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Best Practices of Project Management: Choose the Right Tools

written by: Joe Taylor Jr. • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 5/15/2013

Instead of hiding behind so-called productivity tools, effective project managers use time during the early phases of the project cycle to figure out which software packages and strategic tools are right for a specific team or project.

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    Use Tools as Weapons, Not Shields

    According to one study, two-thirds of business professionals use technology to lie to bosses and colleagues. Most project management professionals are guilty of telling a stakeholder, “I didn’t get that email," or, “Excel must have kept the original deadline in there." While veteran project managers can often think of a few times when a piece of technology made a convenient scapegoat for a deliberate action, one of the best practices of project management is to stay in control of tools and processes instead of letting them run the show.

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    Keep Project Needs in Mind When Selecting Tools

    Not every piece of project management software is ideal for every kind of project. Some tools create Gantt charts that are more suited to linear projects, while free-for-all task tracking tools might not be the right selection for projects with lots of dependencies. Experienced project managers build competencies with multiple software tools, so they can be flexible throughout a project cycle or across multiple projects.

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    Bend Tools to Your Own Will, When Necessary

    The team of programmers at 37signals refers to this methodology as “essentials only." If it takes too long for a team to decide on all the bells and whistles of a particular project management tool, then going for a basic tool that requires workarounds may be the right decision. After all, project management professionals got along just fine for decades with Gantt charts on clipboards. Keeping things simple just might be the answer to getting a team unstuck.

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    Keep Backups of Everything

    One of the most crucial best practices of project management, especially for teams that rely on software, is to make regular backups of all project data. For teams that use desktop-based tools like Microsoft Project, this principle requires setting up secure offsite backup with a trusted third-party provider. Cloud storage makes this much easier in today's world. At the very least, project managers should back data up using inexpensive external hard drives. Many projects have stalled out or required restarts when task and schedule data were lost, erased, or stolen. For users of hosted project planning tools, keeping a local copy of project data is equally essential.

    With the best practices of project management professionals in mind, team leaders can select the right tools and make solid decisions without fear of losing important information.

Best Practices of Project Management

Business leaders have identified five critical areas where project management professionals can help their teams excel. These best practices of project management apply to teams in any kind of industry, under any conditions. All five best practices require tactical skills and organizational courage.
  1. Best Practices of Project Management: Following the Project Cycle
  2. Best Practices of Project Management: Standardizing Procedures
  3. Best Practices of Project Management: Clear Communication
  4. Best Practices of Project Management: Dealing with Change
  5. Best Practices of Project Management: Choose the Right Tools

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