And it's more complicated than you thought. Our State of Project Management in 2021 report is the most comprehensive data on what teams are doing with their task managers.
How do companies use task managers as part of their project management? This question was burning a hole in our to-do list for our tasks feature, so we did something about it. We knew that this in-depth research could help companies think about how they work in a new way. We surveyed over 50 respondents about their practices with task managers at work to get a deeper, more honest look behind the scenes.
Here are a few highlights from the results.
Survey says: The task-management industry needs a little task management.
The project management software industry is whopping $5 billion and is expected to hit nearly $6 billion by 2027. We think we know why.
What the survey results reveal is that task-management practices are all over the place. Most companies are juggling two or more tools, overlapping responsibilities, and making it harder for themselves to report and get actual work done (because our brains don’t love context switching).
Teams can’t even handle standardization of one project management tool, let alone all the extras.
Teams are crafting quite the tech-stack cocktail.
64% of teams are using multiple task managers.
We saw a theme with engineering and development teams using Jira while the rest of the organization worked on other project management tools.
- "Yes, different teams use different tools (brand team uses Jira, UX uses Asana, dev uses GitHub, etc.)"
- "Monday and Jira overlap - Each also has stuff the other doesn't include. The long tail of tasks is spread evenly and chaotically."
- “Jira and Linear 😭"
The most popular task managers in our survey:
Task assignment and prioritization have little uniformity across organizations.
The way people assign tasks is all over the place. Some have a project or product manager who give tasks, whereas others have an every-contributor-for-themself approach. And no one knows how to prioritize them.
- "We're pretty fluid as a startup, so no real 'management' of tasks, tasks are added by anyone, discussed and prioritised."
- "At the moment, engineers self-assign according to their area of expertise. The engineering lead should also help with assigning. However, the process is still a little broken as the engineering leader doesn't quite grasp prioritization, so it often is a task between the designer and product manager."
When prioritization doesn’t happen in the actual task manager, that’s when “touch bases” and “fleshing out” comes into play.
“Let’s take this offline” is where project management is really happening.
A lot of convos are happening around tasks in a separate arena than the project management tools. We’re coining the term “work-planning inception” because that’s what many companies are doing — creating tasks around the tasks.
- 85% discuss in a meeting setting
- 79% use the comment functionality in the task manager
- 75% chat about it in Slack
The new work norm: disjointed conversations, lost information, and notification overload.
Information overload is real, and it’s destroying productivity.
Poor task management = information overload (or not enough).
When employees receive hundreds of emails a day, they miss a huge chunk (up to a third). Information overload causes poor health, satisfaction, burnout, and bad business.
Additional issues that come from messy task management:
- Notification overload
- Lost information
- Unclear expectations and priorities
- Too many meetings
- Work planning inception (when managing your tasks becomes a task)
- Lack of standardization
- Slow onboarding (especially for development teams)
“I moved to Asana versus an Excel status sheet that I have a weekly meeting with the client and review, and it drives me crazy. It takes me an hour trying to update that, and it's always an hour before the call.”
Task managers aren’t inherently bad—we love them! According to a recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), project management software adoption is linked to high-performing projects.
The way teams use task managers is the problem. We know these 50 companies aren’t alone. How is your team using task managers? Do you fall into the new work-inception norm? Read the full report to see what trends you identify in your organization. You may find that your frustrations aren’t so unique after all.