When you start getting serious about management, whether to manage yourself, your team, or your whole company, you need to equip yourself with the best possible tools. And there’s a LOT of tools at your disposal, depending on your needs, maturity, and the size of your company. Here’s a helpful guide to give you a broad picture of the tools you will encounter as you grow as manager.
Starting small: Task management software
The first step to managing is managing yourself. And the ideal tool to start managing yourself and your tasks is task manager.
As the name suggests, the goal of a task manager is to keep track of your tasks so you always know what you're supposed to be working on at a given time.
Task management can be as easy as creating a to-do list on a piece of paper (and that’s what many people do), but in our digital days, there are software equivalents for the task list, some with more bells and whistles.
The fundamental goal of task management software is to make you as productive as possible: do more tasks, prioritize and do the most important ones, not waste time
Growing pains: when task management isn't enough
Although task management will start you off on your way to being more productive, it can only take you so far, especially if you want to go beyond managing your personal tasks.
- Hard to manage complexity and uncertainty: What if your task is "Figure out a solution to problem X"? Should you work on it until you find a solution? Should you ask someone? Should you break the task down and split it with teammates? Task management works when that analysis has been done carefully beforehand, but that's a whole job on its own.
- No dependency management: What if a given task needs approval from someone to go forward? Should you wait until you have approval to start the next task? Task management excels at managing simple, atomic tasks with no dependencies on others. As soon as tasks get more complex and involve more stakeholders, task management software becomes impotent.
- No resource management: What if you're swamped and you can't do that task right now? Who’s available to do it for you? Besides, are you even the most qualified person in your team to do it? Task management is a personal skill. But when you work as a team, there are considerations that go beyond your personal task list, like your team's current workload, your coworker's skills, the priority of the task, and so on.
- No business intelligence: What kind of tasks took the most time for you last week? Should you reallocate them to someone else? Did you complete as many tasks as you had estimated? Although task management is a discipline that's helpful on a day to day basis, all the information it produces is rarely analyzed, and very few insights are gleaned from its use.
As you can see, when tasks contain uncertainty, are dependent on each other, or simply involve too many people (it starts getting tricky around 5), task management isn’t enough.
In short: Task management software can bring you some useful discipline in managing your tasks on a short term, day to day basis. That discipline can help you increase your productivity by keeping an eye on your current and upcoming tasks. But task management software tends to give very little insight, and lacks features that are necessary once your start working in larger teams on larger projects. That’s when project management software comes in.⁂