There’s no getting around it: Project planning tools are the foundation of any successful project. Without the right project planning tools, project managers and their teams risk missing or forgetting key details like tasks, dependencies, and resources that are critical to on-time and on-budget delivery. With so much riding on any given project, that’s a risk that business owners, stakeholders, and PMs can’t afford to take. 

So, what kind of project planner tools will help you and your teams get the most out of the planning phase? What are the best project planning tools and project planning apps out there? Read on to find out!

What are project planning tools?

Project planning is the process of putting structures, guidelines, and timetables in place at the start of a project to set yourself up for success. Project planning includes estimating costs, identifying and assigning tasks, organizing teams, setting deadlines, resource planning for professional services, and more. That’s a lot for any project manager to take on. That’s precisely why the right set of project planning tools is so crucial. 

Project planning tools are the instruments that help you during the critical planning phase of a project. Project planning tools can include: 

  • Software systems
  • Templates
  • Scheduling apps or programs
  • Gantt charts
  • PERT charts
  • Kanban boards
  • Scrum boards
  • RAID logs
  • Flowcharts 
  • Checklists 
  • Reporting systems and dashboards

For example, project planner tools like templates can save you and your team tons of time on tasks and campaigns that are often repeated from project to project. Templates are reusable project outlines that reduce the amount of rework and serve as starting points for new work. With templates, you can set up projects, tasks, reports, and other files without having to start from scratch every time. 

Depending on the project management methodology your team or organization uses, your project planning tools may also include Gantt charts or PERT charts. If you follow the Agile PM method, you’ll likely utilize a Scrum or Kanban board as well. At their core, all of these project planner tools are designed to help you visualize projects from beginning to end, along with the individual tasks that comprise them. 

What are the advantages of project planning tools?

Harnessing a powerful set of project planning tools is advantageous for a few different reasons. First, project planning software facilitates full team collaboration by making file sharing a snap. With a tool like Wrike, team members, managers, and stakeholders can access all the files, checklists, charts, templates, assets, and plans related to a project in one single, centralized source. Online planning tools can also help with file management so that critical documents don’t get lost in endless email chains. 

Another great thing about project planning tools is that they can help you identify and plan for known risks that could threaten the success of your project. In fact, a RAID log is a project planning tool designed specifically to define and track all the risks, assumptions, issues, and dependencies associated with a project. RAID logs are particularly useful during the planning and execution phases of a project. 

Additionally, project planning tools improve overall project efficiency by helping you:  

  • Identify, organize, and prioritize tasks 
  • Set due dates for those tasks and assign them to individual team members 
  • Structure review and approval processes for project assets and deliverables

Features to look for in project planning apps

As important as business resource planning is to the success of your project, it’s critical to choose project planning apps that provide the features you really need to optimize your planning phase. 

First, any project planning strategy should include a tool or app that allows you to compile documents and teams at the outset of the project. 

Additionally, you’ll also want some type of feature that facilitates capacity planning. Capacity planning is the process of determining how to organize your resources so that you optimize your ability to achieve the project’s stated objectives with the resources available to you. 

Finally, you’ll want to look for a resource planning feature so that you can utilize your resources effectively while avoiding burnout and project delays. 

  • Task management
    Task management is another highly desirable feature to look for in a project planning app or software solution. Many tools offer the ability to create tasks and sub-tasks; assign task owners, reviewers, and approvers; give each task a deadline; and classify and organize tasks according to priority and/or dependencies. 
  • Ready-to-use templates
    Another highly useful feature found in many project planning apps and online planning tools is templates. Templates allow you to cut down production time on projects and tasks that your teams repeat on a regular basis. Templates for Gantt charts and Scrum or Kanban boards will also help you visualize projects and all their moving pieces — which is a huge benefit during the planning phase. 
  • Ability to integrate with other apps
    Finally, you’ll want to ensure that the project planning app or system you choose is capable of integrating with the other key apps and tools that power your project teams. Some of the big ones include Slack, Gmail, Google Drive, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Salesforce

Are project planning tools expensive?

As you’d expect, there are plenty of project planning tools on the market that can suit any budget — from free tools all the way to enterprise-grade software. If you’re a startup of 10 people, you probably don’t need to invest as heavily in project planning technology as a Fortune 500 company. 

Of course, it’s important to also consider the cost of not using project planning tools to help organize and structure projects from the outset. Failing to properly plan can lead to avoidable issues that can ultimately cause project failure. These might include a blown budget, a blown deadline, or even worse, a lost customer. 

Introducing Wrike: The best project planning tool for teams

With robust task and file management features, capacity and resource planning tools, extensive integrations, and templates galore, Wrike is the best project planning tool available for PMs in organizations of all sizes. With Wrike, you can build everything from customized Kanban boards that automatically organize tasks by due date and priority to one-click Gantt charts that allow you to visualize priorities, create dependencies, and adjust as needed. 

Wrike is available in a range of plans and packages to suit every budget. Get started today with a free trial and see the difference Wrike can make in your next project!