Tools of the Trade Series

Zoho – Article 2 of 6

Projects can definitely be managed with Zoho Projects (but there’s a learning curve)

By: Zach Detweiler, Ph. D.Top of Form

www.linkedin.com/in/zach-detweiler

Date: December 16, 2020

Tags: Zoho Projects, project management, tracking, scheduling, software, apps

 

Project management is so well established as a valuable pursuit in a business setting that even McKinsey takes for granted discussion of “project management science” these days.1

 

Surprisingly though, while more than 75% of businesses have a project management office (PMO), only 22% of all organizations use PM software, and it is estimated that 77% of high-performing projects use PM software.2

 

Translation: If you want to progress your organization to “high performing project” status, employing PM software may be your ticket to better outcomes.

 

Larger organizations are more likely to have a PMO platform to mitigate the higher failure rate associated with the complexity of larger projects and report the highest number of dedicated project managers.3  Meanwhile in small enterprises, dedicated project managers may not be present at all.  Adding process supplemental software to encourage the practices and checkpoints that project managers embody can alleviate the difficulties that arise without a specialist measuring the health of projects.  If you regularly find your organizational costs, timelines, and goals are not transparent to the entire organization, it is likely that picking up a software tool is the right thing to do.

 

One of those tools that you can find on top ten lists around the world wide web is called Zoho Projects from Zoho Corporation, which offers an entire suite of enterprise solutions.  Zoho projects allows you to create projects, attach users, and plan out the detailed execution of these projects, monitoring costs and status along the way.  We decided to use this platform based on a search through reviews of comparable software, landing on this one due to its potential to integrate into the other Zoho packages.

 

In my experience Zoho Projects has been extremely useful in many ways, but cumbersome and not so helpful in others.

 

Positively, Zoho Projects ensures that a project is executable, and that tasks and timelines are clear.  Creating a project, establishing milestones within that project, and outlaying tasks transparently ties the importance of any discrete action to the larger project, and therefore the business.  Tasks can be assigned to individual owners, subtasks can be partitioned further if necessary, and the deliverables can be attached directly to the project so that the entire team has access to important information in the same location.  The timeframe and dependencies of tasks can be set, allowing Gantt charts to be automatically generated, highlighting the impact of moving certain items up, or (Iet’s be honest) back.  It is easy to sort action items by user, team, or date, or more, which makes keeping track of your upcoming and overdue items a breeze.

 

Personally, one of the most useful aspects of Zoho projects was the template feature.  This allowed a specific project to be replicated, which substantially reduced repetitive project generation.  This was useful in situations such as onboarding new hires, allowing systematic preparation well in advance of an individual’s first day, and providing a more homogeneous approach to ensure quality. Zoho task tracking lists serves as perfect evidence of formal training plan and training completion records during a quality system audit.

 

On the negative side of things: firstly, there is a reasonable learning curve to being able to effectively use the software.  Secondly, since the software was built to solve generic problems, the intent of the different features may mean different things to different users, causing confusion.  Lastly, the user interface is not always intuitive (it’s been updated and reskinned several times, making it better, but also requiring relearning).  Performing tasks for the first time can be surprisingly time consuming while you learn how to navigate.

 

All of these problems are manageable, but take some up-front work to establish best practices, and training to ensure users understand the tool and how the organization will use it.

 

Zoho projects costs $3-6 per person per month.  With 25 people, this translates to $1800/yr for the enterprise version.  This accounts for only 20% of the budget that the Project Management Institute recommends for small projects.4

 

Zoho Projects does not take the place of good planning when designing projects.  It does help flesh out the details of the project to help understand timing before launching a project.  It increases transparency of status once work is underway.  It captures actual costs compared to forecasts, which helps future projects more realistic and likely to succeed.

 

If you currently are not using any project management software, instead of developing your own, I would recommend checking out Zoho Projects.  The system is customizable enough to fit the needs of most scenarios, but do not take it as grounds to ignore good project management practices.

 

References:

(1)The art of project leadership: Delivering the world’s largest projects https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/the-art-of-project-leadership-delivering-the-worlds-largest-projects (accessed Dec 16, 2020).

(2)Cohen, H. Project Management Statistics: 45 Stats You Can’t Ignore https://www.workamajig.com/blog/project-management-statistics (accessed Dec 16, 2020).

(3)Complete Collection of Project Management Statistics 2015 https://www.wrike.com/blog/complete-collection-project-management-statistics-2015/ (accessed Dec 16, 2020).

(4)Project Management: How Much Is Enough? – Appropriate Amount https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/project-management-much-enough-appropriate-5072 (accessed Dec 16, 2020).

 

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