2021 Project Management Software Buyer's Guide
Project Management software contains a robust collection of tools, features, tracking, and integrations that are all designed for smoothly managing projects from beginning to completion. Whether your project involves a lot of intricate steps or requires that groups of employees and/or clients work together seamlessly, project management software can help your company successfully manage and complete your projects across all departments or even externally with clients or partners.
But, many business managers struggle to understand the stage at which they need to start using project management tools. If you start too early when your projects are small (in both number and complexity) you could be adding an unnecessary complication of entering and tracking data in a dedicated system. Whereas if you delay getting project tools when you really need them, you could be losing efficiency and jeopardizing the success of your projects.
What are the Top Project Management Software Features and Business Benefits?
While Project Management needs will vary by company (and by industry), there are certain features that will benefit all businesses, including:
- Project Gantt View
- Resource Management
- Portfolio Management
- Time Management
- Cost Tracking
- Risk Management
- Document Management
- Change Management
- Workflow Management
- Ticket Management
- Web Services API
- Customizable Dashboards
- Intuitive Operations
- Custom Fields
- Custom Forms
- Custom Reports
Implementing a Project Management solution in your business can generate many key benefits for your business, including:
- Facilitate seamless collaboration on all the moving pieces involved in one or many projects.
- Improve scheduling on projects with a variety of tools.
- Reduce costs and build efficiency into your project timelines.
- Improve project progression tracking and quantify results upon completion of projects.
- Enhance team and/or client communication while working together on shared projects and initiatives.
- Create organization with delegation tools, project tracking, and more.
What are the Types of Project Management Solutions?
Project management tools come in five distinct classes. These begin with the most simple, stand-alone project management templates to manage small projects individually. At the other end of the spectrum are project portfolio management tools that allow large numbers of projects to be managed synergistically. In most cases, your requirements will lie somewhere in the middle. What follows therefore, is a brief discussion of the various types of project management tools.
Basic, Stand-Alone Tools: These are the most common. These cover tools such as spreadsheets and simple collaboration tools that allow people to work together and share basic data. Learning how to use these tools is easy, but productivity is low and each user can only work on one project at a time.
Collaborative Tools: One step above the basic tools are project management tools that centralize data and allow users to work together over company networks. In many cases tools are browser based and many users can use them to handle multiple projects. These tools tend to keep things simple and may lack features, such as project scheduling and costing.
Mid-Range Project Management Tools: Mid-range tools strike a balance between the simplicity of collaborative tools and the power of enterprise-class solutions. These tools will have a very wide feature set and will certainly require users to be trained before they can exploit the solution.
High-End Project Management Tools: These tools are very powerful, can tackle hundreds of projects simultaneously, need users to be extensively trained, and can be really complicated to use.
Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Tools: PPM tools go beyond project management and look at managing portfolios of projects. PPM tools can be very complex to use and can only be used by organizations that are mature enough for their exploitation. Using a PPM suite will really be a strategic decision for your company.
How to Choose the Best Project Management Software
This guide will provide insight and tools you need to select the best Project Management solution for your company.
How to Conduct a Project Management Business Review
Before you select your Project Management solution, it is a great idea to make a list of the specific business needs that are driving your decision to implement a new system or upgrade your existing one. Thinking about the project delays, missed deadlines, or incomplete initiatives that may be holding your business back will help you gain insight into just how different Project Management solutions will best fulfill your needs and help you meet your goals.
Many companies find it helpful to include company leaders and key partners in their decision-making process of choosing a Project Management solution. You can include key people in your business (from executives to project managers, team members, support agents, etc) in your selection and planning process to make sure that all of your important needs are accounted for and your solution contains all the features and tools you must have.
What are the Signs You Need a Project Management Solution?
Here are some symptoms that indicate that you need project management software:
- Communication Issues: You find communication within your project teams is jagged, details are lost, and misunderstandings arise leading to mistakes and frustration.
- Difficulty Collecting Information: Searching for data takes a lot of time, duplicate data may exist, and several versions of information may exist. All of this adds to confusion and impacts efficiency.
- Incomplete Data: Missing data points begin to impact the quality of your business decisions, leading to slippage in project schedules.
- Missed Goals: Targets and deadlines are missed, client relations get impacted, and loss of revenue occurs.
- Faulty Procedures: Employees are unclear about what needs to be done and how it is to be done. Communication, work assignment, inventory management, and invoicing all suffer.
Even if you are somehow holding things together, there is a difference between project management and firefighting. If you feel that you are fighting too many fires, it is time to consider a proper project management solution.
How to Build Your Project Management Budget
After you’ve conducted a complete review of your business needs and have a strong understanding of your project management requirements, it is important to figure out the budget you can allocate toward purchasing or upgrading your system.
Using the list you prepared while reviewing your business needs, you can determine how much value will be created by your Project Management system, and prepare your budget accordingly.
Need help building your budget? Get pricing from leading Project Management vendors now!
How to Determine Which Type of Project Management Technology Will Best Suit Your Needs
The project management solution can be hosted on your own premises or in the cloud. Many users are uncomfortable with keeping their data in the cloud and therefore still prefer to use a premise-based solution. Nowadays, however, most cloud-based project management solutions are administered more professionally and can have better security than solutions that run off your own servers. You do not need any specialized staff to manage a cloud-based solution. Users simply log into the website and work.
Cloud solutions are also natively available on smartphones and tablets. This gives you the added benefit of mobility. A project management tool that can be accessed while on the move can be a real force multiplier. With a premise-based solution, you will have to take extra steps to ensure that the solution supports mobile users.
How to Think About the People in Your Company Who will be Using Your Project Management System
For your Project Management solution to be a success in your business, your employees will need to embrace it and use it to its full potential. If your system is cumbersome or confusing, many employees may become frustrated and not use it as much as they should. This can hinder your growth, so it’s important to pick a Project Management software that suits the needs of everyone who will using it.
As you think about the users in your company, think over these questions to find the best fit for your teams:
- How many employees will be using the Project Management system?
- What types of projects will you be completing leveraging your Project Management system? What teams and/or clients and partners will be involved and need access to the system?
- What other systems need to be integrated into your Project Management system? Will it interrupt day to day business for you teams?
- What technical expertise levels exist in your users? (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced)
- What are the needs of each group of users?
- What type of support will users need as they learn and use and maximize the potential in your Project Management system?
- What training will employees need?
What to Look for in Your Perfect Project Management Provider
As you meet with various Project Management vendors that you’re interested in working with, you should do some due diligence in researching their reputation before you commit to purchasing their services. Some of the key things you should look for in your perfect vendor are prominence, reviews, and support.
Industry prominence and popularity
While you should not choose a vendor based on popularity alone, a vendor’s standing in the industry can signal what you can expect from their services. Make sure that the provider you select has prominence in the industry and is popular among other companies with similar needs as yours.
Reviews from current or past system users
One of the best ways you can easily research a vendor you’re considering is to look for reviews given by current or past users. Reviews from current companies using the software can give you great insight into how the provider treats customers and how companies value their services and features. Past reviews can establish a history of service values and give you a snapshot into how the provider handles business over time as well.
System Support Offered
Support is a vital component that all vendors will offer. However, the types and degree of support will vary from provider to provider, so make sure you know what level of support your team will need, and then ensure your selected vendor can easily fulfil those support needs.
How to Plan Your Project Management Software Integration and Customizations
Choose a time when integration will not impact your core business hours or seasons, if possible. Choosing a time when your company is not as busy or before your top projects have started can help you avoid the negative impacts of the system downtime that is part of switching to a new Project Management software.
How to Research and Compare Multiple Project Management Vendors
Once you have a firm grasp on all the things you need and want from your Project Management solution, and understand what you must invest, then you can begin researching and comparing vendors.
There are many excellent vendors on the market, and you’ll undoubtedly be able to find your perfect system if you take a bit of time to really look into what each vendor offers and compare your top choices against one another to determine which is best for you and your business.
As you compare your options, make sure to keep your list of key business needs and required features handy so you can reference them and keep yourself on track as you absorb all of the information and create a short list of viable options.
How to Set up Demos and Get Pricing from Project Management Vendors on Your Short List
Once you’ve created a short list of three to five Project Management solutions that you’re interested in implementing, it’s important to take your preparation and research one step further and get in touch with each vendor. Most providers will happily set up meetings to discuss your needs and requirements and can demonstrate all the key features for you.
Before you participate in a meeting or demo with vendor, make sure that you refresh your memory on all your business and feature needs. It is also a great idea to provide your lists to the vendor prior to meeting, so they can put together the custom options and pricing they have available that will meet your needs. This will make your time much more efficient, and also give the vendor a clear understanding of exactly what you require.
There are many great project management solutions in the market and if you research carefully, you are likely to find one that fits your needs. A good solution will help you cut down on chaos and clutter, and will keep your projects on track. Selecting a solution can be a complex task. Careful evaluation and selection will ensure that you get the best possible return on your investment.