It's easy to assume that managing projects for smaller companies would be easier than handling tasks for larger businesses, given the difference in size. However, the opposite tends to be true. Many large companies have multiple dedicated project managers focused on specific tasks, while small businesses often employ a single project manager to handle a wide range of complex tasks.
Since small business growth requires fine-tuned efficiency and productivity, effective project management is critical for companies of this size. Learn about the role of small business project management and get familiar with the best tools for the job.
What Is the Importance of Project Management for Small Business?
Businesses project management involves planning and distributing resources to accomplish small and large objectives. Project management for small business requires organizing and allocating relatively limited resources for maximum impact. To manage resources effectively, a project needs the following attributes:
- Comprehensive Plan: Any successful project has to take into account the costs, labor, resources, deliverables, and variables in order to develop a viable plan.
- Defined Timeline: Projects may take a month, a year, or longer, but they need time-based parameters to work.
- Systematic Approach: To accomplish complex projects successfully, it's essential to take a systematic approach and focus on multiple smaller deliverables.
- Unique Outcome: Every project should have a goal that requires specific inputs, processes, and results that stand apart from the company's everyday output.
- Positive Change: All projects should be designed with a desire to effect positive change for the company.
- Stay on Time and on Budget: Most projects require you to adhere to specific deadlines and budgets. Staying organized, sticking to a plan, and delegating tasks will increase your chances of finishing the project on time.
- Have More Control Over the Process: Having a complete grasp on the project management process can help minimize errors and inconsistencies. This effective tool helps you and your team avoid disorganization and unnecessary stress.
- Increase the Chance of Success: The project manager is often influential in whether the task at hand will be a success or failure. For better prospects during a project, keep a close eye on any obstacles that emerge, track which milestones are being hit, and determine what more you need to complete your goals.
- Accountability: Clearly defining roles and assigning tasks can make getting the job done efficient and smooth. Everyone will know exactly what they’re responsible for, so fewer tasks will be left incomplete.
- Gain Actionable Insights: Every project completed can provide valuable information into how things should be done the next time around. Business insights help you understand a situation or project by combining data and analysis collected during the process. The information you learn from business insights allows you to evaluate how your business is working and make changes for the future.
When your small business executes project management successfully, you can look forward to a wide range of benefits. In addition to reaching your ultimate goal, you maintain control over the resources involved, and you can evaluate the project management process effectively. The next time you plan a complex project, you can use what you've learned to generate even better results.
10 Best Project Management Applications for Small Businesses
Choosing the right software for project management can enable small businesses to grow and do even more with a limited budget. When considering project management applications, look for the following essential features:
- Collaboration Capabilities: Project management often requires the input of your team. The tool you choose should allow for multiple simultaneous users or should connect to an external communication platform.
- Seamless Integration: No matter what type of company you run, there's a good chance that you already rely on at least one software platform. Any project management tools you use should be able to integrate easily with your existing software.
- Free or Low-Cost Options: Small businesses often have low or nonexistent budgets for software. To make your resources stretch farther, try a free or low-cost application.
- Mobile Version: As a small business owner, you're constantly on the go, talking with suppliers and partners or working with your team. A mobile project management tool gives you the ability to oversee projects from almost anywhere.
With so many options to consider, choosing a software platform isn't always easy. Take a look at the 10 best small business project management software applications to find one with features that meet your company's needs.
When you want an application that can serve as your digital workspace, ActiveCollab is a great choice. This small business project management software helps you plan and organize so you can keep track of deadlines and get an instant overview of tasks in progress. You can receive project updates and communicate with colleagues right in the app, so it's easy to keep your entire project team in the loop. Thanks to ActiveCollab's measurement and analytics tools, you can also measure how much time you're spending on tasks so you can make more accurate predictions in the future.
As one of the most flexible tools on the market, Asana is ideal for small businesses that use a range of project management approaches, including Agile. When you use this tool, you can develop visual plans to see how each step connects over time so you can identify problem areas and resolve them instantly. You can also make task and project templates that work for your company, adding everything from deadlines and responsible people to priority level and other tags. Since Asana is centered on collaboration, it's easy to get your team on board so everyone can stay on track.
When you're a busy business owner, it's easy to lose track of projects, tasks, or files. Basecamp keeps everything organized so you have everything you need in one space. You can upload documents and files to make sure your entire staff has access to the most up-to-date version, and you can make to-do lists with deadlines and responsible parties. Basecamp also has a group chat and a message board so you can keep all project-related communication within the same workspace. Since you can add clients and employees to any project, you can keep everyone in the loop.
4. NetSuite OpenAir
When precision is a priority, NetSuite OpenAir can keep your employees on track. This cloud-based software is designed with collaboration in mind so project managers can monitor project status, identify roadblocks, and maintain progress toward deadlines. With this application, you can keep and submit timesheets every time an employee works on a project and set up dashboards to track the key performance indicators (KPIs) that signal success. NetSuite OpenAir also maintains a database of employee skills and availability, so you know how best to apply your employees' talent.
For companies that tend to move quickly, Hive can be a smart investment. This software platform supports a variety of project management tools, so you can create complex Kanban boards and Gantt charts or simpler tables and calendars. To get projects moving in no time, you can create custom workflows and automated tasks. Once you have multiple projects up and running, you can review the impact across the board so you can monitor resources, timeframes, and employee assignments. Hive also integrates with your email inbox so you can track project-related communication easily.
6. Pivotal Tracker
If you're a small business owner who prefers the Agile project management methodology but who has a limited budget, Pivotal Tracker is a great choice. With this software, you can organize ideas, current tasks, and completed items neatly while adding helpful labels for extra context. Assign points to each project to assess how much effort you'll need to devote to it, and use the analytics dashboard for an overview of completed, rejected, and in-progress projects.
If you tend to go from working on your desktop to scrolling through your phone to working on your tablet, you'll also appreciate that Pivotal Tracker is available for the web and for iOS and Android devices.
If you're new to small business project management software, Trello offers a simple solution. This software platform uses Kanban boards, an Agile tool that lets you visualize your entire project, map out tasks with optimal efficiency, and assess overlapping to-do items. When you use Trello, you can create a single Kanban board or multiple separate projects, using them to track in-progress, completed, and upcoming tasks. Features like checklists and attachments make Trello even more effective for small business owners. Try a limited version of Trello for free, or pay a monthly fee to add more features or access priority support.
Whether you want a tool that can plan, track, or report, Viewpath can handle it all for your small business. This software platform enables you to create and plan projects in no time, helping you estimate resources, cost, and time quickly. Within the platform, you can schedule resources, assign tasks, and provide everything your employees need to execute projects flawlessly. You can also integrate the platform with tools your company already uses and measure results so you can improve your project management process continually.
With Workzone, you won't have to worry about project status or employee availability, as you can see where your projects stand with a quick glance. You can check project progress to identify deadline issues, review what your employees are working on, and create personalized to-do lists for every project contributor. You can also use the dashboard to get a big-picture look at everything your company is working on or review individual projects one by one.
When you want a project management tool that adds structure to your process, consider Wrike. With this platform, it's easy to standardize the information that you enter each time you create a new project, so you'll be sure to track the same data for every task you tackle.
Create different types of projects so you can manage everything from marketing campaigns to product launches, and review all your project management statistics in the dashboard. Don't miss the workload feature, which helps you track the work level you've assigned to each employee.
With a calculated approach and the right business project management tools, small companies can develop and execute successful projects. Find the right software and method, and start making plans to grow your small business.
The Secrets of Successful Project Management
A small business project doesn’t have to be overwhelming or stressful. Instead, follow these secrets of successful project management tips to help the process run smoothly from start to finish.
1. Work within a specific timeframe
Although working under a deadline may sometimes feel stressful, doing so can help keep you and the rest of your team on track with both your budget and deadlines. If anything, completing tasks without working overtime means that you’re working efficiently and productively, meaning that success is more likely.
If you struggle to cap your hours spent on a particular task, consider using a time tracking tool to encourage yourself to complete work in a timely manner. To find out more about automated time tracking, read the SmartBiz Small Business Blog Every Second Counts: 3 Ways Automated Time Tracking Helps Your Small Business.
2. Use mistakes as a learning experience
There is always room for improvement regardless of how far you climb the corporate ladder. A good project manager learns and tries to improve around the clock since mistakes are inevitable. And mistakes aren’t all bad – you can gain valuable skills by using them as the foundation for learning something new.
3. Be flexible when it comes to changes
Just as mistakes are bound to happen, so too are changes. You may encounter unplanned obstacles during the course of a project. As a leader, you should watch for these changes and remain flexible in handling them. When something comes up, stay calm, assess which parts of your process are impacted, and come up with a game plan.
4. Understand how each department works
As a project manager, you should have a good understanding of how all departments, groups, and teams work together. Knowing the ins and outs of each group can provide you with the necessary knowledge of how various types of tasks are completed. Each task assigned will likely require a different procedure – some may be simple and quick, while others will need to be done precisely in several steps. Your job as project manager is to ensure a balance between efficiency and precision that satisfies all departments, groups, and people at your company – including you.