Managing an office, no matter how large or small, can be a challenge thanks to the constant requests, questions, and projects that crop up and find their way to the top of your to-do list. But there’s a secret weapon to help manage it all: project management for office managers. Project management tools are revolutionizing the way that office managers work across departments and get more done on a daily basis.
First, let’s talk about the benefits of using a project management tool and then we’ll cover a few project management options to help you get started including some free project management software tools too.
5 Reasons You Should Be Using Project Management Tools
Before we share some excellent project management tools you can use, let’s talk about why you should start using a project management tool if you aren’t already doing so.
1. Makes Collaboration And Communication Easier
Every company gets more complex as each year goes by. With the use of in-house staff and remote workers, it’s becoming more difficult to collaborate and communicate. And on top of that, communication becomes difficult to manage when there are tons of voices asking for help on projects or asking to hand off tasks.
Project management tools bring people together and help them work more efficiently by streamlining communication and tasks so that everyone can see what’s happening at any moment.
2. Manages To-Do Lists, Deadlines, and Task Information
Your companies project management tool can also be useful for managing all the things you have to do. It’s like a triage station for incoming requests and prioritization of all of the small tasks associated with larger projects. And while working towards a project goal can be difficult offline using pen and paper, the flexibility and efficiency of today’s online project management tools make it easy to organize and rearrange project tasks as needed.
3. Easily Creates Reminders & Recurring Tasks
If you have things that happen consistently in your business, instead of sending out constant reminders, you can input them into your project management system. Inputting your reminders online makes sure that your employees still get these reminders, but it makes sure that you can set them and move on to more pressing tasks. You can assign owners to individual tasks – including yourself! – and comment or add notes as needed.
When you don’t have to send out these emails and reminders regularly, you can focus on the things that will add the most value to your office.
4. Accessible From Anywhere
Most project management tools have applications that are available on computers, tablets, and phones.
Being able to access your to-do list on the go is essential, especially for any employees who don’t have an excellent reputation for remembering tasks. Once they are assigned responsibilities in your project management tool, it can become their go-to hub for figuring out what they need to work on next.
Being able to access your work to-do list from anywhere is also helpful for people who like to go over their to-do lists the night before work or over the weekends. Having their to-do list conveniently located online will allow them to be ready to go as soon as they go to work.
5. Can Be Integrated With Many Other Office Tools
Last, but not least, your project management tool of choice can likely be integrated with the other things you use in your business. Through tools like Zapier, you can combine your project management system with other tools you use like Outlook, Google Drive, Dropbox, your calendar, Evernote, or just about any other tool that you and your organization might use.
Project Management Tool Options
Now that you know why you should be using project management for office managers, let’s focus on picking a tool that suits your needs:
Google Drive (Specifically Google Sheets)
If you are new to project management, an easy, very low cost option would be to use Google Sheets. By using a collaborative spreadsheet, you can set up a simple workflow with columns for the status of the project, owner, notes, and deadline. You can invite anyone on your team (or the whole team!) to check out your spreadsheet, so they know what’s going on and can add or manage items as needed. This makes for an agile collaboration tool that can also be used on the go, such as with Android devices and iPhones.
Google Sheets is Google’s version of Microsoft Excel, and can be used as a free project management solution. Of course with Google you can also use Google calendar, file sharing file storage and create your own tailored solution and reporting suite. With this you can carry out project planning on unlimited projects and do Gantt charts to your hearts content. Team collaboration is also quite easy to do in real time with Google Sheets as a number of people can work on the same sheet at the same time. This may be a good option for small businesses who do not want to invest in software. Google Sheets is very simple which means you can get up and running quickly and mold it to the specific needs of your office but as your project management needs become more sophisticated, you may find you outgrow it and move on to a more robust platform. Let’s take a look at some of those options next.
Trello is a card-based project management system. They have a free version which is fully-featured task management tool and very powerful. You can also spring for the Business Class version which is $9.99 per user/month when paid annually and offers advanced features such as more space, power-ups which are similar to plug-ins, and better support.
Trello allows project managers to create cards for projects, assign owners, make notes and comments, and track deadlines. You can visually “see” a project in a way that makes sense to your team. Usually, people create a list of what they need to do, what they are doing, and what they have finished. Cards can quickly be moved across lists, which makes it easy to see what’s happening in your projects visually.
Trello also has awesome integrations so you can get creative with how you fit it into your team’s software workflows. For example, you might create a simple Google form for office supplies requests that automatically creates a new card in Trello when someone fills it out for you to track and manage the avalanche of requests you get in one centralized location.
Asana is a moderately more advanced list-based project management tool. With Asana you can add up to 15 team members and still use the free plan which is great for small teams. If you want more advanced reporting, unlimited team members, their new Timeline feature, and more – you can upgrade to their Premium plan which is $9.99 per user/month billed annually.
Asana is often preferred by people who have more complex projects to manage and has a bit of a steeper learning curve but is still very flexible and offers plenty of integration options for an all-in-one solution.
Basecamp is a popular project management tool that is quite cost-effective for larger teams. It’s $99 a month, but with that, you can add unlimited users and team members to Basecamp. Basecamp is organized into three main places HQ (all employees), Teams (your company departments), and projects (any projects you are trying to get done).
Each team or project can have different people, and your team members can be a part of multiple teams/projects. Each one has a to-do list, a message board, a chat, and much more. Plus, you can get a daily overview of anything you have assigned at the end of the day, which is terrific for keeping up with tasks you are in charge of. Basecamp also has a mobile app for use on the move so you’re not stuck with just using your Windows laptop or Mac.
Don’t wait, just start!
Put simply: project management for office managers becomes much more efficient when you leverage a tool to handle all of the tedious elements like centralizing communication, deadlines, and notes. Even free project management tools can provide a lot of really useful functions for your business.
In the past, managing tasks and projects was difficult, clunky, and felt more like a process of trial and error with paper-based options like to-do lists and calendars. With tools like the ones we shared above, you can take control of your workflow and manage your projects and tasks efficiently. Some project management software will also include time tracking so that a project can be costed effectively.
There is no such thing as the best free project management software tool because what one team needs may be completely different from another. Some individuals prefer to see task lists as an activity stream, where as others are happy for something simpler. So whether you want to tackle some personal tasks or delve deeply into task dependencies there is a software solution for you.
The best way to learn what will work best for your needs is to try out some of the free trials to see what feels the most intuitive and best-suited to your work style. You may try a half dozen tools before settling on the tool with the project management features that’ll check off all your boxes.
There are other options out in the marketplace you might want to consider, from open source software, to paid (and free) packages such as Slack, Paymo, Wrike, Kanban boards, Meistertask, Bitrix24, Freedcamp and more. So if you need unlimited storage, project templates, drag and drop capabilities or unlimited tasks across a number of projects there’s likely a tool out there that can work for you to help ensure that you never miss a due date again.
Interested in more tech tools and resources to boost your office management savvy? Check out the Swag 100, our resource directory for office managers.