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4 Real-Life Tips For Choosing Collaboration Tools

Tips for choosing collaboration toolsGetting the right collaboration tool for your team is really important – as is knowing how to use it. It’s something that my book, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers, goes into in a lot of detail because if you get it wrong it’s a massive waste of expense and energy.

But I don’t have the monopoly on knowing how to do it. I talk to a lot of project managers about the software they use and there is often a common theme: they are pushed into finding something better because they can’t carry on as they are.

This is what happened to Dara Ingoldsby from Prophix, a firm that develops software to automate financial and operational processes. I found out more about what happened and used Dara’s experience to pull out 4 tips for everyone else in the same situation.

The Need: Understanding You Can’t Grow Like This

It didn’t take long for Dara, Head of Professional Services for Prophix UK, to realise that he’d joined a company where the systems for getting work done were less than ideal.

Projects were stored in different programs and in different formats. Dara made it a mission to find the perfect tool to run the projects efficiently. “It was impossible to find information you needed, everything was buried in documents and folders, and there was no way of getting an accurate status for any project,” he says.

When he started looking for a tool, he wanted to make sure that it was able to manage all of their projects, while enabling their staff to provide good service. “I needed a tool that would make sure we weren’t wasting all our time or dropping balls with customers,” he adds.

Tip #1: Know why you are embarking on a project to change or upgrade your software tools. There’s no business justification for launching a new collaboration tool just because you read about it in the business press. There should be a strong reason to change.

The Requirements: Working Out What’s Important

One of the main priorities for Dara, as he searched through the available software tools was a solution that could they could use to streamline their processes. “I tried products that were difficult to navigate, and I quickly realised they didn’t have the depth of functionality that I needed.”

But when he found Accelo, something clicked. “First off, I knew Accelo was the right tool for us when I saw how easy it was to use,” he says. “It takes project collaboration and workflow management to the next level. It was quite literally love at first sight. Or in this case, at first demo.”

Tip #2: Know what you are looking for before you start looking. What business problem are you trying to address? When you start looking at software you’ll often get a gut feel that this particular product is the right one for you. Do your due diligence and vendor comparisons, but don’t ignore that feeling either.

Dara Ingoldsby quote

The Processes: Getting Everyone Doing The Same Thing

Fast forward a bit: Prophix’s new software is in place, full of all the standard processes and workflows. Knowing that they had that part sorted, Dara and his team decided to hire a few employees with no prior project management experience.

The UK expansion for Prophix could have been a massive headache for the small Hampshire-based team but standardising as much as they could and putting it all in one place made the process easier.

“It was so easy for the new staff members to learn the processes, and to navigate through their work,” says Dara. “Had we not had Accelo, all new staff members would have had to manually consolidate all information from multiple sources. And, quite frankly, I don’t think it would have been possible to expand as quickly as we did.”

The UK office doubled in size in little over a year – and Dara says it happened smoothly.

A further benefit of standardisation is that it’s easier to manage when project team members move on or switch out. “I can easily go into their projects and see what they have been doing, where the projects are and what else needs to be done,” Dara explains. “So even though they are no longer around, it’s super easy for me to handle their tasks.”

Tip #3: Standarise where you can. Making processes repeatable saves time doing the work and onboarding others to do the work and increases visibility.

The Results: More Revenue; Fewer Headaches

The change to a new software tool is always a challenge. There’s training, learning new ways of doing things and getting used to working differently even if you are really keen to make the switch. So aside from helping the company grow and giving project managers fewer headaches, has the implementation been a success?

“We have been billing out 10% more a week,” says Dara. And in terms of our actual revenue, we have seen an increase of about 25%. This is a great start, and we are hoping for more.”

Dara believes it has been worth it. The professional services side of Prophix is now a one-stop shop. With everything stored within a single tool, the team can easily see existing emails, plan out projects, see the status of remaining tasks, and even assign themselves work.

“It saves my team so much time,” Dara says. “Now, they can spend the time working with clients instead of doing administrative work.”

There is also better visibility about that time spent working with clients. “Prior to Accelo, we had no way of tracking the time spent on each project, and we often would have one member of the team burn through all the allocated hours,” Dara says. “We no longer have that happening.” Project teams are able to see in real-time the hours that have been spent on each project and the profit margin associated with that.

Tip #4: Track time! You’ll often see this mentioned on my blog, and it’s really important if you work in any kind of client-facing, service role. You can calculate profitability, prioritise more effectively and improve your delivery processes if you know how long projects are taking you.

This article was sponsored by Accelo.

Header image credit: Placeit.net

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.

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