The tyranny of choice: does it seem like are too many project management tools out there to choose from? Why are there so many different types of tools (and whilst we are at it, why do so many have three-word acronyms like ERP, PPM, PSA, CPM, etc)? The answer is simple: supply and demand. The fact is project managers have always loved using software tools for different parts of the project life cycle. Whether it is to save time, boost efficiency, reinforce accountability, collaborate with teams, or support audit trails, there is a tool out there specifically designed to support every workflow and requirement. The ubiquitous on-premise software is now overlayered with newer cloud-based tools that offer advanced features, intuitive functionality, automation, and artificial intelligence.
Given how many project management tools there are, it is surprising how many project teams and consultants still use spreadsheets for key processes and workflows (75%, PwC).
The truth about project management tools
The truth about generic project management tools is this: they are very often not calibrated to fit the needs of each organisation and they end up being drastically under-utilised. This contradicts the fact that, as we have shown above, project managers seem to love all the various types of project software.
You’ll always get one or two champions in your company who drive the software and take pride in knowing it’s every nook and cranny. They can run all the clever workflows and shortcuts, and produce impressive charts and data reports with one single click. The rest of the team will only use the bare minimum, if at all. As a result, the parts that get used the most tend to be the workflows that rely on timekeeping (i.e. proving work has been done) and invoicing (i.e. getting paid for the work that has been done).
So what exactly is going on here?
On the one hand, we have a massive proliferation of project management tools, some generic (think Asana, Monday.com, ClickUp, Smartsheet, Jira, etc), some more ERP-oriented (think Oracle, SAP, etc), and, in the Proteus world, some more tailored towards complex, high-value engineering projects (think Kantata or EcoSys). In addition, we like to think we have embraced digital transformation: we work in hybrid teams, online, spread in different global locations. Many consultants and engineers are working remotely from home at least some of the week or month. Therefore, we love our collaboration tools and spend half the day on Teams, Meet, WhatsApp, or Slack. Most companies use multiple software tools for timesheeting, accounting, marketing, document management, and HR.
But on the other hand, project teams are not using project management tools to their full capability. Nearly one in five companies still use spreadsheets as their primary source of truth, and one in ten say theirs can be found ‘scattered across computers, notebooks, etc.’
A lot of this comes down to one startling truth: most project teams still manually gather and enter project data. And, probably out of habit, human nature seems to prefer entering data into a spreadsheet. It might then get pulled across to a software tool, but, more often than not, it is gathered from multiple sources into a spreadsheet that might not even be online or shared.
The problem with project management tools
Why is that a problem? Isn’t the data ok being manually entered into a spreadsheet and then pulled across into one or more tools for tracking and analysis? Or are the project management tools simply not very good? Shouldn’t these newer, more evolved project management tools be cleverer and automate every project in the same way?
Possibly not. This is because projects are often not simple, similar, or easily repeated in the same way. There is no such thing as a 100% repeatable project that remains consistent end to end. Scopes and tasks vary, inputs are expansive, and more than anything else, the most important component of any project management office is the people. And people vary incredibly, mostly in terms of the way they interact with software tools. This variability makes the use of automation and reliance on a fully AI-driven software tool difficult.
As well as each project being different, complex engineering projects in particular have their own unique project management requirements involving very detailed project performance data inputs and calculations. Even the measures of standard project management metrics such as earned value or revenue at completion vary between companies and methodologies.
In addition, most companies working on projects, whether they are the project owner or a consultancy supplying the work, use different combinations of traditional project management methodologies, including agile and waterfall. These have different data requirements and produce different insights.
So what is the solution?
The solution lies in implementing a balance of people management and software management. Just because whilst there is little consistency between one project and another, there IS consistency in the core project elements including resourcing and task delivery.
There is a need for project managers to move away from burning up time on low-value administrative tasks that can be pushed to automation. As we have learned from our clients, there are increasing pressures to meet complex project scopes in extremely tight timelines and budgets. In this low-margin environment, delivery teams can only remain competitive and successful if they use project software to keep close control over their utilisation rates.
This requires project teams to update timesheets, resource usage, and task status. There needs to be a consistent approach driven forward by the leadership to ensure that the project team is submitting their deliverables on time. Whilst this bit might remain a manual process, or it might be via integration with third-party tracking software, the key decision-makers have access to the right information at the right time. This means key stakeholders’ time is spent on project leadership and not on administration.
So, are there too many project management tools available? For as long as the project management industry remains both busy and as well as squeezed by cost constraints, there will always be a technological way to improve efficiencies. Project management software tools are numerous because there are many ways to improve workflows and data management. This is a critical step in the digital transformation journey.
As for the three-letter acronyms: just to take one example, PPM, or project portfolio management software, tends to refer to tools geared towards optimising demand and capacity. Is this the same what a project or work management software like Proteus can do? Yes. Different tools have different features and functionality which serve different parts of the project lifecycles in different ways. Ultimately what a successful leadership team needs is a way to manage time tracking, project management, resource management, invoice processing, and business intelligence. These may be different tools, or you might be able to combine these capabilities into a single application. The objective is always to improve project control and visibility for better performance.
As we have shown, what is most critical is that teams use the project software in a consistent manner. This may require integrations between various software tools, either by existing connections (APIs) or by bespoke development. Choosing a tool like Proteus means you will automatically receive support from our Customer Success team to ensure the software is calibrated to your company’s needs.
Xergy Group’s Proteus work management solution is designed to work with your existing systems and to scale and evolve as your business evolves. It was created by project professionals with decades of experience and delivers an end-to-end project management software platform compliant with ISO audit requirements and common project management frameworks.
How to get Proteus
Proteus’ project management software is a cloud-based system designed for businesses of all sizes to handle projects of unlimited complexity. Each Proteus feature is aimed at making bottom-line improvements by improving utilisation, streamlining workflows, providing quick and efficient access to resources, and reducing overheads. One of the unique advantages of Proteus is that we offer a free onboarding consultation service to ensure your company account is set up according to your company’s needs.
Proteus operates under a software as a service (SaaS) model costing $35 per user per month. Billing is monthly or annually. For more information on our pricing visit our pricing page or get in touch with one of the team.
We designed Proteus to be simple, and that means you can get up and running on Proteus without an IT team or support from a programmer. You will want to spend a bit of time configuring the admin console so that you have everything set up to suit your company structure, but it’s very intuitive and you don’t need a Ph.D. in IT. However, we want you to get the best out of what is a brilliantly powerful tool, so don’t hesitate to ask for our support. We have a team of product experts who are ready to help you with the configuration process, so get in touch today by filling out the form below: