Tips for Choosing The Top Project Management Software
Project management software has immense value in business management. Today, there are hundreds of project management tools of various sizes. Besides making projects more organized, the software has many other benefits for firms. If you are a business owner, you have come to the right place. This guide will help you choose the top project management software for your company. Also, you will understand how using the services of the best project management tools can benefit you in the long run.
What is Project Management?
Project management is the application of tools, skills, and methods to meet particular tasks within a predetermined time. In other words, it handles all components of a project, from tools to the team. Therefore, project management is highly essential. Without it, you are leaving the fate of your project to chance. And I guess you know would know full well what the consequences of the element of risks to your project. On the contrary, with the right project management tools, specific processes are implemented in order to streamline project goals successfully.
If you are curious about why project management is so critical, bear in mind that no project is complete without a concrete project plan. Also, you cannot execute any project plan without an appropriate environment and appropriate processes. It is worth mentioning that project management is an activity that assists you with the generation and execution of the project plan, too. Based on the set requirements, it then applies the soft and managerial skills to bring a project from inception to conclusion in a successful way.
Project Management Methodologies
The Waterfall is the pioneer of all project management methodologies. For the first time, it was established to handle the sophisticated nature of software development in 1970. Since then, it has been widely adopted in projects.
The waterfall method is sequential. It means only when you complete a phase, you can move to the next one. Also, it is impossible to come back to the previous step when you are already done with it.
The main advantage of the Waterfall methodology is its ease of use. Irrespective of the prior experience, you will be able to understand the steps. I also praise its structure. Although people mainly see it as something negative, I think with such an arrangement, it is possible to reach perfection. In other words, people do their best to produce the best result in every step, so the effort they put is what I call the advantage.
Speaking of disadvantages, I should again emphasize rigidity, but its dark side. When it is not possible to come back and make modifications where needed, it will result in failure. So, you will have to restart everything literally. In brief, the inflexible nature of the Waterfall methodology is its main drawback.
As you can understand, you may not be better off by using the Waterfall methodology in all types of projects. I recommend its use in shorter and simpler projects where failure would not cost you a lot. On top of that, you can use it in projects with precise and stable requirements. In such schemes, all the requirements are well perceived in advance; therefore, no need arises to make any changes once the project is underway.
Agile is also mainly used in software development projects. It became available in 2001 when people noticed that Waterfall does not give what they need in terms of handling complicated software.
Ideally, Agile is the opposite of Waterfall. It is fast and flexible, which makes it more user-friendly. Here, small changes answer to modifying requirements.
Speaking of advantages, as it is crystal clear, Agile is flexible. So, you will not have to pass to the next stage once finished with the current one. You can come back and go forward at any time to make any necessary changes. Likewise, it lowers the risk of failure of the project. Just think that you can continuously get feedback from various stakeholders and make changes whenever and wherever necessary. That, undoubtedly, decreases the risk of project failure substantially.
Agile certainly does not come without any defects. The first one is there is no fixed plan in Agile methodology. Having no plan will make scheduling and resource management more difficult. At the same time, everyone working on the project, including stakeholders, will have to collaborate when using Agile. It means all stakeholders will have to be okay with it. As it will create some discomfort, it is unlikely that everybody, especially sponsors and stakeholders, will be willing to collaborate a lot to deliver the results.
Due to its nature, I advise you to use Agile in projects where there is not a fixed completion. Also, when a project demands to make quick and frequent changes, Agile would again fit there well. Lastly, if the primary strengths in your project are not planning but communication, then Agile project management software would perhaps be the best option for you.
As it is clear from the name, Hybrid is a methodology derived from the combination of Waterfall and Agile. It takes the best aspects of both methods and amalgamates them to produce a structured and flexible approach that can be used in many projects.
Hybrid methodology collects and analyzes the requirements first. Then, it adopts the flexibility of Agile to produce a nearly ideal approach.
The main asset of Hybrid is it is more structured. Adopting the planning part of Waterfall, it addresses the main disadvantage of Agile. Further, once you complete the planning part, you go ahead with a more flexible approach like Agile’s. That, in turn, allows you to make necessary modifications throughout the project.
As it is Hybrid, you may already understand that this methodology will demand compromise. Just imagine that you are bringing two opposite poles together. That is why both aspects taken from two different approaches will require compromise regarding requirements and flexibility. Moreover, since the best of both methodologies come together, iterative actions will have to be compliant with the budgeting and planning.
So, I recommend you to use this approach for projects that require both flexibility and structure. It is the best for middle-size projects which possess a fixed budget and somewhat high complexity.
Scrum is the next big thing I cannot forget to mention. In fact, it is not a project management methodology. The Scrum is instead an approach that takes many aspects from Agile and focuses on project teams and daily meetings to complete the project.
Scrum is unique in the way that it does not require a project manager. The project team appears in the center of the work. As you may understand, the project team should organize and control everything. With a highly-skilled team, this approach is arguably the best one. On the other hand, other teams would not benefit from Scrum.
One of the best sides of Scrum is Scrum “sprints.” It means the approach’s focus is on 30 days short “sprints.” The project team should break the tasks into small chunks and work towards them. They will also have to conduct meetings every day. It makes the methodology ideal for large projects.
Moreover, these “sprints” help with the overall speed of the project. The fast development of the project can be achieved thanks to it. Being a team-focused approach, it also makes the project teams have a clear understanding of everything happening around them.
As no approach is ideal, Scrum can upset you on some occasions, too. For instance, scope creep will sometimes be inevitable due to no budgeting or scheduling by the project manager. Needless to say, the high risk associated with self-managing teams. Honestly, I think Scrum would fail with any team with a weaker focus. Also, in case any resource leaves the team while it is underway, it would not be practical for large teams.
In short, you would be better off using Scrum with a project team of highly professional and skilled members. Even if it suits massive projects very well, bigger project teams will not make Scrum the best option.
Critical Path Method (CPM)
Till now, I have covered the project management methodologies that are mainly employed in software development. For sure, you can use them for non-software projects as well. But for such projects, I will make you familiar with a better approach, which is CPM. in this methodology, you classify all the activities that are required to complete the project in a work breakdown structure. Afterward, you define the duration for each of those activities. As a result, you quickly see what actions can be implemented simultaneously and which ones should finish before the start of others.
In general, CPM helps you make scheduling better. You will be able to do it through an emphasis on duration and interdependencies between activities. For example, let’s say task A is dependent on task B to be completed. The CPM method will assist you with scheduling here. I cannot overlook the benefit of CPM in terms of prioritization. As you can easily separate the critical and non-critical activities, prioritizing resources for those activities becomes more effortless.
On the contrary, scheduling is not very easy, and it takes a lot of time. So, if you have no experience in real-world projects, using CPM may be a bit risky for you in this regard. Another downside of CPM is its inflexibility. It is similar to Waterfall in this sense. You have to make the planning of everything in the beginning. In case a need arises to make changes in the middle of the project, you will have to go back to start.
You want to use the CPM method for projects where there are interdependent parts. So if there are tasks that should be finished simultaneously, CPM will suit you the best.
Integrated Project Management
Integrated Project Management (IPM) is the last methodology I want you to know about. Also known as “Integrated Project Delivery,” mainly businesses in creative industries, employ this methodology. IPM is primarily famous for the standardization of processes. It also emphasizes the importance of sharing the processes in the organization.
The motive behind the establishment of this method is integrated structure of creative campaigns. Bear in mind that you do not just produce an ad. You integrate it with digital content, and more. With the help of integration, project managers obtain better insights on the project. They also become capable of accessing the right resources.
Speaking of IPM’s advantages, transparency cannot be underestimated. This methodology raises transparency in the entire organization through integrating processes. Continuous meetings with team members help project managers observe everyone. Increased accountability is another benefit of IPM. As people cannot work in isolation, the whole team becomes responsible for the project.
That said, it is not a piece of cake to employ IPM. Indeed, that is the main drawback of this method. You should make planning very well and ensure the processes are well-integrated, too. It, in turn, adds up to your burden, which can consequently result in delays.
In brief, I advise large companies with various teams to use this method. In projects where resources from diverse departments are required, IPM can bring the best results. Unless, the approaches mentioned above can better fit the projects.
Essential Steps for Project Management
Project initiation is the beginning of a project. In this stage, the management has to identify the project at a macro level. Typically, this stage starts with a business case. Afterward, you research if the project is feasible and whether it should be initiated. In case it is necessary to conduct a feasibility test, it should be conducted in the project initiation stage.
Critical stakeholders will do their part to help with the decision if the project should be undertaken. In case the project sees a green light, you will have to generate a project initiation document that drafts the demands and the objective of the project. Stakeholders, business cases, and business needs should be available in the project initiation document.
The project planning stage includes the creation of a roadmap that everyone will have to follow. It usually starts with goal setting. More prominent ways of setting goals are SMART and CLEAR. The SMART technique helps to make sure the goals have been comprehensively reviewed. You can also easily understand the significance of goal-setting.
Specific - You should set specific goals and respond to the questions of what, where, who, when, why, and which
Measurable - There should be criteria which you can use to measure how successful the goal is
Attainable - You should define the most vital goals and figure out what it will take to attain them
Realistic - You should be able to work towards a specific goal
Timely - You should create a period within which you should achieve the goal
In the CLEAR method, you consider the atmosphere of today’s fast-moving businesses.
Collaborative - The goal should motivate employees to act together
Limited - The workers should have limited time and scope so that they can handle it
Emotional - The employees should feel an emotional connection with the goals. It can enhance the quality of the work
Appreciable - You should split bigger goals into smaller assignments so that you can achieve them easily
Refinable - When new situations appear, refine the goals so that they can be achieved
The project execution stage is the most related one with project management. Execution means creating deliverables that make the clients satisfied. Team leaders usually have a heavy burden on their shoulders in this phase. They are supposed to ensure the team members are focused continuously. Team leaders are also responsible for allocating resources for deliverables.
In general, the planning phase has a significant impact on the execution phase. Everything that is implemented on the stage of execution is received from the planning.
The fourth step of project management is project monitoring. Here, you have to monitor the progress and performance of the project to make sure that everything is compliant with the plan. Through key performance indicators, you will also have to check whether the project is on track. As a project manager, you will typically use the key performance indicators (KPI) below.
The first one is the project objectives. Checking out whether the project moves according to budget and schedule will indicate if it will achieve the goals of stakeholders.
The second one is quality deliverables. It will determine whether the deliverables of particular tasks are met.
Third, it comes to the cost and effort tracking. Project managers will clarify the cost and effort of resources to understand whether the budget is on track. Such monitoring notifies whether a project can be finished within its completion date considering the present performance.
Finally, there is a project performance. It tracks the modifications in the project. This KPI takes into account the types and the number of problems and how fast they are addressed.
The step of project closure indicates the completion of a project. The contractors that were particularly recruited to work on the project face termination in this phase. Some project managers will usually conduct a meeting and share their impressions. Here, the project manager will evaluate what was successful and what failed in the project. It is indeed one of the most useful parts as everyone takes their lesson and knows what they can improve for future projects.
Common Project Management Mistakes To Avoid
Not Meeting up with the Entire Team and Setting Goals
Such meetings hold immense importance in the lives of projects. Just consider that the project manager gathers everyone and talks to them in a group or in person. The result derived here is everybody is well aware of their responsibilities and duties. So, when the project kicks off, team members will be more organized and independent of their tasks. It will also enhance the sense of accountability and ownership in them. In short, as a project manager, make sure you conduct meetings before the project begins.
Not Splitting Large Projects into Smaller Pieces
When large projects are split into small pieces, it makes them more manageable. It also becomes easier to implement the tasks for team members. That should not surprise you, since the team members will have a clearer understanding of what they should focus on. You can take the time to understand every part of the project. Once you know it clearly, then you can accordingly break it into smaller pieces. This will help your team members fulfill assigned tasks even better.
Not Prioritizing Tasks
It is quite common for people to overlook tasks that are high priority. That happens mainly because the project manager does not explain the criticality of the tasks. It is the job of project managers to clarify which tasks are high priority and which are not. If there is any modification in priority, it should again be conveyed by the project manager. By this, all the headaches and hassle can be avoided during the project.
Forgetting That Project Management Means People Management
A lot of project managers become stuck with the cost, timeline, scope, and other aspects of their projects. An unfortunate fact is, in most cases, they forget about the people who are the ones realizing the project. Project managers should be aware that failure to pay attention to employees will have an adverse effect on the below-mentioned aspects of the project, as well. For instance, the quality of the project can be damaged.
To ensure this problem does not happen, everyone should understand what their responsibility is and how their work directly contributes and affects the result of the project. Needless to say, it is the responsibility of the project manager to explain it. And by doing so, the project manager can achieve a unified vision among all team members.
Not Using Project Management Software
Many popular project management software will provide you the status of the project with appealing visuals. So, you will see the greater picture of the project quickly. I recommend you to use such tools to be aware of where the project is, how fast it is progressing, and whether this speed will assist in finishing your tasks by the deadline.
Moreover, there should be updates on project documentation on a weekly basis. In other words, in case something critical pops up, such as modifications in work, deadline, etc. it should be updated within 24 hours. This will ensure that everyone working on the project has the correct understanding of what’s going on in the project.
Why Should You Use a Project Management Tool?
Usually, the task that each employee gets is within his/her department. It means they are generally unaware of what happens outside their circle. Here, project management software comes to the fore. It takes away various issues from the team. For instance, there is a live activity stream in some project management tools. It allows other members of the team to know what you are doing. Also, there is an instant messaging feature, too.
As a consequence, fast and real-time communication can come into place. It means destroying any possible communication gap. Using the services of the top project management software can help your team collaborate easily.
Easier Delegation of Tasks
It could sometimes be time-consuming for managers to delegate tasks to employees. This process would be even more complicated in more prominent companies. The top project management software solves this problem, as well. Instead of assigning tasks to the team members separately, they can be added to software where everyone will see what they should do. Employees will be comfortable, too, as they will have clear instructions about how to do their work. So, it will make all parties involved better off. Also, this will be a time-saving and effective method for assigning and realizing tasks.
Better Communication with Customers
Customers make up a very vital part in the life of every business. Without them, no company would generate revenue. That is why it is important to pay adequate attention to them. With the top project management software, such drama never happens again. Clients access the tool and see your progress. They also make their edits and comments where necessary. As a result, it saves time for both you and your client. Additionally, your customer becomes satisfied with you.
Better Budget Management
The managers’ job is not easy at all. Apart from many aspects of the project, they should control; they are also responsible for budget management. For example, managers should manage the hours each team member has worked. Further, they should be aware of what every worker has done. Gathering all this data and coming to a conclusion regarding the costs of the project is overwhelming. With the top project management software, all of them can be managed very easily. By moving forward, the manager will be able to control spending and ensure they do not exceed the limit.
Remote working is yet another huge benefit that project management tools offer. Thanks to them, you can have all your team members work remotely. It doesn't matter where they work. As long as they have a laptop and internet connection, they will be able to implement the tasks. It also means employers should not regularly check their workers. Indeed, it is one of the best advantages of the top project management software. Due to this flexibility and comfort, it is quite likely that many companies will start working remotely shortly.
The Essential Features of the Top Project Management Software
Different project management tools possess various features useful in managing day-to-day tasks and the end goal. There are some complementary aspects of the best ones. To ensure you do not make the wrong choice, we will classify the essential characteristics of the best project management tools.
Planning and Scheduling
In every team, the manager is responsible for assigning responsibilities and tasks. They have to ensure it is done timely and clearly. In such a case, no misunderstanding should occur, and it becomes certain who should receive the new task. The top project management software has this feature. It allows managers to set deadlines and priorities. It helps to encourage the employees to work in a time-efficient way, too. For instance, by setting deadlines, an automatic notification goes to the worker when the pre-scheduled finish date approaches. This is the first must-have feature of a project management tool useful in business.
Collaboration and Communication
This feature is another crucial one among the best project management tools. In all businesses, especially large ones, people need to collaborate. In such a case, to complete their tasks, employees usually need to access others’ work. So, it becomes vital to have a tool that enables easy and instant communication. One of the aspects of this feature is file sharing. Note that in the top project management software, all colleagues will be able to share files easily. By this, others will be able to access this data and will use it if needed.
Further, the top project management tools allow sharing customer data. By this, other team members will access the data they are directly responsible for. Also, it will enable you to categorize companies with aspects such as due invoices, loyal partners, and more.
As a manager, you need to ensure all data is accessible in one location. Just think about how it would be if all your project data was stored in a single place? It would undoubtedly be excellent. That is what the top project management software enables you to do. When all the necessary data is in one place, it means you can access it easily. Also, you can share it with your teammates. In this case, it will not be essential to switch between several spreadsheets to access specific data. That is why, ensure you have tools in your work that allows you to maintain and manage the data.
You need to be aware of problems that may arise to handle your project successfully. To get a comprehensive overview of the progress of your project, you need two features. They are the KPI dashboard and insightful reports. The top project management software allows you to create customizable reports based on the previous reports you have entered into the tool. Let’s say you entered expenses, team members’ performance, finished tasks, etc. Here, you will be able to see a more excellent picture of the project by creating any type of report you want. Also, if any side of the project has a delay, you will be able to tackle it before it is late.
Apart from the reporting tools, the top project management software will enable you to have a KPI dashboard. This key performance indicator dashboard will allow you to monitor the progress of the project easily. For this, you need to create a project dashboard. Additionally, you can create various dashboards, too. For instance, you can generate financial KPI reports, project performance dashboards, and more.
One of the most vital aspects of the best project management tools is resource management. Time is not the only significant feature to focus on. There are resources that you should control, too. For instance, materials, meeting rooms, and more. The top project management software allows you to see the situation of such resources.
Moreover, you will observe the costs of all such resources. For instance, you may see what time you can use a specific room. You can also notice whether a particular resource is exploited a lot. By this, you would be able to either limit its use or bring new guidelines to use. Therefore, it is critical for the project management tool you get to have this feature.
Managing Project Budget
Managing your project budget adequately is a very critical part of the success of the project. Especially when you handle various projects simultaneously. That is the reason the best project management software provides you with a budget management feature. Thanks to it, you will be able to see the costs involved in all aspects of your project. You will also notice if any part of the project has extended its budget. In such cases, you will be able to tackle the issue and solve it before it is too late. Receiving weekly and monthly reports allow you to see a greater picture of the project budget.
Additionally, by adding KPIs, you can see real-time costs that are incurred onto your project. In short, the last crucial feature all top instruments have is budget management. Make sure you get software that boasts of all these features.
Cost of a Project Management Tool
Some project management vendors clearly state the price of their software on the websites. In contrast, some of them ask for detailed requirements of the company asking for a price. Then, based on those details, they tell the price. Regardless of this, pricing is the most critical factor that businesses take into account while choosing a project management tool. In general, there are two types of pricing models that software suppliers provide. These are licensing and subscription.
In the licensing model, the top project management software providers charge business once. The companies purchase the software and host it on their server. That could be a one-time payment. Also, there can be a yearly payment for updates and support. Mainly, huge companies go for this option. It is because of the security issues that they choose to host it on their server.
The subscription model is hosted on the software provider’s server. Companies can pay for this model weekly, monthly, or annually. Note that they are usually cloud-based software. Additionally, free trial version subscription models are generally available. It is provided so that businesses can decide if that works for them.
Free and Paid Software
Keep in mind that not all project management tools are paid. Some of the top project management software is free. Actually, they have free versions. You may wonder why you would pay for something that has a free alternative. Well, it is not exactly that way. Most free tools might demand technical expertise to fulfill, integrate, and customize. That is why you may be unable to use such software. Also, note that even the free versions are easy to use, they will have limits in some features. For instance, they allow a limited number of users to work on. As a result, the features of the free tools may not satisfy you. So, you would anyway want to change. Still, for a smaller team that does not require complicated features, the top free project management software is the best.
How to Choose Your Project Management Software
You are already familiar with some critical features of project management software for businesses. To ensure you have enough understanding of it, you should know how to choose the correct one for your business. There are some factors that you should consider while selecting your project management software.
Easy to Use
It is the paramount factor to consider. If the software you buy is not easy to use, then all its complicated features become a task in themselves. Most of the top project management software have free versions. Check them out before deciding.
Scheduling is another factor you should consider. If you have a small team, you may neglect it. But in more significant projects, you will need it. As a project manager, you will have to check out the plan for different projects. So, take into account this feature.
Possibility to Share Externally
It is a must-have feature that allows you to share internally. But you will sometimes need to share data with outsiders. It will especially happen with contractors and third parties. The top project management software providers will usually have this feature. Ensure you do not miss out on it.
Another vital factor to consider is task management. Your employees should easily understand what they are required to do. You can also group them the way it makes sense to you. So, keep that in mind.
No matter how sophisticated your project management software may be. Without proper protection, none of it means anything. The best project management software providers will ensure your safety is always untouchable. Do not forget this aspect.
Real-time reporting is another crucial factor to consider. It will save you a lot of time. You will sometimes need to see the current status of the project through various reports. That is where you will need real-time reporting (business intelligence). The top project management software providers will ensure you access this feature.
Flexibility is always an excellent benefit to have. This is true in the case of the top project management software. You should be able to customize the software according to your preferences. It may range from colors to size and more.
Most importantly, it should reflect itself in reports and data columns. That will allow you to present the data to stakeholders the way you want. So, keep this in mind.
The last crucial factor you should take into account while choosing your project management software is timesheets. Timesheets are essential to monitoring tasks in your team. You will also receive early warnings regarding delays and more. So, do not forget to consider this component.
There are many benefits of project management tools. Now that you have adequate information about the different project management tools out there. Do not forget that the top project management software will offer you some more features that others will simply won't. On the other hand, some of the best tools will be cost-effective with fewer features. Ensure you take into account all these factors in your decision-making process. If you found the article useful, you can check other related articles on our page.