For government contractor Total Quality Systems, Inc.
Are you in the market for a Project and Resource Management solution to help you track costs and expenses, improve project execution, boost resource utilization and skills, and bill your clients? If so, here are 10 key things 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 the first set, plan to expand and solve a set of more complex problems.
As you are reviewing products in the marketplace, see that the vendor enables you to “start small” in a short period of time, with no up-front investment. Choose a product that can scale in number of users and capabilities as your needs change.
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 irrelevant to you. Avoid vendors who try to sell you an oversized solution with features you don’t need.
- Try before you buy. Never commit to a product before you test it out in your own environment, with your own business problems. Even if it costs you some money, a pilot with a small number of users can be advantageous. Only after you determine the product works well in your environment can you commit to a large deployment. Also, always avoid products that require a big investment for the pilot, as well as products that are difficult to configure or require a large amount of customization through internal or third-party consultants.
- Involve your users from the start. Product deployment is successful only if end users like 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, etc.) and take their feedback seriously. Doing so will lead to wider and faster adoption.
- Ubiquitous access. Will your executives, managers and employees need mobile or tablet access to fill out 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 won’t use. Don’t let the vendor charge you for your future features – especially if your users won’t be needing them. Pay only for the product capabilities that are relevant to your situation. As your needs change, you should be able to purchase additional capabilities.
- Focus on your immediate problems and relevant product features. 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 features that are not relevant to your immediate business needs. Although your long-term plans and vendor’s product roadmaps are absolutely important and you should review all current and future product capabilities to ensure the product is aligned with your future direction, you should also be wary of vendors who try to distract you by creating artificial future business issues that may or may not happen. Buy a solution that solves your real, current problems.
- Make sure the vendor’s product update delivery process is as agile as your business. As your business grows, your needs are bound to change. Is the product designed to deliver new capabilities quickly and seamlessly, without affecting your budget? Overall, it’s always good to understand product enhancement costs and timelines before committing to purchase.
- Can you easily capture project and resource data? Most Project and Resource Management solutions fail, because they’re very difficult to set up and use. As you review your options, make sure your new solution deploys quickly and easily, offers default values and automation to eliminate manual processes, and provides proactive alerts that help you capture all the data you need.
- Don’t let automation get in the way of intuition. Project and Resource Management is as much an art as it is a science. Project priorities and resources must be quantified, but good Project and Resource Managers don’t make their decisions based only on hard data. Often, they use their intuition. For example, when a new project or challenge comes up, good managers use their intuition to pinpoint the right resource for a project, taking into account soft & hard skills, attitude, team chemistry, personal preference and more. They consider the big picture (both tactical and strategic), other available resources and other project options to reset projects schedules. The new product should be about pro-actively capturing and presenting all the data, intelligence and facts in the right format, so that managers can apply their intuition in making quick and timely decisions.
- It’s all about product design and experience. The user experience is critical to the adoption and success of any new product. When I talk about the design and experience, I’m referring to every interaction you have with your vendor and product. How easy was it to try out and purchase the product? Was set up fast and easy? Is the user experience fun and intuitive? Can you easily capture cost, billing and time tracking data? When it comes to the user experience, never compromise.