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With social network-like interfaces and increased real-time updating, task management software can help keep projects on schedule.
BY PETER FRETTY
Last year, more than half of all projects missed their deadlines, according to Panorama Consulting Solutions' 2012 ERP Report, a survey of 246 organizations from 64 countries.
One way to keep projects on track is by using a task management solution. Think of it as the electronic equivalent of a handwritten to-do list. Today's offerings enable project managers to update team members in real time—something your notebook can't do.
“Because projects with globally distributed resources are common-place and often those team members are in the field, mobility is surfacing as a key component,” says Margo Visitacion, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. “Team members need to be able to rapidly see their assignments and act.”
Usability also plays a significant role: Is the software easy to learn? How efficient is it? Is it visually pleasing?
“Project leaders need to think long and hard about how their people work and select an application based upon how team members need access,” Ms. Visitacion says. “This may be the deciding factor in whether or not you select a cloud solution and what type of functionality the organization needs to deploy.”
If a task management tool is difficult to use, no one will see its benefit.
“Focus on simplicity for team members to interact or collaborate with the project leader as well as coworkers,” she adds.
Data integration into existing project portfolio management solutions is a consideration for some organizations. But don't try to find a tool that's all-encompassing.
“Task management should not focus on integrating all the potential information you can gather,” Ms. Visitacion says. “This can make adoption counterintuitive. Instead, the thought should be around what is enough information to get the job done.”
UP TO THE TASK?
Here's a look at various task management software offerings:
DO This free web-based solution allows task delegation for multiple projects and provides immediate notifications to teams upon completion of a task. The interface resembles a social network app (it looks a lot like Facebook and Twitter, in fact), and team members can check off tasks with a swipe of their fingertips.
The mobile accessibility is limited to the iPhone, but the solution can be integrated with Google Docs.
JOBTRAQ A browser-based solution, JobTraQ presents a tab-style interface that evokes file folders. It can be reconfigured to accommodate rapid team deployments and agile workflow changes. Security also is scalable at the feature, field, record, user and team levels.
Team members can log hours spent on tasks, and the service sends emails when tasks are completed. It also keeps a database of past project files.
The software calculates data from completed projects and uses that information to estimate future schedules.
PRODUCTEEV Available over multiple mobile formats, Producteev takes its cues from the language of social media. For instance, project managers type “@” and a team member's name to assign tasks to that person.
Tasks are prioritized on a numerical system from 1 to 5. Once the tasks are completed, project managers and team members can add notes and attach files in real time.
Q-TRACK Web-based Q-Track has a customizable dashboard interface that reveals real-time progress on workflow charts and reports.
Behind what looks like a bare-bones approach is an ever-expanding assortment of add-on modules and plug-ins. The calendar feature, for example, notifies users of overdue assignments.
The tool integrates with Microsoft Outlook and Project, and has an SaaS (software as a service) cloud option. PM
MAY 2012 PM NETWORK