How to Choose the Right Project Extranet Software
If you run projects that involve collaboration with multiple third parties, or with project team members based in satellite offices in different parts of the country or around the world, you will need a private online network. In order to facilitate this network you will require project extranet software.
The right project extranet software can make your remote digital workplace run more smoothly. Working with external third parties will be rewarding, simple, and productive. However, making the wrong choice of project extranet software can see your business spending money on something that doesn’t deliver the functionality you require, or could be much more complex than you actually need.
So, how can you make sure that you choose the best project extranet software for your business needs? Here are a few tips to help you draw up a shortlist of options so that you don’t make an expensive mistake.
Have a clear vision of what you need the extranet to do
It’s a common mistake to choose extranet software purely based on the amount of different functions it can perform.
Rather than merely focusing on functionality, concentrate instead on what you want your project extranet to achieve. Clearly, this will vary depending on the business sector you are in, the nature of your organisation, and the function of the project team.
For example, businesses in the the engineering, planning, and architectural fields will look for extranet software that allows organisation and development through from the design phase to the final construction. In the public sector, organisations might look for an extranet that allows key stakeholders to work together to manage development projects or deliver emergency plans. Within a legal framework, legal firms will need an extranet that allows the sharing of confidential case files with clients, other law firms, and legal experts.
Before starting your search for suitable project extranet software, it’s helpful to consult with your colleagues to establish their particular requirements. This will put you in a better position to choose a solution that can be implemented for use right across your organisation and will reduce the risk of buying something that doesn’t do what you need it to.
Map all tools to your requirements and to your stakeholders’ needs
Once you’ve defined a clear purpose for your project extranet software, you can concentrate on the tools that will enable you to achieve it. You will see that different project extranet packages offer a different range of tools, making it tricky to decide in advance on the ones that you will need.
The best way to decide what’s best for you is to think about your stakeholders. Are you going to use your extranet to inform them, to collaborate or consult with them, or perhaps you are intending to use it for a combination of all three? When you are clear on this you can begin to create a map that defines your intended level of stakeholder involvement.
This map will allow you to rule out any extranet software packages that don’t provide the full range of functionality that you require or offer too much additional functionality that is charged for at a premium.
Ensure that workspaces are flexible
When you have made a shortlist of project extranet software packages that contain all the tools you need, your next step is to ensure that their online workspaces are fully flexible. If you’re planning to use your project extranet to work with external third parties or stakeholders, you will need access to tools such as team diaries, task lists, document version controls and more. However, if all you want to do is to consult with third parties, you will probably use tools such as questionnaires, polls, file sharing, discussion forums, and much more.
Regardless of your requirements for your collaborative project team workspace, it’s vital that you can configure it as you need to just with the tools you currently require. A limited range of tools will ensure that your users are not distracted by superfluous functionality that isn’t yet required.
Try before you buy
Any reputable supplier of cloud-based project extranet software will allow you a free trial before you commit to purchasing the package. A ‘try before you buy’ option is vital in helping you to decide if the proposed software package is the right one for your needs.
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Once you’ve shortlisted a number of prospective project extranet packages, you can use the free trials to evaluate how each one measures up to what you want and how easy they are to use. At this stage, make sure you get plenty of user feedback, as this will give you a much better insight into whether the software does what you want it to and whether it will be readily adopted by your external stakeholders and by your colleagues.
If your organisation works extensively on development projects with external third parties or with colleagues based off-site, you will need a good project extranet to allow easy interaction and collaboration between all team members. For more information on how the right project extranet software package could make your projects flow more smoothly and efficiently, consult the experts at Claromentis.