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The Tool Question in Project Management


An effective, efficient project management tool contributes significantly to the success of a project. The evaluation, the setting up and the introduction are anything but trivial. Read here what to look out for.

By Peter Roth, November 24, 2021

Why a new Tool?

A lot has happened in project management. The methods were revised, made more modular and scalable, and modern development methods with sequential and iterative (agile) approaches were integrated. The project management (PM) tools were further developed in parallel and are becoming more and more powerful. They are based on comprehensive databases for networking and sharing information and use modern technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) for better forecasting or Business Intelligence (BI) for meaningful reports. Ultimately, this development is a big plus for the entire project.

Clarfication of Objectives

However, the introduction or replacement of a PM tool is not trivial and must be approached carefully. The purpose must always be discussed first. What should be achieved with a new PM tool anyway? What is the goal? Here are a few suggestions:

  • A PM tool should increase the efficiency and effectiveness of project management
  • A PM tool should generate transparency about the past, present and future of a project, with regard to all project aspects such as time, money, employees, activities, scope, progress, risks, etc.
  • A PM tool should be able to carry out a target / actual comparison (plan versus reality), and several scenarios should also be able to be simulated and compared
  • A PM tool should integrate and link the various data and information of a project in order to provide better, prioritized and weighted views of the project and to provide a well-founded basis for decision-making
  • A PM tool should enable threshold and target values to be set and, when reached, show the situation and inform the predefined interest groups
  • A PM tool should proactively show suggestions for improvements in project management, for example better utilization of employees
  • A PM tool should offer utilities for social interaction

Another goal of a new tool should be that the project team is relieved by the project tool so that it can focus more on the actual problem. The project team should be supported and not hindered by the PM tool. This also assumes that the tools used can be used efficiently and effectively by the project team. Just completing the required training is not enough; practical experience in application is very valuable.

Perhaps it is also useful and sometimes necessary to use a modular approach with several tools instead of a single comprehensive PM tool in order to be able to cover many different needs. This strategy should be considered in advance in order to align the further steps with it. In such a case, the clean, seamless integration of the tools is important, both between the tools and with the environment. A similar user interface and behavior of the applications is also helpful, otherwise it quickly becomes complicated for the user and the training required increases.


Before a tool evaluation, the project environment, i.e. the project organization and processes, and possibly also the project culture should always be analyzed, critically assessed and improved. The added value of a new PM tool is considerably smaller if it only covers the existing processes. Certain new functions can then not be used at all. Existing problems and deficits in the organization and among employees should also be resolved first. If an error appears in today's tool, the cause of the problem does not have to lie in the tool, but can be, for example, in an inefficient process, insufficiently effective services, lack of skills among employees, no continuous communication, weak leadership or an only partially implemented strategy. In this case a new tool is of little or no use.

Sometimes there is also the situation that an organization wants to make up for insufficient project experience or culture with a new tool. Such an approach rarely leads to success. Often the affected person or the team is also overwhelmed with the new, powerful tool.


The evaluation and introduction of a new PM tool must always be well coordinated and planned. It pays off when an effective concept with clear requirements, priorities and targeted procedures and structures is developed before the selection and implementation begins. It is also important to plan the introduction at an early stage. Despite all the new functions and options, there is initially the risk of reduced project efficiency because the employees have to take more care of the new PM tool, which should not be underestimated. In the following situations, I would even advise against switching to a new PM tool.

  • a) If a critical project is pending and experience with the tool is lacking, no additional risks should be taken at the tool level, but tried and tested methods should be used.
  • b)During an ongoing project, I would also not chang to a new PM tool because the effort for evaluation, customizing, integration and implementation is usually too high and there are too many risks.


A suitable, effective PM tool can significantly support projects and increase efficiency and transparency, which contributes to the success of the project. Nevertheless, it should not be overrated. By definition, a project is a unique undertaking that is carried out by people. Many things are initially unknown. It is always a learning process and requires creativity and experience. A tool can only provide support, it cannot replace people. And most projects fail not because of a missing or sub-optimal PM tool, but because of technical, organizational or social factors in and around the project.

Important findings for the tool evaluation are:

  • A tool introduction will not be successful if the mandate, the desired benefit and the timing are not clear and coordinated with the stakeholders
  • The tool is only as good as the data and the stored methods and models - accordingly, it must first be ensured that they fit and are up to date
  • «A fool with a tool is still a fool» - a thorough analysis and preparation are essential

Anyone who is interested can find a selection of around 100 different PM tools on the Projekt Magazin website ( - in German only). The question quickly arises as to which is the best. The best PM tool is the one that best suits your organization and its needs!