The Missing Category Of Project Management Tools

Project Management

Startup & New Product Development Execution Needs Are Under Served!

Project management is systematic organization of actions required to fulfill the objectives and goals of a project. There are several types of tools available depending on the nature of the project or “jobs to be done”. They can be broadly classified into three categories by their application or use. The base category is Task Management and the second is conventional project management tools. The third is Startup Management which is an emerging category with the rise of lean startup movement. The categories are a broad generalization and as can be expected there are several variations and extensions within each category. I have done my best to capture these variations in a simple manner to give you a flavor of what to expect beyond core functionality in each tier.

Conventional tools do not work for Startups and new product development teams.The basis of Startup Management is – Startup Management = Project management + Strategic Alignment.

Following is a description of the application tiers, which are also shown in the figure above.

Tier 1-A: Task & “To Do” Lists:

Managing tasks is the core functionality of all productivity tools. The simplest form of the tools organizes and automates “To Do” lists. These tools are great for small projects like a home improvement project. Trello and Base Camp are popular examples of task management tools. However, you can pay for more features in both tools as they move to the right, towards sophistication (refer the picture). The types of additional features typically are increased collaboration, file sharing, file storage and customized alarms etc. As the task managers become more sophisticated, they resemble automated Gantt Charts.

Tier 1-B: Task and Collaboration Tools:

These are smart Gantt Charts. They typically have ability to visually track tasks by their start and finish dates. These tools are sophisticated task managers with team collaboration ability (bottom tier right). Collaboration includes team member messaging, file sharing and file storage and the ability associate them with tasks. These tools are ideal for most generic project teams. I have seen several projects use combination of excel for task management and prioritization, share point for document sharing and storage and outlook for calendar. Some elegant tools that automate tasks and team collaboration are, teamworkPM etc.

The second category consists of specialized tools that are core to project management. There are two main types in this tier. The conventional project management tools typically used in civil engineering project (constructions) and Agile project management for software development (SCRUM is a popular framework).

Tier 2-A: Project Management tools:

Large civil/construction projects have highly interconnected tasks that have complex relationships with each other. Project management tools such as MS Project and Primavera have the ability to plan and track tasks that have complex dependencies (Task A cannot start till task B is complete etc.) and significant man and machine (resources) commitments. Resource allocation and balancing in addition to critical path analysis and budget control are important and core functions of these tools.

Tier 2-B: SCRUM Tools:

Scrum is the adaptation of agile in software development. In addition to many features we talked earlier, this adds special features for involving customer or end user involvement in product development. This enables quick customer feedback. It also has features for promoting/enabling parallel development of software modules for faster product development. If you type project management tools in google. The results on the first page are a majority of variations of this type.

Tier 3: Startup Management:

Startups and Inventors operate in a high risk and uncertain environment. Thus the project goals and objectives in a startup are likely to change more frequently than all other teams discussed above. Today, most startups use smart task managers or gantt chart tools. While these are excellent tools it is not very evident how and what tasks are affected when there is a pivot. Changes in priorities are also common in volatile environments and these have similar effect on tasks. If the daily activities are not aligned with the higher level changes it causes waste. To eliminate waste and be agile the tasks and daily activities of startup teams should be closely coupled to key strategic elements. So when a course correction occurs, the affect is cascaded to the tasks and daily activities because of the coupling of the tasks to strategic direction. Successful founders generally do this intuitively but developing a systematic process and discipline of coupling the strategic needs to tasks and daily actions of the team amounts to Startup Management philosophy and this can improve productivity and increase the chance of success significantly.

We at have developed a productivity tool designed for startups and inventors. Please comment if you know of a current tool or if you have a favorite.


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