Project management software covers a range of platforms, each with a slightly different mix of functionality. It’s crucial that the vendor you select makes your projects easier to manage and doesn’t add unneeded complexity. The transition should be as smooth as possible.
Let’s examine the three major pillars of project management: planning, tracking, and collaboration. For each pillar, we’ll explore how project management software can help and list some of the most popular tools on the market. as well as the most popular tools on the market.
The first pillar of project management is planning. Planning involves finding team members with the right skills and determining what resources the project requires. Once you assemble the team and list resources, you can use a project management system to schedule tasks, forecast a completion date, and allocate resources appropriately
Scheduling completion dates for all of the moving parts in a major project lets managers construct a project timeline and delegate tasks. Project management software helps managers and team members schedule tasks by offering a space for writing and saving them as lists, calendars, and more. Automatic alerts notify team members when due dates are approaching or when a task is not completed on schedule. More robust interfaces include automatic reports that show how far a project is from completion based on the number of sub-tasks and goals already accomplished.
Timeline visualization is becoming a popular feature in less technical industries, with the Kanban approach being a prime example. Kanban project tracking software is derived from the Japanese supply chain methodology of lean production.
Kanban boards let you visualize tasks or projects via cards on a straight line or vertical lane, which represents the production line. This lets users see their work and shift tasks. You can think of Kanban boards as digital white boards or bulletin boards.
Vendor example: The project management solution Kanbanize lets users visualize task completion status by assigning tasks to cards that users can move between several progress lanes.
Forecasting usually involves extrapolation based off data from previous projects. It can be essential in calculating the ROI of a project before major resources have been invested. Forecasting takes into account the time spent on each task as well as the resources required to complete each task relative to the organization’s budget constraints and revenue goals. These types of tools can also help you predict potential risks and limitations.
Similar to forecasting, resource allocation tools help project managers visualize where their business invests time, energy, and materials. Businesses need to quickly view a project’s dedicated resources and change them on the fly. This is helpful for planning the project and for pivoting when unforeseen challenges arise. It can be time-consuming to enter and set up a detailed inventory of company and human resources, but doing so allows project managers to anticipate bottlenecks and allocate resources proactively
2. Tracking and management
Even best-laid plans are disrupted throughout the lifecycle of a project. The best project management software provides the proper amount of granularity and monitoring to keep projects efficient and on track.
As the name implies, time tracking software tracks the amount of time each project contributor spends on their assigned tasks. Besides simply measuring productivity, time tracking software also builds an archive of valuable data that can help businesses forecast completion dates for similar tasks or projects in the future. Time tracking is especially helpful when managing a team of remote or part-time employees. The image below shows the time tracking interface of Wrike.
Task management refers to the assignment of different responsibilities to various members of the project team. Being able to quickly determine who’s contributed to what part of the project lets managers better identify bottlenecks and stay on top of the project’s progress.
While the concept of task management is simple, the software can actually be fairly robust. In the case of large, complex projects that span different departments, tasks are very often interconnected or dependent on others. Certain project management solutions geared towards these types of undertakings will feature the ability to assign dependencies to tasks, which helps managers determine where a breakdown in productivity is occurring and assign the necessary resources to fix the problem. Task dependencies are often represented through Gantt charts, such as the one below: