The Ultimate Resource List for Project Managers and Planners
Do you wish you had an easy way to make project management even more efficient and effective? Struggling to keep on top of schedules and budgets? Looking for a great way to transfer the learnings from one project to the next, improving and streamlining processes all the time?
With the right technology at your fingertips, tools at your disposal and best practice advice to keep you on the right track, there will be little to hold you back. In this guide, we’ve pulled together some of the best platforms and resources for budget, time, task and communication management, contingency planning and safety integration.
Part One: Keeping Everything On Time
From creating timelines to managing your time to delegating and managing widely dispersed teams, here are some top resources to help you keep everything ticking along on schedule throughout your entire project.
One vital task every project manager needs to tick off their list is figuring out an overarching timeline for the project, breaking the whole thing down into chunks and showing key deadlines along the way. You can spend hours fiddling with Excel Spreadsheets and the like to visualize the process, or you can opt for a tool that’s designed to make it simple. Here are a handful of such tools that are super easy to use.
- Office Timeline
This Microsoft-made plugin for PowerPoint gives you a quick and easy way to build clean, clear project visuals including Gantt charts and timelines. Plus, you make these directly in PowerPoint, so you’re already halfway to a presentation you can share with colleagues or clients if needed.
This is a simple but effective project planning and task management tool. There’s a team timelines feature which creates Gantt chart alternatives, a project scheduling feature for visual road maps, and great drag and drop tools where you can simply click on a project timeline, drag it to the length you want, assign it to a person, and mark the duration and start/end times.
You can’t organize or manage any kind of project without knowing who and what will be available to you, and when. Resource management software provides a way to do precisely that: you have a bird’s eye view of how all the components fit together and how everyone’s schedules overlap.
Here are some great resource planning tools to get you started,
Boasting NASA and RGA as clients, Float is an easy to use, flexible tool for resource management that lets you view all human resources available in one place, click and drag to assign resources to projects, block out vacation and sick days, and keep everyone updated with their weekly schedule. The reporting element is particularly strong, allowing you to drill down to department, resource, client and specific project in order to track utilization and compare the performance and availability of staff and contractors, as well as billable and non-billable hours.
- Hub Planner
Similar to Float, this is an online human resource management software with plenty of ERP features including drag and drop, the ability to split tasks, switch views by team, resource or project, track vacation and sick days, integrate calendars, check utilization and filter in powerful ways. Plus, you can integrate it with your approval workflow, incorporate timesheets, use it to brief your team on tasks, and access a dynamic dashboard with reporting tools to keep tabs on the progress of projects, billable hours and profitability.
While resource management tools help you zoom out for a complete view of all the moving parts, you also need to manage projects at the micro-level, setting deadlines, delegating tasks, keeping your team updated and tracking their progress to make sure nothing falls behind. Here are two awesome tools for doing just that.
Monday gives you somewhere to manage all your projects and teams in one place, assigning tasks, setting deadlines and updating progress on each interim milestone. You can track milestones, cost to completion, budget, time and expenses. There’s also a separate client portal. All your projects are arranged into boards, where you can set and delegate tasks and see what you have coming up. You can view these per project or as one continuous to-do list.
Freedcamp takes a more dashboard-centric approach to project management, giving you a simple way to view multiple projects, tasks and timelines alongside each other, keep track of what’s coming up, assign specific actions to people in your team and have them mark their progress as they go. It combines classic project management tasks like Gannt charts, Kanban Boards and Milestone Tracking. As with Monday, you can leave notes and messages, post links or upload files, and grant access to team members (and clients) on a project-by-project basis. A handy feature is the calendar view, which gives you an immediate picture of how your week or month - and that of anyone else you manage - is shaping up.
Part Two: Keeping Everything On Budget
Keeping your budget under control is often the most stressful part of project management. Even a slight overspend can quickly spiral while failing to stay on track can lead to serious delays or cutting corners later in the process. A huge proportion of projects run over budget, but with the right tools, you can greatly mitigate that risk.
Let’s take a look at some of the best budgeting tools for project management.
This is a powerful platform for budget and expense management, project and job costing, tracking and approving time and expenses, and dashboards and reporting. As well as setting hourly rates for projects, roles or users, you can track expenses by department, employee, project or task, and can see how your budget estimates actually link to real expenditure. The budget is updated in real time, and you can run status and progress reports on an ad hoc basis, sharing these with stakeholders using a live link. A particular plus is how the platform makes it easier to assess your budget management and improve for the next project. That’s because you manage your project portfolio centrally, comparing available resources, budgets and team workloads, giving you an excellent picture of available funds and how much your team can realistically take on.
This one is geared towards services businesses, but if that’s a good fit for you it’s an extremely comprehensive platform. You can cost up projects and jobs, factoring in scheduled hours, billing rates and personnel expenses, and calculating how much it could cost while still remaining profitable. You can track and approve billable and non billable time, integrating with QuickBooks for greater accuracy. Even better, you can use the margin analysis tool to measure actual vs projected profit margins in real time, as well as billable time vs actual cost. This work-in-progress view means that you can see how much time has already accumulated on a project that hasn’t yet been billed for, so you don’t get caught out by any nasty shocks.
Part Three: Keeping Everyone in the Loop
Emails are a long way from dying out, but dealing with your team via email is a slow and frustrating way to communicate. Sometimes you just want to send a quick message to everyone and be sure all the replies will come through to the same place, visible to the whole team. Or you want to get a file to someone fast and know the notification will pop up on their screen, but you still need to manage all your communication from one place.
Team Communication Apps
Tools like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have boomed in popularity because they let people communicate quickly and painlessly in their private lives, in groups or between individuals, and without paying per message. Neither of these is ideal for your professional life, though - and that’s given rise to a string of great work-friendly equivalents. Here are two of the best.
Slack calls itself a “collaboration hub for work” - it’s a team messaging app that many teams swear by for keeping them on track. It’s a great way to cut down on unnecessary work emails, and keep everyone who needs to be in the know briefed quickly and continually. You can search back through the last 10,000 messages, upload files and use it to make audio and video calls, too.
A lesser-known but equally handy alternative to Slack, Fleep is more flexible in that it also lets you communicate with people outside your team and take part of a bunch of different teams with just one account. You can also see when people have read your messages, and, like Slack, you can upload files directly to chats and search back through messages.
Part Four: Safety and Contingency Planning
Effective project planning and management means keeping risks to a minimum wherever possible, but you can never ensure that absolutely everything will go to plan. That means preparing for the worst case scenario and organizing watertight backups for any emergency.
Health and Safety Planning
- Integrating Project Management and Safety Planning
No matter how brilliant your product or how dazzling your project, no matter if you keep on schedule and under budget, it’s not really a success if someone gets seriously hurt in the process. This paper from the Project Management Institute explains how to incorporate health and safety considerations into your project planning.
In order to be fully prepared for any eventuality, you need to know what those eventualities might be! Click below to download this detailed guide that runs through just about every kind of scenario that could impact your project, from natural disasters to equipment failures, helping you identify vulnerabilities and potential problems. It’s packed with practical advice for assessing risks, responding to crises and bringing in backup equipment as needed.
Bonus Sites and Resources
Looking for more great project management tools, tips and advice? These 4 excellent online resources for Project Management professions have a wealth of great content to inspire and support you.
- Project-Management.com (Twitter: @PMArticles)
An excellent site offering industry news, best practice advice, free tools and templates, webinars and even events. All the content is contributed by industry professionals working in project management, so it’s a great place to learn from others in the field.
- Project Management Institute (PMI) (Twitter: @PMInstitute)
This is the website of PMI, the globally respected organization for project management certification, which has been in operation for 50 years and boasts nearly three million members. This is a great place to keep abreast of the latest methodologies and practices - it’s a goldmine of valuable insights, academic research and resources. Plus, there’s news on professional development courses and industry events.
- PM Podcast (Twitter: @corneliusficht)
Industry influencer and self-styled PM guru Cornelius Fichtner runs this popular podcast, interviewing project management experts and professionals from all different industries and locations to learn the secrets of their success. Again, it’s an accessible and interesting way to learn valuable lessons from peers across the globe.
- #PMChat (Twitter: @pmchat)
This site and its associated social media channels are run by Robert Kelly, a respected figure in the project management world. There’s a constant stream of useful news and updates as well as a weekly recap to keep you up-to-date on developments in the sector.
Finding the right tools and resources to help you manage your projects will depend largely on the nature of your business and how your teams are organized. Many of the tools listed in this article come with a free trial or even a free version, so be sure to try out different options and figure out which ones are the best fit for your team. Technology should always make your work easier, not add an extra layer of hassle.