Every time you start a new project or a significant new initiative, you don’t just dive headfirst into the tasks.
The first step is always planning.
That’s because the steps you plan might not always look like what you thought in the first place. Setting up the roadmap for your actions is crucial for effectively executing tasks and making the most out of your resources.
Project management process bottlenecks
The 3 main things I have so far noticed about project management processes:
The more detailed the planned steps, the less likely they will be realized
Simply put, if you plan on each and every detail of your project’s workflow, it’s extremely likely that these won’t be completed. That’s driven by the projects’ dynamics as usually new circumstances arise, meaning vast changes to your work plan.
Project management process tip
Try to structure the project into more general milestones, rather than going into detailed specific tasks.
Communication during the project can slow down if not addressed early on
Normally, you’d start with the team meeting, where everybody can share their thoughts and plan ahead their actions. However, problems arise as soon as the project starts and the communication weakens. Set up the mode of subsequent communication between project members. This can really speed up the way you work, making it clear to everyone who receives project updates, how and when to send feedback and what to do when errors pop up.
Project management process tip
Try to automate updates and communication between team members, using SaaS tools. By updates, I mean any progress or changes that occur throughout the projects, e.g. a completed task or shift in the deadline.
Bad tasks prioritization can ruin the project’s effectiveness
The common thing which happens when running a project is doing a lot of unnecessary things. They can make you feel like doing something productive but actually, they’re a time waster (yes, the Pareto principle applies to project management as well). In fact, that’s also the mistake I find myself doing in my daily work. The goal of any team’s meeting should be to prioritize the related tasks and plan on executing the priorities first.
Project management process tip
Use project or task management software to prioritize your tasks and projects. Rank the most important tasks higher in the structure and ensure that all tasks are executed in the agreed order.
Automating project management? Is this even possible?
With the help of modern cloud technology and SaaS applications, you can automate significant parts of your project management process. Of course, project management is not something that can be fully automated. However, there are specific steps that can be streamlined rather quickly and easily.
A few elements of the project management process which can be automated:
- Files sharing/sending automation
Keeping project files on our own drives is convenient for most of us. Problems come up though when you need to send the documents to another person and spend time searching for them in your own files. To avoid this, you can keep all the files in your shared Google Drive or Dropbox. Anytime somebody wants to access your files, they only need to go to your drive and fetch them from there.
- Time tracking automation
Often times, projects require you to track time against them — especially if you work in a company that charges by the hour. This involves manually writing down the time spent on particular activities, which translates into more time spent on the task. Instead, you could use a time tracking tool that automatically measures your time devoted to productive tasks.
- Project updates automation
You don’t want to bother your teammates with an email everytime you update a task or upload a file. This only distracts them from their main work and throws them into a back and forth state. The alternative would be to set up a system that notifies them automatically about upcoming project updates. This can save you time and enhance communication, so you can finish the project before the deadline and in line with all the requirements.
There are many more automations which can save you time and resources, so let’s dive deeper into how they work out in practice.
Automating project management with SaaS applications
So how can you automate your projects without falling behind them? Let’s look at the example below.
1. Start with Google Drive / Spreadsheets
If you still work with legacy software like Microsoft Office and only store data on your own hard drive, you should consider changing your habits! Why? Because as long as you use desktop apps, you significantly limit your possibilities of effective communication with your teammates.
Imagine that you need to set up a spreadsheet with the clients’ database (including e.g. emails, phone numbers, addresses). Now, you have two options:
- Create an Excel Spreadsheet and send it via email to your teammates, or
- Create a Google Spreadsheet and collaborate on it with your teammates in real time
Which one would you prefer?
Storing data online might seem to bring an additional risk to your business. However, with cloud becoming more and more secure these days, the benefits delivered by online storage significantly outweigh the fraud risks.
One tool that can help you in this endeavor is Google Drive, thanks to its several connection opportunities. By applying them, you can easily push the data to other tools you use, like Paymo, MailChimp, or Slack.
Let’s look at how GDrive can fit into your project management process.
2. Create projects and tasks automatically, based on new GDrive elements
Every action taken in your Google Drive can be a trigger for a specific action taking place in your project management application, like Paymo for instance.
How to implement it and use to your advantage? You can use Zapier to make it work. Here are a few examples:
- Create new projects automatically when the new folder in Google Drive is created. (Zapier)
You can set up a folder in your Google Drive named “Projects”. Then, set up the automation so that whenever you create a new sub-folder, a project is automatically created in your Paymo project management application.
New folder created -> New project in Paymo
- Create tasks based on your Google Spreadsheet entries (Zapier)
I can imagine that writing anything in a Google Spreadsheet is way easier, than typing it within an application, isn’t it? You can connect your Google Spreadsheets with Paymo, so that every time a new row in your spreadsheet is created or updated, a new task is added to your Paymo project management application.
New/updated row in Google Spreadsheet –> new task in Paymo
- Add files in your Paymo projects directly from Google Drive (native integrations)
With Paymo’s native Google Drive integration, it’s effortless to add any files from your cloud directory to your projects. Just attach any file/document to your project, like you’d do from your physical drive. You can also do it at a task level, to keep all the task updates in context.
Adding files from Google Drive to Paymo
3. Automate tracking time spent on particular projects by using PaymoPlus
Measuring the time spent on particular tasks might help you estimate your projects’ profitability, monitor your effectiveness and identify distracting activities.
And while some might use a time tracking as a form of control and supervision, it’s mostly about taking advantage of the data that you collect and about the way you and your team work.
With PaymoPlus, you can automatically track the time spent on activities you do on your desktop, dive into insights about the websites you spend the most time on or look into the tasks that take a large chunk of your day to be completed.
PaymoPlus — automatic time tracking
Tracking time manually, within other applications
If you don’t want to track all the activities automatically and do it in a more manual way, you might still use your project management app. Just make it more convenient by connecting with other applications.
When working on a project, it’s very likely that you don’t have your project management app opened too often. You use plenty of different tools and resources to get your job done, especially if you’re a designer.
Why switch between different applications to track time spent on particular tasks if you can do it directly from the applicaitons you’re currently using, like Adobe Creative Cloud?
Integrating your Paymo project management app, you can easily track the time spent on your designs within the Adobe application. No need to jump between two different applications and keep them open in the background.
Integration between Paymo <> Adobe
How can the example process look like?
- You start your design project for one client in Adobe Illustrator.
- You open the Paymo Time Tracker within Adobe and start tracking time against a task.
- After you finish the design, you stop the clock.
- You start the project for another client in Adobe Photoshop and start tracking time for another project.
- You stop the clock again when finished and see the summary of your work time for particular tasks in your Paymo Adobe extension or within Paymo web app.
4. Handle invoicing automatically by connecting Grand Total app
Now that you’ve managed to effectively track your time, it’s time to take care of the finance-related issues.
Having all the data needed and stored within your project management app, it’s really easy to issue invoices automatically, based on the flow of your projects.
You can create invoices directly within Paymo, by using the built-in invoicing functionality and customizing particular elements (like invoice templates, currency, online payment gateways, late payment reminders, etc.).
Invoicing in Paymo
However, if you want to handle invoices separately, including their analytics, you’d better connect your project management app with an additional external invoicing software, like GrandTotal.
What’s the benefit? You get instant access to all your invoicing and payments data in one place so that you get the most out of your data stored in Paymo.
Invoicing analytics in GrandTotal
5. Keep your team updated with Slack notifications
Communication is one of the most important parts of a project. It’s worth to make sure your team’s up to date with any changes related to the project’s flow. How to do it?
You can send summary emails with the project’s updates which will likely waste a large portion of your time. Alternatively, you can automate your job with notifications sent automatically to your team via dedicated Slack channels.
How does it work?
Project’s update in Paymo -> automatic message in Slack
You can use Zapier to set specific triggers, which result in notifications that appear in the projects’ Slack channels. Then, every new change in the project like the new task can be automatically sent to your team via Slack. No more emails, no more constant questions and updates about the changes. Your team can stay up to date anywhere they are:
Automate your workflow, save time, resources and optimize the way you handle projects
There are several project management methodologies you can use in the process of handling your and your employees’ work.
No matter which methodology you choose, you will identify numerous project bottlenecks down the road. Scope them out in advance and figure out a way to become more effective in the way that you work.
Using native integrations gives you leverage to optimize many tasks by sharing the data between third-party apps. Still, you don’t need native integrations to make it happen. Using tools like Zapier, Integromat, or PieSync you can easily sync between many different applications with easy set up of specific triggers resulting in particular actions and data transfers.
Take advantage of the opportunities you get from connecting different apps, start automating your workflow and manage your projects more effectively with interconnected SaaS applications. ?
About the author: Matt Pliszka – SaaS research & co-founder @picksaas, where I help our clients find the best SaaS software to grow their businesses ? I’m the author of several dozens of blog posts about cloud software for picksaas and SaaS vendors. In the free time, I enjoy riding my longboard, playing sports, and reading biography books.