Sometimes, work life can be a blur.
With so many different tasks and projects, it’s easy to lose sight of the overall picture. One process that can help with this is task management.
But what exactly is task management? How does it fit into your organizational structure? What are the best practices to be aware of, and how can you implement it into your current work management processes?
What is task management?
At its heart, task management is about taking a particular project or way of working and breaking it down into a series of components or individual tasks. It may seem simple, but it’s a great way to boost productivity and to get work completed more efficiently.
Its principal two purposes are to identify the who and the what that are needed to reach that goal. From there, it’s easy to create a plan and keep track of any progress being made.
Let’s look at a practical example. Imagine you have a project to install new servers in your main location. There are 3 main stages; planning, execution, and monitoring. By implementing task management, you can break down:
- What tasks need to be carried out – the physical installation, software installation, communicating with other teams about possible downtime, etc.
- Which team members these tasks should be assigned to – facilities, IT, and team managers.
- How these tasks should be prioritised – for instance, communication about downtime needs to take place before booking time for the installation, in order to reduce impact on other staff.
Once this has been organized, it’s time to execute the project. And, by keeping an eye on your task lists, you can monitor the process in real time, ensuring everything is being done when needed, as well as reacting to unexpected issues and making necessary changes. This helps ensure the project is completed efficiently and (ideally) within the timeframe that was initially set. Many task management tools will have an overall timeline view that lets you see where you are.
With the help of efficient task management software, you can oversee the entirety of the task/project, from the initial planning through to the final execution. Task management’s overall purpose is to ensure that everything from minor tasks to complex projects can be completed by a set deadline and to agreed standards.
Where it can be especially useful is in managing repetitive tasks. These could be in the areas of administration, marketing, accounting, or customer support. While these tasks may be operating on an ongoing and continuous cycle, there is still a need to monitor them and to see reports on the status and progress of such tasks.
Why your team needs it
You might wonder why you need to implement task management – maybe your team already track tasks on Outlook’s calendar, or on a to-do list? There’s a difference between keeping an eye on things as an individual, and using a dedicated task manager.
It’s not only about monitoring individual tasks, or even whole projects. Implementing task management affects the planning and execution of everything you do, making your team more efficient and ensuring everyone is on the same page. This has become increasingly important in recent times where many people are working remotely, and you need a way of ensuring new tasks are done properly and in a timely manner. Good time management can be a major factor in a project’s success.
Some key benefits to implementing task management include:
1. Improved collaboration
When you have several teams or departments all working towards a common goal, communication and team collaboration can be difficult to maintain at a high level. Different people, or teams, have different responsibilities and there may be a lack of connection that can have detrimental effects on the project as a whole. This is further complicated if your team is spread over multiple workspaces, or are working remotely.
By implementing a task management system, you bring all those potentially disparate components together so that file sharing, communication, and teamwork are all improved. Individuals know what to do in the event of questions or problems, and who to go to in order to solve the problem quickly, avoiding delays or jams in the project’s progress.
2. Identify resource needs
Especially in larger organizations, identifying what resources need allocated where and when can be a challenging process. Juggling needs and capabilities can be a major hurdle if there is a lack of oversight and understanding, leading to bottlenecks around task dependencies. Bringing together your staff and your processes can help streamline your workflows.
Task management allows you to clearly identify needs, in order of priority, and what resources are available at any point in time. That identification and the accompanying prioritization are invaluable when you want your project to progress efficiently and when you want your workflow streamlined and optimized for productivity.
3. Better planning
A well planned project saves time, effort, and cost – businesses with good PM practices in place waste 28 times less money. But if you make a plan, then neglect to monitor how that plan and its components are executed, problems will invariably arise. Combining good planning with good task management means that the right members are assigned to the right tasks and that the plan progresses smoothly.
How your work activity is both planned and managed can be integral to its success. Team B may be unable to complete their task until Team A has completed theirs. So assigning the needed personnel and resources at the right points in a sequence of activities (such as in a project timeline, or the workflow of a process) is absolutely essential.
Being able to visualize task activity by department, individual or task type will help significantly with resource planning and task allocation.
4. Improved workflow
Overseeing the completion of a project is no easy task. When there are multiple teams and a high degree of interdependence, it can be easy for the project to be derailed; one failure in the process can initiate a domino effect that causes issues with other components of the project.
With good task management, and the accompanying increased use of communication and collaboration tools, you improve and strengthen the overall workflow. All the different people working on the project are brought together and made to feel they are part of one team, even if they are in different departments or even locations. This can raise standards in your business overall, as well as making everyone’s lives just a little easier.
The monitoring that task management enables is one of the most crucial aspects of the process. It allows you to identify flaws in your plan or in any part of the project itself. As you are doing this in real time, it can help prevent delays in the workflow, spot task dependencies, and allow you to make real time tweaks and changes where needed.
Why managing repeatable tasks is so important
In many organizations, the majority of tasks are recurring ones. Whether it’s sorting timesheets for payroll each month, or tracking your competitors’ pricing, it’s likely you find yourself doing the same thing again and again.
If you are carrying out the same set of simple tasks over and over again, there is nearly always some room for improvement. It is easy for staff to see some of these tasks as being mundane, for their concentration to slip, and for mistakes to happen. When things like that happen, it can cause negative effects in other areas and can compromise your overall productivity levels.
The value of implementing task management in these recurring tasks is that it offers you real opportunities to increase efficiency, even if by a little, in each cycle of the recurring task. Monitoring how the tasks work, analyzing the data you collect, and identifying what could be done better the next cycle can help increase productivity and efficiency. You can even spot opportunities to automate.
Best practices & how to implement
Once you realize the benefits task management can bring to your business and how it can help with task assignment, it’s time to consider what best practices to think about – and how you are going to implement the process.
- Define formal roles. Your task management solutions will not work unless you clearly define and formalize roles. It’s particularly important to have task managers for each team. Having those roles clearly set out can help optimize the process as a whole.
- Create a risk response plan and team. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong at some point. How you respond to that will decide how quickly you get back on track. By creating a plan to respond to any risk, and by identifying who will respond (most likely tying in with the defined formal roles), you can mitigate issues as quickly as possible.
- Set standards. If you are going to manage recurring tasks (or tasks with similar
components) then you need to set a benchmark to measure against. As initial benchmarks may come from the first cycle, be ready to update them as improvements occur in each cycle.
- Transparency/communication. You want to have every person involved in any project to feel fully involved. That means being transparent about the process as a whole and communicating all information about the process to all the relevant stakeholders.
- Stakeholder requirements. Closely tied to the previous point, ensure all stakeholders understand all aspects relating to the project. This can include timeframes, expected outcome of project, any potential risks or issues that may be faced, etc. It can help to hold a meeting before the project commences.
- Scheduling. Accurate scheduling will be a key aspect in your task management process. Accurate scheduling means listening to input from everyone involved, especially those dealing with technical aspects of the project. Imposing impossible due dates or schedules on your teams may have a negative effect on morale.
- Quality. It will be difficult to define an exact level of quality as one client’s perspective may differ from others. What you can look at is setting a minimum standard (that you are constantly looking to improve on). Monitor the quality standards throughout, and even consider having management and clients sign off each stage if applicable.
- Define targets – and reasons. Having the ‘why’ of each project can help teams understand their purpose, not only within the project itself but in how that contributes to the overall success of the business. This can be especially relevant where you have employees who are working on several projects at the same time.
- Regular contacts and checks. If you are the overall project manager, there is no point in being isolated from all the employees working on the project. Being able to track progress of the project is crucial. But being in contact with all of the relevant staff and communicating progress – or issues – is equally important.
- Training. It’s no use implementing a new task management app if no-one uses it. Make sure your team is trained on any platform they might use, from desktop to Android and iOS. It’s important to ensure everyone understands the new processes as well as any new software, too.
How to choose the team task management software for your team
Having to manually manage tasks can be very time consuming, so it’s no wonder people are turning to task and project management software. Many of these solutions include options like automation, drag and drop design, and integrations to other programs like Dropbox. It can be tricky to work out exactly what features you need – luckily, we’ve compiled a list of our top must-have features for online task management software.
Must have features
We have already discussed how task management can help improve recurring projects or tasks. You want your task management apps to have the ability to create templates that allow for repetitive tasks to be managed and monitored easily.
- Create and customise tasks
By having software that not only creates these tasks but helps monitor them, you can seek to improve efficiency and productivity each recurring cycle. It can also aid with scheduling and ensuring no aspect is missed in any cycle.
- Assignment and reassignment
Your software should be able to initially assign and define roles in the project, but also to reassign when a team member is absent or can not carry out their assigned tasks. This can save time and avoid interruptions to the workflow.
It can be easy to forget to communicate things if you rely on memory alone or even on written notes. Having software with automatic notifications enabled means that nothing is missed. This can be reminders of tasks needing completed, important project meetings, due dates, and more.
Having some sort of report capability is another must have feature. There is no point in monitoring or collecting data if you cannot review it to appraise progress and efficiency. It’s also useful for time tracking. Having a report you can easily look at, and compare with previous reports, also allows you to identify any issues that are occurring.
Needs by different teams
Before you consider what software offers you the best solutions, you need to put aside the generic ‘must have’ features for a moment and consider whether any of your teams or departments have different needs from the others. You want a system that can meet any of those different needs. There are a few factors that can help decide this.
- Infrastructure. If all your teams are in-house, then you can set up a system that is based on your premises. However, that will mean the software cannot be accessed if you have remote teams or freelancers. In that case, you need to look at a cloud based system, and ideally one with a mobile app for both Android and iPhone devices.
- User interface and experience. While you want your task management system to cope with all of your needs, you don’t want it to be so complex that team members struggle with it. If your staff find the system overly complicated, they may just stop using it.
- Customizable. Different teams have different needs and may work in different ways. It’s important to look for a system that you can customize when needed. You want to be able to create to-do lists, build timesheets, and anything else team members might need. This is especially important when it comes to workflow aspects where, for example, a design team works in a completely different way from an app development team.
- Integrations. It may be the case that you cannot find a standalone system that meets the differing needs within your company. In that case, you want a system that allows for easy third party integrations of other apps such as billing or communications.
Best task management software
If you’re still not sure where to start looking, take a look at the options below. Here, you’ll find some of the best task management software on offer, as well as an overview of what they can (and can’t!) do.
Pricing: From $10 per user per month with free implementation assistance.
beSlick is a hugely flexible team task management platform, in that you can manage personal tasks, team actions (ad-hoc tasks), repeatable tasks (from a workflow template) and scheduled tasks all in one platform, and manage from any device.
The platform helps you create easy to follow task workflow templates (using a drap & drop builder), that can be executed as dynamic team task checklists that people can work through, with dependencies and notifications all built in. You can easily monitor the processes so you can identify areas for improvement. There are a host of reports and dashboards to make it easy to track progress and ensure nothing is missed.
- Simple to use – you can manage a team’s tasks and personal tasks all from one easy to use platform.
- Task Template Reports make it easy to see exactly what’s happening across a key task.
- You can schedule recurring and repeatable tasks from templates, such as weekly checks or monthly billing. These templates are extremely simple to set up, even for a complete novice.
- Reporting and Dashboards are easy to understand – you can see exactly where everything is, what’s overdue, and what’s next.
- Notifications and dependencies are handled well, making it easy to collaborate.
- Great drag and drop process flowchart builder.
- Advanced integrations, including Google Suite, Office 365, Excel, Salesforce, Xero, and over 2000 other applications.
- Doesn’t support Kanban or Gantt view.
- Can look simpler than alternatives, but this does help avoid confusion.
Pricing: From $49 for five users.
Monday allows you to combine your task management processes with some basic CRM tools and enables easy collaboration. It offers an accessible interface and good levels of customization.
- Many features for different aspects of task management.
- Easy integration with third party tools.
- Good reporting and tracking of projects.
- Relatively easy to learn.
- Fast growing user base has affected both server capacity and how quickly support responds to customers.
- Contains so many features that some people may find it intimidating to learn.
- Difficult to see all your tasks and when they are due in a single view
- Struggles with scheduling or recurring tasks
- Difficult to create templates or standard list of steps needed to do something
Pricing: Basic version is a free plan for up to 5 users or from $9.80 per month per user.
Combining work and process management, Wrike allows for efficient management of one-off projects and any ongoing or repetitive tasks. It is relatively easy to use and users have the choice of a wide range of features.
- Offers an easy way to review/approve deliverables.
- Detailed report abilities.
- Can be customized to meet your needs.
- Can assign tasks by viewing personal and team workloads.
- Poor UI functionalities that can confuse new users.
- Many extra features are only available by purchasing add-ons.
Pricing: Standard package starts at $4.95 per user per month.
Workast’s app helps your staff to track all their daily work as well as managing projects and monitoring lists of tasks needing done. It integrates with Slack so that you can create tasks while having Slack meetings so that all team members know their roles.
- Easy to set the system up and the UI is intuitive.
- Reports are customizable to manage both team workflow and projects.
- Many extensions are available to maximize program’s efficiency.
- You must have Slack installed to use.
- The customization options aren’t always intuitive.
- You can’t access previous tasks.
Pricing: Single tier at $16 per user per month.
Offering cloud collaboration, Hive also provides the ability to set up a large number of sub-tasks as well as Gantt charts. Team members can convert sub-tasks into their own individual projects and it is easy to monitor who is doing what and what is needing to be done.
- Can add guest users such as freelancers with no added cost.
- Good time-tracking.
- Very intuitive UI that is easy to learn.
- Frequent loading issues.
- Limited calendar views and functionality.
- Mobile version has less functionality compared to the desktop version.
Pricing: Basic is free, premium starts at $10.99 per user per month.
Asana is a project management tool best suited for teams using the Agile method. It can help teams with both execution of regular tasks but also with identifying any strategic changes that can help. You can create projects then designate the required tasks within those projects. It is easy to assign tasks to other staff, to share projects, and to communicate progress.
- Easy to adapt to change.
- Detects and fixes issues quickly.
- Easy to integrate with Gmail and Google drive.
- Progress can be hard to measure in individual cycles.
- No clear end to projects.
- Design issues that can fragment the user journey.
- Difficult to see all your tasks and when they are due in a single view
- Struggles with scheduling or recurring tasks
- Difficult to create templates or standard list of steps needed to do something
Pricing: Variable, depending on your program of choice
Most businesses probably haven’t invested in a dedicated task management solution – instead, they’re likely using a program they’re familiar with, like a spreadsheet solution. This might be an online-first option like Google Sheets, or an offline version of Microsoft Excel. While there are templates available for scheduling, they’re not designed for task management and you’ll have to rely on alternative methods (for instance, tagging people in a comment to assign them a task).
When trying to track activity in spreadsheets, you’re likely to find you spend your time chasing people for updates, rather than being able to look at a system that manages everything for you. In fact, it can actually take more time to manage than it saves!
- Most people are familiar with them already
- Online versions allow multiple people to edit the same document at once
- They’re not designed to manage tasks, and lack many helpful features
- You can’t assign tasks or monitor their progress
- No automation options unless integrated with another solution
- Poor formatting and functionality – it’s not a task management tool
Pricing: Variable, depending on your provider of choice
Other than spreadsheets, another common solution businesses use is their email inbox. While there are some helpful features – such as the ability to add a label, forward to others, or to ‘add to tasks’, it’s not designed as a task management solution, and suffers for it. For an individual with minimal tasks it can be a great solution, but for a business, it’s an easy way to get confused. Solutions to reduce email overload have grown in popularity for a reason, and you can be certain that things will be missed (or avoided) if your only task management tool is email.
- Most people are familiar with it already
- There are some relevant features – such as the ability to add to tasks
- It’s accessible from anywhere with an internet connection
- It’s easy for things to get missed as new emails/tasks come in
- There’s no automation options
- Incredibly limited functionality
- No standard approach to tasks, making it a bit of a ‘free for all’
- Difficult to track progress or have clear accountability
Pricing: free for up to ten boards, with a business version at $10 per user per month and enterprise pricing available on request
Trello has a great visual layout, similar to a physical layout of post-it notes. That makes it great for teams that are new to software solutions, and means that you don’t need much training to get started. However, this simplicity can also be a disadvantage – it struggles with recurring tasks, procedures, reporting, long-term planning, and you can’t link multiple projects or tasks together.
- Quick to learn
- Strong visual layout means it’s easy to see at a glance
- It gets unwieldy with large projects
- The visual data can get overwhelming
- No links between boards, meaning data is siloed
- Doesn’t do process or procedures (the ‘how’ things are done, rather than just the tasks themselves)
- Difficult to manage recurring activities
- Reporting can be very challenging
- Can only handle basic workflow
Implementing a good task management system can bring major benefits to many aspects of how you manage both simple tasks and complex projects. It doesn’t only enhance your ability to track tasks, but also provides a great collaboration tool that will benefit all your staff. Why not book a free trial with beSlick to see how it fits your needs?