I will admit it, I hate the project management aspect of my job. While I love talking to customers and doing the actual work, the thought of trying to keep track of everything I am doing, need to do, and might need to do makes me vomit a little bit. The only part I dislike more about running a business is dealing with difficult people. Luckily, there are tools out there that can help make our management lives easier. The bad news however, is most of them are quite costly. Great, now we have to work more to pay for the tools that let us work more.
Ahhh yes, there is hope. I have found a dozen tools that will help you manage your time, projects, and company with out costing you a penny. Too good to be true? You tell me.
Time Tracking, in deeetail
If you are a service based industry, then you either charge by the hour or price projects based on how many hours you estimate it will take. Because of that, very detailed accounts of how you spend every minute is extremely important. It is all too easy to cut yourself short on the time it takes to perform a task. After all, even the time opening a program for a revision should be accounted for.
Enter absolutely freetime.
With FreeTime, you can record time and expenses, analyze costs, invoice your customers and generate Reports. FreeTime integrates with MS-Word 97-2000 to produce Invoices, includes ActiveX Drill Downs to allow you to fully analyze your data, as well as the Crystal Reports V8.X runtime which is built in to provide you a host of standard reports and export options for Word, Excel, Email etc.
This way you can hit record and track each minute as they add up accurately. This way you won’t lose those minutes that quickly add up to hours.
In this digital, high price of gas age, telecommuting is not only smart but efficient. The downside to telecommuting is the decrease in communication. Any way to keep communication easy is going to improve productivity and accuracy. However, many solutions are extremely costly.
Dot Project is a project management solution that is extremely robust. While it doesn’t have the polish of the commercial alternatives, it has more features than most of them. You can categorizing projects between in planning, in process, on hold; as well as a full calendar and ticket system to help prioritize your to-do’s. It really helps you organize your time and help coordinate your long distance employees or freelancers.
Manage your Customers
Keeping track of your customers really has two benefits. Not only can you cut down on the time of sorting through e-mails, business cards, and contact lists to see when the last time you talked to someone and about what – but you can also increase sales, conversion, and customer satisfaction. SugarCRM is an open source beauty, full of features that will save time and boost business all for free.
It includes a full contact database, tracking of leads, opportunities, cases, activities, and calendar events – sales teams could easily use this as their main project management tool. While it doesnâ€™t cover the production aspect of things, it covers all sales related items and then some.
Documents made easy
Ok, everyone knows how to use Excel. If you know how to REALLY use Excel, you can create some very powerful application like spreadsheets. There are plenty of times where you would want to collaborate on a proposal, bid, or marketing material. Rather than e-mail documents back and forth, which is a huge waste of time – why not work with them online?
GoogleDocs will feel much like your traditional Word program. It is simple, easy, and quick. However all your documents are stored online and you can share them with your fellow Google users at no cost. Those minutes add up quick, and you can edit at the same time. Use it to track employee hours, tweak content for a website, or bounce ideas back and forth.
Let me know what to do!
Some people have a better sense of organization than I am. Maybe you just need a quick and easy to-do list? 37 Signals has got you covered with Tada List. This online AJAX application is free and lets you quickly create to-do lists in different categories. Sign on from anywhere and figure out what you need to do next.
Full Project Management
If you are looking for a full Project Management System (PMS), then look to BaseCamp. Basecamp offers a free package that lest you manage internal projects efficiently, and if you need more features then some small fee’s will give you all the functionality that you need. This is the tool that we use internally at 3.7 Designs. While it doesn’t have the best calendar support, the milestone system works quite well and will notify you any time an upcoming deadline approaches.
Now go out there and work
You will find that the better you manage your time, the more free time you will have. You will be able to eliminate the needless delays and hassles that are not only frustrating, but essentially cost you or your company money. While there are some expensive commercial solutions if you need it, there are plenty of effective and free tools that will help you track your projects and improve administration.