I am often asked the question regarding the best project management system on the market and although I know most are looking for me to rattle off some PM tools like Smartsheet, Trello, Asana, MS Project, etc. The truth is this won't really answer the question. You see there are many things that go into picking the best project management system and I want to discuss those with you today.
The first thing I need to address is the parameters around "Best" in your eyes. What is best for me may not be best for you and your environment. When working with Clients I am often faced with the task of bursting bubbles because I can't give the simple and easy answer to this question. It requires you to look at your internal needs, your likes, and dislikes, your growth plan, etc. Your environment may need something completely different from mine so by pushing my best on you, it could easily be the most expensive worst product you ever purchased or used.
Alright, so now that we understand "Best" is subjective, I want to evaluate your current situation. Do you already have a project management system that you are using or are you starting from scratch and realizing that you need to do something different? This again requires some introspection because we need to determine why the current tool that you have isn't working or if you don't have one, how do you envision a PM tool helping you in the future.
A current PM system also adds a layer of difficulty in the tool selection process because you have to take into account the learning curve and the migration process. Can you start with a tool from scratch manually porting information over or can you migrate it in an automated fashion? Will it take you a long time to adapt to the new system and do you have time to do that in your day to day world?
You see, tools are just that they take your current process and make them easier. I often find that people purchase a tool and then develop their processes around a tool. This is the worst thing you can do. A tool is a proprietary way of addressing an issue or a process and it is developed in a unique way. If that tool goes away, how does the process translate to another one? If the tool breaks how do you handle the process manually? You should always have a developed process in place first before you select or incorporate a tool. This again will help you determine which is best for you.
This is another important factor in determining the best tool for you and your business. Different types of people and different roles of people will need to use the tool in different ways. What are those roles and ways in which the tool will be used? This is essential for determining the features you need and whether it will accommodate all those involved. A seasoned Project Manager may need a much more robust tool than a novice Project Manager. A person helping on the project may feel they don't need the tool at all, they just want a checklist.
Budget is often the overall deciding factor when selecting a tool, but is often the last thing discussed. You can get all the features, bells and whistles but those often have a pretty big price tag. So, take this into consideration when identifying the "Best" tool for you and your environment.
In a nutshell, I believe many tools are great and have their purposes...and all can be crowned the best. There is no one answer to this question and it will require a lot more introspection of you and your team to determine what is best for you...sorry the answer is still the same. Build your requirements list first before delving too deeply into product selection. In my opinion, YOU are the best tool. As long as you can get what you need when you need it and the return on investment is high, you are good to go. I have used products like excel and word to do my PM processes and depending on the project it was the best at the time. I have also used some other tools, some free and some at cost. I have a list of the best project management systems for small business that you can evaluate yourself.