Five features your project management software should have…

…Or “How we dropped 100 features and increased our signup rate”

I can’t tell you how often we used to hear “if only you guys had feature xyz we would be life long super customers”, and yet often when we ask why that feature is needed there’s a discussion that ultimately results in a compromise. Either the feature requested is handled another way (often more efficiently) or the feature is simple NOT required in order to arrive at the objective. Actually very rarely will we end up needing to add the feature or even engage in customization for the customer to deliver a result.

Often new features are requested because a PM workflow is entrenched in an organization and someone has been ordered to find a piece of software that suits that process to a tee, however once a customer is using our software we hear that processes are naturally improved, and again I’m reminded that CONSTRAINTS are the key to creativity and efficiency.

So before you go rushing off to find that magic-bullet software that does everything you could ever want, read my all time top 5 features that your project management software tool must have. Some of them might surprise you! And in full disclosure, I’m the CEO of Copper Project Management Software so naturally our tool excels on these five, but only because ten years in the business has taught us these lessons time and again. Enjoy.

1.      A smart and simple way to limit what people see.

Permissions systems in software can be either complex and convoluted, or simple and limited. Effectively you need the ability to set THREE different levels of access. Firstly, you need your low-security workers and clients to have access only to single tasks and not your budget or secure project information. In Copper we let our customers simply add a customer to a rask, usually it is a “review” task of some sort where finished creative assets can be uploaded and approved. Secondly, you want the ability to give a project manager or account manager access to a whole Project or Organization (and ergo all of its projects). And thirdly, you want some people to have unlimited access to everything. Make sure this is as easy as adding someone to a list.

2.     Ability to drag or attach real files to tasks and projects

It’s not enough to have a separate file repository or even a link to Google Docs or Dropbox, you also need the ability to attach a file to a task or project. This offers the dual benefit of removing the need to store these on site with a separate permissions system (as the permissions system on the task/project takes care of this) but it also provides another inherent way to show things ‘progressing’ through your project portfolio. A new file is progress as much as a new comment is.

3.     Subtasks!

It was the number one feature we were asked for early on, being the ability to quickly and easily create a hierarchy of tasks and we built and continue to refine our project task list feature. In Copper it’s super easy to add tasks, reorder them, or drag them into a beautifully logical hierarchy. Other tools that simply let you add things to buckets are ok, but we all know what buckets are used for. By comparison Copper is a silk lined wooden box, and your team will respect it. A neat hierarchy that you can use time and again as a template will do more for the successfully controlled running of your projects more than any other feature.

4.     A carefully considered UI

Fads come and go: responsive layouts, larger fonts, circular avatars. Don’t be one of those people that wants new for new’s sake. Watch your users actually interacting with your software, we did, and the results were gobsmacking. Then we mated this to our actual usage statistics and the changes required became crystal clear. In one case one of those much-requested features in our software was used .02% of the time across our ENTIRE customer base. In fact we removed something like 100 features from our v5 product yet only one or two of those features have even registered as being missing (and yes we’re considering adding them back if the data supports it).

But aside from data theres also experience and intuition that needs to be considered. I’m referring to adding those things that your customers didn’t even know they wanted. Like our new pinning feature that lets you pin and pass a task or project to the most important person of the moment. Nothing in the data supported this workflow “hot potato” however everything in the data now suggests it’s success, so it stays! Copper’s UI was so carefully considered that we were in danger of being committed, and while the refinements will continue as data presents itself (and inspiration too, in that order), you’ll know we’ll always work at bringing you features that are PROVEN to improve your project processes.

5.     Good people behind it

Email received, 9am: “Ben, how do I get a timesheet happening for all of my staff”

Email replied, 9:03am “Hi Tim, via the Reports section in the People Area, select the people and period you want to report on and click save. Let me know if you need more info, and hope the surf was up at Mission Beach this morning!”

Ok so its not a feature, but if you’re not able to email the people that make the decisions and support you, your PM tool provider isn’t small enough to move with the times. And scripted phone support doesn’t count! Make sure you have a good support network, and try it out BEFORE you switch vendors or sign up for PM software. In fact, try it out now, I bet we respond before anyone else would or could!


If you’re looking for a carefully considered PM tool for your design studio or creative team, take the Copper 30 day trial and see why more people choose Copper.