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Project management software is used by project managers and stakeholders to plan projects, follow their progress and development, and ensure the timely completion of key tasks. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll look at the core features of this software and the top considerations businesses should have in mind when evaluating a solution.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Project management software is designed to help businesses track the progress of projects from inception to completion. They can use these applications to manage various aspects of a project - from tracking tasks as well as optimizing people and resources to sharing important project documents.
The general purpose of project management software is to improve communication, transparency, and team collaboration, allowing for full visibility over processes, tasks, and workflow.
However, some project management applications are designed with specific teams in mind such as software developers. Others cater a more diverse range of workers.
Given below are different types of project management software and what you can expect from these tools:
Task management software: These are basic tools for businesses looking to eliminate manual processes such as the use of spreadsheets for tracking project progress. The software helps project managers schedule employee tasks and track progress on visual dashboards. Employees can prioritize tasks with color codes or labels as well as set up automated notifications and due date reminders.
Project collaboration software: This is suitable for teams that want to improve communication among project members. These solutions offer basic task management, with a specific focus on collaboration features, to help employees quickly connect with each other. Functionalities include team activity dashboards, document sharing, real-time chat, and voice/video calling.
Agile project management software: This is specifically designed to help technical teams, such as software developers, manage projects. However, it can also be used by small non-technical teams (under 10 members) that follow agile project management frameworks such as marketing. Along with task management and collaboration features, this software typically offers kanban dashboards for progress visualization and advanced reporting such as sprint velocity metrics and burndown charts.
Project portfolio management (PPM) software: As small organizations grow, they need this software. It offers advanced functionalities such as project lifecycle management, risk management, and resource management. Full-suite PPM software helps businesses prioritize projects, assess potential risks, and assign the right employees to projects.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: What functionalities differentiate your project management software from your competitors?
Project management applications could either be on-premise or cloud-based offerings. Choosing the right deployment option requires you to consider factors such as software costs and your IT team's expertise.
GetApp.com emphasizes software-as-a-service (SaaS) or cloud-based deployment. These tools typically come with lower up-front costs, faster implementation time, and automatic updates; they also better support remote use, scale more easily, and minimize the need for IT staff and real estate. But you’ll want to broadly understand each deployment method.
Here are the key differences between these two kinds of deployments:
Software-as-a-Service (cloud based)
Is hosted on the vendor's servers
Pricing is subscription-based on per month, per year, or per user basis
Vendor typically takes care of data backup, security, and feature upgrades
Is hosted on your own servers
Pricing is an upfront license fee for a single user
You are responsible for data storage and software upkeep
Small businesses usually prefer cloud-based over on-premise solutions as the former is cheaper in the short-run. It also saves them from the hassle of figuring out data backup and maintaining the software on their own.
Key questions to ask your vendor before you buy:
(SaaS vendor) Do you offer automatic “offline” data synchronization for mobile applications?
(On-premise vendor) Do you have plans to replace your on-premises software with cloud-based solutions?
A common project management function is task management to set and assign tasks, deadlines, and time sprints. Some tools also facilitate communication with the help of automated notifications, document sharing, and the ability to leave notes.
It’s important to carefully examine the features to see if they meet your specific business challenges. For instance, a team with well-defined roles would need a solution that can assign specific user permissions at various stages of the project lifecycle.
Let’s look at the core features of project management solutions in detail:
Task management: Helps plan tasks, set priorities, and track progress at each stage of the project. Lets users create and assign to-dos, set up recurring tasks, and view tasks on a calendar.
Overview of in-progress and upcoming tasks in Asana
Collaboration: Allows employees, clients, or vendors to share and collaborate on project documents via shared online workspaces. They can also communicate through various channels such as email, chat, and video calling.
Commenting on tasks in JIRA Software
Document management: Facilitates centralized sharing of project-related documents, videos, and images. Allows project stakeholders to review, co-author, or redact project files.
Importing files into Smartsheet
Project planning: Helps project managers define individual tasks, resource allocation, timelines, and deadlines using visual project planning tools such as Gantt charts.
Using Gantt charts to plan task deadlines in ITM Platform
Reporting: Allows users to view project progress and status at a glance, They can also see upcoming deadlines, completed tasks, milestones achieved, team workloads, and budget utilization.
View project reports in Workfront
Besides these core features, project management solutions offer features that help project managers customize the tool as per their business requirements. Here are two such features that businesses should look for when evaluating a project management tool:
Permissions and security: Allows users to set tailor-made access to all project related data. It also keeps the information secure.
Project Accounting: Takes charge of project finances and offers tools for tracking budgets, invoicing, and expenses.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: How can the core functionalities of your project management solution help me achieve specific business results?
When selecting project management software, ensure that it integrates seamlessly with any software you currently use. Fortunately, most tools integrate with other cloud-based software, saving your time and allowing you to easily share data between applications.
Here are some important integrations that you may need with your project management solution:
Email integration: Supports task processing via email. These include the ability to create new tasks, edit details, assign and reschedule tasks, leave comments, and attach documents.
Idea management: Helps team collaborate and develop project ideas. Functionalities include mind mapping tools, document sharing and idea management workflows.
Bug tracking: Separates the tracking of software bugs from tasks in a project. These include custom workflows, time tracking, ticket management and reporting.
Accounting: Allows business to manage project accounting. Functionalities include general ledger accounting, time-tracking for billable hour reports, invoice generation, and project costing reports.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: How many third-party integrations do you offer and how many more will you add in the next 1 to 2 years?