Ashanti Morgan

Vetting Project Management Resources: Finding the Right Fit

If you’re like the majority of the world, multitasking is part of your daily routine. From managing personal to professional tasks, keeping it all together in your brain can be a bit overwhelming.

Thankfully, there are a number of tools, from easy to use smartphone apps to more complex software, that exist to help manage it all.

Whether you’re looking for a tool to individually track tasks, or you work with one or more people and need to manage and track a series of tasks, choosing the right process and solution doesn’t have to stressful. The following are some general tips to consider as you broach the subject.

Defining the Process

There are so many formal certifications and processes for project management that exist that the recommendations that are suggested below in no way are meant to replace these options. If your interest is becoming formally certified as a project manager, be sure to check out the Project Management Institute, as they are recognized as the experts in project management.

That being said, the simplified solutions detailed below are great for managing small- to mid-scale projects. A huge perk of these tools is the ability to manage them on-the-go via smartphone apps. If you need to make a quick edit to a task, these applications include desktop clients and web clients (or web apps) that have comparable functionality and ease of use.

Let’s look at the steps needed to get started:

Step 1: Determine project needs

Whether working alone or in a group, or if you’re sitting down to meet with a client, it’s important to extract the needs of the project and document them. The creation of a task matrix (see example below) is a great tool to use to detail the task description, owner, and due date. The task matrix can then be used a resource to recap the action items from the meeting and sent (via email or means) to everyone present during the meeting. It’s another strategy to ensure that everyone in the meeting is on the same page in terms of next steps.

Sample Task Matrix
Task Description Task Owner Due Date
Create an HTML page

●        Add content placeholders

●        Add HTML tags

Ashanti July 1, 2016
Develop a PowerPoint presentation

●        Add four educational images

●        Insert one educational video

Daniel July 1, 2016

Step 2: Task Development

Once you’ve extracted the pertinent details from your meeting with a client, bringing in production team members to help execute the tasks is the next step in your process, unless of course you’re planning to complete the tasks on your own.

If you have a team that will complete the tasks, the task descriptions in your task matrix will likely need to be further fleshed out (in addition to reviewing and including materials/ resources from the client) and embedded into a project management tool (see examples below) with specific parameters associated with segmenting the project into phases, tasks, subtasks, etc.

  1. Writing clear tasks
    1. The amount of detail that is placed in a task, especially when there’s an expectation that another colleague will step in to complete the task is paramount.
  1. Quality assurance process
    1. Incorporating a checklist for production team to use (or create on their own) to ensure a task is copy edited, proofread, etc.
  1. Defining due dates
    1. Quality assurance time padded into deadline for task owner to check work
    2. Buffer time to review completed task

Step 3: Vetting Project Management Tools

There are so many tools to choose from, it’s important to consider functionality that’s most important for you to individually and/or collectively manage tasks. Prior to considering tools, defining the process for your department, team, etc. is a critical step. Devising a sub-committee to

Asana, Google Drive, Podio, and Zoho are all really great tools that we’ve used in my department, but after restructuring our project management process, we chose Asana to manage and add transparency to our project management process. We also use Google Sheets to track reporting data for workload management.

Since my experience is heavily focused on the use of Asana and Google Sheets, I’ve provide specific examples along with screenshots of the tools in action for your reference.

Sample Asana Task Breakdown

sample-asana-task-breakdown

In my day-to-day management of tasks, I primarily use Asana when working with a production team, but also for tracking my personal to do lists. I also use Google Sheets with features I’ve added such as conditional formatting to color code cells and data validation to create drop down lists as a way to manage a major program that has lots of moving parts. I’ve included two screenshots of sample tasks in Asana that I’ve created and the Google Sheet used to manage a major project. One of the many advantages of each tool is the level of customization (see links above for more details) that you can apply to each environment to make it your own.

Task and Subtask Examples in Asana

task-and-subtask-examples-in-asana

Sample Checklist via Google Sheets

sample-checklist-google-sheets

Other really popular tools that for one reason or another we didn’t use include Microsoft Project, Basecamp, Trello, Wrike, etc. In some instances, such as with a tool like Microsoft Project, the level of sophistication in terms of resource allocation and management (among other the features) weren’t the right fit for the department. Be sure to conduct research on these and other popular tools before investing time and money into a solution.

Whether you’re a department looking for a new process and/or system to manage projects or a faculty member contemplating whether to add a group project into an assignment, the aforementioned resources are flexible and work in most environments. It’s essential to have an understanding of what your goals and desired outcomes are before delving into which technical solutions are best.

Ashanti Morgan

About Ashanti Morgan

Ashanti Morgan is a Senior Instructional Technology Consultant and Program Manager for the Global Learning Experience (GLE) initiative at DePaul University. She also teaches computer productivity courses online as an adjunct professor in DePaul's School for New Learning. Ashanti has been working in the instructional design industry for over a decade in a variety of sectors including higher education, K-12, and non-profit. In her current role at DePaul, she manages faculty training, strategic planning, and global course development for the GLE program, an initiative that exposes students to intercultural exchanges while collaborating virtually with students abroad. She also provides instructional design expertise to faculty in a variety of disciplines across the university. Ashanti earned her master’s degree in Instructional Technology from Northern Illinois University. She also obtained her bachelor’s degree in Organizational & Corporate Communication from Northern Illinois University.

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