I have a garage full of bicycles. One for each member of my family and three for me. Yeah, three bicycles each with pedals, wheels and a seat, that get me from point A to point B. Each of those bikes serves a different purpose and I’ll usually ride whichever bike is best suited for the destination. As I was tuning the brakes on one of my bikes last night it got me thinking, in some ways, online project management software is a lot like a bicycle. The software you choose to adopt into your small business is going to vary depending on your needs. And just like bicycles, there are many different types of project management software to choose from depending on your destination. Here is a look at my three bikes and their analogous online project management counterparts.
The Fixie / Single Speed Bicycle
These bikes are all the rage. Hailed by hipsters everywhere for being simple. The fixie or single speed is easy to maintain as there are no gears and, sometimes, no brakes. All of the features have been thrown out so that the bike does one thing and does it well, it pedals you from point A to B. However, there are some things a fixie doesn’t do so well, such as going up hills, down hills and stopping. Fixies and single speeds aren’t as much “simple” as they are deconstructed and devoid of features. Basecamp and other silo apps are a lot like a fixie or a single speed. They should handle your business’ basic project management needs, but will often exclude features you may find necessary to grow your small business. Should you need to go further than across town, you will be wishing you had those gears and brakes.
The Hybrid Bicycle
The hybrid bike peaked in popularity a few years before our current fixie bubble and are peaking again as gas prices go up and the recession forces people to find more creative ways to save money. The hybrid bike has gears, brakes, is lightweight, and very comfortable to ride. These bikes start out as simple bikes and are built up with the versatile rider in mind. A hybrid bike will easily handle your cross town commute as well as a ride out to the periphery of your most remote errands, and they are great for fitness. Our own online project management app, Intervals, is much like a hybrid bike. It will handle your business’ end-to-end workflow needs on a bigger scale than a silo app and on a smaller scale than an enterprise app. The idea is to start out with a simple project management app and build it up with time tracking, task management and other features until you have a well-rounded set of features. If you find yourself needing to do more than just cruise up and down main street than a hybrid bike is for you.
The Road Bicycle
Built for speed, endurance and distance, the road bike is an engineering marvel. But for most riders it can be a bit much. Not only do they cost more, they need to be ridden much longer distances to notice any benefit. The road bike will work like any other bicycle, but do you really need all that tech just to run a few errands? Microsoft Project is a lot like the road bike, it’s built for enterprise users, large business who need to get the most out of an application. They need to manage projects using every feature available. If you are managing projects at the enterprise level, where projects can endure for months and years, and resource planning and Gantt charts are critical to your success, you need a project management tool of this magnitude. If you know you have a long ride ahead of you, saddle up on the road bike.
What type of online project management software is right for me?
The selection of online project management tools is as diverse as the bike world. They come in all shapes and sizes for different types of productivity. First, decide what you need from a project management application. Is it time tracking, task management, documents, reports, resource allocation? Make a list of features and do some research to find a few applications that best fits your needs. Then take each of them for a test ride. Most online project management tools offer a free online trial that will give you a good idea as to whether or not its going to be a good fit. And once you find the right app, you’ll know it. It will just feel right, a good fit, and it will address your most critical needs.
Author’s Note: I realize this analogy is borderline silly. However, I love bikes and I love developing online project management software and this blog post gave me an excuse to write about both.