Project Management & Planning Articles

Project Management Software Features Guide: Things to Look for When Choosing a Solution

by Deeksha Malik
Published on 31 May 2017

Image showing a kanban style board

A project manager can often feel a bit like a juggler, tossing a dozen balls in the air at once. They must always keeps a close eye on each ball making sure to catches each one of them. A single miss could ruin his entire performance.

Nowadays many small businesses are implementing project management software to ensure they complete a project successfully, on time, and within budget (i.e. without dropping any balls). To choose the right solution for your business, you should first list down your business needs and afterwards look for a tool that can satisfy them. Looking over a never ending list of project management software features and that selecting the right tool is tough, particularly when you don't know what each feature does.

To address these challenges we've put together project management software features grid for your reference. Through these grids, we'll provide a brief description of the basic functionalities of any project management tools worth its salt, then dive into some of the features that cater to specific business requirements. For each feature we've included links to software solutions that support that feature, listed in the GetApp project management software directory

Core project management software functionality

Functionality Description
Project planning and management Helps define project scope and choose appropriate methods for completing the project. Uses visual tools to plan and report project progress.
Collaboration Provides a centralized workspace that enables multiple users to communicate, conference and coordinate among themselves to facilitate group work.
Task management Helps plan tasks, set priorities and track progress at each stage of the project. Lets users create and assign to-dos and view tasks on a calendar.
Customization Allows users to customize the project management tool to match business needs and the needs of the individual.
Intelligence and reporting Reports provide a quick, visual way for executives, managers and/or team members to understand the status of a project, its costs, and other key information.
Permissions and security Offers users the chance to set tailor-made access to all the project related data, and keeps information secure.
Accounting Takes charge of project finances and offers tools for tracking budget, invoicing, and expenses.
Integration Facilitates integration with other solutions such as CRM, payroll, time and expense tracking software, resource allocation, and customer support.

Project planning and management features

Project planning can be a complicated task, especially if all the key objectives are not considered prior to the start of the project. This calls for the need to have a grip on everything you need for project planning. Project management tools should offer functionalities for defining and managing every element of a project. Let's look below at some of the project planning and management features you can expect.

Feature Description
Gantt charts Gives a visual representation of the progress of project-related tasks and their order of completion in comparison to what was planned.
Project accounting Tracks the financial components of projects such as budgets, costs, estimates, and invoicing.
Project notes Enables users to input any project-related information such as the transcript of a conversation, contract details, or comments on daily to-do tasks.
Template management Ready-to-use project management templates that can be used to communicate status to stakeholders and team, or track issues, or report other project related updates.

Collaboration features

Without proper team collaboration, the chances of a project being successful is almost nil. Collaboration tools are more and more important nowadays as teams today can be scattered throughout the globe. A good project management tool can help you and your team collaborate easily in a number of ways. Let's find out how.

Feature Description
Collaboration tools Enables employees, clients, or vendors to work together seamlessly even from remote locations.
Collaborative review Allows project stakeholders to review, co-author or redact files and documents related to a project.
Communication management Facilitates centralized communication through various mediums like email, chats, and videos to ensure seamless flow of project related data and messages across teams.
Shared workspace Lets users share and collaborate on a set of documents with project collaborators both within and outside of the organization via a shared workspace.
Chat Provides project stakeholders with tools to communicate and collaborate on tasks. A good chat tool also supports sharing of videos, images, and files with the team members through a chat window.

Task management features

Tired of depending on a pen and paper or spreadsheets adding repeated tasks over and over again? There has to be a better way, right? With a growing focus on saving time and resources, interest in task management tools have grown exponentially. Task management features can assist you with the following:

Feature Description
Recurring tasks This feature allows users to set a custom repeating pattern for recurring tasks, often supporting notifications for when tasks are due.
Task planning Helps define individual tasks, resource allocation, timelines, and deadlines.
Task scheduling Allows users to schedule task duration, planned effort on a task, re-schedule a task, allocation and re-allocation of resources per task, etc.
Task tracking Lets users track non-started, in-progress, and complete tasks related to a project.
To-do list Keeps track of to-do tasks that need to be followed-up on.

Customization features

Not everyone works the same way. The tool you choose must be easily customizable to meet the needs of the company, the team, and the individuals. Find below some of the top customization features that a project management software offers.

Feature Description
Automatic notifications Set up alerts to appear in the application or via email about any change in tasks, approaching deadlines, unassigned tickets, receipt of messages, upcoming events, etc.
Automatic reminders Set up automatic reminders to trigger notifications when a task or an issue is late or due.
Configurable workflow Allows users to customize parts of the workflow based on specific project requirements.
Customizable fields Customize pre-built data fields as per specific business needs. Users can include a broad range of data types to store data related to projects.
Customizable reporting Lets users modify the way reports are generated to include or exclude specific data points.
Customizable templates Offers built-in, customizable templates for project planning, project scheduling, task creation, etc.

Intelligence and reporting features

Real-time project analytics show you at a glance the health of your project enabling you to make swift and informed decisions. On top of this, inbuilt reporting features let you create project status reports to make sure things are on track.

Feature Description
Activity management/tracking Gives an overview of project-related activities, individuals, and teams involved, upcoming deadlines, accomplished tasks, checklists, etc.
Activity dashboard Allows users to see project progress and status at-a-glance including workload, budget, and progress. Outlines real-time details on resource allocation, task assignment, etc.
Progress reports Automatically updates project stakeholders and collaborators about the project's progress. Ensures that the entire team is aware of the latest updates.
Milestone tracking Lets users add milestones to projects that include description, start and end dates, and who's responsible for getting it done. Tracks those milestones to see where a project is in its life cycle.

Permissions and security features

Permissions and security feature lets you control who, or what can access a particular file or folder. This helps prevent unauthorized access to data, allowing you to tailor who can access what information on your projects. Here are some of the security and access control functionalities you may want your project management tool to offer:

Feature Description
Single sign on An authentication process that authorizes a user to access multiple applications or features using a single username and password.
User access controls Restricts individual user connections within a project management solution.
Audit trail Provides a chronological record of events such as changes in project state, changes in work hours, alterations in project duration, changes in actual start or end dates, etc.
Version control Ensures that everyone who's working on a project has access to the latest copy of the all the project-related documents and files.
Permissing management Allows users to set permissions to ensure only right people have access to each project and task. Permissions can be adjusted and can be different for different projects.

Accounting features

Many project management applications offer a variety of different features and functionalities that can help you track project costs and ensure that they re delivered on budget. Here are some of the key project management accounting features to look out for.

Feature Description
Financial management Helps to track and monitor project-related expenses, capital costs, time, supplier costs and manage the budget effectively, giving a clear picture of the financial status of the project to the user.
Invoice management Detailed tracking, reporting, and billing functions help businesses and providers create prompt and accurate invoices to ensure timely payments.
Job costing This feature gives users an accurate, daily picture of job costs, so they can always know where they stand against the project budget.
Budgeting and forecasting Used to track project and resource costs, including labor costs, equipment, expenses and more. May include alerts, pre-billing, multi-currency and multi-rate support, and reporting dashboards.
Resource management Tracks the availability of employees or remote workers, identifying what skills they have and allowing them to be scheduled for projects accordingly.
Time and expense tracking Monitors employee work time and expenses, as well as providing web-based timesheets.

Integration features

One thing you should try to make sure of when selecting project management software is that your it integrates seamlessly with other software you use. Thankfully, most of the project management tools integrate with other cloud-based software, saving your time and allowing you to share data between applications. Here are some features that will help ensure your project management solution integrates with your existing software stack.

Feature Description
Email integration Supports the processing of tasks via email, such as the ability to create new tasks, edit details, assign them, reschedule them, leave comments, attach documents, etc.
Third-party integration Enables the user to integrate project management software with third-party apps such as time tracking, billing and invoicing management, collaboration tools, scheduling, etc.
Data import/export Data export feature allows users to export project data (generally in CSV format) from the software project. Data import feature allows users to import data from external sources and applications into the project management tool.
API A software-to-software interface that facilitates integration of a project management software with other in-company

Next steps

Hopefully this set of definitions of project management software features has given you more of an idea of the features you need within your solution before you start shortlisting and testing apps. Here are some handy GetApp resources to help you with your project management software selection: