The global IT services are expected to demonstrate a CAGR of 8.02% and hit the 1123.57 bn USD mark by 2026, and the IT project and portfolio management market (IT PPM) is also set to touch the 3.88 bn USD value by 2024.
Even then, the general dissatisfaction with IT PPM tools is increasing annually, the major reason being – improper fit for the organization.
Now, if you are currently using a project management tool, the chances are that it might not be the right fit for you as well!
So, how to choose the right project management software that fits well with your organizational objectives, solves the management challenges, and scales well?
The following discussion focuses on this problem statement and presents the best course of action for choosing project management software like a pro!
What Is Project Management Software?
It is the software you use for applying knowledge, tools, skills, techniques, and automation to project activities to meet the project requirements. It enhances and improves the overall team collaboration, communication, and facilitates proper tracking, monitoring, scoping, time and risk management, all the while offering portfolio-level reporting to the managers.
As there are many different types of projects, the functionalities and capabilities of project management software vary across the vendors.
Some common functionalities of a project management system software include the following:
- Task management
- Time tracking
- Data-driven reporting
- High-level project overviews
- Custom workflows
- Risk management
- Budget and forecasting
- Business Rules
- Kanban task views
- Real-time collaboration
- Granular visualization
Apart from these generic features, there are specific project management software categories that target the major industry-specific requirements.
So, how to figure out the must-have feature for project management software?
Let us find out!
Must-Have Features for Project Management Software and Tools
Below, we share a project management software requirements checklist for all the must-haves. However, you must remember that the business-unique and industry-specific requirements for the management of specific projects are apart from these must-haves.
The dashboard is one of those things that could make or break the UX. The dashboard is a data-driven platform that offers a customizable visualization of insights, stats, metrics, functions, user roles, and modules that are specific to a project. You can customize the dashboards to show what you consider is important according to you when it comes to project management.
As the dashboards allow you to have an in-depth overview of all the project management activities, they are an absolute must-have for every project management tool.
- Project Planning and Scheduling
Every management software must offer scheduling and planning functionalities to outline the individual tasks and responsibilities and visualize them. With proper planning and scheduling means, you can avoid misunderstandings and delegate the tasks properly.
Hence, it is one of the most important things to consider while choosing project management software.
The best project management software allows you to create custom workflows, set deadlines and priorities, and send alerts and notifications as well.
The project team members need to access each other’s work to complement theirs, and having organized and quick communication via multiple channels is a must. Effective collaboration increases workplace profitability by 21%.
Hence, a project management software must offer diverse and real-time collaboration capabilities, such as:
- File sharing
- Team communication
- Team dashboards
- Shared inboxes
- Shared access to customer data
- Real-time collaboration with various functionalities that facilitate remote collaboration as well
A project management tool must offer a single-source-of-truth for data and project information sources for all the team members and management. The data must be accessible in one place, such as expenses and scoping data, customer data, calendar events, bills, or invoicing data.
This facilitates easy data sharing with the teams and bypasses sifting through various spreadsheets to find the tidbits of various types of data.
Another important must-have is the combination of delightful reports with actionable insights and a KPI dashboard to take organizational decisions in an informed manner.
The best project management tools also allow you to collect previously inserted project data and create custom reports on:
- Project budget
- Completed tasks
- Individual performance
Apart from offering you a detailed overview of the individual performance on a project, you can identify the best-performing teams and utilize the data for improving workplace productivity and employee engagement.
- Resource Management
Which project uses which resources, and which resources are available for the new project? Whether you need to hire a new developer or need an addition in your testing department?
Your project management system software must answer these and all the other questions related to organizational resources (all types). This facilitates optimal resource utilization and ensures that no resource is over-used or under-used.
You can also take crucial decisions regarding various resources well ahead of time to ensure that there is no impact on the development and delivery timelines.
Another must-have that must be on your project management software requirements checklist is the budgeting functionality. The budget documentation and management becomes complex in the case of large projects.
Hence, budget reports, project budget dashboards, time tracking, time billing, and automated invoicing are some of the crucial features that you must look for in project management software.
Now, you might think that a majority of these activities can be done via Excel sheets or Gantt Charts, or Google Sheets. So, why do you need project management software?
Below we discuss how choosing project management software over the above-said tools will transform your project management.
Why Do You Need Project Management System Software?
Project management software is important because it supports three primary project management functions – scheduling, cost management, and resource planning. It helps you keep track of all the tasks, process threads, and resources being used on all the ongoing projects.
You can see how the current allocations, workflows, and deadlines relate to the bigger picture and affect the pending tasks.
Further, stats report that organizations with high-performing projects are using project management software:
A project management tool allows all the teams and team members to be on the same page when it comes to checking and measuring the project progress in relation to the set targets. Conversely, not having a PM tool can easily cause friction points due to sync issues, and friction can very quickly lead to more customers churning.
Having such an impeccable grasp of all the tasks, resources, and people involved in a project enables you to focus on more important activities, and improve productivity as well.
Further, simple data management tools like Excel crumble down in the face of:
- Complex projects with large scopes
- Remote team management
- Simultaneous tracking and monitoring of different teams
- KPI scenarios
- Risk Assessment and Monitoring
Okay, so this covers the doubts of the people who still have not started using a project management tool.
What about those who are already using ones? Is any project management software good enough to be the right fit for your organization?
Stas report that for every 1 bn dollars invested in a project, project management challenges cost $109 million to businesses.
And, does a good project management software remain good perpetually??
Why should you consider changing your project management software and tools, or “when” is the time you must switch your existing project management software and tools with a new one?
While there is no harm in using the software you are more used to or more well-versed with, if you are facing any of the below-mentioned issues, then it is time to move on:
- Project tracking and task management require more tools and are getting out-of-hands.
- Collaboration is becoming clunky and disjoint with team members opting for personal communication mediums.
- You are scaling, expanding, or migrating your project management system to the cloud.
- No matter how well you schedule and plan, your deliveries and deadlines slip constantly.
- Your organizational needs have outgrown the capabilities of your current software.
- Your current project management software or tools lack the ability to incorporate your digital transformation efforts.
- You feel a lack of automation as most of your management capabilities are getting wasted on mundane tasks and micromanagement.
- Your team is facing a hard time with the outdated functionalities of your current software.
- Your current software offers poor or negligible data analytics capabilities, and reports are pure numbers, devoid of any insights.
Now that we all stand in one place regarding the importance of a project management tool and choosing the ”right” one, let us move ahead.
How to actually go about the process? How to identify whether the software is the right fit and what are some key considerations for making the final choice?
Let us find out!
How to Choose Project Management Software?
Choosing the right project management software for your organization can be challenging and time-consuming. The journey of final decision passes through several crucial steps, which we have listed below.
- Identify the Organizational Needs for Project Management
Always begin with a thorough brainstorming and dissection of the organizational needs in terms of project management. This is one of the most important steps and requires discussion with your team members and department heads.
This is because managers might not be facing any challenges, but developers can be, and so on.
Some common questions that you can proceed with are:
- Are you looking for time tracking software?
- Do your employees rely on collaboration for accomplishing tasks and lack a reliable platform?
- Are you looking for a software project manager with ITSM capabilities?
- Do you wish to have a smart AI-powered tool that offers advanced analytics and actionable reports?
- Or do you need a solid one-in-all package?
If you are looking for a project management software that falls in the last category, then opt for a mainstream solution which suits your business requirements. Make sure that the project management software you opt for, comes with smart reporting, advanced analytics, powerful tracking and monitoring, and robust management features.
Another approach is to identify the current pain points of your teams and managerial task force and keep the list handy for shortlisting a new project management software.
Before taking a final decision:
Always ask yourself whether the software is going to solve the organizational pain points and overcome the management, collaboration, and automation hurdles?
Instead of focusing on the features and functionalities of new software and getting carried away in the process, you must focus on the use case analysis.
- Start Your Search
Start your search for the best project tracking apps and software that are relevant to your industry.
For example, if you are working in the support industry and have decent customer call traffic, you must look for tools that offer call center capabilities. On the other hand, if you are facing challenges with budgeting and reporting, then you must look for software that comes with scoping, budget management, reports, and data analytics capabilities.
There are many options available in the market that you can shortlist three or four of them, keeping your use cases and requirements in mind.
- Put the Shortlisted Tools to Trial
Almost all the project management software and tools offer a free trial period or free plans for small businesses. You can opt for these trials and free plans to test the top 3 or 4 choices you have finalized.
However, don’t make the mistake of making the trial a one-man task. Compile a group of people from different teams and from different job roles to identify how well the project management software is delivering across the cumulative pain points.
Here, we would like to point out one important thing – Many times you don’t know that a pain point exists until you meet a great software tool that helps you discover it.
Hence, this step might land you with new findings of your organizational challenges, and you must take note of them, adding them to your list (previous point).
- Take Feedback From the Testers
Once your team has tested the software for a few days, you can take thorough feedback and compare the answers with the list of pain points you started with.
Some questions that you can ask the testers in this step include:
- Did they feel any positive changes while using the new project management software and which one stood out amongst all?
- Did the software help them minimize the time spent on redundant and mundane tasks, such as log submissions?
- Was the software able to facilitate better collaboration and granular visualization of tasks?
While they give you answers, ask them for a score ranging from 1 to 10 for all the software solutions you have tested.
Gathering such thorough feedback is essential while choosing project management software as it will allow you to choose a tool that is right for your organization.
- Thorough Feedback Analysis
Now that the team has given its inputs, you can take the next step and start working on the feedback.
Thoroughly analyze the feedback and rank the shortlisted choices for the new project management software keeping the following in mind:
- Challenges solved
- Testing score
- Usability matching
- Scalability and expansion capabilities
- Integrations and number of users supported
- Ease of use
- Intuitive dashboards
As you rank your options, you will be nearing the final step with more confidence and as an informed buyer.
- Compare the Costs
Now that you have compared the shortlisted software on the basis of features and capabilities, compare their costs.
While you might like a project management software that offers impeccable capabilities, it is highly likely for it to be out of your budget. Hence, software cost is another crucial consideration that you must have in your mind.
However, don’t get distracted by the per-user costs as well.
Think whether the investment is worth the benefits the software offers or not. Do you wish to work the same way, leading to time wastage and lost opportunities instead of investing in quality software?
Buying software is a long-term decision, and you must prioritize quality over price for such investments. Also, see which payment method works for you the best – annual, quarterly, or monthly?
- Discuss Your Choice With the Team
Discuss the software you have finalized with your executive team and ask them for their take on it. As the software will be majorly used by them only, you need to check how they feel about the decision.
Also, if you are a large enterprise, then you need to discuss the steps with some of the crucial stakeholders and upper management to ensure that all the people are on the same page.
- Make the Purchase
Once you have got the green signal from all the executives, make the purchase and get started with your new project management tool. Almost all the project management software is priced on a per-user basis.
So, we recommend getting started with 2 or 3 teams and checking how they feel about it, and then proceeding with your organizational roll-out.
- Implementation and Adoption
You might need some help getting the system up and running. So, always ask for Day-1 deployment services and user training from the vendor. While the best project management system software comes with a little or no learning curve, every business has a different definition for quantifying this “best software”.
Hence, invest some time in learning about the software, its functionalities, and figuring out how to get the best out of it.
- Revisit the Requirements Checklist
Once your team has used the software for a few days or a month, it’s time to revisit that project management software requirements checklist.
Compare how the new software is faring against the initial challenges, pain points, and organizational requirements you had. Check whether purchasing it has been a fruitful decision or not.
Finally, analyze whether you wish to continue with the software or not.
If yes, then you can opt for a long-term payment plan as they tend to be more affordable as compared to the short-term plans.
Up next, we discuss another important aspect of choosing project management software.
How Much Does Project Management Tools Cost?
The price of project management software and tools available in the market varies greatly. So, taking a decision that is based merely on pricing is a big mistake!
The software pricing depends on a number of factors, such as:
- Number of users – Most companies charge on a per-user basis
- Features and functionalities – The more features you want, the pricier a software becomes
- Advanced technologies – AI, advanced data analytics, automation, etc. might come at an additional cost
- Enterprise custom pricing – Your enterprise type and scale might also lead to a bigger investment
- Billing cycle – Annual, monthly, quarterly, half-yearly – billing cycles also cause fluctuations in the software pricing
Hence, keeping your requirements, billing cycles, and the number of users in mind is how you choose the right project management software.
Realize Your Project Goals: Choose the Right Project Management Software
Now that you know the entire journey from “how to choose project management software” to “Why do I need a project management software”, it is time to take action.
Start identifying your organizational challenges and start searching for your best fit.
Always remember, investing in robust and reliable project management software can not only help you realize your project goals but also help you in moving towards the adoption of the industry best practices.
So, take that first step towards flawless management, keep the pointers shared here in mind, and get started with your journey!