Why you should use online project management software

Small Business Guides

5 min read

If you’re relying on paper or spreadsheets, managing your projects can be a real nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We talked to WorkflowMax, an online project management tool provider, to find out what an online system could offer your company.

Is your manual project management system working?

Many businesses put their project management system together in response to immediate needs, adding in new steps as and when they are required. Often a tool like Excel is chosen simply because people are familiar with it – not necessarily because it’s the best one for the job. As Gavin George from WorkflowMax explains, when a company grows, this type of system can struggle with the increasing demands placed on it.

Four common project management issues

Projects managed using paper or spreadsheets can suffer from a number of issues. Here are four of the most common:

  1. Updates and changes being lost
    From Post-It notes to desks piled high with paperwork, without a streamlined project management system, important data can be lost. But if you work online or in the cloud, everything you do is tracked and recorded, so there’s no chance of it going astray.
  2. Incomplete time tracking
    Few employees enjoy filling in timesheets and this can cause problems when trying to accurately track time spent on a project. Online project management means that timesheets and job details can be completed as you go, no matter where you are.
  3. Entering the same information several times
    This is where the same details – such as client contact information or tasks associated with a job – are filled out again and again. It’s a waste of time and resources for information to be input multiple times: on the quote, on the timesheet, on the job tracking system and in the invoice. Online or cloud-based systems will store these details the first time they are entered, so they can be automatically recalled whenever they’re needed. This can save your business hours of work every week.
  4. Lack of visibility
    Because the different stages of an offline project management system don’t talk to each other, it’s hard to get a sense of the overall status of your company. What jobs are due this week? Which types of jobs bring in the most income? Are you turning a profit? These questions are hard to answer. Regular status meetings can help, but online project management systems offer a faster, less intrusive alternative.

10 ways in which online project management is better for your business

  1. Capture all the costs
    If you’re tracking costs online, it’s easy to enter and automate your data. You can capture everything – from an extra box of nails to the cost of printing the final proofs. Everything is stored in one easy-to-use system.
  2. Schedule and keep track of staff
    Staff can place their name next to a job in the system. This way you can see exactly what each team member has on their plate, when everything is due and how the project is progressing.
  3. Keep it all together
    You can store everything relating to a job online – notes, images, documents, contracts and emails. If you need to look anything up, it’s right there in one system, not buried under paperwork on someone’s desk. It’s much easier to find the information you need this way.
  4. Improve your cashflow
    All costs associated with a job can be accurately recorded and you can see exactly where all your money is going. The system can alert you when invoices aren’t paid, so you’ll never forget a payment again.
  5. Eliminate admin tasks
    Press a button and all the data from one stage of the project moves on to the next, from the beginning of a project right through to sending the invoice at the end. This can dramatically reduce the time taken to do project admin, leaving you with more time to grow your business.
  6. Gain visibility in your business
    Which type of work brings in the most profit? Have you lost money on a particular job? Which clients haven’t paid their invoices? With an online system you can quickly and easily run reports on your data, to get an immediate snapshot of your projects – and your business.
  7. Appear more professional to your clients
    Clients can be given login details to check the status of their jobs online. This lets them collaborate and approve work, and even pay invoices online. It looks much more professional than constantly shuffling pieces of paper back and forth or trying to run a project via email.
  8. Stay connected
    No matter where you are in the world, you can log in at any time to approve projects, check up on your team and stay in the loop.
  9. Always be up to date
    With online project management, you’re always working on the most up-to-date version of the software. You don’t have to wait for your IT department to roll out a new version. This keeps you up to date and also keeps your IT costs low.
  10. Easy disaster recovery
    What if your premises were destroyed in a fire, flood or other disaster? If your business data is stored online, you can still log in from anywhere in the world and manage your projects.
If you need to look anything up, it’s right there in one system, not buried under paperwork on someone’s desk.

Why online project management is better for your team

Moving to an online project management system could be good for your employees as well as for your business. If implemented properly, they should see the following changes:

More time for actual work
Simpler admin and less time spent on timesheets means that there will be more time for your staff to work on their projects – giving them greater job satisfaction.

Easy to use
Good online project management software is designed to be easy to use. That means reduced training and less confusion or hesitation when your team members need to do something new. And because it’s all managed remotely, there should be fewer IT problems.

Ability to work from anywhere
Sometimes your employees may need to work from home, perhaps due to having a sick child or waiting for a delivery. Or they might be attending a conference somewhere yet have free time during the day. With an online project management system they can still work, wherever they are.

Collect data from the field
If your staff often work in the field or in clients’ offices, they can still log into the system and update their project. This saves time because they don’t have to do it once they’re back in the office.

How to get started with project management online

Once you’ve decided that online project management is suitable for your business, here are some practical steps to help you make the move:

Map your project management process
In order to find the right online project management system for your company, you need to understand exactly what you need. Sit down and write out your entire job process, from lead right through to invoice. Highlight the areas that are giving you particular trouble.

Get unstuck
Start your hunt for online software by focusing on the areas you’re stuck on – for example, invoicing, cost-tracking or progress reporting. Focus on those areas first and build your project management requirements around them.

Single solution or multiple tools? 
You could pick and choose different cloud-based tools to handle different parts of your project management process. But this might cause more problems than it solves, because you’ll then have to join the different systems together. It makes more sense to look for single, integrated solutions.

Business applications improve the experience
You can further customise your new system with business applications. For example, with the right applications you can feed data from your CRM into your project management system; use it to update your payroll software; or add document storage and collaboration tools when you need them.

Ask for recommendations
If you’re not sure of your exact requirements, ask around. Talk to your in-house project managers and consultants to find out what online systems they might recommend. As your business partners and suppliers too. Take the time to research this carefully. It’s important to choose an online project management tool that will work best for your business.

Project management doesn’t have to be hard work

Whether you’re managing leads, quoting jobs, overseeing staff and job costs or invoicing, online project management software can make life easier for you. It can streamline almost every aspect of the project management process – and potentially save you money too.

If you incorporate it into your existing workflow, you can significantly reduce the time you spend duplicating data or transferring information from one system to another. Most important of all, online software gives you the ability to manage your projects at any time – wherever you happen to be.