Project Management Software overview
Project management software is used for all aspects of managing, monitoring, and controlling a project, including project planning, scheduling, resource allocation, and change management. Project management software also provides a central knowledge base for project documentation and information.
This software is the backbone of project management success, as its knowledge base functionality enables project team members to collaborate and communicate with each other as well as with other project stakeholders.
Project management software also allows everyone to optimize processes and work together in the most efficient manner possible. The software supports the planning, management, and oversight of projects within one centralized virtual location. Plus, it allows teams to stay on top of project statuses, workflows, and tasks in real time.
Whether you’re managing a single project or multiple projects, programs, and portfolios, project management software allows you to monitor, manage, and coordinate everything and everyone. By adopting project management software, teams can replace more rudimentary tools like email and spreadsheets.
Unlike these simple tools, project management software is flexible, requires little manual labor, and makes you more productive. It’s a solution that helps project managers and teams manage project work, instead of having to spend a lot of time managing the tool itself.
What are the benefits of project management software?
Project management software is beneficial for all companies that manage projects, regardless of organizational size or industry. In fact, the software provides effective project planning and resource management capabilities that anyone can make use of, including businesses that don’t run formal projects.
Any company that needs an effective method for estimating, planning, tracking, delivering, and billing for their services can benefit from adopting project management software. Project management software allows you to create, implement, and manage efficient and optimized processes for all areas of your team and your business.
Here are three of the key benefits of implementing project management software:
Project management software creates a central workspace and knowledge base for both communication, tracking, and the storage of documents. Without this centralization, it becomes difficult to track tasks and projects. After all, when you’re forced to pull data from multiple tools or sources, the accuracy of reports can become questionable.
This visibility also improves the planning and estimating of future projects. Time logs allow managers to review past projects to accurately predict how long certain tasks will take and estimate billable hours. This information can also be used to determine whether potential projects will be profitable.
Project software also reduces the labor and time required to track and compile data manually. With manual methods, such as spreadsheets, there's always the risk of human error, delays in updates, and having multiple versions of the same file. With software, on the other hand, you can easily maintain a single source of the truth.
Project management software can help project teams coordinate tasks and automate the workflow, so that team members are notified when the task before theirs is completed, and they are required to start. This reduces delays and eliminates the need for the project manager to act as a go-between.
Project management software also provides visibility into work progress, roadblocks, and success. The number one benefit of project software for small businesses is time-tracking. Seeing where every minute goes helps small business owners identify and remove bottlenecks and time wasters. This functionality also allows for early identification of delays and issues.
Plus, without a centralized base for coordination and knowledge sharing, documents can be easily misplaced, communications can be missed, and teams may resort to guesswork when it comes to responsibilities and work progress. Project management software ensures that quality doesn’t suffer and tasks take no longer than necessary.
Streamlined communication is one of the most significant benefits of project management software. Businesses are relying more and more on remote teams, contract workers, and freelancers. This trend illustrates why it’s becoming increasingly important that companies are able to effectively communicate with team members who are not all located within one central office.
With cloud-based project management software, virtual teams and stakeholders can log in and access your central workspace from anywhere, any time they’re connected to the internet. This 24/7 connection enables team members to communicate with one another regardless of where they are or what time it is.
Project software provides all key parties with instant access to updates, progress reports, and project notifications no matter where they are. Stakeholders never again have to wait for someone to email them a stale report. One centralized hub also allows everyone to leave feedback on tasks without creating long, hard-to-follow email threads.
When should you invest in project management software?
It makes sense to invest in project management software when you see deadlines being missed, processes falling apart, and miscommunication occurring — but at that point, it may already be too late. After all, by the time you’ve gotten to that stage, you’re already suffering the negative costs of not having the software.
For best results, you want to invest in the software before it becomes critical. While it can be difficult to know when you’re about to outgrow more rudimentary tools, like spreadsheets, here are three signs that can signal when it’s time to invest.
A significant factor in your decision to invest in project software is the rate of growth your business is currently undergoing. If your projects are growing in size or number, then you will likely need project management software soon. Likewise, if your teams are growing or becoming more widespread. Communication gets harder as teams grow and disperse geographically.
If you’re planning to grow, it’s also an indicator that it’s time to invest in project software. For instance, if you’re bidding on large, complex projects, then it is likely time to adopt more powerful project management tools. Scaling your business requires efficiency and automation of repetitive, administrative tasks. Without the means to efficiently scale as you take on more work, you’ll needlessly waste money and effort.
Processes also get more complicated as you grow, so having a tool to manage all the pieces and stakeholders is key. You don’t want critical project tasks missed or issues overlooked, as they can be the difference between project success and failure.
Agility is also important as your company evolves, and having a tool to help do enable it is critical. As your company grows and matures, it’s natural to need to change processes and methodologies. A project management software can support you through this process, with minimal rework and no loss of historical data. Unlike spreadsheets.
In small companies, employees may work individually or in small co-located groups. But with larger and more diverse businesses, this changes. As projects require more people, the complexities and need for collaboration increase.
Even when your organization is not growing, changes in functional structures or physical locations can signal the need for project management software. For instance, if you start employing freelancers and/or remote workers, communication and integration become more challenging.
An increase in external partnerships with stakeholders such as vendors, suppliers, and customers may also add complexity to your projects. For instance, if you undertake a project that requires one subcontractor to complete 35% of the work, management and oversight can quickly become difficult without the right software and processes in place.
Without project management software, employees will have to spend more time doing manual tasks, such as entering data into spreadsheets. Not only does this take more time up front, but it also increases the likelihood of rework due to errors and lost data.
Project management reduces the need for manual and repetitive tasks, freeing up people to do more analysis and big-picture planning. This functionality also helps ensure your team isn’t overloaded and that people are engaged and happy.
After all, people tend to be more fulfilled in their jobs when they’re doing something of value, rather than when they’re doing small, repetitive tasks over and over. Nobody's happy when their spreadsheet crashes, and they just lost the report they spent the last three hours working on.
If your team members are struggling more and more with increased workloads or with simple tools crashing under the weight of large and complex files, it’s a clear sign that it’s time to invest in project management software.
How much does work management software cost?
The price of project management software, or work management software as its sometimes called, will vary depending on many factors, including:
- The software vendor. Vendors set their own prices, so costs can vary widely across companies.
- Software functionality. Not all software solutions come with the same functionality. For example, a vendor may offer a basic model package as well as a more advanced solution.
- Size of your business. Project management software costs typically vary depending on the number of users and/or volume of storage space that’s required.
Most project management software vendors offer several different packaging options, either separated by business size or add-on features. Therefore, the easiest way to understand how much work management software will cost for your business is to check out the top software providers and then review their individual pricing for whichever package meets your needs.
There are plenty of free project management software options on the market, but these come with their own hidden costs. For instance, many free software options lack training and support. This lack of support means that you’ll need to spend more on implementation, ongoing maintenance, and upkeep of the system than you would with another solution.
There are also costs of not having project management software. As we talked about in the last section, without project management software, you’ll spend more time completing tasks and increase the chance of errors, both of which cost you money.
Project management software also makes communication and collaboration much easier. And when you consider that poor collaboration and communication can cost your team $130,000 per year, even the most expensive project management software starts to look very affordable.
What are the top project management features?
We’ve compiled a detailed list of 50 key project management software features that will benefit any company or team. You can scroll down for the full list, but here is a brief synopsis of the top 10:
- Request forms. Project ideas could come from anywhere at any time. Request forms help you capture, track, and evaluate them in a controlled and formalized manner. Dynamic request forms also ensure your team captures all vital task information without asking any unnecessary questions. The form questions change based on the information the requester provides as they’re filling it out.
- Resource management. It’s important to understand who is working on what throughout the life of your project. This feature ensures no one gets overloaded, nothing gets missed, and everyone can see what they’re expected to complete at what time. Resource management helps you assign resources to project tasks, understand availability, and ensure overall resource smoothing throughout the project.
- Mobile app. More and more people are using cell phones as part of their daily work life, whether it’s due to working remotely, traveling for business, or the growing expectation of being available 24/7. This is why it’s imperative that your project management software has a native mobile application — not just a mobile web version. Native mobile apps are optimized for on-the-go usage so that you can get the most out of your software, wherever you are.
- Dashboards. Dashboards allow you to review the state of your project at a glance. They provide a real-time visual overview of progress and task statuses. Customizable dashboard views can be shared with the team and executives so that everyone can understand the status of the project at any time.
- Custom workflow statuses. Workflows typically contain a set of default statuses for indicating task progress, such as “active,” “completed,” “deferred,” and “canceled.” Custom workflow statuses allow you to create your own customized status for tasks. You can also use them to specify who should be assigned to a task based on its status. For instance, you can create a “review” status and tie it to your designated reviewer.
- Reports. A reports feature allows you to easily generate accurate reports and evaluate the progress of your project. Flexible, customizable reports showcase who is working on what, how often deadlines are met, and other key data points that help to highlight both project progress and your team’s hard work and value delivered.
- Customizable templates. Project management templates save you time and reduce the possibility of oversights by enabling you to create new projects and tasks from a baseline, instead of from scratch. The best software for project management will allow you to save common tasks, initiatives, and structures, so you can simply clone them each time you start a new task, log a new risk, or propose a new change.
- Automated notifications. Communication is key for keeping team members on track and for keeping stakeholders up to date. An automated notification feature can easily send notifications out based on trigger events to ensure everyone receives important updates instantly. For instance, your project management software can notify people when a task is assigned to them or when something is due.
- Integrations. Integrations help ensure projects are not managed in isolation and that your data does not end up in a silo. You don’t want to have a stand-alone system that doesn’t speak with your other tools, or it will create more work for everyone. Plus, when implementing a new project management software, integrating it with tools that your team already use increases adoption.
- Collaborative editing. If your project management software doesn’t provide a highly interactive, collaborative space for real-time in-project edits and comments, your team will be stuck with the time-consuming task of wading through and consolidating feedback. Collaborative editing allows everyone to see each other’s comments and work through conflicting feedback in real time.
50 key project management software features
- Request forms
- Work assignment
- Resource management
- Time tracking
- Custom fields
- Recurring tasks
- Customizable templates
- Gantt charts
- Kanban board
- Filters & search
- Live support
- Free trial
- Training resources
- Mobile app
- Desktop app
- Capacity planning
- User, role & access management
- Activity feed
- Rich text
- Guest review
- File sharing
- Task views
- Collaborative editing
- Digital asset management
- Custom workflows
- Email & chat integrations
- Customized workspace
- Adobe Creative Cloud extension
- Dependency management
- Digital file markup
- Proofing & approvals
- Tasks & projects
- Budget tracking
- Performance & reliability
- To-do lists
- Task prioritization
- Version control
- Cloud-based storage
Project management software can provide significant benefits and cost savings for your business. If you’re ready to experience all the advantages of using project management software that’s simple yet powerful, make sure you select a tool that’s worth your investment.