What to look for when choosing Project Management Software
‘At its most fundamental, project management is about people getting things done,’ Dr Martin Barnes, APM President *
More and more Project Managers and businesses in general are looking to find appropriate software to manage their working days.
Project Management is essentially about "getting things done" however, using basic Project Management Software may hinder progress with your team and clients. So which software tool to choose? Well, first you need to consider what you require from a Project Management Tool in order to make the right choice.
With so many Project Management Software tools to choose from, it can be a lengthy process when assessing which one is most suitable for your team. Different software packages offer different functionality and features so first of all it’s important to establish the team and project requirements and then the best fit in terms of the project management tool.
This may sound obvious but managing tasks effectively is crucial, these tasks act as milestones of projects and once completed – so is the project. Tasks are the steps on the project path and assigning them to relevant project managers and team members needs to be the first stage of any project. Using a Project Management Tool that synchronises with your default calendar, such as Google Calendar for example, also ensures back up of your tasks and so there never needs to be an overlooked task. Task management enables teams and groups to assign, undertake and share important targets and goals necessary to complete projects.
Most projects have large numbers of tasks that need to be streamlined in an effective workflow capacity and so utilising a dedicated project and task management tool is important for time and resource management as well as effective teamwork. Therefore the task management function of any chosen Project Management tool should be priority as it sets the start of the project flow.
Collaboration and Group Discussions
Project Management isn't just about setting milestones and assigning tasks, Project Collaboration is also essential. Project Collaboration means involving all team and group members in discussions, using a forum whereby comments, document amendments and real-time chat for those off-site staff and clients to be kept ‘in the loop’ on projects’ progress.
This also offers a level of team accountability and using a suitable Project Management software that offers features such as version control on documents, group chat and a quick and easy way to upload and manage files and folders, will provide the project team with a workspace in which to collaborate effectively.
Managing projects within teams and with or for clients, involves a lot of Data. File sharing and management thereof takes up a huge part of the process. It is important to know your files are secure, well organised and easy to view, edit and share. Version control and Audit trails ensure that not only is the project wholly ‘backed-up’ (so less room for error) but also encourages the type of group collaboration required. The days of lengthy email chains, lost or missing files and inadvertently leaving key team members out of the project loop can be laid to rest with the fax machine!
Nowadays clients, staff and stakeholders in general need to be informed, kept up-to-date and able to access essentials files and documents at the click of a button and on-the-go or off site. This can be fulfilled more so, by using a tool with an accompanying App.
Choosing a reliable platform that is adept and robust enough in terms of security, storage and ease of use, is a must-have when it comes to choosing the right software.
Involving clients throughout every stage of projects you work on for them will help pave the way for trust in your business and can help engage them with your team further. This then means it would be useful to work with Project Management Software that offers far more than the fundamental task management and group discussions. A great solution is one that offers an all encompassing member invite area with customisable permissions; So your team can invite clients and other external stakeholders that are involved with the project to access, at your discretion as administrator, certain files, folders, discussions and tasks but not necessarily have access to your internal communications and discussions.
White Label Solution
Another option would be to consider a White Label Project Management Software; it can be even more beneficial for your corporate and brand identity if it has your own logos and branding. Combining the internal project management for your team with a portal that can also be used as an own-branded extranet to collaborate with clients.
There are not many White-Label platforms that can offer the features needed for Project Management as well as external client collaboration, so it’s important to shop around. Once clients feel on board with the project, are fully engaged and informed, they will feel a sense of value for your business as well as enabling them to develop their business relationships with your workforce. The up side of this, of course, is that when receiving praise and recognition from clients for their project progress, your team will hold a greater sense of accountability, motivation and job satisfaction.
Accessibility and Accountability
As with every project, timing, accountability and deadlines mean that streamlining activities as efficiently as possible require certain tools. Some businesses may rely on emails, FTP servers, CRM systems, calendars and separate group communication intranets to achieve this, which is fine, if they want to take even longer on projects than is necessary. However finding one platform that pulls together the file, task, event, team and client management needed to meet deadlines on time and to everyone’s expectations will ensure a joined up and more refined process.
Different types of software range from Desktop to Server based, however web based Project Management software offers a much more integrated approach, with often the ability to access files and project information via mobile and tablet Apps. With more and more staff working off site, clients out of the office and international stakeholders all working on documents and projects, accessibility is a crucial part of the Project Management cycle.
Price vs. Value
Now cost and budgets are most project (and financial) department’s concern. Managing and completing projects on time and in budget are priority. Some open source software tools offer free packages; it is understandable to want to get value for money, as long as there isn’t a compromise of quality.
Focusing on price alone may lead you into a false sense of security with your chosen Project Software Tool. Quality products may cost slightly more or slightly less than others, however the real concern is value.
Taking time to look at what software offers the best value for money in terms of all its functionality, as well as taking into account how often you would be using the tool within your business, will make it easier to decide based on overall suitability, longevity and scalability of the tool as your business grows.
Will it meet your criteria?
Most Project Management Software tools offer monthly packages with no lengthy contract, which also provides a safety net, should you find it is not compatible.
Ultimately a Project Management tool has to hit certain tick boxes and with such an array it can be task in itself finding the right one! Remembering to get the most in terms of functionality, benefits and overall efficiency means that list can be whittled down in less time than first thought. Allowing you to continue with project coordination, collaboration and mountain of tasks you have, in a much faster and organised way.