Expert Insights for Choosing Project Management & Workflow Software

As much as we love to sing the praises of mindsets and processes, the right tools are crucial in the world of project management. Don’t get us wrong, the right mindset and processes will still make a huge difference, but neglecting tools is always a mistake.

So imagine our shock when we learned that only 74% of Agile marketing teams said implementing  Agile project management software was useful. Clearly far too many Agile project managers aren’t using the right software or aren’t using it well.

So what exactly is holding us back from getting the full value out of our project management and workflow software? We’re going to answer that question by diving into frameworks, the key elements you should look for in a software solution, and share insights we gathered from thought leaders.

Start With Your Framework

A tool can be fantastic for a team using Scrum and terrible for a team using Kanban. That’s why your first consideration should be the framework you’re using. 

Or, as one of the thought leaders we asked about this put it:

“Most modern tools should be able to support both Kanban and Scrum. When they don't, you'll know from the board layout functionality (Scrum tools tend not to have horizontal swimlanes or WIP limits as a function) as well as the metrics they collect out of the box. Watch out for tools that only track velocity, not cycle time as a clear giveaway that they are prioritizing Scrum implementations.” - Monica Georgieff, Training and Delivery Lead EMEA, AgileSherpas

So it’s important to make sure the workflow management software you use supports your preferred framework, but you also need to consider your other stakeholders. Are there other functions within your organization that you work with that use a different framework? Consider whether and how the software you choose will be usable for them as well. 

Ultimately, if all your stakeholders can work from a single piece of Agile project management and workflow software, your life will get a lot easier.

Lastly, don’t assume that just because a piece of software works with your chosen framework it’s going to work for you.

“The biggest issue is that for many tools, Agile has been tacked on to what is essentially a ticket-based system. For example, many tools support a Kanban view, but don't support WIP limits, process policies, or any of the commonly used Kanban techniques.”  - Jim Ewel, Co-Founder, Agile Marketing Alliance

Don’t Forget to Test

Another important consideration from our internal team was to try before you buy.

“Ask for a sandbox version of the tool or pay for a three-month evaluation period before committing. Feature lists and demos don't suss out deep issues like reporting limitations and integration incompatibility” - Melissa Reeve, Co-Founder of the Agile Marketing Alliance

It’s true that getting set up with a new set of PM software takes significant time and resources. But it’s also true that identifying problems and switching within a few months is going to be far easier than doing so after a few years of frustration. So try to learn those lessons and make the call as early as possible (the Agile way!)

APIs and Integrations

Much in the same way you want to ensure your project management software matches the framework you’re using, you also want to ensure it can integrate with the other software and tools you use. These integrations can save a lot of time, empower your teams to use data and tools more often, and generally streamline your marketing processes.

Put another way, not having the integrations you need can leave your PM software siloed and rarely used. That said, not all tools are created equal. Or as one of the people we interviewed put it:

“As long as your quarterly plan, visual process, and process metrics are in one tool, you should be set. When you try and link ALL the tools in your arsenal together using Zapier or a similar product, that's where you might end up coming up against some challenges. The pain is not worth the gain. Having Microsoft Teams or Slack connected to your process management tool can be nice if it's easy, but if it's inconsistent, hard to pull off or inundate everyone with notifications, it might be more helpful to keep them separate.” - Monica Georgieff, Training and Delivery Lead EMEA, AgileSherpas

So always consider APIs and integrations but recognize when they’re worth it and when they’re just not.


As we mentioned earlier, changing your project management software is expensive, frustrating, and time-consuming. So you want to ensure the option you choose has the ability to scale and evolve with your organization.

“Scalability is very important. We've seen the data about how much better Agile works when all the teams are practicing Agile, rather than just a few. You don't want the tool to hold you back from scaling Agile to the entire marketing org (and departments other than marketing, as well). Best practices: involve stakeholders, agencies, executives from the beginning and take their needs into account.” - Jim Ewel, Co-Founder, Agile Marketing Alliance

But thinking about the future is about more than just scaling, it’s also about advanced features:

“Choosing a tool with a robust feature set, but starting with a small subset of those features to prevent overwhelm is best. This strategy allows us to choose a tool that can handle more advanced needs in the long term, but is also engaging for the short term as we get used to it. Tools like Asana and are good examples of user-friendly tools that can be simple when you need them to be and more complex depending on the scenario. Just make sure everyone is on the same tool!”  - Monica Georgieff, Training and Delivery Lead EMEA, AgileSherpas

So think about the features you might want in the future as well as how easy it might be to bring on other functions within your organization. Still, be careful not to get too ambitious from the start.


One of the reasons workflow software is so useful is the way it visualizes work, enabling us to garner key information at a glance. So consider how the software visualizes your work and compare this to other options to see what works best for you. Our experts have broken down visualization features into two categories:

Project Management and Workflow Visualization Features to Consider


With all the potential features we just listed, it should be clear that customization is important. The ability to create custom templates for types of work items, create enforceable WIP limits, and generally build the columns and lanes you want to use.

While one way to do all this is to develop custom project management and workflow software, in most cases you’ll merely want to consider how a piece of software can be customized. But one thing to consider is that there is such a thing as too much customization. This can quickly turn into a burden as you need to sink hours of time into figuring out how to set up all the parameters of your software to meet your team’s needs.


You obviously can’t discount the cost, but you will want to weigh the costs alongside the potential benefits. For example, if your workflow software can improve your overall productivity by 5%, what would that mean for your organization?

Aside from the direct cost savings you might get from a piece of software, you also need to consider the savings from metrics.

“Tracking process metrics to understand how your process improvements are affecting the bottom line and your KPIs is crucial. Process is a lever the team can use to be more successful if they can understand the connection between process changes and the impact they are having. Very hard to do manually! Much more possible with a digital tool!” - Monica Georgieff, Training and Delivery Lead EMEA, AgileSherpas 

The kind of quality data you can get from a piece of project management and workflow software can be used to test all kinds of process improvements.

Data & Dashboards

One of the greatest benefits of modern project management software is the ways it can collect and utilize data. This ties back to the framework discussion, but consider the kind of metrics your marketing function uses to test ideas, track performance, etc., and confirm whether it’s possible to automate the collection and display of that data.

Display is key because if your data is stuck in a bunch of CSV files, you’re far less likely to use it. But if your software can automatically generate custom reports that are easily understood, you’ll be in a much better position. But what data points should you be looking for?

Key Data Points You’ll Want to Track

  • Throughput
  • Velocity
  • Average cycle times
  • Average age of WIP

Before moving on to learn how to get your team to actually start using your tool of choice, why don't you take a second to get the latest edition of our Annual State of Agile Marketing Report?

Rollout/Adoption Plan

After you select a piece of project management software, you need to actually get your teams using it. This is where even the most carefully picked and ideally suited software can devolve into a mess. So how should you approach this step?

Jim Ewel puts it this way, “100% adoption is eventually important, but start slow and figure out how you're going to use the tool first. Develop policies and standard ways of doing things before you roll it out broadly.”

But Melissa Reeve has a far simpler way to synthesize this point, saying simply “Integration over 100% adoption.”

In other words, you may want to consider piloting your project management and workflow software first. This makes it easier to really understand what challenges you might face in a wider rollout. But there are other important considerations as well:

“Formal training is 100% required. If people don't know how to use it, they won't use it consistently or the way you might want them to in order to collect trustworthy data. Also, someone needs to be ultimately responsible for supporting new users of the tool as they onboard and ask questions. If no one is accountable, the likelihood of the tool engagement being high and staying high are slim. If you can build using the new tool into team members' goals for the quarter, that's the perfect scenario.” - Monica Georgieff, Training and Delivery Lead EMEA, AgileSherpas 

So once you’ve conducted a pilot, turn those learnings into a plan backed by formal training. This will help ensure you get to that coveted 100% adoption and to further success beyond.

Project Management and Workflow Software Is Just the Beginning

While there’s a lot to get right when selecting the right project management and workflow software, the mindset you apply to using it is just as important. But building the right mindset and culture on your teams is a major challenge.

If you’re ready to tackle that challenge head-on, we recommend exploring our wide library of online resources we call The Ropes. There, you can find dedicated lessons on everything you need to build a culture and use that PM software to its fullest. For example:

  • Why visualize work?
  • Choosing a framework
  • Building & managing backlogs
  • Essentials of your first board
  • Creating effective work items
  • Agile mindset and culture
  • Piloting the right way

And many, many more.

Register for the Product Managers vs Product Owners LinkedIn Live Event