ENTREPRENEURS

Six Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Project Management Tool

I recently talked about how project management tools were so important to a remote team, and as many of us are now working either remotely or in a hybrid situation, I wanted to share some more tips on how my team here at Maui Mastermind uses project management tools. Our team has been working remotely for over 20 years now and have been using various project management programs for the past fifteen. 

So here are six ways that we get the most value from our chosen management tool. Now keep in mind, whatever project management tool you've chosen whether that be Asana, Zoho Projects, Trello, Basecamp, Liquid Planner etc - most of these tips will still apply. Please share these with your staff. Don't keep them to yourself because if everyone uses them - it's going to make things that much more effective and efficient for you.

Tip 1: Decide Who Should Post

Everybody should post, but 80 to 90 percent of the time the person who should post the task or should post the update to the task is the owner of the task itself. Maybe 10 or 20 percent of the time it might be a peer commenting on something that someone else has done or assigning a task to somebody else or it might be that person's manager, but please beware of the pitfall of having you - the manager of a direct report - you being the one that's responsible to put all of the do things up on that person's project management task list.

You don't want that. You want them to own it. It lets you see if they were clear on what they were supposed to do. Let them grow professionally by owning their own task list. It's a great way to help develop your people.  

Tip 2: Update Daily

Expect as a non-negotiable, that you and your staff update your various projects at the end of each day. It only takes five or ten minutes to give updates, to take your completion percentages on a task from 10 to 30 percent or to put a comment or two here and there, but expect that people do that daily. That five or ten minutes of updates will save you twice that much in back and forth emails.

Tip 3: Leverage Your Feed

Pretty much every project management tool has a feed and at this point everyone's familiar with this whether it be from Facebook or the feed that you see in your project tool, but it shows you what has been new from the newest to the oldest chronologically in a separate feed.

Tip 4: Go Mobile

Another trick I have found has to do with looking at the feed via a mobile app. Many of these programs have a ton of features and options, which can get in the way of you getting an overall view of your team's progress. So try to skip the desktop version, and monitor the feed via your phone or tablet instead. It is usually much cleaner and easier to navigate. 

Tip 5: Learn to Filter

Confession time. I was having a conversation not too long ago with Kim, who runs our marketing and I said to her: "Kim, you've got a lot of projects in our project tool. Do you think you could maybe simplify them? I am getting a little lost here."

She said: "David, do you know about the filtering feature that we have in our project tool?"

She walked me through the process on her desktop via a screen share. She showed me a button that when clicked would sort all the companies projects, where I could filter it to only see the ones that she owned. It took what was 40 or 50 projects and narrowed it down to the nine that she was responsible for. 

Suddenly I could filter by her tasks. I could filter by other team members' projects, tasks, or responsibilities and when I saw that I thought wow, I really was missing out before. So, make sure to learn your program and its features. It will likely make things a lot easier for you. 

Tip 6: Go All In

If you really want a project management tool to work well for you, everyone needs to be on there, everyone needs to use it. If 60% or 70% of your staff are using it, it's frustrating because there's still stuff that falls between the cracks. The people who use it resent the people who don't aren't using the program. The people who don't use it, feel defensive about it.  If you reach 80%, it's still frustrating because there's still stuff falling through, but when you reach about 90% that magic tipping point where people are using it fairly well and regularly. That's when the magic happens.

Good luck with you. I hope these six tips help you and your staff be more effective and efficient to create more value in your business to help you scale successfully by better creating accountability and/or prioritization and organization through your project management tool.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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