Choosing a project management software is never easy, especially if we are talking about specific sectors.
The offer of softwares for project management on the market has in fact exploded exponentially in recent years.
These programs are specially designed to improve collaboration between team members and the project manager. They offer a variety of functionalities necessary for the success of a project and it is not so easy to choose the ones that best suit the situation.
A reliable project management software will in fact give the opportunity to share everything about the process in real time. The interaction of the team and the results will consequently improve, but if there are no specific functions indispensable to the project, it may not produce any concrete advantage.
With such a wide offer on the market, the question arises: “Which software is suitable for my project / organization?” Let’s try to build a coherent path of choice.
TABLE OF CONTENT
- To choose a project management software, you need to be clear about why you need it
- 10 essential features in a project management software
- 1. Good project management software must be easy to use
- 2. It must allow a complete and correct management of the activities
- 3. Planning as a priority of a respectable project management software
- 4. File sharing as an element of interaction and speeding up of the steps
- 5. Instant communication within the team
- 6. Reporting tools in an efficient software that allows the creation of Reports in real time
- 7. A good software must provide a simple and intuitive dashboard
- 8. User friendly user interface
- 9. Choose software for the management of projects that allows the personalization of work environments and reports
- 10. Time, budget and resource management
- Optional advanced features
- 1. Additional visualization tools to simplify communication
- 2. Possibility of integrating risk analysis
- 3. Expense and billing report
To choose a project management software, you need to be clear about why you need it
A well-designed project management software will keep everyone up to date on the progress of the work and ensure that the project is progressing as planned.
Many project managers, even today, keep track of projects using Excel, Google spreadsheets or other spreadsheet programs.
These work well up to a certain point and are okay for relatively simple projects that require only few resources.
However, as elaborate as they may be, these tools have significantly lower performance compared to a dedicated project management software.
Here are the telltale signs that indicate the need to use project management software:
- The team is using too many tools to track different aspects of the project.
- The team looses too much time writing emails and doing meetings and does not have enough time to generate results.
- You want to move the project management system to the cloud so that everyone can access information from anywhere and at any time.
- Business and organizational needs have exceeded the capacity of the current software.
- Someone does not receive adequate updates or sufficient visibility through the current software.
- Problems are not tracked properly and risks are not reported in time.
- The software is too complex, to the point that it is creating inefficiencies, rather than increasing productivity.
- Collaboration between team members is not efficient or effective.
- Too much is spent analyzing data and generating reports.
10 essential features in a project management software
1. Good project management software must be easy to use
Project management software will not be useful unless the team uses it.
Some project management tools are very complex and may require a few days of training.
2. It must allow a complete and correct management of the activities
This function should not only allow you to list all the activities, but also to assign them to the correct team member, so that everyone knows what needs to be done and by whom.
Some project management tools allow you to sort tasks using different filters, such as by resource, department, completion day, etc., so you can quickly locate and organize information.
Most software warns the responsible team member when a deadline is approaching in order to make sure that tasks are completed in a timely manner. If some of these functions were missing, the software in question should be discarded a priori.
3. Planning as a priority of a respectable project management software
You may be able to manage a small project thanks to a simple list of activities on a spreadsheet, however, things can become very complicated in the case of a large project.
If you do not have the opportunity to view the history and understand how the various activities are dependent and influence each other, it may be practically impossible to plan them correctly.
A Gantt chart is therefore a function that is not only important, but indispensable in order to allow the visualization of activities, the interdependencies between them and, consequently, the entire planning of the project.
Choose only software that has an extremely clear and easy to set Gantt function.
4. File sharing as an element of interaction and speeding up of the steps
Most software offers the possibility to share files internally. This allows team members to have quick access to the information they need to do the job.
It is however useful to check if the Project Management software offers the possibility to share files even with people outside the organization, such as suppliers, contractors or customers. Sometimes sharing this could be indispensable in order to not being forced to resort to additional tools.
5. Instant communication within the team
Good communication is essential to facilitate collaboration and ensure that activities are carried out in an efficient and timely manner.
The need for simplified communication is becoming increasingly important. In most major projects, in fact, an increasing number of people work remotely or are distributed among offices in different places, also in the third sector.
An integrated messaging feature therefore, helps team members communicate quickly in real time without having to exchange hundreds of emails daily.
In addition, other team members can take a quick look at a discussion.
6. Reporting tools in an efficient software that allows the creation of Reports in real time
Reporting tools collect the previously entered project data and create reports on project budgets, expenses, resource allocation, team member performance and more.
Most project management software has a predefined set of reports that can be generated and some also include custom reports. Before choosing the software for a determined project, it is essential to check the efficiency of these features in depth.
7. A good software must provide a simple and intuitive dashboard
This feature allows you to have a view of the project status through a dashboard with graphs, visual metrics and key indicators.
A simple and intuitive Dashboard not only for the Project Manager but for all team members is certainly a help in focusing on the activities to be carried out and identifying priorities.
The Dashboard should be able, when necessary, to be shared also with stakeholders. In fact, these graphical reports instantly communicate the status of the project and some interested parties might be interested in seeing the general data of the project but do not need to see all the details presented in a written report.
8. User friendly user interface
Even though visual design may not seem like a top priority, it has some importance anyway.
A poor and messy interface could make it difficult for users to find what they need, thus hindering productivity.
A clean, simple and professional interface makes the user experience more enjoyable and may even help team members be enthusiastic about using the software.
Moreover, a well-designed interface is even more important if the project management tool is also used by an end customer.
9. Choose software for the management of projects that allows the personalization of work environments and reports
Customization allows to create a “work environment” that reflects the preferences and needs of an organization: from the logo to the color scheme, from customized reports to the way data are organized.
Moreover, the customization of reports and columns of data allows you to selectively display information. This allows to quickly show relevant data and metrics to different stakeholders.
10. Time, budget and resource management
These three aspects often overlap. The ideal is to have them all together in a single project management software. This surely would represent a valid help for the allocation of the team and resources in a more efficient way.
Optional advanced features
Depending on the nature of the organization’s activity and the complexity of the project, a project manager might also like to have features that are not usually found in default project management softwares. Let’s see together what they are:
1. Additional visualization tools to simplify communication
If you often handle complex data and relevant reports, the Gantt chart may not be sufficient to give a complete view. You may need to use additional visualization tools to simplify the communication of various data and metrics involved in the project.
2. Possibility of integrating risk analysis
If you work with complex projects with many moving parts, an integrated risk analysis feature can be very useful.
This feature allows to identify, analyze, and react quickly to risk factors for the entire duration of a project.
3. Expense and billing report
Some advanced project management software (but not all) offer customer relationship management features, so-called CRMs, and invoice automation. This allows customer interactions and information to be automatically synchronized.
The billing function synchronizes with time tracking and expense reporting so that all information can be consolidated before an invoice is created.
After understanding the various features offered by the project management tools on the market, it is therefore necessary to clarify one’s needs.
Several factors must be taken into account based on the specific circumstances of an organization in order to ensure that the selected project management software meets the needs. Not only that, it will also be necessary to choose the one that best suits the nature of the projects and the structure of the company, considering current and future growth needs.
When choosing a project management software, it is important to make sure to combine the various features with the requirements of the organization and the team in order to choose the tool that best fits the goals.