Repeat after me. Unicorns are NOT real. Unicorns are mythical creatures.
Are you in the market for a Project and Resource Management solution to help you track budget/cost/expense, improve project execution, boost resource utilization/skills and bill your clients? If so, here are 10 key issues to consider when searching for the best solution:
Start small, grow big. It’s very important that you identify the key problems you’re planning to solve with your Project and Resource Management solution. To begin with, you must choose a few simple and well-defined problems. Once you conquer first set of problems, you should then plan to expand and solve a set of more complex problems.
As you are reviewing products in the marketplace, make certain that your product vendor enables you to “start small” in a short period of time with no up-front investment. Also, ensure that your product will scale (both in respect to number of users and capabilities) and grow with you and your business.
Please note that a very high number of Project and Resource Management products fail to deliver on their promises because they are overly complex, try to solve too many problems or offer solutions to issues that are not considered important. It is always a good practice to avoid vendors who try to sell you a big robust suite and make a great deal of promises.
Try before you buy. Never commit to a product before you test it out in your own environment and with your own business problems. Even if it costs you some money, we recommend doing a paid pilot with a small number of users to solve your real business problems. Only after you determine that the product works well in your environment, then you can take the next steps to do larger deployments. Important note: Always avoid products that require a big investment just to do a small pilot. Also, it’s best to avoid products that cannot be easily configured to your needs and require a large amount of customization through internal or third party consultants.
Include your users right from the beginning. Product deployment is successful only if end users approve of the product and find it easy and intuitive to use. For the initial pilot, include a sample of actual users from all segments (End Users, Operational Managers & Executives) and give high value to their feedback. For wider and faster adoption of the product, it’s very important that the product has the right features and your users are happy with it.
Ubiquitous access. Figure out how your users will navigate the product. A few questions to consider: Will your executives, managers and employees need mobile or tablet access to do timesheets and provide approvals? Do you have contractors who are outside the company’s LAN? Based upon your users’ needs, your new product should be easily accessible from outside your network as well as from the user’s preferred devices.
Pay for what you use, don’t pay for capabilities (current or future) that you don’t use. Don’t let the vendor charge you for your future features – especially if your users won’t be utilizing them. Pay only for the product capabilities that are relevant to your situations. As you grow with the product, purchase additional capabilities.
Focus on your immediate problems and relevant product features. As I stated earlier, it’s very important that you identify the key business problems you’ll need to address through your new solution. When you are evaluating a product, it’s important to focus on product capabilities that are relevant to your immediate business problems. Don’t let the vendor distract you by offering you product capabilities that are not relevant to your immediate business needs. Be mindful when a vendor tries to distract you by creating artificial future business issues that may or may not happen. In other words, don’t let your vendor sell you “pipe dreams” – make the vendor sell you a product that solves your real problems in the here and now.
Don’t be mistaken: your long-term plans and vendor’s product roadmaps are absolutely important. You should review all current and future product capabilities to ensure that product is aligned with your future direction. But while making decision about your next product, you should rank product capabilities that solve your immediate problems higher. You should buy a product that solves your immediate business problems first.
Ensure that vendor’s product update delivery process is as agile as your business. As your business grows and the product grows with you, your needs are bound to change. Is your vendor designed to deliver new product capabilities quickly and seamlessly without affecting your budget? Overall, it’s always good to understand product enhancement cost and speed before committing to a product.
It should be very simple to capture Project and Resource data. Success of a Project and Resource Management solution is dependent upon ease of its set up and ease of capturing project/resource data. Most Project and Resource Management solutions fail because they’re very difficult to set up and capture data. As you review your options, make certain the new product:
- Is easy to set up
- Has good default values and automatic ways to capture data so that you need to enter the minimum amount of data
- Provides pro-active alerts and then guides you to set up missing data
Don’t let automation come in the way of intuition. Project & Resource Management is as much an art as it is a science. Project priorities and resource availabilities/capabilities need to be quantified, but good Project and Resource Managers don’t make their decisions just based upon projects and resources data. Most of the time, they make their decisions based upon their solid intuition they gain by working closely with people at a company over time.
For example, when a new project or challenge comes up, good managers use their intuition and take attributes (e.g. soft & hard skills, attitude, team chemistry, personal preference etc.) into account to pinpoint the right resource for a project.
Similarly when a resource is extended on a project, they just don’t automatically delay the other project on which the resource is supposed be to working on. They look at the big picture view (both tactical and strategic), other available resources and other project options to reset projects schedule.
So, if a vendor is saying that they can automatically figure out which projects to delay or resources to assign, be wary of this. Your new product shouldn’t come in the way of your managers’ intuitive decision making skills, rather it should empower your manager to make intuitive decisions.
Don’t get me wrong… I support automation and quick decision-making. But, automation shouldn’t be about stifling intuition; it should be about enhancing it. So, your new product should be about pro-actively capturing and presenting all the data, intelligence and facts in a right format, so that managers can apply their intuition in making quick and timely decisions. Also, once decision is made, managers should be able to quickly execute on their decision.
Lastly, it’s all about the product design and experience. When I talk about the design and experience, I am just not talking about end user experience with the product. I am referring to every interaction you have with your vendor and product. How easy it was to try and buy the product? Was product quick to set up? Is the product experience fun and intuitive? Does product have right integration to easily capture cost, billing and time tracking data?
Note that user experience is key to the adoption and success of product you are buying. It’s important not to make any compromise on product and user experience when buying your new product. It should make all your users happy and more productive.