Working on a project of whatever size or complexity often comes with challenges. There are procedures that need to be followed, a budget that needs to be considered and adhered to, and of course, a deadline that needs to be met. With so many elements involved, using a tool that keeps everything organized is invaluable.
Project Management Software Explained
According to Tenrox by Upland, a software development firm, the software is a tool used for various project management applications. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Cost Accounting and/or Billing
- Earned Value Analysis
- Time Tracking
- Collaboration or Team Management
- Project Documentation
The top project management tools available in the market often offer numerous features to help managers work on different kinds of projects. These can be used for virtually anything that needs to be built or organized. For example, construction project management software can help engineers, architect, and contractors communicate to successfully finish building a design. Despite the number of people involved in the construction, everything is easy to track and can stay within the limits of permits and of course, the budget.
There are different types of project management software to choose from, so you can easily get one that fits your needs. These types can be categorized into the following:
- Desktop Project Management Software
This type of project management tool needs to have the software downloaded and installed onto the workstation. It cannot be accessed from a different computer that does not have the software. Files are often saved in a local folder, so these are only accessible from that specific computer.
However, there are a few versions where the information and files are saved in a network drive. When that is the case, then, the data is also available at a different computer as long as it has the software installed. While the information can be shared, changes cannot be made simultaneously because only one user can access the data at any given time.
- Web-based or Cloud-based Project Management Software
This type of project management tool provides a more flexible access. The software does not need to be downloaded or installed at every computer that will be used. According to WhatIs.com, an online resource for IT information, it is a program that is coded in a browser that is then supported by HTML, ASP, or PHP. This makes it accessible to any computer that has an access to the internet or an intranet. The main software version just needs to be downloaded and installed on a server and multiple workstations can use the tool.
This type of software is becoming the preferred tool for companies with multiple locations or a mobile workforce. It has an easy to use interface and works the same as other web applications. However, its speed and efficiency may be a little slower than the desktop version as it depends on the speed of the connection as well.
While each type of software for project management has its own pros and cons, a cloud-based tool may be one of your best options because it is easier to access and can be updated by multiple users at a time.
Features of Cloud-based Software
Whether you’re working with a team or completing the project on your own, online project management software offers a host of benefits that makes it easier and more convenient to use. Here are some of the common features that you can get from either the purchased software or free project management software downloads.
- User Friendly Dashboard – there are a variety of tasks involved in any given project. Having a summary of the progress of these tasks will certainly be a big help in analyzing whether the project is being efficiently worked on. A dashboard gives you the information you need without having to dig through mountains of data. It allows you access to the data, so you always know everything about your project. Easy Projects, a web-based project management software with headquarters in Toronto, features a dashboard that contain information such as the following:
- Estimated Hours vs. Actual Hours Rendered
- Status of Existing Activities
- Expected Revenue
- Project Health
- Resource Loading Updates
- News or Updates
- Open Requests
- Resource Loading Tool – when you’re working on a project, you always want the best people to be assigned to the right tasks. With the software, you can keep a database of your resources or specialists. According to Brian Tracy International, a sales and leadership development consultant, one of the essentials in effective management is the ability to match the task to the ability of the person it will be assigned or delegated to. This feature included in the tool makes this part of your job as a project manager much simpler. With the database and tool, you can easily assign segments of the project to the people who will be able to deliver.
Your database includes information about your team members, so it’s easier to identify who should be working on what. In addition, you get a visual of your available resources, so you can make adjustments if needed. For example, if you are working on publishing and launching an illustrated book but have limited graphic artists available, you can adjust the deadline for the pictures.
- Reports – while the dashboard view is invaluable, you will, of course, need the details of the summary to make an in-depth analysis. For example, the dashboard shows you that there are delays in design submissions. You can then check the detailed reports to see what’s causing the delays. This means you will be able to make adjustments or address the concerns behind the challenges that cause delayed submissions. Reviews of project management tools show that customers often find this feature the most useful. With the reports provided, they are able to efficiently manage the projects they are working on regardless of the size or complexity.
- Calendar – one of the things that most projects have in common is that these are time sensitive. It basically means that certain tasks need to be completed at the specified date for the project to be completed right on schedule. The calendar feature that is available with most tools allows you to create a timeline, so team members are aware of how crucial their roles are.
Software features vary depending on what type of projects these are designed to handle. While there are some that have been programmed to cater to specific types of projects, most are easily customizable, so you can use it for virtually anything.
Improve SMB Operations With Project Management Software
The beauty of using a web or cloud-based tool is that you don’t have to be a big organization to be able to enjoy the benefits. Whether you have multiple teams or are working on a project on your own, the software ensures that processes are streamlined to increase your success rate. Below are some ways that you can improve the operations of your SMB with the use of simple project management software.
- Manage Budget – profitability is one of the key factors of an SMB’s success. When running projects such as product launches or opening a new office, staying within budget is crucial. With project management tools, you can easily track where you are in terms of adhering to the budget that was set. This will be a useful tool regardless of whether you are working on your own or have multiple teams working on the projects.
- Coordinate With Vendors – online or cloud project management software can be shared between you and your vendors. If you’re running a small restaurant and depend on regular deliveries from your vendors, you can check the status of your supplies on the software. Your vendors can easily update the tool, so you will always have access to the information you need to operate your business.
- Eliminate the Need for Manual Records Keeping – Binfire, a software solutions provider, reported that about 46% of small businesses still use manual methods to keep important records on ongoing projects. These methods vary from spreadsheets to old school record books. While these may be familiar to most, the risk of human errors is quite high. One slight mistake can have massive negative results.
- Delegate Tasks Efficiently – the success of your business and the projects you run depend on the people you delegate to the tasks. With the software, you can efficiently identify members of your workforce who have the right abilities to do the job well. With the right people running your projects, you can ensure that you get the results you need to become profitable.
- Low Maintenance and Low Cost Technology – a streamlined process is invaluable for small business enterprises. Sadly, technology that produces these results may at times come at a high price. Project management is an integral part in the operations of your business, so you often need to shell out the funds or risk losing revenue from mistakes. The good news is that a cloud-based tool is available at virtually no cost. Some developers offer these for free. These are easily downloaded and immediately available for use. And because project management tools that are online work the same way as any web application, there is no need for intensive training to use.
Your business can certainly enjoy the host of benefits the software brings. You can start worrying less about the different segments of your operations and start focusing on running your SMB. Check out the list of project management software vendors on CrowdReviews.com, so you can start exploring your options today.
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