Project management software, in an age when we’re expected—nay, required—to collaborate seamlessly with our colleagues using the latest and greatest technology, is a must for any company, no matter how large or small. But that doesn’t mean that all project management software solutions are created equally.
In fact, choosing the software that’s right for your company relies heavily on the various types of solutions that fall under the project management definition.
Choosing the Right Tools
A better understanding of what’s available can help you find the best project management software solutions for your company. Here’s a closer look at what’s out there.
1. Basic, Stand-Alone Tools
Nearly everyone is familiar with this style of project management software. Some of the common software you use on a daily basis can actually be classified under this category.
Tools that allow you to communicate easily with the rest of your team and collaborators, spreadsheets, and scheduling devices that keep you on track with your coworkers, and software that allows you to quickly and easily share data all fall under the project management umbrella. Typically, these tool focus on one project, per user, at once.
2. Collaborative Tools
Collaborative tools have a lot in common with basic, stand-alone tools. But while basic, stand-alone project management tools may have many different uses (and not all of them having to do with project management), collaborative tools are specifically designed for project team communication and sharing. These tools allow coworkers to work and share together, simultaneously, and often on multiple different aspects of a project.
Expect the focus of collaborative tools to be slightly narrow, however. One might be great for scheduling, while another is excellent for file-sharing—rarely will you find jack-of-all-trades software in this category, and if you do, don’t expect it to be particularly powerful or customizable.
3. Mid-Range Project Management Tools
Mid-range tools may well be jack-of-all-trades software solutions, and they generally represent a compromise between collaborative tools and software that is suitable for enterprise-level organizations. Their features and options cover a broad range, and you’ll need to plan a deployment and training strategy before going live.
However, these tools are constrained by the scale at which they can function optimally. Don’t expect to be able to handle/schedule/collaborate on dozens, let alone hundreds or thousands, of projects with these tools without encountering significant and sometimes insurmountable difficulties.
4. High-End Project Management Tools
High-end project management tools may have many similarities to mid-range project management tools. Where they differ is in their scalability and the ability to customize them to very specific needs. Both of these differences ultimately result in the need to provide more extensive training to prospective users.
They require users to devote the time and energy—and companies to devote the resources necessary—to exploit these more advanced tools to their fullest potential.
5. Project Portfolio Management Tools
When your companies projects become numerous enough, and their reliance upon others’ success becomes indisputable, it may be time for your organization to consider PPM (project portfolio management) software.
This is the best project software management type if you need a way for senior management to efficiently examine related projects and how they relate synergistically. PPM suites represent a shift in your company’s strategy, and in its vision.
Choosing the Software that Fits Your Company’s Needs
One way to go about deciding on what type of project management software your company needs is listing the last five or ten projects you’ve embarked upon, and what features or options would have made those projects more successful. In terms of project management software scale, there is no one right answer. Once you’ve determined the type of software solution you need, however, there are other aspects that may be objectively better or worse for your company.
Look at how responsive the vendor is, and how long (or even if!) they have pledged support for the current version of their software. Do they offer materials that can help you effectively train users? Are their costs manageable, and do you expect a reasonable return on investment?
These, and other issues (discussed in depth in our Project Management Software Buyer's Guide) can make choosing the right software solution far easier task than you might imagine.