As your business grows, getting stuff done gets cumbersome and challenging. You become part of the statistics the Project Management Institute discovered in its 2015 study: On average, over a third of projects don’t meet their goals – the same as it was in 2012.
Source: Project Management Institute
And just as Project Management Institute explains, you, like business owners and managers everywhere, understand that when projects fail, so do profits, because organizations are less likely to achieve strategic goals.
So, like everyone else, you decide to integrate technological solutions into your operations, hoping to grow your business more efficiently. But then you find out it’s not as easy as you thought it would be to choose the right tools.
I mean, there’s no shortage of solutions out there to help you get stuff done. Depending on your vertical and business size, you might have dozens (if not hundreds) of software solutions and services to choose from.
But what criteria should you consider, and how are you supposed to find the most accurate solutions for the goals and operations of your specific business?
Project Management vs. Workflow Management
PMChat reports “that the use of commercially available PM software increases performance and satisfaction,” yet “44% of project managers use no software.”
If that’s you, tapping into the market of tools out there can be overwhelming. So before we talk about tools and software solutions, let’s clarify the difference between project management and workflow management, to help you understand what to look for.
Even though the two concepts are related, they are not the same. As the names suggest, one is for managing projects, while the other is about managing operations and processes – or, to say it differently, workflows.
What is Project Management?
According to the Project Management Institute, project management as the “application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”
Want to see what day in the life of a construction project manager looks like? Check out this oldie but goodie video:
As you can see in the video, projects are single operations, unique and transient, limited by time and scope. Therefore, project management tools are often built for work that has a start line and a finish line. Their intention is to help you plan and manage the big picture of each endeavor.
This is where they differ from workflow management tools.
What is Workflow Management?
Workflow management focuses on the little details that turn the big picture into reality. According to TaskTrakz, “workflow is… [a] series of stages as well as how you can move between the stages.”
Tools that specialize in this help you manage individual employee tasks and workloads, and create well-defined business processes that become routines.
The intention here is to create and automate repetitive processes, which you adjust and optimize over time to increase productivity, and therefore increase growth.
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You can use these tools both to manage projects better, and to improve ongoing organizational operations.
Here’s a great visualization of workflow management. Among others, you’ll see how healthcare practitioners that only collect payments for 60% of their invoices – due to the complexity and bureaucracy in the industry – can finally get paid for all the work that they do when they finally optimize and automate their business processes.
The Critical Aspect Lacking in Most Project Management and Workflow Management Tools
Interestingly, even though you can’t bring the big picture of project management to life without the little details that workflow management lets you optimize, workflow management is at a disadvantage in the market.
It’s bad enough that you can find way more methodologies and tools for project management, whereas workflow management solutions often offer you nothing more than glorified checklists.
But what’s really frustrating is that, like in project management, most workflow management tools lack collaboration and communication options. Many tools rely too heavily on external solutions, like email, for coordination and communication.
As a result, you’ll often find yourself managing a team where different people use different tools to work on the same endeavor. For example, some people use Google Docs to make it easier to collaborate, while others still stick to good ole Microsoft Word.
No wonder that 62% of businesses believe that understanding how much time and money a project costs them is their #1 project management challenge.
To overcome this, you need a holistic approach to projects and business operation processes. Enter project workflow management.
Project Workflow Management: Combining the Best of Both Worlds for a Holistic Solution
Project workflow management is more of an approach than a software category. By implementing project management methodologies onto workflow management (and vice versa), you can get the best of both worlds with a minimal number of systems involved.
That, of course, means higher productivity, faster growth and greater profits.
According to Dan Epstein, who has over 25 years of experience in the industry, one of the reasons that project workflow management is so effective is that it creates error-free project management. Watch his entire webinar on the topic here:
How to Choose the Best Project Workflow Management Tool for You
Thankfully, there are software products out there that let you optimize both project management and workflow management, while remaining agile and versatile, in a cost effective way.
These tools let you communicate with teams no matter where everyone is located, assign tasks and subtasks back and forth, and collaborate with fellow team members faster and more effectively. That, in turn, translates into cost saving and greater business growth.
What Every Great Project Workflow Management Software Needs to Offer
Most workflow management tools simply give you a bunch of repetitive checklists, but that’s not enough for a software product to truly be considered a project workflow management tool.
Rather, the tool needs to provide a more holistic perspective and be able to demonstrate how the tasks work together as part of a project roadmap, with specific goals, objections and tasks. The software has to be able to provide accountability at the singular employee level and provide these insights in an easy to digest manner. In addition, the tool has to be able to provide a holistic solution for team collaboration on a specific project and across projects as well.
5 Other Critical Considerations to Ensure You Choose an Accurate Project Workflow Management Tool for Your Business
- Your needs. Map them out first, then choose a software that helps you accomplish your top priorities.
- Your budget. Choose a product that makes sense for your cash flow and for the amount of time you’ll be saving.
- How long does it take? How easy or complex is it?
- Ease of use. Let your team try it out during the free trial, to make sure it’s a good fit.
- Reliability and experience. See who else they’re serving in your specific industry. Read testimonials and case studies from your peers.
Our Favorite Project Workflow Management Tools: A Comparison
To make it easier for you to get productive, we decided to do all the heavy lifting and provide you with a comparison of our favorite project workflow management tools.
|Tool||Pricing||Free Trial Length||Implementation||Reliability & Experience|
$74-149/month. More for enterprise, less for early stage startups. 20% off for annual purchases.
Offers a great knowledge base (videos included) to get you started.
Success stories include LinkedIn, Siemens, OkCupid.
Onboarding one- on-one sessions, help-center, built-in tutorials, and blog posts.
Success stories include Sodastream, FOX Group, Centennial Sweeping, Canada Restoration.
$33-111/month for cloud version. More if you have 100+ users. Annual purchase discounts available. Server versions: $559-2,239 one time payment. More if over 100 users.
The knowledge base includes a wealth of manuals.
|Success stories include Gita Technologies, World Innovation Technologies, Lear Corporation.|
Calculate your price by choosing the number of team members, guests, project managers and those with a full access pass, as well as subscription length. Discounts start with a 3 months subscription.
The knowledge base offers user guides and tutorials (including video tutorials).
Customers include CLH, Repsol, Loewe, Elavon.
Ready to Grow Your Business Efficiently?
Use the guidelines we set here today as you analyze how each project workflow management product can serve your business and your team. If you’re not sure, consider giving more than one of them a try.
Then, talk to your team and get their feedback on what works better for their productivity and collaboration.
Implement the tools, set processes, test them out and optimize as you go. Before long, your team will reach new heights of efficiency, and your business will grow more than ever before.