How To Choose A New Project Management System

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We got a message from Cianna, our podcast assistant, that Microsoft, who recently acquired Wunderlist, was discontinuing the platform and replacing it with To-Do List, their own project management software: Basically we got the old, “it was nice having you as a client all these years, but we’ve recently been acquired and this platform will no longer be supported.”

Yikes! Thanks for the heads up! After years together, we were parting ways abruptly.

Which meant I was on a mad dash to find a replacement! I’m not a huge fan of Microsoft products (sorry guys, nothing personal. LinkedIn is cool though), I’ve been through this before and have basically demoed and tested every project management tool there is.

When we started our consultancy Latin & Code, we originally went with Wunderlist for the sheer simplicity of the platform. Keeping project management as simple as possible is the key to success, for our business anyway. Staying on-top of project management systems is an extremely important task, and one I don’t want to run my life, but streamline my life. Especially when you’re working on multiple projects at one time. So we needed to make sure the transition was smooth.

Here are some key questions we asked ourselves:

  1. What requirements do we actually need?
  2. How are we going to move everything over?
  3. How quickly do we need to move everything over?
  4. What’s the learning curve look like so we don’t skip a beat with our business?
  5. Who is responsible for on-boarding?
  6. What bells and whistles do we wish we had?
  7. Does it have a mobile version?
  8. How can we leverage this opportunity to refine our process?

All great questions to ask yourself and your team when switching from one platform to another.

Like I mentioned, the great part about Wunderlist was the simplicity of the platform mixed with how our team uses it on the go, since we’re all remote. We love the visibility of tasks on mobile and desktop into projects, due dates, comments, etc. Considering it’s been our go-to for a few years now, we’ve all gotten pretty comfortable with it.

So we needed to find something comparable so we can continue to stay quick, nimble, flexible, and successful.

Funny enough, this change came at the right time. We got so comfortable with Wunderlist that we worked around some of the inefficiency, like not being able to assign each other subtasks within a project, we relied more on communication with each other.

In Steven and my big(ger) agency days, we’ve used everything from Basecamp to FunctionPoint to TrafficLive and even some custom platforms developed in-house. I knew we didn’t want to go that route. We don’t need anything as robust as those tools, but some of the functionalities that come with those big boys are clutch.

And considering they have a steep learning curve and their pricing isn’t small-business friendly, our choices quickly became clearer.

We narrowed our search down to 2 platforms: Asana and Trello. Both have stellar reviews and are highly regarded by colleagues in the same industry with the same size firms as ours.

Trello is more of a board type of platform (think Pinterest) where all your projects are created by putting boards together. Asana has that capability but allows us to look at things not just through boards, but also as lists. I’m a big fan of lists, but Steven is a bigger fan of boards. From a visual standpoint, Asana was in the running.

This decision was really in my hands, considering I deal with the majority of our project details, as well as our teams on a more regular basis. I knew that in order for this switch to be a success, we all needed to be on the same page.

Trello is great, but what really got me stuck on Asana was the flow of the projects and task. It was simple. The team was on board with Asana, so after a 2 week trial on each platform, we ended up going with Asana! Woot Woot!

Here are some of the features straight from the Asana website that got me:

Project Management:

  • Projects—Organize your work into shared projects as lists or kanban boards for your initiatives, meetings, and programs.
  • Tasks—Break work into manageable pieces for you and your team.
  • Subtasks—Break up a task into smaller parts, or show additional steps to complete an overall task.
  • Task assignees—Give tasks a clear owner, so everyone knows who’s responsible.
  • Sections and columns—Group tasks into sections or columns in a list or board project (respectively) to keep tasks organized, or match your workflow stages.
  • Due dates—Due dates ensure every task gets completed on time. You can view tasks on an Asana calendar or even your work calendar.
  • Due times—Specify the time something is due so you don’t miss a deadline, and everyone will know when you need it by—no matter their time zone.
  • Start dates—Start dates show when you should begin your work to hit your deadlines without the last-minute scramble.
  • Attachments—Add files from your computer, Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, or Box to any task or conversation.
  • Likes—Acknowledge a task or comment, say thanks, give a thumbs up, or vote for a task with a like.
  • Tasks in multiple projects—Keep the same task in multiple projects to show work in different contexts without duplicating efforts.
  • Templates—Asana-created templates are a simple way to add new workflows to Asana.*

Communication:

  • Task comments—Comment directly on a task, to clarify exactly what needs to be done, and mention teammates or other work in Asana so everyone and everything stays connected. Quickly acknowledge tasks with pre-populated quick responses.
  • Project conversations—Discuss a project’s progress to keep the momentum going.
  • Team pages—See all of your team’s projects in one place, have a space for all-team conversations and announcements, and put a description of your team.

Views:

  • My Tasks—Plan your day with a prioritized to-do list.
  • Inbox—Get automatic updates about just the projects, conversations, and tasks that matter to you.
  • Search—Find the work you need quickly, without having to organize it painstakingly.
  • Dashboard–Get a high-level view of work happening across your organization. Add projects to your dashboard and view Dashboard reports in Google Sheets.
  • Calendars—See any list of tasks on a Calendar to get a clear view of when work is due.
  • Files View—Find the project files you need quickly in a gallery view with all of the project’s attachments.

Team Management:

  • Teams—Create teams to organize your projects and connect teammates with a shared calendar and conversations. You can also control team privacy settings.
  • Followers—Add teammates as followers so they can follow along with work on the task and receive relevant notifications with task updates.
  • Guests—Collaborate with vendors, contractors, and partners in Asana.
  • Permissions—Limit access to any project, create hidden teams for sensitive work or make public teams and projects for access by your entire organization.
  • Admin controls—Designate Organization admins who can add, remove, and manage members and their settings, and enforce password complexity. Asana Enterprise customers have additional controls with SAML and our Admin API.†
  • Privacy controls—Limit access to any project, create hidden teams for sensitive work, or make teams public.
  • Data security—Easily export or delete data from Asana, and have your data backed up on a separate server. Enterprise customers can also expect a 99.9% SLA uptime.

File Sharing:

  • DropboxGoogle Drive, and Box—Attach files directly to tasks with a built-in file chooser.

Since there are a bunch more features I don’t have time to go into, here’s the full list, check it out!

Here’s what the inside of platform looks like:

List view:

asana list view

Board view (I put together a test in board view just so you could see):

asana board view

For more awesome platform views, check out their website here!

It might not seem like a big deal, but how a platform was formatted on mobile is critical. Being able to answer quick questions on the go,

We worked with our tech team for a couple days to migrate the data over and after a couple weeks of a learning curve, we were up and running smoothly with Asana!

Now that we’ve dived in and are using it daily, we’ve come to love some bells & whistles that were missing from Wunderlist.

Overall, what could have been a huge disaster and clean-up effort with changing platforms, it all worked out in the end due to asking those questions above to ourselves and our teams. We got a new found platform with the support we needed as well as an opportunity to refine our process.

We took project management lemons and made some pretty delicious PM Lemonade!

– Melissa

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