By CommenceCRM

7 Essential Tools Every Project Manager Should Know About

One tablet pc with a project manager app and documents with gantt and financial charts (3d render)

Project management is a lot like steering a ship – it’s crucial to know which direction to take and what tools are needed for a smooth sail. For every project, it’s important to have a few tools and software that can help you meet the deadline while delivering the best results.

So what are the essential tools that a project manager should use?  Project managers who handled successful campaigns often utilized tools like project initiation documents, lesson learned reports, Gantt charts, project management software, scope statements, weekly highlight reports, and project financials.

Project Managers and Their Important Responsibilities

Project managers are responsible for the success or failure of a campaign. According to the Project Management Institute, businesses that implement project management systems are 38% more successful than those brands that don’t follow project management structures.

Some of the common responsibilities of a competent project manager are:

  • Planning, tracking, and executing projects
  • Managing the team
  • Managing the expectations from different stakeholders

7 Essential Tools for a Successful Project Management

Software applications are an integral part of project management. These tools allow easier project planning and better team coordination. With hundreds of apps for project management available in the market, it’s important to find ones with complete sets of features at the right price.

Here is a list of seven essential tools that every project manager should know about:

1. Project Initiation Document

Project Initiation Documents (PIDs) are important for projects to take off. These documents hold key information, such as project scope, deliverables, time scales, milestones, roles and responsibilities, costs, delivery approach, assumptions, risks, external dependencies, and other issues. They set the baseline and expectations that are important for a project.

A meeting must be held first so that the project managers and stakeholders can communicate their concerns properly before creating the PID. As the meeting ends, everyone in the room should be aware of their tasks and responsibilities. It helps all stakeholders get on the same page before the project starts.

2. Lessons Learned Reports

Feedback from previous clients is something that can help a project manager greatly. Old clients can provide an impartial insight into the project, so you can see what went wrong. This allows the team to plan for the next project better.

But aside from written reports, it’s also important to schedule lesson learned meetings regularly. It’s for the team to brainstorm the mistakes and implement any changes. Without meetings and proper implementation, there won’t be any point in gathering lesson learned reports in the first place.

In applying the lessons learned, there are three process groups involved: analysis, storage, and retrieval. During analysis, a root cause must be established for every lesson based on the gathered data. This allows the team to have a better understanding of what they can improve.

For storage, all documented lesson learned reports should be archived in a database, such as a shared drive or cloud-based solution. Lastly, for the retrieval, keyword search capabilities must be utilized for easier retrieval moving forward. It’s also helpful for kick-off meetings.

3. Gantt Charts

When creating a Gantt chart for a project, the manager must consider all the tasks in the project. This means selecting the right person for the task, allotting time for each task, and listing down the possible problems that the team may encounter.

The details needed in a Gantt chart helps the project manager gauge if the schedule is manageable, the assigned people are the right ones for the task, or the potential problems can be avoided.

Gantt charts also work out the practical aspects of the project by calculating the minimum delivery time of each task and which assignment should be accomplished first before starting the next one. They help highlight the critical path of a project – the right sequence of tasks to be completed to meet the deadline.

Lastly, a Gantt chart easily shows the progress of a project. You can keep both the team and the client updated about the completed tasks, important changes, and their effect on the project.

4. Project Management Software

Gantt charts and project management software go hand in hand – without the software, it’s nearly impossible to create a Gantt chart and keep it updated. Before deciding on a specific project management software, it’s important to know about the various types of programs first.

These three management software can help managers lead the team to a successful campaign:

  1. Project Planning Software – Some of the best examples of project planning software are Wrike, Basecamp, and Microsoft Project. With this software, managers can set up tasks, start dates, end dates, resources, and Gantt charts.
  2. Collaboration Software – Most project management software available on the internet are collaboration tools. They are great for hosting project data, such as discussions, issue tracking, and documents online. They can also produce reports that show the progress of an ongoing project.
  3. Time Management Software – This tool is perfect for managers who want to track their time and productivity. A great example of time management software is Toodledo, which allows users to log-in online, add categories and tags to a work item, and add a task.

5. Scope Statement

Well-written scope statements allow the manager to check if they got off on the right foot – a vague scope statement won’t guide the team towards a clear goal and one that’s too detailed won’t let the team get started on the campaign.

To create an effective scope statement, gather the team in a meeting and ensure that everyone agrees on which tasks to include in the project and which ones are unnecessary. After the meeting, it’s important to ensure that important details were written down before having the scope statement approved. It’s also crucial to send a copy of the document to anyone who needs it.

6. Weekly Highlight Reports

Aside from the Gantt charts that show the project’s progress to the client, a weekly highlight report should also be presented. Many of the project stakeholders are looking forward to what the highlight report contains, so be sure to avoid including emotive commentary and focus on facts instead.

A typical weekly highlight report must contain:

  • Updated progress
  • Key issues
  • Planned activities for the week
  • Key risks
  • Status of milestones accomplished
  • Status of deliverables
  • Summary of finances

For a better highlight report, ensure to include a reason for the risks and issues and provide an update on how the team is working to solve it.

7. Project Financials

Every project manager should be aware of the project’s finances. You must be updated about the current actual cost, estimated cost to complete, and variance to budget. Depending on the nature of the project, current revenue, forecast profit, and margin can also be included.

Microsoft Excel or other basic spreadsheet is enough to track the project finances. Remember that the stakeholders are also entitled to know how their investment in your project is spent.

Important Features to Look for in a Project Management Tool

There are hundreds of project management apps and tools available online, but not all of them are useful or worth their price. To ensure that the tool you are using can help improve the project, here are a few features to look for:

  • Planning – The most essential feature of any management tool is one that allows project planning and task delegation. There should be one place in the app where you and your team can view calendars, workflows, templates, folders, tasks, and subtasks.
  • Collaboration – Communicating with the team should not only be done through email. A good project management tool should allow you to assign tasks, post comments, and organize dashboards, which can all be viewed by the team.
  • Documentation – Missing files are usually common in ongoing campaigns. You can prevent this by keeping all documents in one place, making it easy to edit and save different versions.
  • Evaluation – Tracking the project’s progress and the team’s productivity is essential in meeting the project deadline.

Plan a Successful Project with Commence CRM

For complete software that will lead to the success of your project, try Commence CRM now. This program offers project management features that can help the company save costs. Our software allows project managers to control every aspect of the project planning – which includes sorting tasks, tracking the project status, increasing the chance of closing a sale, and more.

Find out how Commence CRM can help your business grow now by taking the software for a spin. Visit our website now to get a free trial of Commence CRM.