Published March 12th, 2016 by

An Intro to Project Management Software

We have covered a variety of wide ranging topics lately. Everything from customer relationship management software to accounting and finance and manufacturing software. All of this software is designed to improve the efficiency of employees and automate everything that doesn’t add value to the business. A number of problems remain to be solved in business, however. One such problem is that of project management.

Whenever you have what is project management softwarea team of people working on a project you are going to have to deal with project management issues. Keeping track of who is on top of what task is a job in and of itself. The capacity for making mistakes gets higher with each person you add, so it is important to have the right tools in place to make sure that project management runs as smoothly as possible.

Project management software helps facilitate the smooth operation of projects of all sizes. It can help with functions such as task and resource planning, timeline estimation, and facilitating collaboration, just to name a few. In this article we’re going to explore the functionality provided by project management software so that you can get an idea of what to look for when you are considering making a purchase for your business.

Core Functionality of Project Management Software

The best project management software will augment the project manager’s capabilities and help her to streamline all the critical functions. What are the critical functions of project management? Great question!

  • Project planning – every project should be broken down into manageable chunks, and these chunks should be tackled in turn. In order to define a schedule for the project, the project manager can use software to map out these smaller tasks in a way that allows her to see the flow of the project. Since some parts of the project may be interdependent on others, project management software will usually have some sort of functionality built in to enable the visual representation of subtasks and their interdependence. This helps humans get a solid grasp of the overall problem solving strategy being employed in the project.
  • Task management – since it’s customary to break projects down into tasks, these tasks have to be managed on an individual basis. Some tasks can be performed in parallel, while others will depend on the results of an earlier task to complete (i.e. they are serial). For anything other than a small team this is going to be a difficult task and one that is prone to error. Project management software streamlines the process by allowing the project manager to assign task owners, due dates and create status reports to get an up to date picture on the tactical status of the project.
  • Time tracking – related to ask management is the functionality of time tracking. Since a lot of personnel work on an hourly basis (consultants and freelancers in particular) it is important to keep track of the time spent on each task, so the manager can track a number of important metrics. Of course, total project cost is going to be one of these, as well as the cost per person or per subunit of the project. It’s also helpful for identifying the ROI produced by an individual, so that tasks can be assigned to the correct personnel to get the project done on time and on budget.
  • Error management – mistakes are going to happen, and projects involving the delivery of a physical product or software suite are going to have to deal with bugs and errors. Managing these is central to project success, as some bugs may be fatal to the project while others can be rebranded as features! Of course I jest.
  • Collaboration – team members may not always be in the same physical location, so facilitating real time collaboration is key. Integrated messaging and conferencing features will go a long way towards team communication. In addition, document sharing is going to be essential as many team members will need access to the same documents to effectively execute their tasks. The best project management software must have this functionality, as well as a way to track changes made by each team member so that they can be integrated seamlessly.
  • Calendar sharing – related to collaboration is the ability for team members to see when their coworkers are available for conference. After all, if does no good to schedule a meeting at a time when your lead developer is out of the office, so this functionality is going to be a big feature you want to look out for. While you can use other standalone products such as Outlook to manage this aspect, it is best to have the functionality integrated into the project management software so there are no missteps.

These are just some of the basic features one would expect. They are certainly not the whole of the story. Additional functionality might include:

  • Forecasting – before a project is undertaken it is important to get an idea of how long everything is going to take. While in the past project managers would simply “wing it” and make guesstimates based on experience, modern project managing software allows the manager to make data based decisions that are based on past projects. This can make all the difference in the world when evaluating the ROI of a project, and can help the management team decide which projects to undertake, which to pause, and which to scrap entirely.
  • Resource allocation – related to forecasting is the ability to predict which resources need to be allocated, when, and where, to complete the project. Resources aren’t just money. Included in this is personnel, capital equipment, and even total man-hours. This is critical for avoiding bottlenecks and getting the project hung up because the management team didn’t anticipate the need for some resource or another.

The above functionality are a sort of shopping list to check off when making your selection. Not every feature will be critical, but this is a good place to start when you are evaluating available software packages.

Other Considerations When Selecting Project Management Software

One of the biggest concerns you will have is: will the software integrate into the systems I already have in place? If adopting some fancy new project management software means that you have to pause your operations for months at a time, then it’s probably going to be a tough sell to your organization. The integration of the software into your existing systems should be easy and painless, even if you are doing an outright replacement. If you have to sacrifice productivity in the near term for a long term boost, then you need to make that decision very carefully.

Another question that is going to pop up is: should I use an all-in-one package or should I buy the best software for different functionality? This is going to be highly individual to the organization, but it is something you need to consider. How are your needs going to change over time? How will your team grow? If you want maximum flexibility then buying separate software packages and integrating them may be the way to go. If you are a mature organization then the all-in-one solution may be your best bet. Spend some time on thinking about this when deciding on the best project management software for your business.

As we have covered in vproject management softwarearious other articles, you need to decide on a pricing model. Do you want software as a service (SaaS)? Or do you want to go with the more traditional licensing models? If you’re dealing with moving around large files on a frequent basis, you may want to go with the desktop based licensed solutions as your company intranet is generally going to be faster than the connection to the SaaS vendor’s cloud. If you have team members working in various locations, then a cloud based SaaS solution is going to be a very viable option for you.

Related to the type of licensing model you want to use is mobile functionality. Can your employees use the product on various devices, so that they can be productive wherever they are? This is going to go hand in hand with the SaaS model and it really depends on how your team is constructed. Make sure you bottom out on the need for this feature when you are shopping around for the best project management software for your business.

Finally, don’t forget to request demonstrations of your software under consideration. One huge factor is going to be how intuitive and user friendly the platform is. If it’s a pain in the neck to use, then you’re going to create more problems than you solve. Usability and functionality really go hand in hand. Who cares if the software has all the whiz bang options, if you can’t figure out how to use them or where they are in the interface?


In summary, project management is a sort of black art. It requires integrating human resources and talents into a concrete plan to accomplish big goals and make some real money. The best project management software can really help you streamline and automate quite a big chunk of the process, as well as facilitate collaboration between your team members.

Make a list of your mwhat is the point of project management softwareust have functionality and compare that to the vendors on the market. Rule out any vendor that doesn’t meet these basic criteria. Once you have that, you can move on to the nice to have criteria and further refine your list of potential vendors. Then make sure to consider what type of licensing model you want to use, as well as how the software is going to fit into your organization. Central to that is going to be its ease of use. You’re going to have to live with the software for a long time, so make sure it’s a pleasure to work with.

When you’ve answered all these questions you are ready to make the leap. Just make sure everyone is up to speed on the plan and that you get proper training from the vendor so that nobody is left behind when making the transition.

We hope this has been helpful. In the future we will be discussing some of the specific software vendors, so stay tuned for a breakdown of the best project management software around!

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