Vertical and Horizontal Project management tools
Different industries have different needs. Today we will be focusing on why Vertical and Horizontal businesses should use a software solution designed for their specific industry requirements.
When we mention the word “Industries” we are referring to an agrupation of companies working under the same area. Today we will differentiate two very large categories, vertical and horizontal industries, in order to fully comprehend the message we want to deliver.
What do we mean when we say Vertical and Horizontal Industries?
Horizontal businesses or markets are the ones in which every client uses the same product in almost the same way, or with similar results, regardless of what industry or field they belong to.
Vertical industries on the other hand refer to a group of companies or businesses that share a focus on a niche market, or a special market that spans multiple industries. So they deliver a specific service or product that is needed by a selected number of people due to the particular requirement of their trade, profession, or industry.
So by following this logic, common sense would dictate that horizontal and vertical businesses have a substantial difference when reaching their designated target audience. And the tools they need to improve each of their businesses should also be different because their way of performing services or designing products has a radically different nature.
Horizontal project management softwares supports a myriad of industries and professions. They are designed for catering to a wide variety of generic and recognizable needs across many common vertical targets. They are developed for mass consumption, dedicated to everyone from small teams, office clerks, to students, project managers, big-scale horizontal businesses, homemakers, and everyone left in between.
Vertical project management softwares, a necessity
And this is great news for people looking for a supporting hand while developing and organizing their work since some of them offer free plans, freemium services, or discount plans for small businesses or even larger operations. Pricing is similar between these tools. They usually offer basic project management functionalities like task assignments, spreadsheets, deadline reminders, scheduling capacity, word processors, communication, and team collaboration tools. They normally have API possibilities with many of the best-known platforms, like Google Drive, Google Calendar, Dropbox, Microsoft Outlook, Mailchimp, and Zapier to name a few. They also have mobile app versions, for Android and IOS users. But not everything is included in their freemium services.
They are a good solution for small projects that have a low level of dependencies and complexities. Horizontal tools are a one-size-fits-all, that usually requires little training. But they lack the specific design that vertical industries require.
Vertical project management softwares are tools specifically designed for a vertical industry or business, and their particular and peculiar set of needs and requirements in order to optimize their workflow. Vertical softwares are developed with the correct and catered tools for helping against the most common problems and day-to-day struggles of a specific industry. Due to their targeted design, they can improve and streamline processes, and help a business increase its profitability. Some of the industries that can benefit from a vertical solution are Professional Service Businesses, Scientific Analysis, Software Development, Construction Companies, and Niche industrialization.
The market as a whole is experiencing the specialization of multiple vertical lines, as knowledge grows, businesses and organizations are occupying particular positions, due to the deepening of specific practices and targeted tailored new markets rise. They require specialized talent and tailored software solutions.
All-in-one Project Management software
Project management softwares are a growing field, and as such, they have improved upon their capacities since the early 2010s. Tools like Asana, Trello, Jira, or Slack work perfectly fine for some businesses and can help them achieve better results for their projects. These types of tools generally offer functions regarding project overview, task assignment, task monitoring, and workflow timelines.
Asana offers the possibility of customization, it is a flexible choice. Allowing for task organization and project management, via viewing each employee’s workload, creating Gantt charts, and Kanban boards. It usually takes some training for maximal utilization, so there’s an adjustment period for team members using the software for the first time.
Jira, developed by Atlassian, has the distinction of real-time reporting, which is an excellent feature for agile and scrum workspaces, and for smart businesses that wish to make data-based decisions. But it’s not very simple and it lacks other functions that are important, like a good communication capacity.
Trello offers some features similar to those of Asana, but it has a much user-friendly mainframe in the form of boards. This helps visualize what each team member is doing, as well as easily seeing ongoing tasks and projects in the form of “sticky notes”. It also features multiple “Power-ups”, which basically are integrations in order to connect and integrate with other platforms.
Monday.com, another alternative, has as its central feature the concept of collaboration and a visual-based dashboard that helps teams meet deadlines and manage their tasks. Like the ones mentioned before, it counts with email deadline reminders and other forms of notifications.
Slack is a nice communication solution for many of the companies using these softwares, since integration with Asana, Jira, and Trello is pretty simple, many people use it as a messaging and chat solution for their projects.
These sorts of horizontal tools usually offer free versions, without access to all of their functionalities. They have common ease of use, with Trello being the most intuitive one, some employees will still take some time getting comfortable with the software, you should expect a little bit of a learning curve. In their free version, they do not support unlimited users, and the number of users will depend on your pricing plan. Even with the complete paid version, there are some complex projects that escape the realms of possibility for these softwares.
Every feature, one stop
The main issue would be that you won’t get every single thing you need from only one horizontal project solution, for example, effective communication is a truly vital aspect of project management and it needs to be done on a different platform. When team members rotate in-between tools they lose an enormous amount of time, and it increases the possibility of human error.
Although most solutions do have seamless integration aiding their project management possibilities, they can evolve into a tricky situation when scaling a business. And there’s always the chance of losing information in the space between tools.
The professional service industry requires an integrated solution for reaching its full potential, as a vertical market, it has specific requirements and needs. Picking and sticking together some parts of several softwares will not cut it anymore.
The benefits of a holistic, all-in-one, project management software can be astounding. For businesses that have creativity and problem solving as the center of their operation, project management can be tricky. Planning schedules and deadlines around tasks that can take subjective time and have many dependencies is a hard thing to do.
What we mean by an integrated tool
Having everything you need inside one solution can be a lifesaver, and it sure can save precious time for project managers, talent, external collaborators, C-Levels, and sometimes even clients. At COR we can offer support every step of the way, in a centralized manner while leaving a historical record for future use and analysis. These are just some of the features we possess:
- Task management, from beginning to end. Task and subtasks assignment, deadline setting, task monitoring, Gantt Charts visualization of projects as well as a complete timeline view. The solution also includes several project templates for automated and faster task creation. And everything is presented in a simple and easy-to-understand user interface.
- Team Collaboration. Project teams share a messaging feature inside each created project, which allows for a centralized communication system. Avoiding lost emails, and never receiving deliverables. Everything that happens in the scope of a project leaves a record in COR. It’s also capable of supporting file sharing and Google Drive, DropBox, and OneDrive integrations. A historical data bank will also help project managers organize and streamline processes.
- Planning and Scheduling. With COR’s automated time tracking estimation tool you can forecast how long a project could take, and plan accordingly. Scheduling is a very delicate task, when done incorrectly it could make you miss deadlines, or pressure your talent to work overtime to achieve almost impossible due dates. When you can see the number of work hours assigned to each team member you can plan accordingly and request more collaborators, thus preventing employee burnout, and increasing productivity. This is all possible due to COR’s time tracking capabilities, powered by AI, allowing for smart estimations and forecasting. We will go deeper into this topic in a moment.
- Resource Management. When you gain valuable knowledge about how many hours each task usually takes, you achieve an amazing position. With data you can budget correctly, even in the human resources area, which is usually the toughest one. Having this information at the project planning stage of any endeavor allows for an accurate project cost analysis, granting valuable information for fee negotiation and maximizing profit. As well as taking care of the talent, avoiding burnout and saturation thanks to scheduling based on real-time employee availability.
- Real-Time Reporting. Do you know which projects are the most profitable? What clients are the most valuable? Are any of the services offered not cost-effective? The answer to any of these questions can be answered by real-time reporting. With our insight area, you could check upon the financial health of the business, in real-time. You can cross-examine historical data, acquire information on any of your clients in an instant, and check just how lucrative different types of services are. Informed decision-making can improve the all-around margins of a business, as well as allow for the planning of bigger projects and future scaling possibilities. Being able to see a profit estimation allows you to modify costs and variables when needed, in order to maintain profitability.
When you have a software capable of carrying and supporting the whole project lifecycle, from task allocation to financial reporting, then you have reached a great business position. Being able to make data driven financial decisions can allow your operation to grow. We will return to this aspect of project management in a few lines.
Artificial intelligence has come a very long way since its beginning. It can help us navigate daily life, and whether you notice or not, it’s inscribed in almost everything we do. There are some next-generation softwares that have taken the leap and improved their project management tools with the help of AI.
But what does it mean? Or better yet, how does it enhance project management?
Artificial intelligence improves day-to-day work thanks to the solution’s automation capacities. When you get a project management tool that takes advantage of this technology it saves precious time for every employee and collaborator while they are doing their routine tasks.
When you can automate mundane and time consuming tasks you are upgrading the quality of a workday for the talent. And since they no longer waste time on clerical tasks, they have more hours for more complex projects and ideas that require human ingenuity. It also streamlines the workflow and minimizes possible human error mistakes in, for example, filling timesheets and spreadsheets. Let’s take a look at what AI can help with specifically.
Artificial intelligence powered solution
- Time tracking with AI support. Traceability is a big part of streamlining processes and operational structures. We will go over time tracking in-depth in a little while. And although it’s important, no one likes wasting time filling in timesheets manually. COR manages to help with this issue. The time tracking feature is able to present an outline that is automatically generated, thanks to the solution’s AI capacity, showing each employee how many hours they roughly dedicated to each task. It greatly simplifies the duty assignees carry and improves the chances of every individual in the company of sharing time data, (this is vital for project time estimations).
- Automated Project Creation. Use the project and task templates to create new actions with a simple click. You can use a customizable option and change the templates as you need or see fit. You will save an enormous amount of time and energy, and you can achieve standardization of your operation across the company. Many tasks are plausible of being automated, recovering billable hours each day.
- Dashboards and Graphical Reports. The Gantt Chart of a project is automatically updated according to the data of each task and subtask, thus granting a real-time bird’s view of the project’s lifecycle and completion status. With each new task assignment, the home dashboard and each employee’s avatar is updated to reflect the changes. Think of it as a life bar, tasks are assigned, the avatar’s circle gets redder, as to know at a glance when someone can’t take on any more tasks that day. So you can see how many hours each team member has assigned to them. By having easy access to this information you can avoid saturating the talent.
- Managing the future in real-time. Each project feeds upon historical data, and thanks to machine learning and AI you can have clear and transparent visibility of the status of each endeavor. Who does it reach, the budgeting and resources, the frequency. That sounds nice, but it’s only the beginning. Since the tool has the capacity for estimation and forecasting, you can have a preview of the progress and the project and make data driven decisions in real time. You can see beforehand if you are going to need more collaborators in order to meet a deadline, and ask for them!
Time tracking is at the center of process and workflow optimization. More and more companies and businesses are starting to use it to get a better idea about their internal workings. Employees had a history of viewing time tracking practices as a way for controlling and monitoring their every minute on the clock. On the contrary, time tracking is a path for taking better care of their scope of work and their overall health.
Let’s take a look at the professional service industry, the talent and creatives are the power responsible for managing each task and laying down the groundwork for each project. With a real-time hour registry, project managers can see the updated workload of every collaborator and plan accordingly. This next-generation time tracking function is a life saver for avoiding talent saturation, and losing profit. How does this work? Let’s illustrate with an example.
Imagine that a project manager is tackling the task allocation step required at the start of a project. Their team members are also involved in other ongoing projects and need to divide their time between tasks. The PM can see that Employee A is currently working on a task that will take about 4 hours. The task the PM needs to be completed should take around 6 or 7. Employee A will not be able to finish this new task during today’s work hours. So the PM has the chance of checking their schedule for tomorrow, as well as the other team member’s availability. The PM can choose to assign this task to someone else, or to give it to Employee A, letting them know that it will not be expected for today.
Professional services have the bad reputation of not taking great care with their talent. At COR we made it our mission to help with this issue. When you manage to gain the information of these two variables: Real time availability and task completion estimation. With this information, you have reached a position where you can schedule effectively and avoid going over due dates without suffocating employees.
Data is the new oil
When you pair this feature with AI, you can start keeping a historical data bank of how much time each task requires for completion. The more data you gather, the more accurate predictions will be.
For businesses that function with billable hours at the center of their profit-making system, some level of internal analysis can come a long way for improving day-to-day operations and for getting better margins. Rested employees make better decisions and work smarter. They can be better trained and will be better suited for dealing with clients, which will in turn improve your image as an employer.
This is one of the biggest differences between horizontal and vertical project management solutions. If you use a tool that was designed for your type of operation, then you can access a holistic all-in-one service that will help you improve and solve most of your specific problems.
The best Project management tool has project profitability
The most important differentiation between COR and other project management solutions is that our software is developed and designed for making professional service businesses reach their full potential in every category possible. And the category that really makes a difference is profitability.
This is where you can see the importance of having a vertical tool designed with your specific industry in mind. Taking care of the overall margins is something horizontal solutions can’t do, because that’s not what they are created for. When you carry the weight of a whole company you need the right kind of support.
Dedicated software design, and how it can help you
This rings especially true for businesses that are also looking to grow and scale their operations and diversify their services. Because when you don’t have any knowledge of your internal problems, and you scale your business, your problems only grow with it. When you are incorporating new members into your talent pool, things can get a little messy, and that is why traceability and process analysis is a must.
If you have bad margins, when increasing the number of projects you deliver, you won’t be actually increasing profitability, you will just be magnifying the scope of work for the exact same money. And as we like to say: you don’t need to work more, you need to work smarter.
Any business needs to improve their profitability to stay ahead of the market, and to be able to do so you need to know your operation. Estimation is the answer to this problem. When you are able to calculate each project’s profitability you have the advantage of knowing what types of actions are cost-effective and which aren’t.
The system uses your projects and tasks data, along with their budget and production costs, to evaluate each endeavor’s clean income. This is carried out thanks to the solution’s AI capacities. This is the type of data driven decision-making we want our customers to reach.
When offering several services you can check which ones are more cost-effective, which ones are better paid, what type of projects need further operational analysis and improvement. Maybe they just need some simple tweaks and adjustments. You can cross-examine this information with your historical client registries.
For example, imagine if there’s a type of project that usually requires extra collaborators for completion on the agreed upon due date. The cost of freelancers involved maybe makes it a less profitable cause. But if you only use in-house talent, then it would be ok. So, dedicating the same amount of time, over a longer period of days will keep it as a lucrative operation.
Data-driven decision making
There are certain key data items that will help you reach a greater level of business intelligence:
- Individual Project cost, with and without work hours costs.
- Most valuable clients, for taking extra care of that relationship.
- Comparisons between different types of services and/or deliverables. This can help you dedicate training resources where they would best impact the company.
- Gross margins reports for fee setting and better invoicing.
When knowing the actual cost each project requires, you can have a clearer idea of how much that invoice should be. And the best part is that you have the data to back it up. This elevates your posting at the fee negotiation table. Letting you ask for the true value of your work.
As you manage to charge the correct amount for the service you can provide to clients, you can also dedicate more resources for training employees, which will further improve the quality of work. Automated financial reporting is another tool that is vital for higher ups and C-level executives, since it will help with long term business decisions.
At COR we are invested in improving the state of the professional service industry. We invite you to take a step in the direction of business intelligence, and to improve your employee’s working conditions, your internal processes and your business profitability. After all this is what our solution was designed to do. Request a demo today