Sunday, 13 May 2012

Those elusive perfect project management tools

Yes, where are they?

The range and number of project management (PM) tools has increased significantly and some work across mobile too. But there still seems to be the basic problem of the tool not exactly suiting how you work. People complain that they have to tailor the way they work to suit the tool. For example, Microsoft Project came out of the large, very long, and detailed software development projects prior to the Internet. It has myriad features; so many that it is hard to get started because you have to understand its logic and relate it to what you are doing.

Then the communication flow tools, like Basecamp, proved popular because they allowed people to stay in contact and pass information around efficiently whilst keeping a record of the communication. Some say it grew out of the Lotus 123 type of corporate communication tracking but was web based and therefore more versatile.

Now we have tools that concentrate on the costing and automated billing processes. These are time trackers that allocate a rate according to the person or role, and as you enter the time they have spent on a task, the program calculates exactly how much the effort has cost. These are popular with ad agencies because they tend to suit the way they have worked with clients in the past for traditional media, and now interactive media is added into the equation, they want it to operate in the same way.

Project management tools have an inherent logic in the way they are structured. They mirror a human approach, a philosophy, despite trying to offer a systematic process to make projects flow efficiently for all involved, and to fairly cost the work done as the project unfolds. In the end, the biggest clash is still between the visual creatives (web designers, graphics) and the way they work, and the programmers who are creative but within their own systematic logic inherent in the symbolic, abstract computer languages they have to work with. The wordsmiths (content creators, marketers) also embody their own approaches in the words used.

We get back to that thorny problem of coordinating across cross-functional teams to produce any interactive application on any platform. The mix of people reflects the mix of philosophies that drive their expertise and so that's why one PM tool never seems to fit all. Does that leave us any closer to a solution? Well, people can adapt. They can appreciate or learn to appreciate how a system can help them despite causing them some teething problems. Tools are getting more versatile. People are getting more used to having to use some form of PM tool.

After trawling the web trying to find people in our industry raving about "the perfect pm tool", I only found the one: but that's refreshing. See Phil Matthews and Trello, my Perfect Project Management App.

Anyone else have a PM tool to rave about?