How to Choose the Best Project Management Tool

Many church leaders see the potential value in using a project management tool for their teams. Popular tools include Asana, Basecamp, Teamwork, and others. However, there’s often a level of disappointment that happens once a church staff starts using the tool.

Why isn’t this making communication easier?

Why won’t the whole staff use the tool (and stop emailing me or dropping by my desk with a “quick” request)?

Here’s the deal: Those issues probably have nothing to do with the tool and everything to do with the process.

What do I mean by that? (Prepare yourself for some tough love here…)

You can’t slap a shiny new tool over a broken process and expect an incredible result.

I don’t care how many features the tool has, how much you paid for it, or how “cutting edge” it’s supposed to be. If you don’t have a good process in place it still won’t work.

So if that’s true, then what is all this process stuff about?

Let’s say you’re considering Asana to help your communications team put tasks into a central location, assign each, add notes about the tasks, send email reminders about upcoming tasks, etc.

Before you sign up for Asana and start adding projects, consider this:

How does your staff currently receive, manage, and complete communications projects?

  • Do you have a standard form for people to fill out that gives your communications team the information they need to get started?
  • Who receives that form and what does that person do with the information?
  • How do you schedule and prioritize new requests? Is it first-come-first-served or do certain individuals or departments take priority?
  • Who owns or manages the overall project?
  • Who gets the first task? Is that the graphics designer who creates an event logo and overall design? Does the person who’ll create a video announcement start next or can that person start at the same time as the graphics designer but can’t finish until the designer is done?
  • Who needs to know about potential video and/or on-stage announcements?
  • Who decides what to announce at each service? How do you get that information to that person and a decision back?
  • Will you make flyers to post around campus? If so, who creates those and who approves when/where they’ll be posted? Who handles printing? Who posts the flyers?
  • If this event involves taking registration payments, who handles setting that up on the church website and coordinating with the church accounting team?
  • Will you promote this event in the church bulletin? If so, during which weeks? Who handles coordinating with the person who creates the bulletin? When does that person need the event details so he/she can include it in the bulletin?

In other words, how does your team go from receiving a request to providing the final product?

Notice I haven’t addressed any special software features here. If you don’t already have the answers to these questions, that’s where you should start before you evaluate any online tools.

Here’s how to document your process:

Step #1 – Create a rough draft

Take a first cut at sketching out your church’s current process (whether you think it works well or not – just write down what IS).

Step #2 – Review

Meet with your team to see if they agree that what you’ve written down matches how they think things currently work. You may be surprised by where you have disagreements or different understandings. That’s another reason why documenting the process is helpful – it gets everyone on the same page.

Step #3 – Improve

Ask the team what they think should change about the current process and incorporate that into the documentation.

Step #4 – Review with a wider audience

Review the proposed process with other departments and/or individuals who’ll be impacted by the changes. Tweak the process until you get something you think will be more efficient.

Step #5 – Evaluate

Use the process for a few weeks without adding a planning tool. Work out a few issues, update the process documentation, then create a list of which steps you’d like a tool to help make more effective such as:

  • Reduce the number of emails between team members.
  • Decrease the frequency of status meetings.
  • Increase timely communication.
  • Get relevant files and information for a particular project in one place.

Now it’s time to check out project management tool options:

Once you have a solid process and you know what you want out of an online project management tool, THEN it makes sense to start reviewing options.

One easy way to start comparing options is to visit Capterra.com. You can select up to four tools to compare key features side-by-side. That will help you narrow down the options. Next, visit the website of each vendor to get a better idea of what each offers.

Most of the software providers offer a free trial. I highly recommend you sign up for the free trial and have 2-3 people use the tool for that time period. See if you really like the tool, if it helps you manage your process more efficiently, etc.

Once you land on a tool your team will actively use and finds helpful, then start rolling it out to more people. Make sure you explain WHY you’re asking them to use a new tool. Help each individual understand how this tool will make their job easier and how it will save them time and stress.

Train each individual and answer their questions in the first few weeks. Don’t expect everyone to fall in love with the new tool on day one. It may take a while for some to see the benefits. Be persistent, provide more training, and respond quickly to their questions.

Yes, this approach will take more time up front. However, by documenting your process and identifying how you’d like to use a project management tool you greatly increase your chances of selecting the best one for your team.

 

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