Every L&D specialist has at least once worn the hat of a project manager. Since corporate learning is highly complex and there are numerous factors to be taken into account, the L&D team has a lot on its plate.
Boards, flipcharts, spreadsheets and sticky notes have their use (and charm). However, in the long run they are not nearly as effective as a carefully developed project management tool.
In reality, it’s never just one project. There are always several big ones going on, at different stages and with various requirements.
Why not get a project manager on board?
If you have the resources, you most certainly should. Keep in mind that while that person knows project management, they might not have a corporate training and development background. You’ll have to invest the time to get them up to speed not only with all the projects but the specifics of L&D.
Ideally, you can find somebody within the team who has the skills and the desire to take on the job. Even so, a project management tool is still useful because it makes things easier and more efficient.
What about project management tools?
While the right one will make everyone’s life and job significantly easier, finding the perfect fit could take some shopping around. First, you have to be able to make the distinction between task management tools and project management ones. Task management is great for individual, smaller tasks. They are also good for organizing the team so that everyone knows what they have to do and see the progress others are making.
On the other hand, project management tools are suited for complex projects that require thorough resource planning, building intricate schedules, and running in-depth cost management analysis. Depending on the complexity of your L&D projects, you might need both task management and project management tools.
How to choose the right project management tool?
There are several things you need to consider when making this choice:
- L&D needs should be prioritized. It’s advisable to take some time and figure out exactly what they are. Then, decide which challenges can be solved by a project management tool or if there’s a need for something else. Look closely at the scale of your projects and think beyond the immediate future.
- Learning curve is a big factor because you are investing in a tool to make things easier, not complicated. User interface is relevant as it dictates how easy the navigation will be. It’s best to look at user reviews to see how long it took for other teams to get the hang of it and use it to its full potential. If you need to be proficient in project management tools, maybe it’s not suited for your team.
- Collaboration features matter because L&D projects are never a one-person job. The tool needs to allow multiple users to see the progress, ask questions, take notes, reviews, and updates.
- User support is necessary for any new system. A well-written manual can only take you so far. It’s always good to know that a specialist is available. My advice is to look for this feature even if it costs a little more. In the long run, it will save you some valuable resources.
- Cost is important because the pricing is variable. You need to know what your budget is and how much you can stretch it in order to know what you should look at in the first place. Some tools offer a free feature with limited use, usually the number of users. Paid subscription plans have increased capabilities and are more flexible but are also more costly. There’s no need to go in-depth about the specifications of an expensive car if you only have enough for an affordable one.
Why test before commiting?
Do a trial once you think you have found the perfect product for your team. Keep in mind that most things sound amazing from a sales and marketing perspective. Companies that are confident in their products offer trials, either free or at a minimal cost.
It’s actually a good indication of a platform’s quality. Give your team some time to get familiar with it through a trial run and see what works for them. You might not be able to upgrade to a version that will please all people, but at least you’ll know how the new tool will help and if you still need to look for solutions.
Project management is an essential function for any department. For L&D, mastering it means better results and helping the organization achieve its goals. A good project management tool can greatly help L&D professionals, provided that it can respond to all the existing needs.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.