Project Management Software: A Helpful Guide to Effectively Manage Projects

Venkat

Venkat

Project Management

Imagine a weekend project like baking a cake. You’d start with a checklist of ingredients. Once you have them in place, you’d follow a recipe which is nothing but another to-do list.

project management recipe

(This recipe rocks, by the way.)

Now, think about launching your website. This is also a project except that it’s much larger in scale, spans over a period of time, involves a lot of people, and the stakes are much more than an overcooked cake.

It starts with the manager sketching the scope and the project plan. The writers begin working on the website copy, followed by the editors refining it. The designers provide a sense of aesthetics to the copy. The developers bring the design to life and the website becomes live. The social media team works on the promotion.

This project involves a lot of sub-tasks, requires collaboration and communication between the different people involved, and one task is dependent on another.

Simple projects require nothing more than a checklist while other complex ones require proper planning, assigning tasks, setting deadlines, making sure that everyone sticks to them, and tracking the time spent.

Project management is essential for the successful completion of the project, no matter the size and scope of the project. Whether you’re baking a cake or putting a man on the moon, a project management software comes in handy to keep you on track of your progress and ensure success.

What is project management software?

Project management software is used to plan, organize, and allocate resources for managing projects. It helps teams collaborate and keep track of the project’s progress while clearly defining tasks and responsibilities. It lets project managers control costs and time and allows smooth collaboration between stakeholders.

To deliver projects on time, teams must keep everything organized particularly when there are multiple ongoing projects. Cloud project management software provides an overview of all the projects, helps prioritize tasks, and keeps everyone on the same page.

Types of project management software

The term project management software includes a wide variety of tools that serve different people for different purposes.

  • On the extreme left of the “project management software spectrum” are sticky notes. They help you remember the tasks that need to be done but that’s it.
  • As you move to the right, you’ll find spreadsheets that let you keep a digital to-do list and even a makeshift kanban board. An online spreadsheet even allows for collaboration.
  • Even further right, you’d find a category of tools called collaborative work management software. Kissflow Projects, Asana, Trello fall under this category. These tools keep all your work organized and let your teams work together. Then come tools like Smartsheet that help with resource allocation, budgeting, and other advanced functionalities.
  • On the far right, lie the set of tools called project and portfolio management software. Simply put, these tools help the management of all projects from a high-level perspective on a strategic level.

project management spectrum

Why do you need project management software?

As a manager, you need to know what work needs to be done and when, which team member is working on what, and more. Project planning is critical for your team’s success. Doing it manually or using spreadsheets and over emails is definitely not an efficient way of doing it and brings its own set of challenges.

In a siloed system, all your team members use their systems to keep track of their work–notepad, sticky notes, spreadsheets. As a result, the tasks and files lie scattered in different places. They’re not sure what to work on first and waste a lot of time looking for answers. To communicate priorities and bring everyone on the same page, you need to hold meetings and send emails which is again a major dent on your team’s productivity.

When you use project management software, all communication is in one centralized place, and it’s easy to assign tasks and define priorities. It becomes easy to keep track of your team’s work and ensures that projects are progressing as planned.

Questions to ask before selecting your project management software

1. What is the nature of your work?

Not all projects are the same. For example, web application projects are different than manufacturing automation projects because of their resources, working team, stakeholders and implementation processes. Are there software options out there that are specific to your domain? What are their unique features?

Different domains also lean towards different project management methodologies. One situation might be better suited for agile, while others are best for lean, waterfall, or critical chain.

2. Who will need access to the tool?

Will you be the only person using the tool, or will your whole team need to see everything? Do you want everyone to have the same level of access, or do you want to restrict data based on the decision-making level?

Issues like accessibility and report sharing become very important when you are selecting the best project management software. One that is too simple might not fit your needs, while highly complex tools might be too hard for others to use or understand.

3. Where does your current system fail?

Do you have current software that you are using to manage the project? Or are you just using email and spreadsheets?

Think about the limitations that you currently face. If you are using a simple spreadsheet or visual project management on a whiteboard, you are missing some features that could help you achieve your expectations.

For example, having some advanced collaboration features can make your project schedule and expense tracking efforts more useful and rich. Making use of cloud hosting and asynchronous messaging can go a long way.

4. How much does it cost?

You may be tempted to go and find the cheapest tool out there, which is probably free. But free tools can be more trouble than they are worth. They might provide a quick fix, but you will be working against the tool at some point.

That doesn’t mean you need to jump to the best-of-breed solution. Identify the features that are important to you and establish a reasonable budget, assuming that you’ll be using the project management applications again for future projects.

Open-source software and free trials will help in the beginning, nevertheless, as your projects get more complex and bigger, don’t hesitate to look for a more robust solution.

Essential features in project management software

Project management tools range from Ultra-lite to Structured depending on what you are looking for. There are a few basic features you should be looking for when choosing a project management software.

Dashboards

Graphs and visual metrics of the project overview give you a high-level picture of the different projects. You can instantly get the status of each project, see how many projects are complete, and the time and money spent on multiple projects.

Kanban board

A Kanban board is an easy way to visualize your work and keep track of progress. You can clearly see what needs to done and where tasks are held up.

Task management

Task management allows users to keep track of tasks and sub-tasks. For example, the task “write a blog” can be drilled down into writing the copy, editing, and optimizing for SEO. All these sub-tasks are done by different team members. You can prioritize tasks, set deadlines, and improve collaboration.

Scheduling

Projects are temporary, which makes scheduling one of the most important features in software. The freedom to customize deadlines, dependable tasks, buffers and so on is key to keep solid coordination over your projects.

Time-tracking

Some businesses bill their clients for the amount of time spent on a project. Different tasks may have different rates and it’s important to keep track of the exact task durations for accurate invoicing.

Resources tracking

Also, every project is coordinated with limited resources. From labor to budgeting and time availability, how you use your resources is something to always be aware of. Because of that, try out tools that can track how you are using your resources which makes a huge difference in your decision making process.

Document sharing

Your system should let you keep all the files in one centralized database for easy sharing and quick access. It comes really handy when you work in distributed teams or work with a client who can give instant feedback.

Collaboration

If you have to constantly communicate with your team, a collaboration feature will help to keep information flowing so everyone is up to date. Moreover, look for software that provides a chat platform and task management among the project crew and version tracking system.

Instant notifications

You need to be notified immediately about approaching deadlines, when a task is complete, or when something needs your action. Smartphone alerts help you stay connected no matter where you are.

Integration

Projects are made of a lot of moving parts. You need to know the impact of one variable over the others whenever something changes. In other words, look for features that help analyze trade-offs and how resource allocation affects the overall schedule of your project.

Detailed reporting

Reports are the best way to get a strategic overview of the projects’ status. Specifically, you need to know how everything is going by the end of every week or month. In addition, a software that compiles all the information related to schedule, cost, team performance, and resources usability in a structured document is something to look for.

Creating reports help you identify where your team falls short and where it can be improved. You can also make better, data-driven decisions for calculating budgets and expenses and to allocate resources.

How to choose the right project management software

Every project is different. So is every team. Choosing the right tool impacts how you manage your projects and how your team communicates. The right tool will help you deliver projects on time and keep all your work organized. That’s why selecting a tool that works for you is important.

1. Requirements

From simple to-do lists to complex velocity charts, there are tools in the market for every degree of need. Make an assessment of your requirements–the size of your projects, the number of people involved, your project management methodology and more.

If you’re a project manager that requires work break-down structure, budgeting, etc. then a heavyweight tool like MS Projects may be the right fit for you. However, if you’re looking for a Kanban board that helps you assign tasks, manage due dates, and keep you organized, then a project management system like Kissflow Projects will be a perfect fit.

2. Methodology

Teams that follow a proactive methodology like the waterfall method put a lot of emphasis on record-keeping, documentation, and a well-defined workflow. It focuses on prioritization and setting dependencies. You need a tool that supports this.

However, if you’re using a reactive methodology like Agile or Lean, it requires a lot of flexibility. The tool needs to be adaptive and flexible enough to accommodate this kind of iterative work.

3. Budget

The next thing you need to consider is the amount of money you’re willing to spend on your project management software. There are open-source tools as well as ones that cost thousands of dollars with varying levels of functionality.

A simple, free project management tool will help you create checklists and cross out completed tasks. But, if you’re looking for advanced features, then you might want to go for the relatively expensive ones.

4. Ease of use

The project management software is useful only when your teams are using it on a daily basis. Some project management apps are so complicated that it may take several days of training for your team to use it properly. Not all businesses require such complex tools. A simple interface combined with powerful features is what you should be looking for.

You need a tool that can be customized to meet your needs. A good project management solution will be flexible, scalable as your business grows, and saves you time.

Top 6 project management software to look out for in 2020

There are plenty of tools in the market that suits your team size, your management methodology, and your requirements. Selecting the right one is an arduous task as it takes time to evaluate all the tools and arrive at the one that works the best for you and your team.

Here are some of the best project management software to compare and help you begin your search:

1. Trello

Trello is a leading task management software with built-in collaboration tools to work with your teams. It uses boards, lists, and cards that are easy to use. It’s ideal for individuals or small teams that manage very few projects at the same time. The basic plan is free to use. However, there are paid plans that add automation, integrations, priority support, and more.

2. Kissflow Projects

Kissflow Projects is a digital workplace that includes project management, collaboration, dynamic case management, and business process management to help you keep track of all kinds of work. It offers a simple, easy-to-use Kanban interface to keep track of progress. You can create as many project boards as you need and add as many users as you want. It’s ideal for non-project managers and creative teams to manage their work.

3. Wrike

Wrike is a cloud-based collaboration and project management software to simplify planning, track your team’s work, and get visibility. It offers a lot of advanced features like task management and prioritization, Gantt Charts, real-time newsfeed, and more. It’s ideal for different teams within the organization like marketing, for software development, and for professional services. There’s a freemium version with limited functionalities and up to five users.

4. Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects is a popular offering Zoho that helps businesses keep track of tasks, collaborate, and run intuitive reports. It comes with powerful features like Gantt charts, task dependencies, milestones, and feeds for easy communication. You can share documents from within the tool. There’s a forever free version with basic features and limited users.

5. Monday.com

Monday.com is a leading collaboration and communication that acts as a central hub for all your projects. It helps streamline team member contribution, helping them work in the most efficient way. It’s easy to monitor the performance of teams and individual and it helps you assemble data in understandable ways. The basic plan starts at $17/month for two users and the price per user goes down as the number of users increases.

6. Asana

Asana lets you create boards and lists visualize which stage your project is in and to know which tasks need your immediate attention. It also allows creating project templates to save time when managing similar projects in the future. While not as powerful as others, it’s easy-to-use interface is a massive selling point. There’s a free, basic plan and paid plans start at $9.99/user/month.

Kissflow Projects might be your perfect solution

Kissflow Projects acts as the unified platform and was built for people just like you–people who don’t have formal training in project management but are handling it nonetheless. We took all the advanced features of the best project management tools and boiled them down to their essentials with one easy-to-use kanban board layout.

In the planning stage, you can create a list of tasks and sub-tasks that are required for the successful completion of the project. You can set deadlines and milestones and assign stakeholders to the project board.

In the execution stage, your team members can start working on their tasks and move it across lists once completed. You can ensure that people work on only one task at a time and keep an accurate log of the time spent on each task. The easy-to-use Kanban board helps you track all your projects and tasks and keeps them organized. Once complete, you can generate powerful reports that help you make better, data-driven decisions and fix inefficiencies.

Kissflow Projects gives you easy access to create your own project board, assign tasks, and create reports. It’s the best project management software for people who want to get the work done and not be distracted by the tool.

Sign up for a free trial today.