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Project management software can help teams and project managers with scope, budget requirements, and time management aspects. Finding the best project management tools can be a trial-and-error process especially for those who don’t know what they should
Project management software can help teams and project managers with scope, budget requirements, and time management aspects. Finding the best project management tools can be a trial-and-error process especially for those who don’t know what they should look for.
Medium and small business enterprises now use online project management software as part of their daily operations. This utilizes cloud-based technology and is offered as a software as a service, or SaaS solution.
A lot of features have changed since the inception and proliferation of project management software. Today’s tools are crossing boundaries and functions with other management aspects as a sort of all-in-one solution. Furthermore, project management platforms have split into different types, with each one having its own pros and cons.
The first thing businesses should consider when choosing the right project management software guide is taking a survey of what’s available, knowing about the different types and covering the features that come with it.
It’s important to take the time and be familiar with what a particular PM platform can do and how it can help in the overall process.
Here are the most common kinds of project management software.
Online project management tools are becoming more and more popular, especially among small and medium-sized enterprises. This type of platform revolves around browser-based technology, with some offering sync features from browser to mobile apps and vice versa. Everything is processed in the cloud and the tool is offered as a ‘service’ in the form of SaaS solutions.
Due to its convenience web-based software have risen to new heights. SaaS providers have begun adding more features, such as methods that allow visualization before a project can officially take off, automation, email integration, built-in messaging, file sharing protocols, collaboration tools and mapping abilities. With these additions web-based management platforms are now edging into collaborative software and even as a form of business management software.
On-premise management tools work just like traditional software in that they’re stored in a central server and within the company premises. Management of the software falls to the IT department, and when time comes that the business needs to scale then they have to contact the provider for additional licenses. This goes the same for upgrades and adding functionalities.
Typically, on-premise means the company saves money and the software is more secure. The tool is stored on a private server, which means they will have full access to security protocols and data storage and control over apps to safeguard it. Enterprises often turn to on-premise software when they want to reduce downtime from product updates or save on user seat costs.
Project management software generally falls into two classifications- integrated suites or a best of breed tool.
As its namesake, a best of breed is a single app with one focal specialty, e.g., task management. Integrated suites offer two or more functions, such as time tracking, task management and others. Best of breed software may be more robust but the IT load is heavier, and for this reason most companies prefer an integrated project management suite.
Medium sized and small businesses will want a simpler management platform that will cover all the needed tasks. They typically look for features such as file management, email integration, training materials, team collaboration and task management, for instance.
As the scale grows so do the features. A typical comprehensive PM software will have core functions such as financial management, resource management and scheduling processes along with more advanced tools for completing specific business purposes. Comprehensive suites often cost more but they allow for better control over progress tracking and dependencies and provide better estimates. The only issue is that they have a higher learning curve and more time is required for personnel to fully master them. The need for a more complex project management system goes up with the company scale, especially when it involves a dedicated project manager and branching teams.
The best project management tools live and die by the feature they offer. The biggest requirements are task management options, team collaboration solutions, support documentation and document management, among others.
What’s a good project management software without task management to back it up? Having a robust set allows teams to create, manage and update the task progress throughout the timeline. Digging further, task management tools will have options such as assigning users to specific tasks, creating repetition tasks that renew itself at a specific date or time, managing subtasks and setting task dependencies.
These are some of the most important features to look for in a project management software. Additionally, central functions can extend into helpful visualizations like burndown charts, waterfall dependencies, Gantt charts and Kanban boards, to name a few.
Enterprises with several moving objects require robust collaboration tools. Here, project participants should be able to comment or edit documents and files as well as send a message within the software. It makes sense to add more than one way to communicate, e.g., by email, notifications, direct messaging and more so they won’t be left out on the loop.
Support documentation in a project management software allows employees to get more familiar with the tools and troubleshoot errors that may come up. Depending on the nature and need a tool can have chatbots, phone or email support, tooltips, support videos, articles and more.
Support can also apply to email features, such as getting alerts on status changes, key words and due date, the ability to send notifications to other employees regarding project status, adding custom labels, files and comments on an existing task and updating or uploading new tasks via email.
Email integration is a particularly useful feature regardless of organizational size or nature as users can get updates and manage work from within the software in real time. Aside from that there should also be limits set on the types of notifications and how much alerts they can receive.
Document management features are like storage space for files but integrated in the software or offered by a third party. Here, employees will be able to store and manage them without having to switch apps or platforms.
Centralized document storage has the added benefit of being able to attach files to tasks, upload multiple documents in a drag and drop interface, organize them within folders or custom settings, add comments and notes to the files and more.
In a similar note, an app-based project management software should be able to provide document management through a third party solution.
Mobile apps add a layer of convenience as everyone carries around a smartphone nowadays. Team members and employees may be found at a remote branch, in a client’s site or just about anywhere there’s an internet connection. Aside from full-fledged computer software companies are also offering mobile apps as an accompaniment for nearly 24/7 connectivity. The best ones will have apps for both Android and iOS devices.
Companies typically utilize multiple software for completing different tasks and projects. A good project management app will have support for the most popular third party platforms (usually via API) for seamless workflows. They should have support for tools such as Dropbox, Salesforce, Microsoft apps and Google apps.
It’s an optional but helpful tool to have. Multinational organizations and marketing and sales-focused businesses will have this high up on their list of must-haves, especially those who will need a tool that can meet cultural and language requirements. Customization features can bring what’s important up front and center and save employees from having to waste time looking for common workflows and processes.
Most vendors will have reporting integrated into their software. For companies who need it they will have to dig further and see if the reporting is robust enough to support the tasks. Also, having a tool that exports data to a third party app for a deeper look can prove to be invaluable long term.
Scheduling features may include setting a schedule for milestones, timelines, tasks and determining resources and dependencies. For some enterprises scheduling functions in a PM is vital, while others who operate with a small team or mostly go with recurring tasks, short projects and simple tasks may not need it altogether.
Time management tools are typically there to remind employees and users how much time they’ve spent on independent tasks. Managers can set deadlines and goals on projects. The goals can be tied to a payroll or timesheet app to determine work hours spent. Businesses that employ contractors will find this feature particularly useful.
Small enterprises can upgrade from whiteboarding or spreadsheets for their projects to implementing a project management software. Consider the following factors to make workflows easier.
The more specific the number, the better. It may sound ideal to have everyone gain access to a PM tool but it’s more cost-efficient to count user seats. Some employees may only need read-only access, while managers will have full rights to editing and assigning the tasks to their team members.
Some project management software cater to small businesses and offer low-price tools. In some instances a vendor may even have a free app for those on a budget. The exchange for these low-cost solutions is that they’re not as robust or comprehensive as their more expensive counterparts. These tools will usually come with limitations on projects or collaborations. As businesses scale they will encounter roadblocks that can be removed by upgrading to a paid plan.
Open source project management tools can be a viable solution. However, they do not come with updates or technical support. It may be better to consider SaaS tools for those aspects.
Visualizations can help envision the project timeline and how it progresses. The most common ones include burndown charts, Gantt charts and Kanban boards among others. The tool allows managers and employees an overview, and the most useful ones will have a couple of project views as well as individual reporting.
Growing enterprises will usually find their project management software unable to scale with them. A good tool can help them iron out inefficiencies, get a more defined project process and improve project outcomes.
Most mid-sized businesses run a gamut of software, to which integration becomes essential. Teams will have their own set of tools and a central app to transfer data and communicate without having to do manual entry. Integration can be done via webhooks, API calls and native connections for a speedier internal process and data transfer automation.
Time tracking features are important as they allow the computation of billable time, employee hours and contract work. Medium businesses can look for tools that allow work hours to be tied on individual contributors and across projects, as well as direct integration to payroll and accounting systems.
Those who are looking to constantly improve their processes should look for reporting and analytics in a PM. Important metrics such as hours, points, completion rate, time needed and total tasks assigned to individual team members and projects should be added in, as are native plugins and API connections that allow the said metrics to be exported to another system.
Data security and safety should be of utmost importance. To get this done some level of user control must be implemented. Companies should consider tools that can provide access to projects, available seats and the project’s tasks and capabilities.
Companies should take the time and review available project management software as thoroughly as possible. Get help from C-level stakeholders and how team members use the software to complete projects. Furthermore, it’s important to allot training time so the users can get acclimated with the tool. Training material and support documents can contribute to optimal adaptation as well.