With so many types of software for project management on the market, organizations often find it difficult to decide which program to use for their team. This guide will explore the elements that make up an effective project management tool, while also providing pointers on choosing the right software for various purposes.
Properly planning is the first step in completing a project. Good project management software take this further by making all that work a lot easier. Shared team calendars are one of the basic features for this. The calendar allows team members to quickly see important project dates and deadlines for their own work, as well as their collaborators.
Gantt charts are another useful planning tool. These charts plot the duration of each project task against the overall project timeline. Here, team members can visualize the overall flow of the project. SmartSheet offers highly interactive charts:
Effective project management software will automatically change Gantt charts based on team activity. This helps managers keep track of progress easily and compare it to their initial estimates.
Projects do not always follow a linear path. Most have a number of different tasks going on at the same time which will ultimately link up together at the end. The best project management software lets users quickly plan for this methodology.
Agile project management is one such alternate project methodology. Here, project results are presented to users at each milestone of the work. This is in contrast to traditional project setups, where clients get to see the results only after the project is completed.
JIRA has incorporated agile management features into their platform:
These features let users easily plan the work to be done in each stage while still allowing them to make adjustments on future work based on client input.
Laying out the project budget is another essential component of the planning stage. Useful project management software will provide budget creation tools for accurate projections. Additionally, it should have a means of tracking expenditures.
Mavenlink offers extensive budget planning tools. The software even features a margin analysis tool that lets managers create profit projections and compare it to the actual profits at the end of the project.
Once the project is set into motion, teams need an easy way to keep track of all the tasks being done. The best software for project management provides this through real-time dashboards. ?These dashboards show which tasks are being worked on at the moment to the entire team. Changes made by members to tasks are also immediately shown on the board, helping other members keep pace with one another.
Asana and Wrike are two popular project management programs that feature a full team dashboard. In the former?s case, the dashboard uses a card system providing members with detailed overviews of the tasks. On the other hand, Wrike employs widgets for the same purpose.
In some instances, assigned tasks might be more complex than usual. Breaking these tasks down into smaller subtasks helps members better manage the work. Zoho Projects is an example of a program that provides a detailed subtask creation tool.
Another essential task micromanagement activity is tracking task dependencies. Dependencies are the relationships between tasks within the project. A given task, for instance, might not be considered complete until it has received and processed data from another task.
MS Project is one project management program that has extensive task dependencies management.
The software also lets users create dependencies between tasks also across different projects. Additionally, users can customize the dependencies to better highlight the actual relationships between tasks.
Many project heads consider time tracking an important feature that project management programs should have. While most popular project management programs already feature basic time tracking, a few have gone beyond that and provide additional capabilities.?These added capabilities help teams optimize their work schedules.
Constant communication plays an important role in teams working together efficiently. Real-time chat is one of the common communication features offered by popular project management programs, Basecamp?s Campfire is an example.
Members can converse either on the main work area or in separate chat rooms. The ability to share files and multimedia content through chat helps even more with coordination.
Task commenting is another common communication feature of many project management programs. While this isn?t exactly real-time communication, users can tag and alert other members with their comments, and those tagged can respond.
Real-time communication is helped by mobile connectivity being introduced by many project management software providers. Teams can either view a mobile-ready project page, or use a dedicated mobile app to view their project tasks and communications. The latter even comes with integrated task management features, letting managers coordinate work from their mobile devices.
During the course of the project, team members create a large volume of documents. Software which integrates document management into its core helps teams organize their documents for collaborative use.
LiquidPlanner is one project manager which provides extensive document management. Aside from basic file and document organization, the program has version control tools. These tools keep track of the edits made on the various documents and ensures that members are using the latest version. LiquidPlanner integrates with file sharing tools like Google Drive and DropBox, adding to its document management capabilities.
A system for document permission control restricts access to specific documents to certain members. This helps avoid accidental revisions. Monday.com provides adaptable permission management features.
When doing agile projects, stakeholders could want to study document progress. The best management software provides quick access to files for this purpose, while also allowing documents to be quickly redacted so no more time is wasted. Teamwork Projects provides all these collaborative review features in an easily-accessible section.
Analytics tools help managers sift through and understand project data and put everything into proper context. Wrike?s analytic tools set, in particular, is considered to be one of the most robust.
Their Global Reports feature lets managers pull out data from all tasks and organize the data into various categories. Meanwhile, managers can keep track of the various project performance metrics through the Performance Analytics Overview screen.
When doing reports, teams often need to create different ones for specific audiences. Good project management software makes the work easier through customizable reports.
This type of feature allows users to create a general report containing all the project data. They then choose which pieces of data to include in a new report based on what the specific audience wants to see. Customizable reports make it easier to provide updates on a regular basis to project stakeholders.
Risk reporting is typically done after a thorough assessment of the project?s current status. The reports contain the various issues identified during the review and the risks they pose to the project. The report also contains mitigation and management measures for these risks.
To facilitate the creation of risk reports, popular project management software like Jira have integrated issue and bug tracking tools.
These tools continuously track and log any problems identified by managers beforehand. The logged data can then be included in the reports as needed.
The right software helps teams ensure that their work is on the right track. The important features that team leaders should consider are:
These features serve as the core of an excellent project management program and will guarantee that teams will have a reliable means of managing their work.