Keeps Information In-House: Take a tip from nonprofit organizations — if one person leaves, that organization still must move forward. While information is shared, it’s best to store that information in a program that is unbiased and that will never leave.
  4. Objective Tracking: If you think your project was a failure, it could be that failure may be in your head. PM software can monitor progress to show that a person’s performance may be different than it appears…or that an event was more successful than anyone thought. Objective progress benchmarks keep subjective interpretation to a minimum, making it easier to see what’s really moving forward and what really may be holding a business back.
  5. Training Tool: PM software can offer a consistent way to train new personnel on how you do things and the methodology you follow.
  6. Save Time (and money!): Although it may take a little time to get a grip on some PM software programs, these tools will eventually save time and help you to avoid costly errors. You may be able to get certain things done more quickly with fewer steps (such as training) or with fewer people.
  7. Stay on Schedule: PM software provides precise start or execution dates, times for stages of a project and tasks that need completion. This information alerts the business owner or employees to upcoming deadlines, allowing for time management success.
  8. Project Collaboration: Project management software provides business owners and employees a way to collaborate on projects by sharing documents, timelines, status updates, and results. Everyone is on the same page, resulting in funneling efforts toward the same goal.
  9. Communication: Not only can business owners communicate with staff, they can keep tabs on vendors, suppliers, and customers or clients. This ability to communicate is vital for any business, but it especially helps those business owners who must conduct all work alone.
  10. Delegation: And, because many small business owners often do not have employees, PM software can become that tool that the owner can lean on — small business owners can use PM software to conduct all the tasks shown above. The only difficulty is inputting information…no PM software can work without contributions by its users.
  11. Eliminate Paperwork: By using the collaboration, communication, and teamwork capabilities of your PM software, you can eliminate notes, mail, and even e-mail with these tools. One glance into a project management program can provide all team members with a way to understand tasks and deadlines.

Challenges to Using PM Software

PM Software Input

A lack of training is one reason that many small business owners remain leery of using project management software. But, in many cases, the learning curve is short and simple. To make that package work “smart,” however, takes time and some training. Starting out simply is the best way to avoid disasters.

While most software can be customized for each user, PM software also provides transparency that may or may not be beneficial for small business owners. Trust among owners and employees can be challenged until everyone learns the program and understands the system. The upside to this transparency is greater accountability for work, details, and deadlines.

Another disadvantage of project management software is excessive features or a complicated learning format for a simple program. Many programs offer too many elements or offer features that aren’t needed for small businesses. These features can make the software difficult to learn and can also create another element of confusion

With that said, it may be worthwhile to check out some project management software to learn how it can help small businesses succeed.

Tools and Implementation

Team Building

With a few clicks of the mouse, small business owners can utilize programs that can help track, update, and store information in multifaceted projects. They can integrate these programs with e-mail systems and generate reports. They can create schedules and recognize different classes of users, thereby allowing access to data based on their class. They even have built-in chat rooms. The best news is that most PM software programs don’t cost and arm and a leg. In fact, the following three programs are free.

  1. Basecamp: With over 3 million active users, Basecamp is the benchmark of free online project management. It helps small businesses and large businesses, from wedding planners to hedge fund managers, stay organized. Basecamp remains, after nearly seven years of service, the simplest, fastest, and most scalable service available. The free plan provides you with the ability to track one project, with two “Writeboards” and 10 MB file storage.
  2. Huddle: This online tool provides users with the ability to manage projects, store files, schedule and hold meetings, and facilitate communication through wikis and forums. Huddle’s gives small businesses many of the tools they’ll need to get organized. Despite some limitations in its entry-level offering, file management is exceptional and online collaboration is finely tuned. This is a free trial. Huddle will email you before your trial expires to set up a call to discuss your requirements and the options available to you.
  3. AceProject: For small businesses aspiring to get and stay organized, this online basic project management tool provides an answer. You can keep tabs on projects, and manage employees, staff, and expenses. The free version allows unlimited active users on one project that requires up to 50 tasks. You get 250 MB of space, with all features enabled.

How do you choose a program that’s right for you? Play around wit any one of the programs listed above, or search for others that allow free trials before you purchase. And, the program choice will depend upon what you’re after. Ask for product demos and the chance to test drive the software. Finally, always verify the technical support available and its cost. In the end, you may still save time and money, and learn that you can get by without help if you have a software program that can act as receptionist, timekeeper and file cabinet.