Are these scenarios familiar: An annoyed customer calls for the second time to ask why an associate didn't follow up on her question. The second part of an order was never placed, and now the shipment is two weeks behind. You post a new company policy on a cork board in your business's break room, but a few employees claim they never saw it.
Lighting and home furnishings retailers as well as interior design firms face the struggles of project management every day, and when something goes wrong or is forgotten, customers end up angry and employees feel a disconnect in communication. Accidents happen, but if you want to lessen your chances of a miscommunication, then you need a good online project management tool that will get all your employees on the same page and improve communication.
Never let another project, call-back or workflow change slip through the cracks again. Check out these four free project management tools and get everyone on the same page.
Asana (a favorite at Kerrie Kelly Design Labs) provides an easy way to delegate work and keep everyone on track. If you find your employees aren't always sure what is expected of them in terms of daily or long-term tasks, Asana can help you assign projects to one or more people, explain the project, add files and keep communication running between everyone involved. People working on a project can mark when their step is complete and move it along. If they have questions, there is a message function within each project so all questions and answers related to the project stay in the same place.
Asana is especially useful for small businesses because it is free to use for teams of 15 people or less. It also has a mobile app for both iPhone and Android.
Considered to be the grandfather of online project management software (it was created 10 years ago), Basecamp will help you keep track of to-do lists, memos and assignments. The interface is user-friendly, and it's easy to add your employees to your account.
What's particularly nice about Basecamp is that you can add clients to projects for better communication. For interior designers and retailers that offer design services, you might use Basecamp to keep everyone on track and set expectations for your client. Your client will feel more involved in the process, and he or she will never wonder what's the status of an order. They can just check in through Basecamp.
Basecamp's basic plan starts at $20 per month — ideal for a small company.
A favorite of business consultant Shelia Butler, Breeze.pm helps users see the big picture as well as the minute details. At the ART Conference last May, Butler told a crowd how she used the software to better visualize and keep track of production at Handley Drive. If you and your team are visual learners, Breeze.pm will help you see your to-do list as a working machine, not just a post-it on your desk.
What's really nice about Breeze.pm is that it will track how long it took employees to complete certain tasks. This isn't an excuse to work your employees to death by harping on them for every minute, but if you're looking for ways to improve your workflow and help your employees accomplish tasks, watching where they're spending time could help.
Breeze.pm starts at $29 per month for up to five users, but it's $59 plan allows for up to 12 employees.
Another good choice for retailers — especially those that offer free design services — Redbooth keeps the conversation growing. Its platform allows for easy task assignments, communication and file sharing, and it's ideal for making sure that messages get out to all employees. If you've ever had an employee miss a change in workflow, Redbooth will keep a record of all messages and allow you to keep files on company policies and workflows in one place.
For times when you need help yesterday, Redbooth also has an urgent feature that will place tasks on high priority. This will help employees prioritize their work and make sure the big, important projects get done first.
Redbooth's basic plan is free for up to 10 users. The next plan costs only $5 per month with no user limit.
How does your business handle project management? Share with us in the comments.