August 3, 2007: In one sense, it seems kind of odd that finding a project management tool is a project in itself.
But, the KoMarketing team has faced a challenge many small businesses would love to have: how to deal with too much business.
Quite simply, we’ve been busy…getting new clients from referrals and word of mouth.
Not too busy though to write a three-part blog post on how we selected a project-management tool. This is the first part…
We’ll post the next two in the coming weeks (I hope the anticipation does not keep you from actually working…).
I am not the first person at an SEO firm to begin this quest. In fact, I found a number of postings on this:
- Highrankings.com has a forum with some good postings, but there’s not a clear winner of an application.
- SEO Roundtable has a nice article with a directory of available applications.
- Thund3rbox has a post, from a Web developer, not an SEO person. There are some extremely valid criticisms of Basecamp (which I will talk about in my next post).
So one of my tasks has been to find a project-management (PM) tool that would help us keep track of some two-dozen projects we are working on now. Finding the right software (or Web-based application in our case) was a bigger challenge than I expected to it to be.
What I discovered is that we faced a Goldilox problem: we’re too small to make a lot of project-management software feasible, because of the high costs that some companies charge for setup. But the tools that were in our price range didn’t offer all of the features we need. What we needed was something that was not too small, but not too big (err, expensive…okay maybe this analogy isn’t working…lol) Here is what I wanted most:
- Templates: The ability to reuse project structures for new projects. We offer highly customized services—which I feel is one of the reasons a company chooses a small firm like ours. But, there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel every time we get a new client. There are certain steps that need to be done on most every project.
- Recurring Tasks: A lot of our work focuses on creating weekly or monthly reports and on having periodic client meetings (in person or on the phone). The PM tool we ended up using does not offer this feature, but there is an acceptable workaround, which I’ll talk about later in this post.
- Dependent Tasks: Much of our work is contingent upon previous aspects of the project being completed. (For example, when we start working with a new PPC client, we have to set up an AdWords account before we can start creating ad variations). I was surprised at the number of PM tools that did not offer this feature.
- Outlook Integration: We already use Outlook (and that’s NOT an endorsement—I am not at all a fan of Microsoft or this product—but like most businesses, we find it to be a solution that doesn’t cause too many problems). I felt like it would slow people down too much if they had to learn a new system and look in another place for tasks and appointments.
- Robust Reporting: The company is growing so quickly, we didn’t have the time or resources to get a good sense of how much time we were putting into each project (but our suspicion was that we were not charging enough to cover the amount of time we spent on each project).
My next post will examine the project-management tools I evaluated and the pitfalls that process caused. I’d also like to know what other SEO folks look for in project-management tools… Please post your feedback and let me know.