My company almost died! The reason? My lack of project management skills

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Most contractors use at least one project management tool, whether it’s tracking client projects or organizing internal tasks. However, the tools that many select are not always the best choices. Hampered by minimal skills and knowledge, some entrepreneurs will pick the first platform that looks good and then stick with it indefinitely, regardless of its limitations.

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Related: Seven of the best project management tools for your business

I know because that’s exactly what I did with my own business. Excel was my go-to project management tool to track all. But, as the company grew and had over 20 employees, the problems began. The team was frustrated and tried to suggest other platforms. Instead, I kept using Excel – and the problems only got worse.

Main challenges

Here’s what I learned that might help entrepreneurs who are stuck and why they might be wise to consider some of the latest project management tools available.

Specifically: one of the biggest challenges project managers face is organization. Unfortunately, most platforms offer an overly simplistic way of categorizing tasks, featuring the same formula and an oversimplified prioritization system with a simple hierarchy.

Many tools focus exclusively on low-level task management. This makes it difficult for project managers to get an accurate estimate of project progress and complicates high-level resource allocation decisions.

There are dozens of variables that can influence your project management needs, including your philosophy, your team, the size of your company, and your industry. Unfortunately, there aren’t many platforms that can offer you a universally effective system to meet these needs.

Many project management tools try to differentiate themselves by adding more robust features. However, it takes weeks or even months to “learn” the platform, as you go through tutorials and create internal operating documents.

A different approach to selecting project management tools

To alleviate these issues and provide a different approach, I found other project management tools that helped my team and fellow contractors with their specific needs.

Related: Five Free Project Management Software to Manage Work Better

For programmers

One of my first observations was that not all functions in my company benefit from the same project management tool. This is how I discovered tools specific to certain functions like ZenHub. This tool is designed specifically for programmers and integrates project and task management with the actual work in progress.

Its greatest value proposition is its intuitiveness: it allows employees new to the platform to pick up the basics in just minutes. When people are done managing projects, they can then create visual reports using real-time data about their projects. These data visuals help them track the downsides of each of their projects and ensure that they can continue to optimize their process for improvement.

For on-the-fly adaptability

By relying on the same old project management tool, I wasn’t allowing my company or team to be as flexible to pivot as they could be with a more adaptive platform. That’s how I discovered Quire. Quire allows managers to create hierarchical and nested tasks and subtasks, making it easy to label and organize their work without categorization issues.

Quire is perfect if you want to brainstorm new ideas in an abstract or chaotic way, then drag and drop them into a more organized format to start adding due dates, details, and assignees.

Additionally, Quire uses a Kanban board, where project managers can shift their focus from high-level brainstorming to low-level task management. Boards can be associated with specific milestones and organized intuitively. For example, they could be sorted by assignee, so managers can monitor what each team member has on their plate.

For simplified project management

I had stuck with Excel so long because it seemed simple, when in reality my business was growing and I needed more options. But if “simple” appeals to you and your business is in startup mode, other simple tools are available, including nTask.

This new project management tool provides access to Gantt charts, task feedback, risks and issues, multiple board views, time tracking and meeting management. Additionally, its risk management feature allows managers to use an interactive risk matrix, so they can identify and assess the frequency and severity of risks associated with each task or project.

For streamlined collaboration and workflows between team members

If you are particularly focused on creating better collaboration within your own team, especially members who are remotely based, then consider Functionfox.

One of the unique features of this tool allows a team to create workflows to ensure projects and tasks are executed exactly as planned. There are also built-in collaboration features, making it easier for team members to work together.

For a personalized and detailed project analysis

Improvement is a central goal for any organization, so what’s useful here is a project management tool that integrates analytics into the feature set. Comindware is such a tool; it gives you a way to analyze your processes, even as you commit to them and iteratively improve them.

You will be able to assess how your team members perform different steps of your existing process and analyze if they can be improved. You can even automate some of your workflows to eliminate manual processes that interfere with and slow down your business.

For third-party integration options

A caveat to using so many different tools is that some entrepreneurs get overwhelmed trying to make all of these tools work well together. Hive emerged as a solution to this challenge, offering flexibility and customization.

Hive also offers over a thousand specific integrations with other apps, such as Gmail, Slack, Dropbox, and Hubspot. You can mix and match different app integrations until the platform works as consistently and comprehensively as you want.

For “all-in-one” integration

Some companies will always want a single project management tool to manage everything, and there’s an answer for that, too. Scoro is billed as an “all-in-one” business management software designed to integrate projects, tasks, sales, and other reports into a single platform.

Its project management system offers in-depth task creation, high-level tracking and analysis. You can also segment billable and non-billable work as well as view financial data to assess the profitability of each project. Built-in work scheduling and tracking allows for scheduling meetings and tracking employee time. Plus, Scoro’s customization flexibility means users can change the platform’s layout and active features to best suit your team.

No “best” project management platform

Every business has distinct needs, a different set of existing tools, and a unique team to consider. Test several different platforms to find out which features and user interfaces work best for your situation. However, don’t develop the mindset that your company should only use one project management tool – like I did.

Related: 5 Project Management Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Business

Instead, recognize that these tools are just one part of project management. Even with the perfect platform, you’ll still need to leverage the most appropriate strategies and processes to work as efficiently as you want.

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