What’s up with all those project management tools?

Cowboy boots,whip and spurs on woodAt Paradigm Learning, I hear the word “tools” a lot. Project managers are forever thinking of the next best tool to pull out of their toolkit. So, on weekends, the last thing I want to think about is tools, which is good because I have trouble coordinating a hammer and a nail.  Just look behind any of the pictures hanging on my walls….

Last weekend I attended a seminar on my favorite thing—horses.  I’ve ridden for years and wanted to learn more about trick training (my little horse has dreams of starring in the movies). I almost fell out of my folding chair when the trainer announced, “Today, we’re going to talk about a lot of tools you can use.” Really? On the weekend?

What’s up with tools?

Recently, a large pharmaceutical client held an education and networking event for more than 200 clinical data managers in the U.S. and Europe. These project managers are responsible for complex drug protocols that save lives and impact public health. What was one of their top issues? You guessed it, tools. Let’s look at three common concerns:

  • “I don’t know what tool or template to use.” First, check with your department or your project management office to see what they can offer. If you come up empty, many resources are readily available online. For example, Paradigm Learning offers hundreds of tools, ready-to-use and customizable, via subscription.
  • “If I used all of the dozens of tools floating around my office, I’d never get any work done! How do I know which ones to use?” This is the polar opposite of the first item on our list, but it’s very real. If you inundate yourself with tools, you’re probably using some that you don’t need. The key is to use tools wisely.  Scale back! Only use the ones you need for a specific phase of your project. Finding that balance will always work in your favor—whether on a horse or on a project team.
  • “I’m not sure what this thing is for, but I’m going to send it along to the team—it looks official.” This is the proverbial kiss of death. My advice: If you are unsure how, when or why to use a tool…stop cantering! Proceed with caution. My horse trainer said it best, “If you don’t know how to use spurs, don’t. They can hurt.” This is true of project tools—used the wrong way or at the wrong time, they can hurt more than help.

Follow these simple guidelines, and you can get yourself nicely equipped for project success. Giddy up!

Vashti J. Watson is a Paradigm Learning project manager training consultant with more than 15 years of experience rolling out, executing and managing multi-million dollar, global training programs and supporting project management product lines.

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