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Technology Tip

Technology Tip
Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

Small Business Project Management Tools

Small Business Project Management Tools

Project management tools designed for small businesses streamline work processes and promote collaboration by helping team members and company owners plan, and track, work that’s underway as well as the tasks associated with each project.

Centralizing and monitoring the status of, and remaining work for, each project helps the company deliver those projects faster and more cost-effectively.

Even simple project management tools are more effective than tracking projects manually (such as through spreadsheets or tasks listed on a whiteboard) because the tools help team members share updates, tasks and documents more easily.

Manual Hassles

One of the basic challenges of project management is that projects include a series of underlying tasks, any of which can delay or derail that project’s completion. Failing to track tasks effectively means some may be overlooked, or work can be duplicated if two team members are working on similar parts of a project.

Another common challenge for small businesses is relying on email to track projects or share files. This can be confusing and increases the risk of effort being duplicated, or someone working on an outdated version of a project-related document or presentation.

Instead, project management tools provide at-a-glance visibility into the status of the project as a whole, as well as its underlying tasks. It’s easy to see, for instance:

  • What needs to be done
  • Who’s handling various aspects of the project
  • The progress team members are making on their assignments
  • Upcoming due dates and milestones

Team members can see their individual tasks and what their colleagues are handling, while managers can monitor and assign tasks while tracking overall progress and billable time.

Promoting Collaboration

Project management tools also promote collaboration among team members, either directly through the platform or via integrations with chat tools your company may be using already.

Effective collaboration promotes efficiency in several ways:

  • Individual and group chat features allow team members, even in different locations, to ask questions and share updates without having to send or read yet another email
  • Real-time editing allows team members to work on a document at the same time, instead of emailing drafts back and forth
  • Sharing updates in a project activity feed reduces the number of meeting or conference calls associated with specific projects

Most project management tools also include time and cost-tracking features that help companies bill clients accurately for time and provide insights into the profitability of a given project or client.

If your company uses contractors, most tools allow you to grant access for them to help with specific projects without seeing other projects or tasks they’re not involved with. It’s easy to remove their access when their portion, or the overall project, is completed.

Examine Your Needs

Before choosing a project management tool for your company, it’s a good idea to compare several platforms. Pay close attention to the features you’re likely to use, and try to get a sense of how easy a tool will be to work with. You don’t want project management to be more complicated than the actual project, or to pay for features you’re not going to use.

Since most tools offer free versions, it’s helpful to try several before making the best choice for your small business.

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