Project Management

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

May 31, 2017

What are the project management software features and functionalities you should look for when choosing a solution? Check out this handy guide and find out.

Deeksha MalikContent Analyst

Project managers can often feel a bit like jugglers, tossing a dozen balls in the air at once. They must always keep a close eye on the balls, making sure to catch each one of them. A single miss could ruin their 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 then look for a tool that can satisfy them. Looking over a never ending list of project management software features and then 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 feature grids for your reference. Through these grids, we'll provide a brief description of the basic functionalities of any project management tool 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

Project planning and managementHelps define project scope and choose appropriate methods for completing the project. Uses visual tools to plan and report project progress.
CollaborationProvides a centralized workspace that enables multiple users to communicate, conference, and coordinate among themselves to facilitate group work.
Task managementHelps 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.
CustomizationAllows users to customize the project management tool to match business needs and the needs of the individual.
Intelligence and reportingReports 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 securityOffers users the chance to set tailor-made access to all project-related data, and keeps information secure.
AccountingTakes charge of project finances and offers tools for tracking budget, invoicing, and expenses.
IntegrationFacilitates integration with other solutions, such as CRM, payroll, time and expense tracking, 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 at some project planning and management features you can expect.

Gantt chartsGives a visual representation of the progress of project-related tasks and their order of completion in comparison to what was planned.
Project accountingTracks the financial components of projects, such as budgets, costs, estimates, and invoicing.
Project notesEnables users to input any project-related information, such as the transcript of a conversation, contract details, or comments on daily to-do tasks.
Template managementReady-to-use project management templates that can be used to communicate the project status to stakeholders and teams, track issues, or share 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.

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

Task management features

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

Recurring tasksThis feature allows users to set a custom repeating pattern for recurring tasks, often supporting notifications for when tasks are due.
Task planningHelps define individual tasks, resource allocation, timelines, and deadlines.
Task schedulingAllows users to schedule task duration, plan the effort required on a task, re-schedule a task, allocate and re-allocate resources per task, etc.
Task trackingLets users track non-started, in-progress, and completed tasks related to a project.
To-do listKeeps 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.

Automatic notificationsSet 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 remindersSet up automatic reminders to trigger notifications when a task or an issue is late or due.
Configurable workflowAllows users to customize parts of the workflow based on specific project requirements.
Customizable fieldsCustomize 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 reportingLets users modify the way reports are generated to include or exclude specific data points.
Customizable templatesOffers built-in, customizable templates for project planning, project scheduling, task creation, etc.

Intelligence and reporting features

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

Activity management/trackingGives an overview of project-related activities, individuals, and teams involved, upcoming deadlines, accomplished tasks, checklists, etc.
Activity dashboardAllows 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 reportsAutomatically updates project stakeholders and collaborators about the project's progress. Ensures that the entire team is aware of the latest updates.
Milestone trackingLets 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 features let you control who 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 security and access control functionalities you may want your project management tool to offer:

Single sign onAn authentication process that authorizes a user to access multiple applications or features using a single username and password.
User access controlRestricts individual user connections within a project management solution.
Audit trailProvides 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 controlEnsures that everyone who's working on a project has access to the latest copy of the all project-related documents and files.
Permissing managementAllows users to set permissions to ensure only authorized 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 features and functionalities that can help you track project costs and ensure that they are delivered on budget. Here are some key project management accounting features to look out for.

Financial managementHelps track and monitor project-related expenses, capital costs, time, and supplier costs as well as manage the budget effectively, giving a clear picture of the financial status of the project to the user.
Invoice managementDetailed tracking, reporting, and billing functions help businesses and providers create prompt and accurate invoices to ensure timely payments.
Job costingThis feature gives users an accurate, daily picture of job costs, so they can always know where they stand against the project budget.
Budgeting and forecastingUsed 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 managementTracks the availability of employees or remote workers, identifying what skills they have and allowing them to be scheduled for projects accordingly.
Time and expense trackingMonitors employee work time and expenses as well as provides 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 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.

Email integrationSupports 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 integrationEnables the user to integrate project management software with third-party apps, such as time tracking, billing and invoicing management, collaboration tools, and scheduling.
Data import/exportData export feature allows users to export project data (generally in CSV format) from the software. Data import feature allows users to import data from external sources and applications into the project management tool.
APIA software-to-software interface that facilitates the integration of project management software with other in-company applications.

Next steps

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

About the author

Deeksha Malik

Content Analyst