How many websites have you visited looking for software? If you are like many creative managers you have done hours of research, requested demos, analyzed feature lists, and still feel overwhelmed at the thought of selecting a new project management application for your team. We know how you feel, which is why we’ve compiled 5 steps on how to select project management software for creative teams.
Every creative team is different and every team has different needs, but there are a few things you can do before you set out to choose software that will help you narrow down the options right away. Spend some time up front planning for success and follow these steps to selecting the right app for you.
Step 1. Set Goals Before You Get Started
This is a critical step that is often overlooked. You are at the point in your team's history where you know you need software to organize workflow. You know software will help, but you’re not really sure how. Your first step is to set some goals to focus your efforts.
So, what are you trying to achieve with software? Is there data that you need to be able to collect and analyze more quickly? Do you want to get rid of a hodge podge of spreadsheets? Do you need to manage tasks more effectively, or does your team need to collaborate in one place? Maybe you need to capture costs and invoice internal clients? Whatever the goal is, write it down.
Once you write down your goals, step 2 will be a lot easier.
Step 2. Brainstorm Features You Need
This is critical. Define the most important features that your software must have for your team to function properly. There are hundreds of software applications out there, but none of them do everything well. Don’t choose the app that has the most features. Choose the app that meets your specific needs and helps reach your goals. Features you don’t use will get in the way and confuse the user. It’s best to outline the most important features needed for your workflow and find software that implements those most effectively.
If you haven’t written down your workflow, start with that. Written workflow highlights the features you need in order to implement that workflow. Check out our handy worksheet to start outlining the steps in your workflow.
All creative teams are different. Some need more features than others, but all need to be able to quickly and effectively get the job done. The ability to customize an app can really set it apart. If you can find software that can be customized to implement your specific workflow, you’ve struck gold. No app will do everything, but if you define the most important features first, you will have an easier time finding the best fit.
Step 3. Think About Output, First
It sounds a bit counterintuitive, but define the output you need before you think about entering data. Databases can spit out reports and charts very effectively, but the format of that output is sometimes limited by the way the information is collected. Management may require specific reports, dashboards, or metrics, so put some thought into that expected output. Then work with your software vendor to ensure you can enter data in a manner that produces the required output.
For example, if you need a report showing how many jobs are completed for each department, then you will need to add a department field to each job to categorize jobs by department.
This may be confusing at first, but thinking about your software this way will help catch those little details that may have slipped through the cracks when you think about what features you need. A software vendor can usually help you with this as well. Gather some sample reports, spreadsheets, and metrics and send them to prospective vendors. They should be able to help you set up the app to get the output you need.
Need a little extra help? Download our sample workflow and template. We've included a sample workflow organized in a way that would implement nicely into a project management software solution as well as a printable section you can fill out and put your skills to the test!
Step 4. Share Your Goals With Your Software Vendor
Good vendors want to help you solve problems. Share your goals with them so they can show you solutions. Remember, you’re not obligated to buy anything, but a phone call with a specialist will help you understand the software and its role in solving problems for you.
So spend a little time on the phone with a few reps and get a feel for how your workflow will be accomplished using a couple of different software platforms. Most applications will also allow you to trial the software. If you’re organized and define what you are looking for, you’ll be much more prepared to evaluate platforms.
Step 5. Ask for a Trial
Trials are valuable if they are executed with a good vendor partner, but they are only as good as what you put into them. Use the trial time to test solutions and really evaluate how your workflow will function in the platform.
Running through a trial also gives you a chance to make a list of questions, changes, or additions you’d like add to the software. The best vendors will provide support throughout the entire trial, so if you send a wish list to them, they can identify solutions, propose customizations, and provide training as needed. Good vendors will help you use their software.
By the end of the trial, you should feel comfortable with the software and the vendor, and they should know you and your workflow intimately. Make sure you ask your vendor to outline all costs and a timeline for implementation based on the number of users you will have and customizations identified during the trial. Cover these bases and you will be well on your way to making your department more efficient.
So get out there and pick an app that will help solve problems. And in the meantime, get crackin' on organizing your workflow and defining a list of required features you need your software application to have. Don't forget to download our sample workflow and template to help you get started!