How to Choose Project Management Software
By Claudia Vandermilt
Trying to manage all the moving pieces of a complex project using pen and paper can prove problematic. In the worst case scenario, deadlines are missed, critical tasks are overlooked and the entire undertaking gets sidelined before it even gets off the ground. That is precisely why project management tools have come into existence to help managers plan out, execute and oversee all aspects of the project management process from beginning to end.
Project management tools are designed to help enable easier oversight of each task involved in a complex project so managers can ensure on-time completion of all related tasks, balanced workloads for staff and sound time management. They are meant to enhance efficiency while ensuring that no detail is left unattended.
Project management software is not all alike, however. Managers seeking to invest in tools to help them better oversee large projects should take four main points into consideration when reviewing the options to determine which tools are suited to their needs:
Having the ability to carefully map out an entire project from beginning to end with all required tasks included is the hallmark of a solid project management program. This enables project managers to ensure tasks are defined and assigned, while also showing how they are interconnected so tasks proceed in the proper order. A good program generally enables project managers to map out:
Task assignments to individual team members
Time estimates for each task to keep all aspects of a project moving forward toward the stated deadline
Interdependent tasks and how they relate to each other so it is clear what steps must be completed before other tasks can begin
A detailed listing of all tasks to be completed along with their description and scope
Complex projects can have a lot of moving pieces that must be managed for the entire project to reach successful completion on time and within budget. With that in mind, task management capabilities tend to be very important when considering project management tools. This aspect of a project management tool merges with planning abilities, but enables more granular assignments and descriptions of each task, or mini-project, within a larger project.
Solid programs enable project managers to:
Assign individual tasks to the appropriate team members for completion
Set deadlines for each task contained within a project
Receive notification when individual tasks are completed
Completely define each individual task along with outlining its instructions and specifications for completion
These abilities combine to keep projects moving forward while ensuring all team players understand their individual responsibilities.
Sharing and Collaboration Features
When complex projects involve a lot of shared documents and notes that must be accessible to the entire team, tools that enable sharing and collaboration on project-related materials can prove valuable. The project management tool can serve as a central storage house for all important documents while sparing team members an inundation of emails that might prove difficult to sort through as the project progresses.
Tools that offer sharing and collaboration abilities simply create a neater space to store, work on and retrieve project-critical materials. They can also make it easier for team members to keep up with project documents and prevent the loss of important materials as complex projects progress.
Some project management tools include sharing and collaboration features within their design. Other options, however, do exist as standalone features. When selecting project management software, it is important to determine if this feature should be included within the tool or if an alternative method, such as use of Google Docs, makes more sense for the company in question.
Generally, pricing is an important consideration for just about any firm. While larger corporations may find this less of an issue, smaller firms can carefully review the options and compare the benefits versus the costs to determine the best overall package for use. There are some project management tools that charge flat monthly fees and allow unlimited collaborators, and others that charge group rates rather than by-the-user licensing fees. Options with these payment models can serve smaller company needs better in some cases than more costly per-user-based pricing models.
It may also be a good idea to determine if a new project management solution will help reduce costs elsewhere by reducing labor, enhancing efficiency or replacing other software. The potential for cost savings can make more expensive programs with more robust features beneficial purchases, even for smaller firms.
Project management software packages are designed to make sure all key players stay on task as complex projects progress. With no shortage of options available on the market to meet project management needs, it’s important for firms to carefully consider their specific needs and weigh them against different project management tool options within their price ranges.
Claudia Vandermilt is a skilled project manager with experience in internet marketing, travel, consumer goods and home necessities. She’s earned certificates in Applied Project Management and Advanced Certificate in Applied PM from Villanova and continues furthering her education and experience in project management across industries.