Selecting the right tools and people

Right tools Vs Right people for the Right project

After several years of using Basecamp as our in-house project management support tool we’ve recently been feeling that something’s missing somewhere. We surveyed more than a 100 different tools that are available out there and maybe it’s a sign of the times, but we found that there are now a lot of tools that seemed to be more about social collaboration as opposed to traditional Gantt charts with tasks, timelines and dependencies.

PM Software Comparison

That made us think. Is a project more about a set of people to whom we assign tasks, or is it more about a set of tasks to which we assign people?

We think that the right answer depends on two things:

  • How mature and proactive your people are in terms of managing their own work schedules and their interactions with other team members.
  • How firm a project’s work breakdown structure remains over the delivery life cycle. Does it need to be altered because the sequence and duration of certain tasks can’t completely be known in advance?

In our situation of delivering digital creativity we felt that we needed primarily a traditional Gantt approach along with the added support of social collaboration to deal with the more uncertain phases of each project.

At a certain level, our projects can be defined in terms of a waterfall of fixed tasks with dates and dependencies. But if we zoom into some of these tasks such as creative design, we see that they come with the uncertainty of time and effort required to finish that task to perfection.

We need to let the creative guys know what their micro tasks are and let them share documents easily, but without a broader and firmer project structure to guide them they’d probably lose the forest for the trees and go through endless iterations and revised end dates. We think that the Gantt chart helps manage the forest view, and the collaboration helps to focus on each of the trees.

Managing projects purely with collaborative tools may be useful in situations where teams are small, and each team member is not only a subject matter expert but a very independent individual who can be relied on to manage herself without the guidance of a higher level project structure.

Larger project teams are more likely to require a mix of both senior and less experienced people that are likely to just get lost in a forest of micro tasks if they don’t have the larger picture put in place for them.

About Mario: A leader in business process optimization with over 20 years experience in IT services and consulting across a number of industry domains worldwide, Mario Lewis is a strategic thinker who has helped companies successfully manage projects with his uncanny ability to see the big picture while continuing to excel in details.

You can connect with Mario at:

5 Responses

  1. September 7, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Your blog title grabbed my attention; Very true, it’s not about the tool, it’s all about the people how efficiently use that tool. Being Excel trainer, I have seen people use Excel tool for Project management, even though it is not efficient tool for project Mgmt. But anyone can customize the tool as per needs with little VBA skill. Excel requires low cost and less training. Thanks for such a detailed analysis on PM tools. It’s an eye opener – I didn’t know we have so many tools in Project management.

  2. Abhinethri R S
    September 1, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Good information about the project management and the effective tools.

  3. August 12, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    I am really amazed at the effort you have put into the research. Even if it means you just visited their features section page (from the pdf I understand that you have done more work than that), it is about few days of work. I am sure it is time well spent.
    I am happy that I could confidently say I have worked with or tried out at least 15 of the tools(wrike, planbox, openerp, jira, trello, basecamp,redmine, etc) listed in the pdf. I worked on these things either because the client used it or out of my quest to find the best project management tool.
    I was a bit surprised when I saw version one was not there in the list, as they claim to be the leader in the agile project management arena. They being agile focused may be one of the reasons for them to have slipped through the net.
    I was engaged in a similar exercise, not so long ago. I was looking at 3 other aspects as well(one of which may overlap with your point). They are
    1. Ease of use – This plays an important role when your team consists of people with different skill set, caliber and location. What if you are giving access to vendors and clients. We don’t have the luxury of doing a 3 session on how to use the tool. People are, in general, resistant to change, so moving over should be as intuitive as possible.
    2. Total cost of implementation and maintenance – Most of these tools have to be paid for either on a month or yearly basis. The larger your team, the bigger the outlay.
    3. How intrusive – I always think of theory X and theory Y. The problems is we have both type of people in a team, the complexity grows if you bring in hierarchy of needs. So the chosen tool needs to be sensitive to people feeling as well.
    I was more focused on agile platform tools, hence I started using planbox, based on the above three points, in addition to the points you have mentioned.

  4. Santosh
    November 14, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Thanks for the insight on project management tools. I never knew so many tools even existed!

  5. Lisha
    November 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Quite an extensive comparison of tools!
    Agree that in effective project management, traditional tools such as Gantt provide the bigger picture, while collaborative tools will help to manage the micro tasks.