If you’re reading this, you may be considering improving your project efficiency by trying out task management software for the first time, or you may be considering a shift away from an existing program that just isn’t meeting your needs. Whichever situation your business is facing, making the right decision in select- ing your project management software can mean saving resources – a lot of resources – as hours tick by and deadlines creep closer. If you had the chance to flip a switch and ensure better collaboration, organization and results from your team, you wouldn’t hesitate to – and software loaded with these five features is that very switch.

Naturally, the same requirements you’d have for any other piece of work soft- ware – reliability, cross-platform functionality and solid performance history – should still hold true, but these are the features you’ll be using every day a project is active. Your organization needs a piece of software that will work just as hard as any given team member, supporting your project in particular and your team as a whole. If you’re investing in a piece of technology, make sure it’s up to the task – use these five traits as a jumping-off point when shopping for your project management or task management software.

Notifications and Alerts to Keep You On Point
A labor-intensive project often operates in several simultaneous at once, with work that overlaps and flows from one group’s task into another. If a deadline is finished early, or a major issue is uncovered, it’s important to broadcast changes that effect “downline” groups as soon as possible. Customizable alerts send emails or in-dash messages out to pertinent project members when milestones are reached or issues appear, ensuring in-the-moment course corrections. The dash should be accessible on mobile devices, as well, to keep alerts and notifications flowing in no matter where a team member happens to be.

• Wasted work is completed on incorrect parameters.
• Skilled workers sit idle, waiting on a task that was quietly
completed hours ago.
• Turn-Ins are inadvertently held up by managers that aren’t “in the loop.”

Security to Keep Need-to-Know In Check
Projects often deal with sensitive data – products that haven’t been launched, problem- solving for Achilles’ heels that could send stocks tumbling, research and development for new innovations. Even within a project, there are certain components that shouldn’t be broadcast to every work group, which is why your task software should offer privacy settings. Sending a message to an individual, bringing an outside freelancer into a single discussion or comment thread and addressing certain smaller groups should be just as easy to accomplish as a broadband message. If you wince and second-guess yourself every time you hit “send” on a message, your task software might not have clear, user-friendly privacy settings that you need to succeed.

• Messages sent to the wrong recipients can put you afoul of regulations.
• Sorting out confusion on unintended mass messages costs you time and effort.
• Complicated workarounds to bring in contractors or freelancers adds disruptive static to the interaction.

Document Storage for Collaborative Files
In the midst of a productive brain-storming session, no manager wants their team to bounce off-dash to check a
file server, or dig through a cloud drive for the right image
or document. Focus is a precious commodity in meetings, which is why documents and files need to be at your virtual fingertips, not routed through clunky off-site links. Your task management software of choice should also have partitions for files, rather than one collective pile of project documents. The graphic team doesn’t necessarily need the marketing team’s demographic breakdowns, and vice-versa; scrolling through a list of extraneous files and opening each one to check it is a complication that busy teams can’t afford to deal with. Keep your files close by and cleanly organized, and team efficiency will follow close behind.

• Third party file storage sites may not be secure.
• Users with different computers or operating systems may not be
able to access storage sites.
• File size or account size limits can cause problems with uploads.
• If base files aren’t updated off-site, team members may accidentally work with the wrong file version.

Organizational Tools for Effortless Prioritization
Accountability isn’t just a motivator, it’s a necessary tool for keeping a diverse team on-target as project management. Your software should provide project leads with the ability to create and oversee to-do lists, as well as individual personalization options so team members can adjust those lists to their needs. Calendars and agendas give team members the heads up on a given day’s tasks and due dates when they log onto their dash, diverting them from
the time-draining tendencies of the email inbox. With messages, tasks and even timelines available with a few clicks, procrastination gets edged out and project speed picks up. Multiply that boost of productivity by every team member and your project is suddenly looking a lot less intimidating.

• Management styles may vary between leads and cause conflicting direction for team members.
• Verbal or casual priority lists lack the necessary authority for accountability.
• Managers tasked with employee assessments may struggle to find relevant data to reference.
• If a project lead is called away or absent, a non-uniform, undocumented workflow approach can be hard to follow.

Community-Based Updates for Project Progression Clarity
When important information needs to get to the entire team at once, a mass email is far too easy to ignore or overlook. If, however, you utilize task management software with community-based updates, you can be sure that all eyes
are on your message, regardless of what may be lurking in inboxes. If your end client needs a change in tone or direction, you don’t want to waste time approaching each team member individually – getting everyone on the same page at once is important for eliminating confusion and growing pains if the project needs to change course. Ideally, your software of choice should keep a running tally of important changes in the project, similar to the timeline views used in familiar social media programs. This approach also eliminates the need for endless rounds of meetings, which are one of the biggest time thieves in the middle of a crunch.

• A single missed collaboration email can completely mislead a team member.
• Group broadcasts require time-wasting meetings.
• Important news can’t be delivered instantly; it must be parsed into an email or meeting schedule.

Other features in your task management software, such as graphic design and smooth user interfaces, should also factor into your purchase decision, albeit in a lower priority position on the shopping list. Ultimately, you need a task managing program that will merge with the current work environment you’re building, not one that will require you to build around it. Disruption is the enemy of progression in the arena of project management, so be sure your “digital allies” are helping – not hurting – your efforts.

Umesh Lalwani
Previously founded and managed Assigncorp, an IT company for 15 years. The company grew to USD 13 Million a year. Umesh has a passion for understanding individual tendencies and team dynamics towards collaboration and getting things done.