The Ultimate Photography Business Management Software?

As a professional photographer, you’re also a small business owner, I know that administration can take up a lot more time than I like.

I’m talking about:

  • scheduling appointments,
  • processing payments,
  • running reports,
  • managing clients,
  • managing staff,
  • dealing with supplies and inventory,
  • marketing, and
  • all the other “background” tasks that keep my business going.

That’s why in recent years I’ve become very interested in embracing technology to automate and centralize as much of these “administrative” activities as possible.

As a photography business owner, you no doubt love doing photography – but in order to do what you love, you must administer your business and get new business through marketing.

For example, how much time do you spend managing your appointment schedule or dealing with payments by cheque or cash, or sending out appointment reminders to minimize no-shows?

These tasks are necessary, but do take up a lot of time.

Of course no software will replace you and your vision, but you can use software to automate some processes to free up your administrative time. The key is getting the right photography business management software that won’t cost you a fortune.

Unless you shoot exclusively in a studio, you’re likely off-site regularly photographing clients. If you spend a lot of time off-site, it’s tough to administer your business – unless you’re able to access your photography business management software.

How You Can Bring Your Office Anywhere With You

The easiest way to bring your office with you is with a mobile computer and using cloud-computing software. The mobile computer is simple – an iPad or laptop will do. It’s the cloud computing software that you need.

What is Cloud Computing Software?

It’s software you can access entirely on the Internet. It’s also called web-based software and it’s growing dramatically in popularity. The days of desk-top software that requires installation on a local computer are disappearing.

Have you ever been on a photo shoot and get a call during down-time for an appointment? If you don’t have your schedule available, you have to call them back – possibly losing the booking. If you have complete access to an online schedule, you can book the appointment right away.

Automate Photography Bookings

If you offer set photography packages, you might want to consider offering clients the ability to book their own time on an online schedule they can access with an Internet connection. You could create a web page explaining your packages and the time required.

Put the control in your clients’ hands and they’ll be delighted they can book a photo shoot without minimal hassle. You’re delighted because you booked a client without getting involved.

Reduce No-Shows

One of the worst money-losers in any business that books appointments – such as a photography business are no-shows. Yet, you’re probably too busy to sit at a phone each day making reminder calls.

What if you could automate reminders? This is ideal, and with top-of-the-line photography business management software this is not a problem.

How it works is your online scheduling software is linked to a powerful e-mail delivery software application that automatically sends out e-mail and text messaging reminders to clients at a time before the appointment you specify. Even if you prevent 2 no-shows in a month, the software will pay for itself.

Running a Photography Business is More than Managing a Schedule

  • Do you hire independent contractors or have staff photographers?
  • Do you offer payment by credit card?
  • Do you have any time left to market to your existing and past clients?

You can certainly get individual photography business software applications to manage each of these 3 types of administrative activities. You can get payroll and staff management software.

It’s not hard to find credit card processors to integrate into your system. And of course there is no shortage of marketing software applications available – especially e-mail and text messaging software services.

But, if you could centralize all these types of administrative activities in one software application, you’ll not only save time learning how to use it all, you’ll save time and hassle integrating it all together… because it already is integrated.

What I’m talking about here is ramping up your administrative efficiency by using an all-in-one photography business software that offers all the systems and processes you need to manage your photography business.

I’m a huge fan of all-in-one software packages because I need only learn one type of software. How much software have you bought only to never really use it fully because you didn’t take the time to learn it.

I’ve got all kinds of software on my computer just sitting there. The software I do use extensively is that which is central to running my business and that basically manages most of my administrative activities.

Here’s the Real Value of All-In-One Photography Business Software

The true asset of your photography business is your database of clients – past and present. Those clients not only provide you work, but refer you to their friends, family, and acquaintances. Your database is your gold and so you must harness that database in order to build your business.

If you have different software applications managing individual tasks, you likely have a mish-mash of contact lists and client profiles scattered in various files and software applications.

When you centralize your entire photography business management software, you’re able to centralize your client database – and then leverage that database in all your business management activities.

An Example:

I’m a huge fan of communicating with my database of clients via e-mail. If you use different software applications for different activities, then when you book an appointment, you must load that contact into each database – perhaps in the scheduling database and then your e-mail marketing database. You end up managing multiple client contact lists.

It’s far more effective and efficient that when you book a client into your schedule, that client is automatically logged into a central database with all their information, from which you can then launch e-mail messages, text messages, and even then generate business reports informing you about how a particular client is contributing to your business.

The key is moving toward a one-step process. That step being once you have a new client scheduling, that client is now part of your entire photography business software platform from which you can completely manage that client.

The same goes for centralizing your independent contractor / employee details into the same system. You can then generate payroll reports showing your payouts to each photographer on your payroll by client.

Take Your Photography Business Software to the Next Level

Do you offer pricing packages? Probably. Is it a hassle managing all those packages? A centralized, all-in-one business management software specifically for photographers lets you create pricing packages that integrates with your credit card processing and your client management.

Not only this, but the right software will also make it easy for you to create gift cards, track your client’s referrals (then send out thank you messages), pricing packages, discounts, etc. – all in an effort to increase your sales and offer your clients more choice.

What About Selling Products on Your Website?

As a professional photographer, you can get great deals on photo-related products and services. You can create another profit center on your website by selling products and services. Because you know the business so well, you can offer only the best to your clients.

Moreover, because you’re a professional, you’ll have instant credibility and trust and could create a profitable e-commerce store that earns revenue with minimal effort and time.

In a nutshell, the best photography business software is web-based and offers the following centralized functions:

  • Scheduling – online, centralized, and self-bookings;
  • Credit card processing;
  • pricing packages and gift cards;
  • E-commerce and online store opportunity;
  • Payroll and staff management;
  • E-mail and text messaging capability – automated reminders and marketing channels;
  • Total client data management totally centralized;
  • Client referral tracking (this alone should be harnessed to the maximum);
  • Financial and performance reporting that uses all the centralized data for comprehensive, up-to-date information.

The Role of Change Management in Successful Information Management Solutions

Introduction

Implementation of Information Management solutions necessarily brings change to any organization. Business practices, role and relationships all affect the way in which people work and interact on a day-to-day basis. Whether the driver for implementation is for productivity, compliance or risk reduction there is always the need to consider what impact there will be on user communities.

Document and records management practices in organizations are not often front-of-mind for most managers and employees and asking them to think about information in a different way or even at all, as a corporate asset requires a fundamental mindset change. This will take many employees out of their comfort zone, impact on their confidence and competence to perform the work and creates a situation where individuals can sense a loss of control in their work context.

It is natural that most people initially react with caution with concerns about their future, security and where they will fit in to a new order of things. In any group there will be 10% who are excited by the prospect of change and at the other end 10% who will resist change regardless. This means that there are 80% who can be influenced one way or the other.

The successful implementation of an information management system extends far beyond the design and implementation. It extends beyond the support and operation. Effective information management requires a fundamental mind-shift by stakeholders and everyone in the organization that relies on information in their work activities. This shift needs to be carefully executed to create a requisite culture in which information is appropriately and thoroughly managed as a key organizational asset.

What is Change Management?

Change management is the art of influencing the majority to positively accept and commit emotionally to the change. Many of the issues arising as a response to change can be real or perceived and are closely related in a cause and effect network. Either way, they need to be addressed to avoid resistance or rejection of the change. This requires a combination of communication, understanding, mentoring, coaching and general support with the aim of building trust. It is from this position of trust that the task of building the work culture required for successful information management begins. The ‘4 Cs’ of change management help us think about the change from an effected user point of view.

Comfort People are creatures of habit and develop patterns of working within a comfort zone of daily activities.

Control Changed practices may cause a loss of control over daily routines and activities. This may come through changed reporting lines or responsibilities which can evoke a level of discomfort.

Confidence The introduction of new practices may undermine employee confidence in their ability to perform. Some may see this as challenge, for others it can be stressful. Often the introduction of computer equipment is something that can be discomforting. Some people, particularly older workers may have no experience with computers and can cause self doubt over their abilities to learn the new skills required.

Competence To be able to operate in a changed work environment there is always an element of re-skilling required. This necessarily means that current skills, often developed over an extended period of time will need updating or may become redundant. This uncertainty can impact on an employee’s competence and ability to perform.

The management of the complex web of responses, issues and perceptions requires focused attention. The skills of a change manager are built on an understanding of human behavior and the change manager’s role is to assist people to understand the change and what it means in personal terms and has been proven to be a significant success factor in building Information Management capability.

Why is Change Management important?

As volumes of information inevitably grow and our regulatory obligations increase amid the ongoing business pursuit of productivity, we cannot afford to waste the opportunity to exploit the benefits of information management solutions.

Studies repeatedly show that a key risk in the success or failure of information management solutions is stakeholder resistance to change. Through an investment of time and effort in preparing the user community for the coming change the chances of resistance are lowered. In short without a disciplined approach to managing stakeholders through the change then realization of anticipated benefits is put at risk. This has impact on business productivity, staff moral and the bottom-line. So it would seem logical for us to deploy our information management solutions in the most effective manner.

Some common Change Management pitfalls of an IM solution implementation

We are seeing an ongoing consolidation of the information management vendor community and a subsequent convergence of the underlying technology. There is a growing recognition by organizations that an information management capability is needed. Further, audit activity frequently highlights any shortfalls in performance and organizations react accordingly.

The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment and common pitfalls addressed by change management include:

Focus on Technology

Ignoring the emotional needs of users in the rush to get the technology in place can create a real project risk. Many organizations with an information management solution already in place experience a negativity of opinion towards the system. Often the cause of this perception can be traced to an initial technical implementation focus that neglected the needs of those who consequently struggled to apply new functionality in their work activities. An effective change management approach including awareness building and communication can turn this perception around.

Recognition of the Business importance of Information

The low profile that information management has in most employees’ minds can be an issue. We are all busy and in the scheme of things ‘filing’ is not front-of-mind for the majority of employee’s striving to keep pace with everyday work pressures. Document management and filing, can fall down the priority list partly because of work pressures and partly because of limited awareness and can be seen one of the things that ‘should’ be done’ rather than something that ‘must’ be done.

Organizations recognising the business value of information as an asset can then raise awareness of its importance and manage it accordingly. An increased awareness of this importance should also influence the planning of information management system deployments.

Business Case and Budget

The business case for information management is focused on risk, mitigation, and productivity. However; many benefits are intangible and have an indirect impact on the bottom line. Unfortunately associated costs are very tangible and visible.

Consequently, there are challenges in the development of the business case as it can fail to excite the financial fundamentalists who view the whole undertaking in terms of an unavoidable cost that must be minimized. For the uninformed, change management activities can be seen as non-essential and result in budgets being set to minimise cost adding to the risk of failure.

Although not unique to Information management implementations these above factors can create significant project risk. Change Management techniques are designed to address the human behavioral issues that can adversely impact on project success and as such, are a necessary inclusion in any deployment activity.

What are some Change Management best practices for an IM solution implementation?

When it is apparent users are not participating in Information Management practices an objective assessment can identify a way forward that is usually cost effective and will meet organizational needs within a much shorter timeframe. This assessment must take an independent and holistic view of the situation from multiple perspectives.

This assessment must identify the root causes of any associated issues and develop a clear strategy to build the information management capability required. There are a number of common elements that have emerged as issues with information management implementations that have nothing to do with the incumbent technological tool and the strategy developed must consider how these are to be addressed.

The capability assessment framework enables organizations to holistically assess information management practices and to identify improvement opportunities that will build capability. This is achieved by benchmarking current organizational practice against best practice in each of the dimensions of the framework. The best practice benchmark criteria in the framework have been identified through experience with multiple organizations across industry sectors and geographies, and are augmented through industry collaboration and global academic research outcomes.

The dimensions of information management identified in the framework are defined as follows.

Strategy

Best practice organization’s should have a clear strategy relating to its management and use of information The strategy clearly defines the content and structure of the information, how it is to be governed and applied to support the primary business strategy.

Content

We can assume that most organizations have the information content that is required to manage their business. If this is not the case then it is difficult to envisage the organization operating successfully or at all. However, most organizations suffer from an ad-hoc approach to the management of this important asset. Best practices relating to managing this content start by having an inventory of the content, a consistent architecture governing naming conventions, taxonomy, where content is held, how content is held, i.e. hard copy soft copy formats and who can access what categories of information.

Process

Due process governing how information is created, stored, accessed and communicated is fundamental to the governance of enterprise information.

Governance is the combination of processes and structures implemented at management level to inform, direct, manage, and monitor the information management activities of the organization. This consists of clear policy, procedure and business rules guiding information management practices. These must be developed in context of the organization’s business activity and be clearly communicated to stakeholders.

Information management governance also includes the development of business classification schemes, taxonomy, naming conventions and rules governing the creation, storage, protection, communication, sensitivities, use and appropriate destruction of information.

Culture

The manner in which information is treated and perceived in an organization is reflective of organizational culture. Best practice organizations have clear understandings and norms recognising the importance of information as an asset. This mindset needs to be pervasive across the organizational culture and is fundamental to induction and staff development initiatives.

Change management during information systems implementations is a clear best practice aimed at creating the cultural awareness and mindset required.

Relationships

Organizations operate within a network of relationships with stakeholders. These stakeholders include customers, suppliers, regulators and industry bodies. Best practice organizations have clear understanding and service level agreements with other stakeholders in order that corporate record keeping obligations are met and to ensure information is shared appropriately and to the level required to maximize efficiency.

Services

The application of Information as an asset is fundamental to the services or products offered to the market place. Best practice organizations embed value-adding knowledge and information into services to maximize attractiveness and utility. Corporate discipline ensuring the validity of information shared is necessary to mitigate risk of non-compliance and avoid potential litigation.

Technology

Information technology is fundamental to the management of the information asset. Clear and consistent architectures, data and information structures, security and operational tools indicate a mature approach to information management. Best practice organizations have clearly defined architectures.

Change Management Best Practice

The capability assessment framework facilitates benchmarking against specific best practice indicators. The absence of any of these indicators provides an opportunity for the organization to improve. Over and above these specific indicators the following themes have emerged as overarching best practice in change management as information management capability is developed.

Governance

As discussed above governance is the combination of processes and structures to inform, direct, manage, and monitor information management activities. This includes effective record keeping practices. It is important that organizations develop governance practices as early as possible in implementation projects. This often means putting governance in place prior to specification, selection and deployment of a technology solution. This has a double benefit. Firstly: stakeholder’s become familiar with information management expectations and the requisite culture begins to develop; and secondly; the organization gains the opportunity to refine its governance structures prior to full deployment.

Information Management System

The selection of an enabling information management technology to meet performance and functional requirements should follow a diligent approach. It is best practice for selection criteria to consider wider information management architectural needs. The functional richness of available solutions can allow the retirement of duplicative products providing islands of functionality. Workflow or WebPages are common examples of these islands where products have been acquired for a single one-off purpose and are unable to integrate with core applications. Once configured and deployed the new infrastructure can provide the opportunity to create an integrated technology architecture thereby reducing support cost.

Pilots

There are many examples of high cost, high-profile failures in the information technology industry. Often this can be traced to over-ambition and a big-bang approach to deployment.

Implementation of Information Management capability within well defined scope delivered in incremental steps provides many benefits. Primarily incremental implementation through a series of pilot deployments allows adaptation of the solution based on real experience before attempting to conquer the world. Many organizations are benefiting from the adoption of this approach.

User Focus

The inclusion of change management activities focused on preparing stakeholders to take on the reformed work practices mitigate against risk of stakeholder resistance. This involves considering the emotional needs of all stakeholders to ensure that they feel in control, are comfortable and have the confidence and competence to execute new work practices. For many stakeholders the learning of new skills and changed role and responsibility provides enhanced career opportunity.

Architecture

Most of the solutions available in the marketplace offer rich functionality to manage documents and content in a web-based environment. Full use of the functionality on offer can simplify the technical architecture and realize savings in licence and administrative cost further justifying investment.

Change Management Roles and Responsibilities

The change manager works very closely with stakeholders and it is important that relationships based on trust are established. The personal attributes of a successful change manager are empathy and patience. The role and responsibility of the change manager is focused on understanding stakeholder needs, building an awareness of the need for change and supporting these stakeholders as they transition to new work practices.

Some key responsibilities for the change manager include communications, setting up reporting and communication channels, participating in business process reform, workshop facilitation, staff training, mentoring and awareness building. In short, any activity that interacts and prepares the user community to participate in reformed work practices.

Regardless of the scale of undertaking information management projects require a change management capability. In large scale projects there may be dedicated change management resources. For smaller scale projects this role may be a part-time or shared responsibility. The change management role can in many instances be a shared role across the development. Sometimes this can be provided through a corporate change management function. Regardless of how the role is resourced it is essential that it is included.

Many routinely conducted project activities such as workshops, interviews, training and presentations are in fact change management opportunities as these events they are interactions with stakeholders. They therefore present the ideal opportunity to develop the relationship of trust between the project team members and stakeholders.

It is important to avoid the situation where contributing stakeholders feel as though they have been sucked dry for information by technical people. This can be avoided through the development of awareness of the importance of the project team/stakeholder relationship thereby maximizing the value of this contact time.

Further, ‘champions’ can be identified from within the stakeholder community. This provides a critical change management input. As these champions are representatives drawn from the stakeholder community their roles can be a very influential and positive contributor to project success.

Summary

Research shows proves that higher levels of user acceptance and greater use of installed solutions are achieved when deliberate change management activities are included in the implementation work plan and life cycle. Best practice in change management is focused on the early involvement of stakeholders and on building a trusting relationship. Accordingly, leading organizations have recognized its importance and routinely allocate resources as projects are planned

For most organizations there is the opportunity improve information management performance. A place to start is through a benchmarking assessment of information management capability against best practice to identify how to realize available benefits by learning from the success of others.

This paper has emphasized change management and the resultant outcomes and opportunities as best practice. The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment. For those organizations considering implementation and for those that have current infrastructure in place, there is the real opportunity to maximize return on investment and to create a work culture that displays the requisite information management behaviours.

Project Management Software – A Comparison With Spreadsheets for Managing Projects

Spreadsheets are the king of project management support tools because they are the most convenient tool to use and the most frequently used tool. How do they compare to project management software? What are the benefits of each and when should you make the switch to project management software? While only you can make the determination as to when you should make the switch, this article will walk through the benefits of each and provide some guidelines.

Depending on which research you rely on, the market for project management software is between $1.5 billion and $3.5 billion. That is for software that is specifically designed to support project management. Most organizations that have made significant efforts towards effective project management have recognized that it is very difficult to manage a greater number of projects and people, or a larger project, without the support of technology.

Yet there is no tool for project management that is more popular or widespread than the spreadsheet, despite the fact that spreadsheets are not designed to be project support tools. Even in organizations with an established project management tool, spreadsheets are used. There are obvious reasons for this. A spreadsheet program is on almost every computer in every organization, people are familiar with spreadsheets and how to use them, and people are pre-disposed to use these “office” types of software tools to solve problems. And I am right there with them. I love using spreadsheets to track all kinds of data. It is easy, convenient, and I admit ego-boosting to show off what I can do in a spreadsheet.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the differences between these two different types of tools. For the purposes of this article, I selected six criteria by which to make the comparison. These were selected from the feedback of customers and prospects as well as learning what is important for the successful adoption and implementation of project tools within an organization.

Data Mining

Data mining is a huge part of project management tools. The whole reason for having a tool is to collect data, so that you can look intelligently at that data, make sure your processes are performing as advertised, and make good decisions. You need to know which projects and tasks are slipping through the cracks so that you again react. You need to know when you will not have enough resources to meet demand so that you can allocate them properly or manage the demand. You need to know which issues are lurking so that you can address them now before you lose the favor of a critical customer. And you need to see how your processes are working so that you can continuously improve your processes.

In today’s economy, competitive landscape, and accountability standards you must have the data. Managers are getting blindsided because they do not know what is coming and what is going on. This is where the right project management software tool shines and spreadsheets fade. A good project management tool will be database-oriented and should allow for different types of ad hoc reporting across multiple projects. This enables the mining of all kinds of data. You simply cannot do this in a spreadsheet at the same level. If you really, really know what you are doing it is possible to tie spreadsheets together and generate some integrated data. But that is not the same thing. You simply cannot, on a whim, mine into the data represented in your multiple spreadsheets. And in today’s environment, this is critically important. Gone are the days when not having the right data is acceptable.

Advantage: Project Management Software

Ease of Use

There are project management software systems that are easy to use. However, spreadsheets clearly have an advantage here. Most people are familiar with how to use spreadsheets; they are comfortable with them, and even like using them. A big reason is because spreadsheets have no structure. People are not usually “forced” into how to use them. They are free to use them however they want. Of course, there is a downside to this. It is very difficult to standardize a process or have any sort of standard data structure when there is no structure in the tool itself. However, from a strict ease of use standpoint, spreadsheets cannot be beat.

You can counter this in project management software by employing good, relevant, and periodic training, keeping your implementation simple, and using helps such as templates. But we’ll give the advantage of this one to spreadsheets.

Advantage: Spreadsheets

Centralized Access

One of the things that organizations are doing today to become more competitive and more efficient is to provide everyone access to the project information that they need. Marketing organizations are putting all of the information online about each client project. Engineering organizations are tracking all schedules and immediately identifying problems. Government agencies are putting all of the various required data online with their projects. And on it goes. The value of immediate access to information is profound. An engineer can look at one system and immediately find the specifications he needs. A client manager can track the status of his client’s projects and identify issues early. A professional services manager can look up the contract information and scope of work for a key project before answering a question.

Productivity means yielding results, bringing things about, or making things happen. This type of centralized access enables those on the front lines of yielding results to know which action to take when.

Project management software, especially online project management software, wins this one hands down. Spreadsheets are not designed for access by multiple people from multiple locations. They are designed with a single file / single user scenario in mind.

Advantage: Project Management Software

Maintenance and Administration

Time and again, I talk with organizations that are spending an amazing amount of time maintaining spreadsheets. There is so much time spent on activities attributable to spreadsheet usage:

  • Tracking down the right spreadsheet
  • Tracking down the right version of the right spreadsheet
  • Tracking down the email with the right version of the right spreadsheet
  • Emailing out the right spreadsheet to the people that don’t have it
  • Tracking down the people who have the information that is needed to update the spreadsheet
  • Actually updating the spreadsheet
  • Maintaining the formulas and formatting of the spreadsheet
  • Updating the standard format of all the spreadsheets to accommodate a “process enhancement”
  • Creating new spreadsheets

And the list goes on. The point is that while any tool will take time to maintain, spreadsheets take an inordinate amount of time because they are single-user focused. Only one person can update them at a time. They also take time because they are file-based, meaning that you have to maintain separate files. Unless an organization is really good with a process to manage these files (the exception not the rule), the files tend to be stored in a hodgepodge of locations with non-standardized file names and even non-standardized layouts. If you take the time to study the amount of time people take to maintain these spreadsheets, you will be amazed.

On the flip-side, project management software also takes time to maintain. I cannot say otherwise. It takes time to make sure the data is correct in the system, that processes are being followed properly, and to simply get information in the system. One of the flip sides of this is that many project management software systems enable the entry of information by everyone so that one person does not have to both find and enter the information. In this scenario, the maintenance is more truly maintenance than continual, non-stop data entry.

There are some ways to minimize the amount of maintenance and time spent on project management software systems, and these are focused on the initial setup. If you setup the system well, the maintenance time is reduced. Using items such as templates and pre-setup reports really help to minimize the amount of time spent in the tool.

While both types of tools require time, a well setup project management software system definitely has the edge over spreadsheets.

Advantage: Project Management Software

Flexibility

Flexibility in this context refers to the ability of the tool to adapt to your processes. In practicality, this refers to things such as being able to track any type of data peculiar to your company (i.e. adding fields), or implementing a new project template.

This is a harder attribute to measure, especially with the variation in project management software tools. Many tools are very rigid, meaning what you see is what you get. Some tools have become more flexible and allow a great deal of adaptability – such as being able to adapt screens and data structures. This has become increasingly important.

It is difficult to perform a direct comparison because it really depends on the project management software system that you are evaluating, but in reality many systems will not be as flexible as a spreadsheet. In a spreadsheet, you can create a new column or row on a whim or create a brand new spreadsheet to track new information. Obviously there is a downside to this flexibility, specifically the difficulty in standardizing a process. However, from a strict look at flexibility, we have to give spreadsheets the nod. But I caution you to test your project management software system for flexibility and do your own comparison.

Advantage: Spreadsheets

Resource Allocation and Forecasting

This is similar to data mining, but it is so important that it gets its own billing. The management of which resources are assigned to which projects and tasks is a critical component of project management and one of the big differences between spreadsheets and project management software.

There are three critical pieces to ensure good resource management. These include:

  • A good work breakdown structure (breakout of the tasks in a project)
  • A good estimation of the effort (not duration) to be expended on each task (and thus project)
  • A composite view of this information across all projects

Because of the single-file focus of spreadsheets, a good project management software system should win this hands down. A good system will provide views and reports with insight into resource allocation so that you can view problems and do future forecasting. That isn’t to say that you cannot do this with spreadsheets but it is difficult at best and you need to have a very, very good setup.

Advantage: Project Management Software

Final Thoughts

Only you can decide the right tool for your organization. Certainly using spreadsheets is better than using absolutely nothing. They do have value, and they may be a good fit for some organizations. However, good, project management software (especially enterprise-level) clearly has the advantage for the following types of organizations:

  • Organizations with more than a handful of projects to manage
  • Organizations with more than a handful of people working on or managing projects
  • Organizations with large or complex projects

Spreadsheets are primarily used because of convenience. However, convenience is not a great reason to use a tool that supports your critical processes. Be sure that you select and use a tool that adds to the efficiency and productivity of your people and processes, and not the other way around. This will far outweigh the benefits of convenience.

While spreadsheets do have a couple of inherent advantages, such as a natural ease of use and flexibility, you can employ best practices to minimize any downside to project management software. For example, use templates as much as possible, simplify screens as much as possible, document clear processes, focus on those processes instead of features, provide good training, and create good, relevant reports. Combining this with the inherent advantages in project management software will help to create efficiencies, increase productivity and resource utilization, and to become more competitive.