Is What You Have Enough – Scaling Your Project Management Tools
The last three years have been really good for small business owners. The rapid growth of SaaS companies like 37Signals, Freshbooks, Zoho and others means it is easier and more affordable than ever to add much needed tools to your business without spending thousands of dollars for a custom in-house solution.
Of course, by using an SaaS you are sacrificing some say over how those tools are used. With only a handful of employees and contractors, though, this is probably the least of your concerns.
But, what about when the time comes to expand and grow your business? What happens when you suddenly have too many projects to keep track of in Basecamp or when you want your CRM and project management software to be directly integrated? This is one of the biggest challenges facing small businesses and startups – how to scale without jumping into the murky depths of dangerous waters.
Our Recent Jump
To be perfectly honest, I just moved from spreadsheet to Basecamp a few months ago. I had attempted to use a project management tool a few times and it simply wasn’t necessary. But with the growth of my business and bringing in new contractors and clients, we needed something more robust than my head and Basecamp did the trick.
Don’t get me wrong – I love 37Signals and their products – but they are admittedly very simple tools. If you’ve read ReWork, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s blueprint for startups, you know it’s on purpose and they are well aware that, at a certain point, customers will move on to bigger tools that can scale with their needs.
That’s what happened to us and it was a tough decision. Are we ready to scale? Do we really need all these extra tools? Will I spend more time managing this than doing real work?
These were the same questions I asked before signing up for Basecamp, but even more pronounced. It turned out that the change made sense for us, so we migrated our content writing contact info out of Basecamp and Highrise and into the new service, Podio.
But how do you know it’s time – how do you know you’re ready for a move to a bigger, more feature rich SaaS – whether for project management or for your CRM, invoicing or CMS?
Remember the Purpose of Software
The goal of software is to make your life easier. Specifically, it should streamline processes and make it possible to automate things someone will do instead of you. So, if you spent the last 3 years talking to all clients and you recently hired an account manager, you need software to keep track of those communications.
Ideally, the right software will make it so that if the person you hire to do a job quits or is let go, you can plug someone else into that role with minimal training and everything they need will be right there.
At the same time, the right software will have as few “extra” features as possible. Extra boxes to check, forms to fill out and calendars to track just means less time to get real work done and much steeper learning curves that can hold back your staff. We chose Podio because it was customizable to a degree that other services were not, so we could remove all those extra boxes. Other tools are even more powerful but we didn’t need those features so we chose what worked for us.
That’s the key in selecting any SaaS for your company – finding a tool that fits your needs as perfectly as possible. There is no universal “best” project management tool or CRM – it’s all about what works for your company. So, sit down, write up a list of specific things you need YOUR software to do and then look for the option that best matches them.
It takes longer and may require more in-depth research, but the extra time is well worth it in the end.