With a wealth of project management, task management, and personnel management software now at our fingertips, it can be difficult to know which software is the best for an organization’s needs, especially arts organizations with their unique project structures and demands. Enter Propared. A software application designed for use by project managers working on live events. I met the Propared team at the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) Conference in March and had a demo of the software.
Launched in November 2014, Propared puts a large amount of information into one easily accessible place using a cloud-based system. (If you need a refresher on why being cloud-based makes information easily accessible, check out this article.) Live events require getting the right people, to the right place, at the right time; dropping any one of these priorities wastes time and money. Having up to the minute changes at your fingertips, even when event staff are geographically dispersed, makes for greater efficiency. Furthermore, Propared is built using agile design practices, which means that instead of spending years developing a product with permanently fixed features, the team chose to deliver the software incrementally, instead of all at once. They are continuously in a feedback loop with actual users of the product to push out updates based on what users actually need, not based on what designers think users will need.
Propared maintains online resources for user training and I was pleasantly surprised that I felt ready to jump in after reading all of the “How-To Guides.” They are short and concise, providing a quick sense of accomplishment for the reader.
To begin, build an Address Book. In Propared, a user can add a person, organization, place, or space. This feature is particularly useful if you have multiple performance spaces that feature multiple rooms. Within the Address Book, people can be tagged with different specialties which can help arts manager with large volunteer bases keep track of who likes to do what. Availability is another useful feature, easing the process of juggling numerous conflicting schedules and providing a handy calendar feature provides a smart visual of when someone can work.
The next step is to create a project in Project Central. The user can build a project fairly easily by adding people and the jobs that they will be doing simultaneously, or jobs can be added and the people assigned later. A sort feature allows the user to sort contacts for the project by role, department, or organization. This tool is exceptional when working with a large group of people.
The Timeline feature is where tasks that need to be accomplished for the project can be added. Users have the ability to include a large amount of information in a task, for example, date, place, department, and category, but the only mandatory information required is the name of the task.
The Work Call feature can be thought of as a more robust task feature. A Work Call is a grouping of individual things that need to be completed, like a single day’s worth of calls. Work Call has a particularly useful feature called Multiple Add. For example, if a call will need eight people, but the eight people are yet to be assigned, the eight slots can be added with one button and the people entered later.
And last, but certainly not least, is the ever important Paperwork feature. Based on the information provided about the Team, the Timeline, and the Work Calls, Propared will generate paperwork that meets the needs of the organization. Whether it’s a contact sheet, schedule, call sheet, or report, it pulls from the information already provided eliminating the need to do the work twice. The paperwork can also be shared from Propared when it is created, eliminating the need to save and email it.
One piece of insider information: Propared is working on a feature that will truly bring this software to the next level - a Visual Timeline. A way to see everything, including the availability of people and spaces, at a glance. I love Excel more than any person should, but the thought of having information like that automatically generated in an easily readable, updatable, and sharable way is incredible.
Propared offers new users a free, one-month trial. After that, all fees are based on a monthly subscription model, providing an incentive for Propared to keep making improvements. Unlike a CRM system, where organizations may be stuck for years due to the large upfront investment, if Propared isn’t a good fit, it is simple to cancel a subscription. Also, only the person leading the project needs to be a paid subscriber to Propared, limiting overall costs. Collaborator accounts are free and give those users access to information on an assigned basis.
Propared is a solid, and ever evolving, tool for anyone who manages projects. Not just production managers. For a volunteer or front of house coordinator at a large multi-venue space, the similarities in needed software functionality are striking. The fact that this software is cloud-based and built to change make it an impressive product that I am excited to see change over time.