Project Management Tools on the Cheap

 Continuing along my theme this week of using more low-tech ways to get things done, today I want to talk about project management.  When I think about this subject, my thoughts go automatically to Microsoft Project, which is one of the best, most fully-featured software tools for project management.  But there are literally dozens of other project management tools out there, both stand-alone software or via a web service.  You can check out just a few of them on our Collaboration Tools Project Management page.

But maybe you don't have the cash to buy MS Project, or the online tools you find just don't get the job done for you.  You can certainly track projects using simpler, less expensive tools, and here I'm primarily thinking about Excel.  This article on 15 Useful Excel Templates for Project Management and Tracking offers some terrific suggestions on using templates from Microsoft or other companies to track your project.  One of the sites mentioned is Vertex42, a great provider of spreadsheet templates for Excel, OpenOffice, and Google Docs.  Many of the templates provided on that site are free, and some available for a modest fee.  Of course, the Microsoft templates are free - and also have some great project management tools.  Give them a look.

Using Collaboration Tools to "Face the New Reality"

We at Lawyer's Guide to Collaboration Tools love the writings of Michael Sampson, and a couple of weeks ago he posted a great piece titled:  How to Manage Your Business in a Recession: "#1 Reset Priorities to Face the New Reality".  In this new age of budget cutbacks, businesses are looking for new ways to help its employees work together, or work with others.  He mentions two specific items that resonate with me:

  • Expense Management for Meetings.  With the new fantastic video and web conferencing programs available, remote meetings are becoming a more attractive - and economical - option for businesses.  As Michael says:  "[r]emember, it's the cost of telepresence in comparison to the alternative that signals whether it's a prudent financial investment, not the out-of-pocket cost per se." 
  • Get Out of Managing Projects in Email.  As we state in our book, email is a necessary communications tool, but it's a lousy collaboration tool.  If you're managing your projects (or lawsuits, or transactions) through email, starting thinking about whether tools like Sharepoint, Basecamp, or Central Desktop might make more sense.

Mike's article is a great read -- give it a look.