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Top 10 Pitfalls to Avoid When Implementing Project Management Software

Changes Next ExitRecently, the LiquidPlanner team took some time and conducted in-depth interviews with nearly 40 of our most active customers. We asked a lot of questions and heard some great success stories. One thing quickly became clear: the method you use to roll out a new tool can make or break its adoption on a team.

So what made these teams successful? They each avoided most (or all) of the pitfalls below when introducing project management software to their teams.

Pitfall #10: Export data from your old system and re-import it directly into the new one. Expect everything to magically improve.

Instead: Clean house (project-wise and process-wise) during implementation.  Get rid of old project data you don’t need. Delete unnecessary steps from your project template. Make sure you have the best possible processes in place for your team. Now is the time to make a change if change is needed.

Pitfall #9: Instill a fear of “messing things up” in your team members.

Instead: Encourage trial-and-error learning. Let people click around and see what the tool can do. If they hit a roadblock, they can ask for help or browse the support section. If you’re a little jittery, set up a sandbox area for this express purpose. Don’t wait until everyone has free time to attend a training session before giving them access – it will only slow you down.

Pitfall #8: Don’t bother loading any project data into the system before you ask for feedback.

Instead: Make sure there’s no “blank page” problem during team intros. In other words, people should see project data that they relate to when they first log in. It sets them up to be able to visualize using the tool every day for their own work, and to ask the most important questions about features they need or want.

Pitfall #7: Stick to the generic training materials and help guides when getting people up to speed.

Instead: Conduct user trainings on specifically how you want your team to use the software. You’re the one who know them – and probably the software—best. Use that knowledge to help team members figure out the shortest path from A to Z (i.e., getting all of the necessary information into and out of the tool as quickly as possible.)

Pitfall #6: Trust no one.

Instead: Promote values of openness, transparency, communication, and most important of all, ownership. If your project team is your “family,” your project software is your “home.” In a healthy family, you communicate, share the same dinner table, pick up after yourself, and leave generous numbers of post-it notes for each other. The same holds true for your project team. The more you collaborate, update, and respect each other’s priorities, the more effective and efficient you’ll be.

Pitfall #5: Rely on the software to solve your resource management problems.

Instead: Accept that offline process for resource management and allocation must still take place. At its core, project management is a social problem, not a technical one. In a team with shared resources, the tool can’t make those decisions for you. However, a great project management tool can facilitate discussions and inform your decisions about priorities and work assignments.

Pitfall #4: Keep using all your other systems in the same way you always did.

Instead: Leverage the full feature set that you’re paying for to eliminate (or reduce) the need to spend time in other tools. For example, if your project management tool includes a micro-blogging feature, try to encourage your team to use that in lieu of email. You can get rid of your old time tracking system and use the one in your project management software. Ditto for document sharing, wikis, bug trackers, client extranets, and more. Besides cutting costs, it will keep team members engaged in the tool, ensuring the most accurate project information at any given time.

Pitfall #3: Find one way of using your project management software and stick with it.

Instead: Think of the rollout as an “Agile implementation” that gets better over time. This is especially true if you’re moving from a more lightweight tool like Basecamp or Excel to a purpose-built project management application. Experiment with structure and process, then see if you can identify areas for optimization. Wash, lather, repeat.

Pitfall #2: Copy and paste data from your project management software into your Microsoft Word team meeting agenda.

Instead: Display your project software on a projector in meetings so everyone’s on the same page. Not only does it reinforce the idea that your shared workspace is the central place to go for project information, but it allows you to make updates and decisions in real time.

Pitfall #1: Let your team members make updates “if they feel like it.” 

Instead: Hold each person accountable for making frequent updates to their tasks. Let’s face it – your business only moves forward when projects get done. Would you be ok with having out of date financial information? I don’t think so. Team productivity is directly proportionate to revenue opportunities. Make sure everyone understands that having reliable project data is critical to running the business. At the same time, offer support and guidance on the fastest and easiest way to make updates.

What mistakes have you made (or avoided) in your roll out? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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