There comes a time in every project manager’s career where the current project management tool provided by the organization is no longer meeting expectations. Perhaps the project management maturity of the company has advanced, needs have increased, or the ambition has grown. Perhaps there are more people needing to be in tracking spreadsheets on a daily basis and the manual processes are now working against you. Or, frustration has built to the breaking point given the amount of time required to manage projects in an unstructured way.
These are all flags that point to the need to upgrade to a better project management tool. You know that the right product will massively help project teams across the business. But how do you convince the leadership teams to say yes?
Here are 5 steps to securing executive support for a new project management tool.
Step 1: Understand the team’s challenges
Every team faces different challenges. The first step in building a solid business case for a project management tool is to understand the problem you are trying to solve.
- Is it team collaboration and getting everyone on the same page with regards to priorities?
- Is it time tracking?
- Is it hitting deadlines and dealing with project schedules when you work in an environment with constantly changing priorities?
- Is it the constant uncertainty inhibiting decisions as your tool fails to dynamically update and deliver insights in real-time?
- Is it creating intelligent reports?
LiquidPlanner addresses all of these challenges, by the way.
Be specific and relate the challenge to your particular work environment and what it means to be a project manager in your organization. Think of examples where the team has struggled to deliver a project and what would have helped to get a better result. Your lessons learned documentation is a good starting point. Talk to other project managers and business analysts to find out what they consider to be the most frustrating aspects of project planning and getting their work done.
Step 2: Find the right product
Research the market and select a product that fits your needs. The goal is to begin to put together a structured argument that evidences the need for project management software to address the challenges faced by the team. Make a list of requirements, so you know what you are looking for and be sure to gain alignment on which are hard requirements vs “nice to have”.
This step can be time-consuming, as to do it thoroughly requires making a shortlist of products and then spending time using them to ensure they are a suitable fit for the organization. Speed up the process by taking advantage of webinars and software demos where these are offered. Read customer stories and case studies to see how others are using the tool.
Pro Tip: Check that any tool you are looking at is compliant with regulations specific to your industry or sector.
Step 3: Be clear on the price
In our experience, anyone asked to make a decision about software needs a clear understanding of the cost they are committing to. This is especially true in organizations that don’t currently have a project management tool in place. Going from no investment to a significant investment can be a much harder sell than simply switching software providers.
If you can, quantify the cost of not having the software, for example in the amount of time working on the wrong priorities, missed deadlines, or in having replanning meetings when intelligent scheduling engines could do the same work at the click of a button.
Step 4: Get support
There are two ways to implement project management tools: top down and bottom up. The top-down approach is where management decides a new product is needed and procures one for the team (hopefully with their input and support). Bottom-up is where the team stages a grassroots intervention and convinces their leaders that software is required.
If you are reading this article, you’re probably in the second scenario: needing to develop a strong case for why project management tools are a must-have for your team.
Share your thinking with influencers on the team. Get them to sign up for a free trial and test out the product, or get a demo from the vendor before you meet with leaders. If other teams will also be using the tool, talk to those individuals too. Find out what business processes they struggle with and demonstrate how the tool will help. The more support you can show that you have, the easier it will be to sell the need for a project management solution to the senior executives.
Be aware that not everyone likes change, and there will no doubt be some grumbling from people who are quite happy doing things the old way. Don’t ignore those people: take the time to understand their worries and issues too. A change management plan will help you address their concerns and support them during the transition. Your boss will want to know that you’ve thought about software adoption and – as well as broad support – you have a plan to manage implementing a new tool, training and supporting users. And as you plan for implementation, consider seriously engaging Professional Services offered by the project management tool vendor. This support will expedite early user adoption and utilization.
Step 5: Present the case
Finally, put all your information together in a clear case to your manager. Spell out the challenges faced by the team, the benefits of using project management software, the investment required and the plan for change. Detail the tangible and intangible benefits.
Lay out a clear timetable and point out when they could start seeing the benefits. If you think that they could be concerned about the scale of the change, suggest that a small project could be executed as a pilot to prove the concept before the full investment is made.
Pitch the presentation to hit the topics that are relevant for decision-makers. They might not care that task tracking is difficult right now, but they will care about reducing risk, cost savings, improved profitability, better customer satisfaction and less time leakage as a result of managing projects with a tool. Show them the tool in the meeting so they can visualize what you are talking about.
During the meeting, ask specifically for their approval or support (while acknowledging that they might not be in a position to grant it right now) and make it clear that you are asking for a decision.
Put enough time into preparing for this meeting or presentation, because you might only get one chance to make a good impression!
Next steps: Follow up
Managers need time to reflect. There might be budget considerations, or they might want to check out the tool themselves. Don’t expect a decision in the meeting, plan to follow up later so the topic doesn’t get dropped.
Whether you are dealing with complex project portfolios, many smaller projects, or anything in-between, the right software can have a positive benefit on efficiency, success rates and staff morale. It all starts with getting the ‘yes’ so do your homework and get pitching!
About the Author
Elizabeth Harrin is author of Managing Multiple Projects and several other books. She is founder of Project Management Rebels, a membership community for project managers who want to deliver with more confidence and less stress.