The most successful project managers don’t go it alone. Although they’re more than self-sufficient, they find that most successful projects are completed with the aid of project management software. Businesses today are looking to optimize every aspect of their operations, and project management is one area that can’t be overlooked.
What is Project Management Software?
Project management software is used to help project managers oversee all of their projects at a high level. These systems can track the employees working on a project, track the status of a project, control costs to make sure they’re staying on budget and aid in collaboration. In other words: it helps get your projects from start to finish while maintaining the allocated budget and deadlines.
As software provider Mavenlink describes, project management software isn’t limited to use by project management professionals. Although they certainly make up the majority of users, it’s not uncommon for employees involved in various projects to use the software, too. In addition, higher level executives who want to assess the scope of each project will sometimes use these systems as well.
What are the Most Common Project Management Software Features?
For project managers looking for a solution that’ll help organize your team members, it’s important to note what the most common project management software features are. After all, you don’t want to choose and implement a vendor before finding out that they lack an important standard feature. As you’re evaluating project management software, make sure the vendors you look at offer these features:
Project Scheduling and Task Management
Most successful projects start with a good schedule. It’s the first step that helps set milestones and goals for each project, so that everyone working on it is on the same page. Project scheduling features are extremely important to project management software for this reason.
Task management is a valuable part of project scheduling features. In addition to scheduling final deadlines, task management involves prioritizing and delineating the different tasks required to complete a project. A powerful aspect of task management is automated notifications. After setting priorities and deadlines for the tasks of each project, the system sends a notification whenever you get close to a deadline and a task isn’t finished.
Resource allocation is occasionally overlooked when it comes to important project management software features. However, it’s one of the most useful tools available to project managers as they organize each project.
First and foremost, resource allocation features help track both people and equipment. Your employees are resources too, and for the purposes of project management, you should think of them as such. Project managers use resource allocation to track who’s working on what project, as well as which projects need certain equipment.
Knowing this information is key to making sure each project moves along as scheduled. In terms of your people, you can track how much time they’re using for a project. You can then either assign them to another project with some of their extra time, or assign someone else who has more time available.
In terms of equipment, you can prioritize and schedule when each project can use each piece of equipment. And if one project needs a certain piece of equipment more than another, you can re-allocate it so that the highest priority has access to the equipment when it’s needed.
Time tracking is oftentimes associated with human resources, but it’s a crucial component of project management software, too. In particular, it aids your resource allocation efforts, as we mentioned above. After either a project manager or the employee enters how much time they’re allocating to a certain project, you can keep an eye on how much time they have to spare.
You can use this information to make sure everyone has a proper workload. The last thing you want is to overburden one employee, while another has nothing to do. Time tracking eliminates the guess-and-check nature of assigning tasks by giving you the exact amount of time each employee spends on each project. You can also view each individual employee’s total hours, if you’re looking to assign new tasks to a specific employee.
Project managers know the value of easy collaboration, which is why their software is designed to maximize it. One of the breakdowns in collaboration occurs when important documents are misplaced. Important information gets lost, and trust falters. If only there was a way to collect all of your documents in one place, where everyone can access them whenever they need to…
Any worthwhile project management software offers document collaboration. This allows you to upload and share any documents to the system. Whether they’re the final version of your project deliverables (such as whitepapers) or simply some written notes, you can store each project’s important documents directly in the system.
Good project managers don’t let their projects go over budget, and their project management software helps them avoid that prospect. Many systems include a project budget dashboard, in which you can set up graphs and charts to view real-time updates.
In addition, you can both import or manually create budgets for each project in the system, with which you can track your expenses. You can use these in-system budgets to track various costs, time spent and revenue acquired from each project.
Reporting is an essential component of any kind of software these days. A good system should be able to create ad hoc reports and custom reports using a variety of data.
As software provider Scoro explains: “Reports enable you to get a quick overview of how the project is doing, and you’ll also notice the best-performing project teams. If there’s a negative trend outlined on your graphs, you can take immediate action. It is easier to tackle a problem if you know its root cause. You can determine the issues by comparing multiple reports and discussing them with your team members.”
Some of the most common reports that project managers create with these reporting tools include budget and expense reports, completed task reports, individual team member performance reports and collective team performance reports.
What are the Best Project Management Software Solutions?
With the above features in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best providers of project management software. These systems are robust, easy to use and come at a reasonable price. Project managers would be happy using any of these systems during their day-to-day work, but make sure you evaluate every aspect to find the solution that’s right for you. If you want more information on these and other solutions, check out our Project Management Buyer Guide and Product Guide.
As you can probably guess based on the name, ProjectManager.com is a web-based software. Featuring full integration with Microsoft Office, the system is one of the best for enhancing collaboration.
Changepoint isn’t exclusively for project management; it also features a plethora of project portfolio management capabilities. It places a strong emphasis on helping your customers by forecasting client opportunities and optimizing resource utilization for them, ensuring project success for both you and your customers.
Another web-based project management software provider, Clarizen markets itself as a rapid ROI software. It offers plenty of real-time data, which is easy to use thanks to its user-centered design. It also offers a flexible pricing model, which makes it great for a mid-sized company.
Genius Project On-Demand isn’t specialized for any single industry. In fact, they repeatedly discuss how their software is useful for a variety of project teams and project types. That said, it’s still useful for those with specific needs, as you can tailor its various feature sets to meet your requirements.
Improving on the old practices of using Excel for project management, Smartsheet’s UI is reminiscent of a spreadsheet, making it easy to use for every member of your team. One of the most prominent parts of this Excel familiarity is its Gantt charts, which give a visual presence to your project scheduling and task management. Smartsheet also places an emphasis on seamless collaboration, with automated workflows and simple file sharing.
Wrike is another web-based project management software that prides itself on being an all-in-one, yet easy-to-use solution. One of the more unique features is its email integration, from which you can create tasks in a few clicks. Additionally, Wrike backs up all of your data nearly every second.