November 2, 2016

Project management tools in your organization (what does success look like?)

I’ve been using Asana both personally and professionally for a few years now. However, in my implementation at work, I’ve learned a few lessons. I wanted to run through them here just in case these observations could help anybody else out.

Will it work for my team?

The level of success you see as a result of using the product with your team depends greatly on its level of usage across all departments — and the level of usage depends on how much work is occurring there.

Let me work my way backward through that statement.

The work. (I.E., every. dang. action item.)

In a perfect world of project management, anything that requires action internally would reside in a product like Asana. For example:

  • routine (recurring) database backups;
  • new blog posts;
  • product requests or enhancements;
  • internal help desk requests;
  • client deliveries;
  • yeah, pretty much anything that needs to get done.

In that ideal world I just described, your typical Google or Outlook inbox is used only as the primary gateway for any communications with external parties: your clients, users, friends, and definitely for your daily Skimm.

Any communication that needs to happen internally should reside in your PM tool of choice — be it Asana, Wrike, Trello, etc.

When it comes to email, there are a lot of people that don’t want to venture beyond the safe, familiar confines of — and that’s okay! While the inbox functionality of tools like Wrike and Asana are effective, there are products like Slack and Microsoft Teams that allow you to focus more on the communication aspect while also enabling you to easily see — and interact with — the action items in your projects. Tools like these can make the transition to a project management product an easier pill to swallow.

The thought of the alternative, of having to go between systems for communication, is intimidating and can seem frustrating to end users; a.k.a, traditional inbox devotees. This is exactly what makes achieving buy-in across your org tricky… which leads me to usage.

The usage.

It all starts somewhere. If you’re the one that wants to implement Wrike or something similar, then it starts with you. You can begin by getting all of your action items in there and use it literally every single day. Everything you need to accomplish needs to be in there. Then, look for opportunities to get team projects in there as well — e.g., a re-launch of your organization’s blog, a new iteration of an existing service/offering, or even just your team’s meeting agenda.

“Before starting your next project, write down the people who are directly and indirectly involved or affected by this project. Think through whose buy-in or ultimate approval will be required for the project to progress.” — Linda Brenner, author of “Driving Career Results […]”

That last example is something that Asana highlights in their miraculous and meticulous (metaculous?) user guide: using meeting agendas as projects for meeting notes and discussion topics. This will absolutely help acclimate your users to the product and its structure.

Once you’ve got the action items into your PM product of choice, that’s when the conversations can begin to occur.

“When all of your conversations are tied to teams, projects, or tasks in Asana, your team will have clarity about what’s actually happening around work instead of having to cobble together or track down information across various tools.” — the Asana guide.

Another example comes in the form of integrations with other utilities you might already be using. Take Zendesk, the widely-used helpdesk solution, for instance. I’ve seen a number of organizations that integrate Zendesk with Trello, another popular project management solution.

In this scenario, any incoming helpdesk tickets are created as tasks/cards within a project/board in Trello. A ticket is a great example of an action item and, as such, these represent great opportunities for collaboration and communication within your new PM tool.

Once (A) your team conversations are happening in the product and (B) you’re enabling hands-on experience through things like meeting agendas, you’re on your way to increased use in the organization. Maybe not well on your way… but you’re getting there. That leads me further backward through my original point.

The success.

When your team’s work is in one place, it’s inherently organized. If the work is organized, then it’s most likely going to be more easily discoverable. If the work is discoverable (readily available in front of you or your colleagues), then it’s much more likely to get done.

How about you?

Have you had success in implementing a PM solution like Asana or Trello in your organization? If so, share your advice below. Have any other questions about I’ve encountered? Give me a shout via the comments below or via Twitter.

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