Is there such a thing as a perfect project management tool? It seems with the numerous options available, there is still a need to create additional tracking documents, spreadsheets, or other client-friendly reports. It begs the question of whether valuable time is lost searching for the right tool versus managing the project.
Selecting the Right Tool
A key factor in selecting a tool is ensuring that it works for your industry and type of project. Programs that work for quick turn projects will not necessarily work for long term ones, but the following are universally important for ensuring a successful project:
- Timelines: Ability to set, track, and adapt milestones
- Resourcing: Assignment of team members to the work
- Utilization: Percentage of a resource's time dedicated to the project
In the digital world, projects such as web apps and website development can take months from start to finish, so having a system to track not only the timeline but also resource availability is crucial. Merlin is a globally-used project management tool built by other project managers that we currently use at GRAYBOX. It is easy to learn, and provides great visibility into workload for our team, allowing us to prioritize milestones for current projects and plan the start of future work.
Merlin to the Rescue
With Merlin, I can support team members and clients alike:
- Account Manager support: By creating a master project list of all work in the agency and viewing the —utilization— report, I have a window into the workload of all resources, allowing the account managers to address what milestones may be conflicting or at risk if individuals are at too high of a capacity. This prevents surprises and allows us to plan accordingly with the client.
- Development support: Having a visual representation of the hours assigned to tasks and duration planned for each helps me to support the team by informing them of key milestones on their plates for the coming weeks.
- Sales support: In addition to managing current deliverables, Merlin allows users to view future schedules as well, helping me to inform the sales department of when they can start to push for new work at a time when resources are available.
- Client support: Though many clients don't have Merlin, it is easy to save files as PDFs for their viewing. Merlin creates Gantt charts that provide a simple, easy to read view of the project lifecycle. As milestones shift, Merlin visually represents the original date of the tasks, so the client can see where various decisions/events/changes may have impacted the progression of milestones.
Overall, Merlin is a solid tool for our agency ‚ helping to coordinate, plan, and manage the various moving parts of the work, priorities for the team, and ability to bring in new, exciting projects when the time is right for our developers. Which project management tool do you use?