What Online Project Software Can’t Do

Project management software is a great tool in a project manager's arsenal, but it's not a silver bullet that fixes everything.

Project managers can get sidetracked looking for a silver bullet to resolve all their project challenges. We experience problems, delays, and frustrations with our resource assignments and projects. We wish there was just one thing that we could do differently, buy, or change in our process that would solve all of our problems.

Symptoms of Silver Bullet Thinking

There are multiple manifestations of this type of thinking. Below are a few of the more common ones:

  • We Just Need to Hire the Right Person: A common symptom of looking for a silver bullet is attaching the solution to all of our problems on just one person.For example, we may be having problems with our team. There may be a lack of motivation or perhaps some technical skills are missing. We have been cleared to find a new team member to fill the gap. We have interviewed this person a number of times and just LOVE what they are going to bring to the team.Either consciously or subconsciously, we pin all our hopes on this person to help fix morale, raise the level of skill of those around us, and basically solve what ails us and our project team.
  • We Just Need to Implement the Right Software:  Another common symptom of looking for a silver bullet is resting all of our hopes on a piece of software to solve our problems. There may be communication issues, process breakdowns, version control problems, or a host of other inefficiencies that are negatively impacting our projects.We may reason that if we implement the right online project management software it will take care of all of the aforementioned problems. We may believe that once we flick the switch on our new online project management software that everything else will fall into place.
  • We Just Need to Change the Process:  A third symptom that someone is looking for a silver bullet to solve their problems is changing the process to do the trick. For example, a project manager may reason that if they are involved in the sales cycle earlier, there may be fewer commitments made by the salespeople that can’t be honored by the company. This one change may or may not have the holistic impact that the project manager is looking to facilitate.

The danger in putting all of our hopes in one solution is that it prevents us from looking at other options. For example, we may have settled on the perfect online project management software to use.

We may believe this is what is going to solve ALL of our project management problems exclusively. It causes us to stop looking at other areas that will help as well, such as hiring a new team member or changing the process.

Why We Look for the Silver Bullet to Solve our Problems

There are a number of reasons why we may slip into the trap of limiting ourselves to one solution to solve our problems. For example:

  • We May Be Desperate:  We may find that the problems facing us are so overwhelming that we feel backed into a corner. We feel as if we have tried everything else and this one silver bullet solution is all that is left to do.
  • We’ve Read Great Things about the Solution:  We subscribe to different trade journals and magazines as project managers in addition to the blogs we read online.There may have been an outstanding review of an online web project management software solution that sounded exactly like it addresses the problems you are experiencing.  This caused you to reason that the online web project management software will solve your problems.
  • We’ve Heard Others Talk about the Solution: You may have found yourself listening to someone at a networking event tell how they solved a problem similar to yours. The solution they tried solved all of their problems, so you become wildly optimistic that the same solution will solve your problems as well.

There are a few things to keep in mind about the above scenarios. First, you never want to make a decision based on desperation. Second, people have a tendency to inflate what their solution did for them and their company.

It could have solved some of their problems, but as often as is the case, a solution does not solve all problems as they would lead you to believe.

What Online Project Management Software Can’t Do

Keep the following points in mind if you are leaning toward online project management software to solve your problems. Believe me, we are huge advocates of implementing online project management software in as many organizations as possible. But, we are also realistic that there are certain things it can’t do. Online project management software can’t:

  • Build and Nurture Relationships: Project managers erroneously assume that online project management software will enable them to connect with everyone via email, updates, reminders, and reports as soon as it is up and running.The art of building and nurturing relationships should never be left to a virtual planning tool. Building and nurturing relationships with your team occurs best face-to-face. Interpersonal relationship building is actually what will solve most of your problems.
  • Understand the Nuances of a Project in Your Company’s Environment: There are so many moving parts to a project that it is hard for online project management software to keep up with all of those dynamics without the judgment and discretion of a project manager to fill in those blanks.For example, one project may be wrapping up while another project is queued up. The online project management software will start serving up those tasks as instructed. But, it won’t know that one of the VPs has come in with a quick, one-off project that needs to be squeezed in between those two projects. Online project management software needs to be manually updated accordingly.
  • It Can’t Ensure What is Entered is Accurate: Online project management software can’t make sure what is manually entered is accurate. The principle of garbage in, garbage out still holds true for today’s technology tools.For example, it won’t be able to tell you whether the amount of time allotted for testing is the right amount of time needed. Only you and your expert project manager opinion will be able to verify that what is being entered is correct.What an online project management software program will do is allow you to check reality. You’ll be able to use features such as Gantt charts and other reporting modules to ensure that your plan makes sense.

Online project management software is great…it’s just not a silver bullet that will solve ALL of your problems. It allows everyone to stay in sync, serves as a repository of source documents, offers dynamic dashboards and does so much more. Online project management software is one great tool in an arsenal of many tools that allow you to do your job as a project manager.

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