Project managers: get the right apps

Making technology work for you

10 June 2019

The vast range of apps available to project managers can be overwhelming, but doing your research and choosing the right one can massively benefit recording and reporting, teamwork and collaboration processes

The evolution of project management software means it has become a vital tool not only for project managers, but also for small businesses and entrepreneurs who can use it to automate some of the processes normally carried out by a project manager. These applications can be used for both short-term and long-term projects, as well as to better coordinate the day-to-day activities of a company.

Recording and reporting

The ability to record and report information instantaneously not only helps project managers and businesses, but can become the benchmark for their clients’ expectations. Clients appreciate regular updates on progress: it negates potential frustration and means they don’t have to request news, removing a potential distraction for the project manager. But the frequency and detail of reporting will inevitably increase as clients demand ever more data, including benchmarking against key performance indicators.

If a project is delayed, informing the client is only half the process; being able to mitigate the problem is the real skill, and is what sets one project manager apart from another

Collecting, analysing and reporting data in a format the client requests requires additional administration and production time, which means less time is dedicated to focusing on the project’s risks and issues. Clients, however, now expect the project manager to resolve these issues, not just report them. If a project is delayed, informing the client is only half the process; being able to mitigate the problem is the real skill, and is what sets one project manager apart from another.

Effective recording and reporting mean more time can be spent on problem-solving. Effective progress reporting can also be important in defending against a negligence claim. A professional does not have to be negligent for a claim to arise but, if one does, they must be able to evidence how they came to their findings. Otherwise, the insurance company is unlikely to defend the claim successfully – affecting the project, project manager and client.

Several apps are available to streamline recording and reporting processes.

  • Evernote is a note-taking app that allows the user to save, sync and share documents. Creating notes and classifying them into notebooks, putting checklists together, adding attachments and web clippings, creating tables and sending reminders are just some of the app’s features. The app syncs between mobile, web and desktop and works across all types of system and device, including iOS, Android, Mac, Windows and smart watches.
  • OneNote has the same features as Evernote but also integrates into Microsoft Office apps, enabling you to combine it with Outlook emails and calendar invites. Notebooks in OneNote partition every part of a project and can separate each partition into different work roles. The app saves to OneDrive online and syncs across devices.
  • iAuditor is a helpful app for health and safety audit templates. You can create your own template or use one of those provided, and then export a ready-made report. The app developer, SafetyCulture, recently secured funding to add scheduling, actions, reporting and analytics capabilities to the app’s functions.
  • Site Audit Pro can help you record site audits and inspections, include photographs as part of a site survey, and ultimately generate professional-looking reports at a fast speed.
  • Notes provides an effective note-taking experience, and key features include an embedded document scanner. Only available on Apple devices, it is simple to use and results transfer across to other Apple devices easily.

Teamwork and collaboration

All projects comprise teams brought together in a very short time frame. These teams include individuals from different disciplines who are expected to work seamlessly together on highly technical projects in the high-pressure environment of the project site. It can be challenging for the project manager to manage and coordinate the resulting volume of data associated with a project. The following selected apps can help the project manager process this data.

  • TeamGantt is a project-planning solution that gathers all relevant information for a project, including conversations, files and project milestones. It allows you to monitor the progress of individual activities as well as the work of different staff members.
  • Gantter is a free, cloud-based project management tool with tracking, cost tracking, resource and workload tracking, interactive Gantt charts and risk management features. As it is cloud-based, it can integrate with Google apps and can also connect to Microsoft’s own project management software, Microsoft Project. It is available in 23 languages.
  • Wrike is project management and collaboration software aimed at small businesses. Individuals or teams of up to 5 can use the software. It has a real-time activity stream, making it an effective way to collaborate on group projects and keep track of task changes and discussions. Additional features include integration with third-party storage applications such as Dropbox, a private messaging service and extensive privacy settings for projects.
  • Trello is a project management platform that employs the Kanban methodology. The Kanban method was invented by Taiichi Ohno, a Toyota engineer in the 1940s, and is a card-tracking system designed to avoid production bottlenecks and improve manufacturing efficiency. By applying this concept, Trello is made up of visual boards, lists and cards that break down projects into the process stages and single tasks. Trello represents every task as a card that, once complete, moves along the subsequent process stages creating a visual representation of a project.
  • Teamweek is a good choice for teams of 5 or fewer. It provides basic time and expense tracking and timesheet management, offering a visual overview of who’s doing what in a calendar format.

Choosing the right app

Most apps are either completely free of charge or offer free versions and can be downloaded from app stores or accessed on web browsers. They will usually offer different add-ons and packages depending on the needs of a business or project. Download free versions of any relevant applications and experiment with them to see what is right for you. Make your decision based on what suits your project, systems, team and budget. Using a well-chosen app can benefit a project immeasurably, freeing time and resources to focus on other project issues.

David Reynolds FRICS is director of Bloomsbury Project Management Ltd and a member of the Construction Journal editorial advisory group

Further information