Collaborative planning with your team has many benefits. First of all, it engages your team. You depend on your team members to get the tasks done that lead to a successful project. Getting buy-in from them should be proof enough of the importance of planning with teams.
But there’s more. Your plan will be better. When you get the whole team thinking together it provides ideas you might miss and a perspective you don’t have. Properly planning your projects is an art that, when done properly, will work for both you and your team members.
What Teams Need from Planning Tools
The first and most important property of project planning tools is that they’re cloud-based. Whether your team is located under the same roof as you or they work remotely, you’ll want an online tool. Being online means that team members have access to their tasks and files no matter where they are, the time or what device they’re working on.
Once you’ve established that you want an online PM tool, then you have to determine the features that would best serve your team as they plan and execute the project. Some of the key features your team will need to include:
- Task List
- Gantt Chart
- Kanban Boards
When you’re looking for PM software you’re going to want to see which tools offer these features. They’re going to give your team the tools they need to get their tasks done on time and track their progress. If a team member is idle, you’ll be able to put them on task. If a team member is over-allocated then you’ll have the resources to help them before the issue turns into a real problem that can take the project off-track.
Tracking and keeping resources matching your team’s capacity is the job of a manager. There are tools that monitor, track, report and balance resources, but we’re going to focus on those features that teams can use when planning and managing their workload. Let’s go into the ones we mentioned above in detail.
A task list is just that, a list of your tasks. It can be that simple. Think of it as a to-do list. They’re helpful and satisfying as you cross each item off. This is a rudimentary way for teams to collect the work they need and stay focused on those tasks. Wouldn’t it be even more helpful if a task list could do more? Online project management tools are designed to make task lists more dynamic.
Not all tasks are solely the responsibility of one team member, so you need to be able to share and link to other tasks from other systems. Then you can view and update them as you complete those tasks.
That task list should be simple to update online or by a mobile app. You should also be able to attach notes, files and links, as well as comment on it and then track those comments, production notes and document handoffs. All this is done in real-time when you’re working with a cloud-based project planning tool.
How ProjectManager.com’s Task List Works
If you use ProjectManager.com, our task list project view goes even further than merely prioritizing. You can tag the task as a customizable category, which means no more endless searches. What you’re looking for comes up immediately. Task lists can be made individually or shared with teams for better collaboration. Teams can attach documents and images, even comment with teammates, who immediately get email alerts or in-app notification.
Team members can improve their productivity by setting up project and personal tasks with due dates that can be filtered by their deadline, owner, project, etc. That task list is simple to update online. All this is done in real-time because you’re working with a cloud-based project planning tool.
A Gantt chart is a visual tool for planning. It looks like a regular spreadsheet on the left side of your screen, but on the right it’s a project timeline. Once you import your task list to the Gantt and add start and end dates, the tasks populate the timeline. You can now see the full project at a glance.
Managers are more likely to use Gantts as it gives a great deal of control to scheduling projects. They can create sub-tasks, set milestones to indicate the end of one phase and the start of another in the project and it shows them the big picture they need. But they can also share the Gantt with their team and work together in planning, as teams often have intimate details of the work that project managers might not.
How ProjectManager.com’s Gantt Chart Works
Gantt charts are a great tool, irreplaceable for planning, and ProjectManager.com has an interactive Gantt chart that leaves others drowning in our wake. Not all tasks are created equal. Some are dependent on others to start or finish. These task dependencies can be easily linked to avoid bottlenecks later in the project. Changes are as easy as dragging and dropping the task to the new deadline. Customize colors to differentiate teams, phases and more. Even track progress by the percentage the duration bar is shaded.
Kanban boards are a planning tool that visualize workflow. If Gantts are the preferred tool of managers, then teams are the ones who love using kanban. It’s clear why. With kanban boards teams can collect their backlog, see the priority of their tasks and plan their sprints accordingly.
Tasks are represented by cards that move from column to column as they go from to do, doing to done. This way teams can always focus on their immediate work and managers get transparency into the process, so they can reallocate resources as needed to keep the team moving forward.
How ProjectManager.com’s Kanban Board Works
While many project management software tools now include a kanban feature, few are as robust as ProjectManager.com. Our kanban board can be filtered by tasks, due dates, owner, project and more. Teams can create their own workflows with customized columns. It also feeds into a real-time dashboard that calculates project data and automatically displays it across six metrics for a high-view of your progress.
More Planning Tools for Teams
The above three features give your teams the tools they need to plan and execute their tasks more productively. There are more, of course, but let’s just speak of two before finishing this post. One, being communication, the throughline for all project phases and their success. The second is timesheets, a tool not always thought of when planning, but a boon for teams and managers alike.
Obviously, you’re not going to get anything done if you’re not able to explain what it is that needs to be done. Just as important is to create a dialogue in which team members can conference among themselves and pull you into the conversation when needed. Therefore, a communicative tool is clearly a critical part of any project management software you’re looking to use when planning a project.
What your communication tool should do is offer a platform on which team members can talk whether they’re working in the same space or remotely. They’ll need a tool that gives them the ability to capture their thoughts about an issue in the project as they experience it, even if other team members are not available at that time to respond.
A social chat function, where you can create groups and team members can speak one-on-one is a way to foster communications in the planning process and all other phases of the project. This keeps the conversation in one place, and should allow you to share data by attaching files, pictures, links or whatever other materials you and your team need for the task being discussed.
ProjectManager.com allows teams to communicate at the task level, which is where they’re working. As noted above, they can comment and collaborate whether working side-by-side or in different timezones. Managers can communicate their time by attaching files to tasks and adding detailed directions. Anyone can be tagged and brought into the conversation, too, so communication channels are always open.
You’ll also want to get your team using timesheets. While timesheets have a bad reputation as being used by managers to micromanage teams, they can help both you and your teams with planning and executing the project. Use timesheets to estimate tasks more efficiently, offer visibility on the time being spent on each task so they can then be adjusted and timesheets over a view of resource allocation to make sure no one is over- or under-allocated.
When team members update their tasks on their timesheets they can track their progress. All their time is tracked by project planning software, from task lists to the Gantt chart, and in real-time. And using timesheets is easy because the project tool syncs your team’s tasks with the timesheet tool. All they have to do is select their tasks and hit enter. The team can then preview and submit their timesheets, and then you can easily approve them.
The timesheet feature in ProjectManager.com streamlines not only payroll but creating the timesheet. Teams can auto-fill their timesheets if the work they’re doing is the same from week to week. When teams submit their completed timesheets, they go to a manager assigned to authorize it. Once approved, it’s locked, keeping timesheets secure.
Give Your Team the Project Tools They Need
When looking for project planning tools make sure they have these functions for your team. They help with collaboration and provide the means for a more efficient and productive project.
Teams work better when they have the right tools. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based software that gives your team those tools. From online timesheets that make submitting timesheets as simple as a click, to task-level collaboration with an online Gantt chart, ProjectManager.com is the one tool you need for all your planning needs. See for yourself by trying our free 30-day trial.
This post was updated November 2020.
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