Getting the Right Value from a Project Management Tool


Quick Summary
A checklist with accompanying guidance on how to make sure that people are using a project management tool wisely.


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What this is

A checklist with accompanying guidance on how to make sure that people are using a project management tool wisely, that executives are truly getting the information they need as a result, and that the value of using the tool is commensurate with the investment it's taking from the project manager and the team.

This checklist includes multiple sections to lead you through:

  • Considering why your current tool was adopted in the first place
  • Identifying how your tool is currently being used and any shortfalls in desired value
  • Noting out-of-whack time investments vs. the value received
  • Deciding actions to take to bridge the gap between what the organization wanted from the tool and what you are actually getting.

It also provides tips for making your case to executives and/or the tool owners, if you end up deciding that major overhauls to your project management tool approach are needed.


Why it's useful

Project management tools are typically adopted for one of the following reasons:

  • To better understand what has to be done
  • To plan and track in a more automated and accurate way
  • To standardize project planning according to a desired approach or methodology
  • To provide effective communication, collaboration, and coordination by way of visibility into the plan and progress

But the fact that we started with one or more of those goals in mind does NOT mean we'll automatically get the benefits we were after. It's possible for a tool to take on a life of its own—using up people's time, and even causing significant angst, without delivering the originally-envisioned value. Worse still, a tool might get adopted with a focus purely on features, without a clear definition of the true value it should bring via insights, understandings, and warnings, leading to an even greater possible disconnect between effort and results.

This checklist helps managers sanity check the value and insights received from their current use of a project management tool for all the time spent by the PM and team members on information entry, analysis, and reporting. Then, it helps them plan accordingly for adjustments to how their tools are used.


How to use it

This document steps you through a systematic look at your current PM tool use. Use the major sections to assess the value-for-effort you're getting from your current tool and identify possible areas for tool tweaks or outright overhaul. Note: If you have not yet adopted a PM tool, use this document to frame how you define the desired value the tool should deliver and to prompt ideas on how to have the team and executives use the tool to best effect.

  1. Look back and identify, if possible, what led to the adoption of your current tool. What were the desired benefits as stated by executives and others who were involved in deciding to adopt a tool at all, and stated by those involved in selecting the specific tool?
  2. Read the checklist sections on typical pitfalls in obtaining the desired value from a PM tool, and note any pitfalls you believe your organization is experiencing.
  3. Determine whether you believe any tweaks or major changes are needed to the way your PM tool is used in your organization to get the right value from it. Use the material in the final section to help make your case and suggest ways to go about the adjustments.

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Related Templates
Project Management Software Tools Evaluation
A checklist used during the evaluation of project management software to help get to the short list of evaluation candidates. This checklist helps you document what features are important to your PM process, as well as keep track of which software packages have which features. It also helps capture comments on different packages.



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