Should tasks and projects be treated the same? We don’t like to think so at Inspire Planner. Although a project may contain a series of tasks, a task management tool won’t be sufficient to carry out the entire endeavor, but rather a project management solution.
Salesforce has evolved quite a bit since they initially launched as a sales automation tool. Organizations can run several portions of their business out of Salesforce and with the apps from the AppExchange and with this, comes the introduction of tasks and projects.
Are you a Salesforce admin that is leading a data cleansing process for your instance? Or do you need to email a few partners by next Friday? These questions require the use of different solutions—project management and task management.
When to determine the right solution?
Let’s use a simple analogy to make sense of when to use a project management tool or a task management tool.
The 100-meter hurdles in the Summer Olympics. If you’re not familiar with the event, the competing athletes are sprinting down their lane while hurdling over a barrier that’s one meter high. They must hurdle the barrier every nine meters.It’s a single event that has a set number of to-do items. The event is the project, and each task is the hurdle. You complete the task as you jump over each hurdle. With a single event, you can manage it with a task management tool. You might even be able to hack your own method inside Salesforce to get it done.
But what if you have a project that’s more complex? Perhaps a series of tasks that involve a longer schedule, a dedicated budget, and multiple stakeholders. It’s not exactly your 100-meter hurdle, but another Summer Olympic game—basketball. You have several members of a team that you’re counting on to make a contribution. Each member (the players) have their own role and contribution to make. There are key stakeholders (coaches) running the project, a series of tasks (games) and sub-tasks (specific plays within a game) that have their own milestones, and the desired outcome (gold medal). You’ll want a more robust solution in place. Something that will track the progress of each team member, set milestones, and help you see the impacts of one task against all dependent tasks and your overall project. A project management app in Salesforce that can handle this type of workload.
When to use a project management tool?
Great project management software supports task interdependencies. The project activities are linked to specific tasks, but don’t end with the completion of a task. There is often a passing of the baton (to keep the Olympic metaphors going!) from one task to another, in addition to team feedback and communication about and between tasks.
We should also admit that sometimes things will go wrong with at least one of your project tasks. Task dependencies make it easy to see the impact of the issues on the whole project (e.g. shifted dates of the following tasks) and due to these dependencies your project can be automatically adjusted based on the changes to the task.
We built out Inspire Planner to support multiple task interdependencies, but we want you to understand that not all Salesforce project management apps support this functionality, so research wisely!
Gantt charts track the progress involved in a project, showcase different activities involved in a project, including the start and completion, the progression or job status, as well as task interdependencies. These bar charts are created in project management software and provide a visual representation of a project’s schedule, all without the need to write/maintain code.
Scale and complexity
Project management software delves deeper into more complex project planning and tracking than task management software, which essentially breaks down tasks into specific to-do lists. When undertaking a project that can have large-scale implications on your business, then a project management tool might be required to manage it.
Projects are generally collaborative. There may be several stakeholders located across the world and the team might require the sharing/collaboration of documents. They involve a team of people doing several different tasks. Projects have a lot of uncertainty about them, and tasks are often assigned ad-hoc depending on who is available or most skilled. And with Salesforce Chatter, everyone can effectively communicate.
In addition to having a repository for the project’s goals, requirements, etc., a project management tool provides a means for accountability—by providing in-app communication, visibility on the project’s status via reports and dashboards, and timeline of deliverables. The project manager needs to have a full picture of what everyone is working on all at once, and it is helpful for everyone to be able to quickly communicate about a common project.
The key feature of task management software is the ability to organize existing tasks.
A task is good for one-off items for individuals or small teams. Other resources will say five members or less but this is subjective. The number of members on your team is a factor but it is just one factor to consider in the grand scheme of the project.
Handling specific tasks or distinct components of a project is where task management software really stands out. The software is most useful when no task dependencies exist.
There will be ways to manage your to-do list for a task but if you have a larger team, a dedicated schedule with budget and a project to manage then a robust project management app will allow you to manage it effectively.
Simple and repeatable projects
If in your organization you only handle very simple projects that do not have multi-level task structures and where impacts between tasks are minimal, then a professional project management tool might be overkill.
One-off ad hoc requests
Have you ever been asked for a quick favor? Like writing a blog post, sending a quote, or some other ongoing duty that has no beginning or end? Task management software can make tracking these one-off ad hoc requests that aren’t part of larger projects more simple.
There are several factors to consider when deciding which solution to go with. If you have a project that has significant business implications, a designated budget, and an overall level of complexity that can’t be “hacked” through tasks, then a project management solution would be worth your time to consider. If a small learning curve, one-off tasks, and daily to-dos are more in your wheelhouse, then a task management tool might make more sense.
Although tasks and projects have similar relationships, we believe they should be treated separately. As mentioned, both tasks and projects have their own places and we want to make sure you choose wisely to effectively carry out your goal.