Tools of the Trade - Part 1, Selection Criteria


Over the coming weeks I'm will be posting a series of articles sharing my experience with various popular project management tools and my quest to identify and unify the best toolset for enterprise software management.

I have spent much of my career managing distributed teams to create software products. In fact, I started an interactive company in 1995 called CyberIsland Studios, which was established on a literal island in the Pacific Northwest. The World Wide Web was in its infancy, and online collaboration was was still a twinkle in the mind's eye. Managing distributed teams was relegated to phone, fax, FedEx and email. From that time forward, I have been an early adopter of pretty much every promising emerging collaboration and project management technology. Along the way, I have also created a lot of glueware to meet the needs of my teams when commercially available technologies fell short.

My most recent experience as Vice President of Professional Services at Agilix Labs has led me to realize that the perfect PM stack doesn't exist, at least not out of the box, and the many applications that market themselves as project management solutions are partial solutions at best; pieces of the pie.

Part One - Selection Criteria

To set the context for this series on enterprise project management toolsets and to round out this first post, here's my selection criteria for considering new software solutions:

  • Cloud-based - This is a must for distributed teams.

  • UX/UI Design - Is it thoughtfully designed? Easy to use? Elegant?

  • Interoperability - Does it play with other solutions? Is there a public API for custom integrations?

  • Mobile Friendly - Also a must, these days. More and more work is being done on mobile devices.

  • Data Ownership - Who owns the data? Can you export and/or migrate your data, if you choose?

  • Business Continuity - Are they running on a solid infrastructure? What is the up-time promise? How often do they back up? What is their disaster recovery window?

  • Financial Stability - Company Size? Years in business? Is there a user community? What do the forums tell you about the company and products?

  • Support - How good is their sales support? Ask a question via their website or email. The responsiveness of the sales support team likely reflects the best you can expect from customer support.

  • Privacy and Security Policies - It's important to know what's lurking in the birdseed. You can reserve this tedium for serious contenders only, but don’t forget to do this.

  • Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) - The acquisition cost is only part of the TCO picture. What about adoption cost? Is the software easy learn? Or, at least easy to use, once you learn it? What will it take to train your team on this software? What about on-boarding new team members? What is the ongoing cost of support? All of these areas need to be considered and quantified up front.

    If the software you are considering passes this checklist, there is one last critical hurdle I strongly recommend:

  • Pilot Program - Run a test pilot with a small internal group, before purchasing. This step alone, can and will save your bacon over and over. Sometimes it is only through practical application that you can tell if the software candidate is a good fit for your team. What’s more, by piloting the software first, you can establish internal expertise to help drive adoption for those applications you do choose.
Next post: Part Two - A Professional Services Toolbox; what we piloted, ultimately chose, and why.

Web Consultant, Idea Mechanic
Founder and CEO, MojoMediaPros, Inc.