You can’t cook a dish well until you have a recipe with the planned ingredients in planned proportions. You can’t get your dream job until you have identified what you want to do and plan how you will land in the interview room. Whether it’s smaller tasks like these or larger tasks like software development, identify goals and planning execution are vital. The right project management software can help you take care of everything from planning to execution in a way that maximizes your productivity.
Before we dig deeper into what makes a project management tool the right fit for you, let’s quickly understand what exactly project management means.
What is Project Management?
"Operations keep the lights on, strategy provides the light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train engine that moves the organization forward" — Joy Gumz
Project management is the process of identifying and specifying goals, planning how you will achieve those goals, enumerating the resources and the time you will need, and directing the team to work towards the goals.
It is an indispensable process that every organization needs in order to keep its plans afloat.
Project management requires meticulous planning, consistent tracking, and deep insights. So you need a quality project management software to manage the massive amount of tasks and resources involved.
Project Management Software: Features Critical To Efficient Management
There are plenty of project management tools available for different sizes of organizations and different types of projects. However, not every tool consists of essential features for carrying out project management smoothly and efficiently.
Regardless of the nature of your work and the size of your team, always look for the following features while selecting the best project management software for your business:
1. Project Planning, Scheduling, and Task Management
“Plan your work for today and every day and then, work your plan.” - Margaret Thatcher
The most basic pre-requisite for successful project management is planning who will do what and at what time. So the best online project management tools should enable managers to assign tasks to team members with clear schedules.
This clarity eliminates any scope of confusion and ensures a smooth, collective progression.
Following are some of the essential project planning and task management features:
- Project request forms
- Project templates
- Roadmaps for long term goals
- Creating tasks, adding descriptions and file attachments
- Assigning roles to concerned team members
- Setting due dates or deadlines
- Putting prioritization labels
- A kanban board view and Gantt charts to check the status of tasks
- Creating clear task dependencies for a project with multiple processes
2. Team Communication and Collaboration
“In teamwork, silence isn’t golden. It’s deadly.” - Mark Sanbon
A project often requires a number of people to perform different tasks. Moreover, each task needs to be integrated with or complemented by the rest of the tasks. Hence, there is always a dire need for all the team members to collaborate and communicate with each other.
Whether it's traditional or agile project management, everyone needs to access the work done by the others at some point. Thus, the top project management tools are the ones that facilitate real-time communication and efficient collaboration between the team members.
Here are some of the must-have features that enable team collaboration:
- Virtual workspace where team members can log in/log out
- Tools for communication like real-time personal messaging and group messages
- Options to write comments, create threads and tag team members
- Options to store and share files with ease
- Automated notifications for task activities
- A shared team calendar that synchronizes with other calendar tools
3. Document Management and Accessibility
“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” - Benjamin Franklin
Toggling between different apps for accessing information can be very confusing and time-consuming. Moreover, it becomes complicated when a number of people have to look for a document at different times.
The easiest way out is to have all your documents and other files in one place. While selecting project management software, make sure it can manage your documents and make them easily accessible.
Top document management and accessibility features vital in project management tools are:
- A central library for all the files uploaded
- Sharing and saving files in a structured and secure way
- Automatic updates to current versions wherever a file is saved
- Seamless integration and synchronization with third-party apps
- Archiving files when they aren’t temporarily needed
- A powerful, user-friendly search option for all the current and archived files
4. Monitoring and Reporting
"How does a project get to be a year late? One day at a time." — Frederick Brooks
An integral part of successful project management is project tracking, including both time tracking and budget tracking. Without monitoring the project at crucial stages, you run into serious risks of missing deadlines and targets.
Thus, reporting is an integral part of the project management lifecycle. Customized reporting enables the project manager to gauge the performance of the team members and whether there are any roadblocks.
As discussed earlier, project management requires you to feed a lot of data in the tool for various purposes. So a top project management tool should be able to utilize this data to give you quick reports. In addition to getting an overview, you should also get detailed reports about each vertical of the project.
Essential monitoring and reporting features include:
- Project dashboards so you can get a quick bird’s eye view of the progress made
- Charts and graphs to show important KPIs related to costs and timelines of individual tasks
- Metrics to identify variance between projected estimates and actual performance
- Customization options so you can create and automate reports for various purposes
- Tools to identify and manage potential risks
5. Resource Management
“It doesn't matter how many resources you have. If you don't know how to use them, it will never be enough.” - Unknown
Regardless of how large an organization is, a team only has limited resources to use during the project management cycle. Resources are the building blocks of a project. So the process of project management begins with an estimation of resources requirements.
A project manager has to calculate how much time, knowledge, and equipment will the team need to complete the project. They also need to consider how many people and materials would be put to work to accomplish their goals.
The best project management tools have in-built features for resource management so that you don’t run out of resources. Moreover, resource management is also vital for ensuring that your team members aren’t overburdened.
Look for the following features in project management software for optimum resource management:
- Resource planning, scheduling, and time tracking
- Calendar and timeline views to find who is available at a particular time
- Customizable reports to track each team member’s productivity
- Payroll reports and employee leave management features
- TImesheets for tracking hours worked and overtime done by employees
- Tools to make and track bookings for equipment and other office resources
- Tools to create project budgets
- Consistently track costs till date and changes in expected outcomes
6. Project Management Software: Other Essential Considerations
In addition to the functionalities and features mentioned above, there are many seemingly small details that you must take into account while choosing the best project management software tool for your business:
- Security guarantee from the vendors to protect your data
- Long term maintenance and reliable customer support from the vendor
- Easy sign-up and log-in with social accounts
- Seamless user interface and easy navigation
- Transparent pricing and free trial period
Which Project Management Software To Use in 2020?
Project management is extremely critical to the success of your organization. So it is wise to invest significant time in selecting the best project management software for you. It is true that each tool comes with its own pros and limitations. However, ensure that you choose the one that at least fulfills all the criteria mentioned above.
If you are a small business working with small teams, you could try a couple of tools initially. See what works best for you and stick to it.
For a comprehensive list of top tools that can help you manage your projects efficiently, check out this blog.
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