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How to choose and implement project management software

Before you pull the trigger on project management software, deploy this five-step plan for ensuring you choose wisely and deploy successfully.

By Bucky Jobe, VP Operations, Moovila

project management software

You can see the problem in the numbers: You aren’t hitting revenue goals. It takes so long to get deliverables to clients that your cash flow suffers. Customers aren’t happy. Your teams spend too much time in status meetings.

You know why: You’ve grown so fast that the tools you relied on to stay organized – spreadsheets, email, daily standups, Microsoft Project – aren’t enough.

You know the solution, too: Use a tool designed to keep projects – or a portfolio of them – on track, disseminate information instantly, and let you quickly tap into data that will give you insight into the where, what, and when of work.

If you want the outcome you envision, you need a plan.

What you want is to wave your magic wand and sweep the chaos into a shiny new project management tool. But converting workflows is a big project. If you want the outcome you envision, you need a plan.

Here is that plan. These five steps are modeled on the decades I have spent managing projects, forming project management offices, and transforming workflows from chaos to clarity.

1. Asses yourself

Many people will tell you to choose a project management tool the same you would choose any software: Compare your budget and the features you want with what’s in the marketplace. But when it comes to choosing software that governs your processes, you should do some navel gazing first.

Identity your requirements and your use case and look for a piece of software that will meet those needs. But just because a vendor has a feature that doesn’t mean it has the functionality to meet your specific needs or process.

Since a good project management tool can turn your standard operating procedures into repeatable templates, take the time to study your own processes and workflows. This might mean examining the way you plan and keep projects on track now. It certainly requires that you define what your goals and needs are for this new software.

2. Get a partner

You might imagine that choosing, buying, and learning how to use the software is the journey. But acquiring the software is only the first step in this journey.

When you choose a tool,

make sure the solution provider will work with you – as a partner

So, when you choose a tool, make sure the solution provider will work with you – as a partner – on the implementation.

It's critical to have somebody guide you through this process. Implementation goes well beyond features and functionality. To a certain degree, this is true of every software implementation. But when it comes to implementing a meta tool to govern your project management that is your raison d’etre, the implementation is critically important.

A solution provider in this space, if they work through the implementation process, is expert at this. They have seen it all, done it many times, and are keenly aware of everything that can go wrong and right. They can help you nail every decision.

3. Define your deployment strategy

Once you have found your software solution – and a partner to help you implement it – it’s time to define your deployment strategy. You can do this either post purchase, or pre purchase. And it can change. But this is where you decide where to plant the seeds of the software in your organization and how you want it to grow.

Who will the initial stakeholders be? Will you roll the software out to certain teams or functions, one at a time? Will you start small and let it expand – an iterative method? Will a “Big Bang” approach – where you choose a date and move everything into the tool from that moment forward – succeed here? Or maybe you want to do a staggered deployment, where you start with a few projects and the people attached to those?

But be realistic.

Understand where you are at today and come up with a plan to improve in the future. The best deployment strategies are usually a sea change not an overnight transformation. It’s best to seed the tool by solving immediate problems and encourage it to grow out from there, letting people share their successes and discoveries, rather than force feeding change to reluctant teams.

It might require some clever strategy and psychology to coax everyone to drink from this organization and communication well. You need to understand who your users are and who the stakeholder groups are and plan for how you are going to pull them into this deployment.

It’s easy to dream big, get impatient, and overload your teams. Bringing in any new software requires work. Meanwhile, the work of running the business continues. Do your people have to stay late or work weekends for this? Make sure they have time blocked out for it.

4. Define your process

Next take the time to define your work processes and develop best practices. Look at how things are done now and document that prior to implementing the software – possibly improving as you do. These processes can be turned into templates that can be repeated, honed, and used to build clarity and efficiency.

If you unleash the tool, letting everyone use it however they want everybody will use it differently and that is hard to undo.

Avoid that hitch by defining your workflows – your standard operating procedures – before you release the software. That way you know how people should use it before you start putting it in their hands.” But as you do this, be open to change. Some of your processes may change with a new tool. In fact, I would hope so. Your looking to improve things with the new tool.”

5. Develop a change management plan

You are almost ready. But before you give the deployment a green light, letting lose your new strategy and tool into the organization, step back and consider your change management plan. Ask yourself how your organizational culture fits into this. Some organizations are open to change, and some are very resistant.

70% of change programs fail

McKinsey estimates that 70 percent of change programs fail, largely because of employee resistance. So, this step is important if you don’t want your plan to wither on the vine.

The willingness to embrace change might vary from team to team and person to person. It helps to understand who the changemakers are and who will fight any change. Strategize ways to help the changemakers nurture the new methods and lure in those who are reluctant to get on board.

Learn more about Improving your project management with our latest resource:

Project Management Office (PMO) Checklist

Project Management Office (PMO) Checklist


Bucky Jobe is the VP of operations at Moovila. He has over 20 years of project and product management and currently oversees the delivery of Moovila to partners and clients.



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