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June 11, 2021

6 signs you need a new project management system

Portfolio-level Management Project Management
BigPicture Team

The simplest test on whether your project management software is outdated or not is to offer it to a new employee, especially in their twenties. Software ages as rapidly as social media portals. As of 2021, for instance, there is a move from project management software to PPM suits and EAP tools; not to mention all the UI/UX/efficiency improvements.

Let’s look at the signs your project management might be giving you, and where the software market is heading.

Sign 1: Many tools and no bridges between them

Not one, but many project management tools within an organization could be even a good sign. If there is no hope for integration of those tools, that should set off alarm bells.

Using lots of different tools opens the door for duplication, wasted time, and inefficiency.

Check if your project management software has plans for building bridges towards popular work management tools. In the case of our BigPicture, these bridges lead towards Jira, Trello, and Azure DevOps. Some of these interfaces are already under development.

Trend in the 2020s: From one project management tool to many integrated tools. BigPicture says “let teams keep the tools they love”.

Sign 2: On-site hosting

Medium and small businesses struggle to keep their installed project management software up to modern standards. Unless they migrate to the cloud. Only then they can cede the responsibility for keeping the software current and fast to the software company.

Our BigPicture, too, rides the wave of Atlassian transferring medium and small clients to the cloud. Only large enterprises were offered on-site, yet pricey, Data Center hosting that addresses pressing security concerns. Download our new paper covering the topic of migration to cloud.

Trend in the 2020s: Project management software is increasingly being offered in the SaaS model. On-site solutions, especially in medium and small companies, are being retired.

Sign 3: Project management-only software. No scaling towards PPM

Not all tools scale seamlessly. As agile transformation progresses and your organization grows, more and more companies need PPM (Project Portfolio Management) software or even ‘Agile at Scale’ software. The latter is emerging as a successor of PPM tools.

BigPicture noticed this 2020s trend and implemented an umbrella-style Overview module that scales all the “classic” lower-level project management modules, such as Gantt chart, Roadmap, Program Board, Resources, Risks, and Reports.

You should ask yourself the simple question: “Is my current project management software valid at the portfolio level?”. If not, that should raise a red flag.

Sign 4: No “single” progress bar

If there was a single warning sign indicating you needed a new solution, that would be missing progress bars – at portfolio, project, iteration, program increment levels, whatever you are looking at. The good old MS Excel-based project management suffered from that a lot. Since data in the Excel file was not current most of the time, the well-deserved flexibility of a spreadsheet could not help much. Hence, never-ending emails updating everybody on the progress of the project.

BigPicture has progress bars and to do/in progress/done task counts everywhere across the system – at a sprint, program increment, project, ART, LeSS Requirement Area, and portfolio levels. On top of that, these progress bars and counters get updated on the fly. This is another trend in project management software for the 2020s: current status must be available 24/365, around the clock, year-round.

Sign 5: Too difficult for newbies

A simple, yet brutal test, comes when your software is launched. Many pre-2010 systems suffer from extreme complexity. And it’s not their fault. The current industry standards shaped throughout 2010-2020, and so the project management tools born during that period offer by default modern, simple UI, top UX, and relative maturity in terms of features.

BigPicture was born in 2015, we find it the ideal year for those making purchasing decisions in 2021. The tool has seen dozens of updates and we are about to release version 8.1.

Trend in the 2020s: will project management software be evolving equally quickly by 2030 is an open question. What we are noticing a lot is how Artificial Intelligence is gaining traction in software products.

Sign 6: High software maintenance cost

and high risks related to the software. If there is a single provider and service desk for your current project management software and you keep going over budget on that software then you should get concerned. We won’t offer any benchmark on how much project management software should cost, although we gave a couple of hints here. Monopoly on your country’s market in terms of support services and your heavy dependence on a single provider indicates you might be paying too much and taking too much risk.

Final test

Signs #1-6 should lead us to this final test. Have you noticed that signs 1-6 translate into inefficiencies across your real-life project management processes? Do any of the following occur in your workplace?

  • Impaired planning and scheduling
  • Malfunctioning collaboration
  • Ineffective task delegation
  • Prolonged integration of new members
  • Ineffective risk mitigation
  • Budget overruns
  • Failing remote working

If you see at least one of the above malfunctioning processes and any one of the signs #1-6 then your organization likely needs new project management software.

Overcontrolled vs. under-controlled user

Before you decide, consider one more critical factor.

Until recently many project management software companies made tons of money on “over guidance” built into their software. These PM software suits had levels and layers of logging who approved what. Clients used to prefer solutions that would prevent a project manager from just creating a new project without having it approved by a senior executive or two. Informal approvals, obtained during an elevator ride, were beyond debate. Such a formal project management process might still be valid in traditional industries, such as finance.

If agile has taken over in your organization, however, then it could be another clue your current project management software is outdated. Formalities built into your software result in excessive load on software users and higher maintenance costs. The Agile spirit calls for lighter PM software since trust is among the core values of agility. If you trust your people, you do not need to control each and every step they make.