Digital project management: a kick-off overview

Many nonprofits are based on their events and projects. What could be more obvious than supporting these projects with digital project management tools?

This article will give a short introduction into the topic and presents a small selection of tools the author used in the past years.

Taking about project management many people just think about aims, task, milestones and getting things done. It can be easily forgot that project management (PM) can be quite different.

The first step for searching tools should be looking on your PM processes. There are quite a bunch of different models describing these processes. Currently there are a lot of agile PM methods  which work with short circles rather than classical approached like Waterfall methods. General PM tools offer complete solutions to manage projects. They give an overview about what should happen and what happens. As described before it’s important that the workflow they are based on fit’s to the workflow of the project team. Otherwise they won’t use it probably.

A great package are the tools from 37signals with the names Basecamp, Highrise, Backpack and Campfire:

  • Basecamp is for managing tasks, milestones and keeps track on what happens there.
  • Highrise manages all your contacts like partners, participants or members of the organisation.
  • Backpack is a documentation tool and Campfire a group chat. The advantage is the connection between them. On the other hand the complete package is quite expensive (more than 50$ / month). There are free versions for small teams and single projects.
  • The Berlin Startup 6Wunderkinderstartet recently the web tool Wunderkit which is useful for smaller projects and the work in different project teams.
  • If the team works more with classical methods non-web-based tools like MS Project or Merlinare a good choice. They offer Gant-Charts, Netplans and the allocation of project resources. Great for detailed planers and stable project which don’t change so much. Merlin can be also used in small teams in a network.
  • Agile PM tools like JIRA or for methods like SCRUM are based on software development and in many cased not so useful for NGOs. Even so it’s good to take a look on them.

Besides PM tools and communication and collaboration tools like Skype there is one area often forgotten by NGOs – knowledge management. Thinking in projects and more short term than long term, knowledge is often connected to persons rather than the organisation. Many tools like Basecamp give a first help since they track and document everything.

For many NGOs such an Intranet should be easy to use so volunteers and employers can share their knowledge. A good solution is to set up a Wiki like Mediawiki It’s the same technology which is used for Wikipedia and so familiar to many users and it’s free for use. There are a lot of professional software plattforms, mainly made for corporate use. One example which fit to some middle sized NGOs is Confluence The professional software is easier to use, but maybe too expensive for smaller NGOs.

You think your favorite tool is missing in this list? Just add it in a comment.