Project Management Software overview
Uniting your team and preparing them to work as a unit is integral to the success of your projects. But without the proper project management software and tools to manage these projects, you may be doubling your efforts instead of optimizing them. By spending time maintaining dozens of spreadsheets and trying to stay on top of an overflowing inbox, you’re missing the opportunity to be strategic with your time. This is the importance of using the right tools for the job.
Below we tackle two general groups of tools that you should use for managing work more efficiently: your work management/collaboration tools and your personal productivity tools.
Project management tools can vary from team to team, but they are more commonly used as computer programs enabling project managers to plan, execute and manage their projects in one centralized virtual location.
Project management software can be used for any of the following:
- Project planning
- Project scheduling
- Resource allocation and capacity planning
- Budgeting and monitoring project costs
- Quality management
- Storing and sharing documentation and project records
- Creating and publishing project reports
- Tracking the actual time spent on project tasks versus plan
- Analyzing trends and forecasting
Who should use project management tools?
Anyone that manages projects can benefit from a project management software. Even if you don’t run formal projects or don’t have “project manager” as your title, project management software still provides value.
In fact, many companies that don’t run formal projects still use project management software to plan, organize, track, monitor and execute their projects.
Tools that can help you manage projects come in many different forms, just as projects themselves. For instance, some of your projects may be simple three-step processes that only involve you and another person, while others can take multiple teams and months (or even years) to complete. Below are three categories of tools that can help manage tasks and teamwork.
A. Real-time Instant Messaging Tool
You will need a tool that allows people to talk or video chat with remote colleagues in real time. It’s an integral part of any meeting to hear your colleagues, and even better if you can see them (non-verbal communication is just as important).
This is another area where there is intense competition. The instant messaging market is dominated by tools such as Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Chatter, Facebook Messenger, and a growing number of mobile-first applications.
B. Knowledge Base Tool
This is where you store the combined wisdom of the team, accessible by all members via a searchable database. Think internal blogs or wikis (and Wrike can do this very well too). The knowledge base tool will allow processes to be documented and expertise or best practices to be recorded and shared with the team so knowledge is accessible to all.
C. File Sharing Tool
In order to get collaborative work done, you will need tools to share files. This tool should allow you to easily save, sync, and share files with the team.
Apart from attaching files to emails (which is highly discouraged since it leads to many problems and much time wasted), there are many other options available. Some of the big names in this space include Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive — all of which integrate directly into Wrike. Which means if you use Wrike, you can easily attach all work files from these services to your tasks.
Personal Productivity Tools
The average worker is distracted every 11 minutes. The struggle to fight off interruptions and focus solely on work becomes exhausting if you’re not using helpful tools. Fortunately, there is a great variety of free tools available for the picking. These are apps that can kill alerts and notifications, force you to focus on one browser tab at a time, drown out the general office noise around you, and organize your work. We’ve listed 10 useful tools here: 10 Free Productivity Apps for Getting Things Done.
The problem many organizations end up facing using the above types of tools is that they’re not suited or flexible enough to fit any type of project. For instance, only using tools such as email and group messaging for project management leads to easily losing information, document versioning issues, unclear prioritization and task dependencies, and more. This is where project management software comes in.
Why use project management software?
Managing a project without the proper software is possible, but it will increase the risk of errors and add inefficiencies to the process. Project management software allows for visibility and team collaboration that can otherwise be difficult to attain.
For example, while it is possible to use spreadsheets for project tracking,
it takes a lot of time and effort to do correctly. In addition, manually updating spreadsheets increases the risk of manual errors and, in order for the rest of the team to see the update, the spreadsheet has to be re-saved and re-uploaded to a central location.
Other issues project managers have with spreadsheets are:
- Multiple versions of the same file existing and constantly having to identify which is the most accurate and up to date
- When more than one person needs to update the spreadsheet at the same time, it can be tough to sync each version or work together in real-time
- Security can be an issue when the spreadsheet is being uploaded and downloaded multiple times in multiple places
- There are often delays between activities occurring and updates being recorded
Project management software is designed to overcome all of these issues.
Here are fifteen additional reasons why people choose to use project management software:
- Creating new projects and tasks from old files and templates is easy
- Modifying existing projects and tasks automatically updates linked tasks, dependencies, and other variables in real-time.
- Building reports and dashboard views to visualize project performance is easier.
- There is less risk of losing your progress than with manual tracking methods.
- Stakeholders can be granted access to view real-time progress and reports for greater visibility.
- When everything is in one place, you get a clearer overview of the project’s overall health.
- Automated notifications can be set up to alert you when certain actions occur, such as when a task is assigned to you or if a task is past due.
- Lessons and learnings from previous projects, as well as documentation, can be stored in one centralized location.
- Certain project management platforms integrate with other applications you, your team or your customers use, increasing efficiency.
- Project management software can coordinate tasks and automate workflows, so that team members are notified when one task is complete and another needs to start.
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.
How to select the best project management software
There are a variety of project management softwares in the market, but choosing the right one for you and your team is critical. Here are some questions to ask when assessing project management software options:
- Will my team actually use it?
- Can multiple departments use it?
- Does it support transparency and clear communication?
- Is it flexible?
- Can you generate custom reports?
- Does it easily (and securely) allow for external communication/users?
- Does it integrate with other tools we use?
One of the most important things to think about is the the long-term strategy when selecting your software. Getting your team familiar and comfortable with a project management software takes time and resources. You want to make sure you’re choosing one that can grow and adapt with your team, not limit it.
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.
Key features when selecting a project management software
Identifying key features your team may need as they adopt project management workflows in your tool is crucial. A few things to look for:
- Real-time collaboration. Project management software should allow for collaboration between team members and stakeholders. People should be able to access and make changes to the system at the same time.
- Sharing & storing documents. Project management software should allow for the sharing and storage of documents. This provides a knowledge repository for your projects.
- Cost management. Tracking and reporting of costs as well as monitoring for potential overruns.
- Reporting. Customizable reports and dashboards that allow for real-time reporting. You should be able to filter and format based on the criteria that are important to you.
- Ease of use. If the system is too complex, your team will not want to use it.
- Template creation. It’s important to be able to create and customize templates so that you’re not building each project and activity from scratch.
- Warning flags. The system should be able to trigger alerts or warnings when things go off track, such as when an activity is late.
- Scheduling. You will want a software system that allows for the creation of a schedule baseline, and the ability to monitor your actual schedule against it.
- Time management - Actual time worked will need to be tracked in the system to monitor progress and manage both labor costs and resources.
- Resource allocation - You should be able to assign resource roles (i.e., accountant), and individual people (i.e., John Doe) to tasks in the system.
- Customization - Software should be flexible enough to adapt to the different projects and processes that your organization has.
- Controls & governance - While flexibility is important, a system also needs to have sufficient controls and restrictions in place to ensure data is secure and approvals are tracked and recorded.
- Integration capability - The software should be able to integrate with your other business systems such as your financial management system.
- Unique calendars - You will want to have calendars that can be changed to reflect your working days and hours, as well as updated to reflect any shutdown periods or vacations.
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.