Being a Digital Strategist-in-Residence #DSIR: Thinking about Project Management Systems

We’re on the home stretch now for the Australia Council’s DSIR program, with the ANAT team and I now finalising the digital strategy, setting targets, timelines and allocating resources. A ‘must-do-now’ activity we identified was looking into Project Management (PM) systems.

While I consider myself pretty tech-savvy I must say I haven’t been inclined to use a digital PM tool in my business as I quite like the physicality of a large spreadsheet, calendar, diary and a myriad of post-it notes (in a kind of Kanban-board approach) which seems to work for me.

But, in the interests of being a good #DSIR (!) I offered to look into PM systems that others use and recommend that ANAT could trial.

Before you start!

When discussing PM’s with the awesome group of strategists, they provided some really great general advice:

  • Think about why you need a PM tool
  • Review what you are already using maybe a few tweaks will make current systems better (for example supplementing the system with Slack)
  • Once chosen stick to it! Must get everyone to commit otherwise it will fall by the wayside
  • Need an internal champion to push people (i.e., nag them!) to use it consistently, and for all projects
  • Look at your existing workflows needs to fit with how your organisation works – for example are you task-assigning or work in a more agile way? Do you do annual / biannual planning or more frequent work plans, changing programs, shifting priorities, uncertain funding etc?

Also, in reaching out to my Twitter buds, more tips and hints:

  • Are you working from home and across multiple people, teams and sites? May determine licenses and payment plans
  • How big is your team? Maybe a big whiteboard is the way to go?
  • Don’t discard good old paper and pen!
  • Think agile
  • Again, stressing to look at systems you already use (such as Slack and Google drives) and integrating them with any PM system

PM tools

So, here’s some recommended systems (with commentary where given):

  • Trello mixed views here, some love, others can take or leave, “they have a brainstorming template too” (@luke) “We use Trello for cross-team projects and workflows. We use a Gantt add on for the bigger projects. It has increased collaboration and transparency of team’s work and we benefit from its growing feature and integration list. And a Slack channel for each project for comms keeping as much as possible out of email.” (@lucie) “Trello is pretty easy to get your head around if you are new to it, and it is great for breaking things down into sub-tasks and getting real about how to make it happen.” (@rodney)
  • Notion an overall high rec for this from the strategists and Twitter, “More plug and play / customisable” (@bridget)
  • Monday.com also mixed views, but a comprehensive TechRadar review here
  • Asana “Is nice and easy. Integrates with Gmail and Drive, nice simple ‘list’ interface which is good for those who are new to PM systems and not into Kanban. Good tagging etc.” (@claire) “We use Asana, which has good project management capabilities even through its free option! Very good for task-based tracking.” (Museum Social Media Managers FB group)
  • Basecamp while it has been around for a long time, I do use it for several Boards I sit on and find it pretty good (although I’m unsure if this is a PM system? More for document sharing with the occasional commenting?? Maybe just me…)
  • Airtable This seems to be a favourite in the Museum Social Media Managers FB group “We use Airtable and love it – but I personally don’t use the Outlook integrations.”

Others:

  • Toggl plan
  • Smartsheet for Gantt charts
  • Camayak
  • Outlook, Teams
  • Google drive / docs/ sheets, etc (personally I’ve found this a good experience when working with ANAT)

And, here’s some articles that compare different systems:

Final thoughts

Overall I’m liking this feedback from @bridget: … the best is when we meet up and draw big Gantt charts and chat.

So, which to pick? I’d come back to thinking about purpose, how you work and who will champion the use of the tool. Best of luck with your choice(s)!

What’s a PM post without a ©Dilbert cartoon?!
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