Successful project managers have a lot of responsibilities - managing meetings, planning and scheduling, managing resources and budgets, and analyzing reports to name a few. On a busy day at work, the workload becomes very stressful.
To automate time-consuming tasks and operate a large team of professionals, managers need the best project management software solution.
While we all love to download the magical tool that does all the work and covers everything in our required feature set, the large number of options available makes finding a very powerful PM a daunting task.
There are hundreds if not thousands of software solutions that all focus on the same features - tracking and organizing the project management process and enhancing team collaboration.
To find the best software for your team, consider the features you need to efficiently manage your projects.
To make sure some important aspects aren't left exposed when looking for new software, take a look at the essential features of project management tools. Features of good project management software include:
- Project planning and scheduling
- Collaboration Team
- time tracking
- Project budget
- Invoices and quotes
After completing this guide, you will have a clear understanding of the core PM software features and be ready to make informed decisions when it comes to choosing the right PM software for you.
1. Planning and Scheduling
When managing a team, it is very important to define and highlight the tasks and responsibilities of each individual.
Help avoid misunderstandings and know who should delegate new tasks.
The best online project management software allows you to assign tasks to team members and set priorities and deadlines.
Adding due dates to tasks automatically sends a notification every time the scheduled completion date approaches and the activity is still incomplete.
It goes without saying that you should also be able to prioritize your activities. Prioritizing tasks is incredibly useful whenever urgent problems arise.
With the planning tool with scheduled intervals, you can quickly make room in your planned schedule without manually rescheduling the entire project plan.
Agile task management tool
When leading a project team, you need a tool to identify all your upcoming activities and assign tasks to team members.
Task management features are almost ubiquitous among web-based work planning software, which means finding one is not a difficult task. But don't ignore it while searching for a new PM program because it is essential for effective teamwork.
Combined team calendar
Team calendar for scheduling and organizing meetings is essential to the PM program. Creating a shared calendar that syncs with popular calendar tools ensures that everyone receives notifications and attends meetings on time.
You can also add important due dates to your team's calendar to get a quick overview of upcoming major events.
If your team members use different calendars, look for PM tool that integrates with popular calendar tools like iCal and Google Calendar.
Task planning and scheduling tool
A great tool for teamwork is the planner feature that outlines all the planned project tasks and makes scheduling new activities very easy.
Here's how you can improve the outline for managing your project:
- Time slot view provides an overview of the number of hours and tasks booked for each team member, showing unscheduled time slots
- You will get insight into who is assigning new tasks in the next step of the project
- A quick overview of everyone's tasks and unscheduled time helps set realistic deadlines and avoid overbooking people
- Whenever an urgent task needs to be prioritized, you can move forward with other tasks and make room for these high priority tasks
- If a team member finishes their task before the planned schedule, you can assign them other responsibilities if necessary.
- You'll end up with a more productive project team
A large project team may consist of tens or hundreds of people, each working on specific tasks and having specialized knowledge in a different field.
Oftentimes, project team members are asked to access each other's work in order to complete their work. Meaning that it is very important to establish orderly and fast communication across multiple channels.
The best project management software includes features for file sharing, shared calendars, and contact lists. Each team member can enter information into the system and others will have quick access when and where they need it.
Some PM tools allow adding files to projects for quick sharing. When choosing your project software, check if they offer free storage space to upload your files and data.
Some software providers have created a messenger application within the project management tool.
While it's nice to have (if a messaging tool covers all your team's needs), missing it shouldn't be a deal breaker.
You can always use Slack for quick communication with the team.
If possible, choose a software solution that allows creating team dashboards that are accessible to everyone. You can add charts, charts, visual metrics, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to your dashboard.
The team dashboard can act as a project KPI report and is the perfect tool to use during meetings, presenting tracked metrics to everyone and comparing actual results in real time against the planned schedule.
Viewing KPIs provides a quick overview of whether the team has reached its goals, which leads to more informed decisions. You can also share infographics with team members so that everyone can express their ideas on how to improve project performance.
Share customer data
If you work for an agency, it is critical to store and manage client data. The best project management tools help you do this and allow you to create a client card that you can share with other team members.
For example, enter your customers' contact information and link projects and invoices to customer profiles. Later, you can quickly manage and organize your customers by different categories such as companies with outstanding invoices, people waiting for your product, or even trustworthy partners.
You don't manage all of your project data in Excel spreadsheets, do you?
Did you know that up to 88% of spreadsheets contain errors?
Take a look at all the business processes that need an Excel alternative.
All data can be accessed in one place.
Wouldn't it be nice to be able to access all your project information in one place?
Including planned and completed tasks, past and upcoming calendar events, customer data, project resources, expenses and invoices sent to customers.
Quick access to your data
Collecting all the data into a comprehensive PM tool means you can easily share it with your team and access it with just a few clicks. No need to switch between multiple spreadsheets to find bits of data.
When searching for the best project management software, ask companies what types of information their tools enable them to store and manage. Not all project management tools include customer relationship management (CRM) or billing automation.
Another underutilized benefit of collecting your information in one place is the detailed reports that you will get. More on this in the next section.
To successfully manage your projects, you need to be aware of the shortcomings and problems that require a quick solution. To get a comprehensive overview of your project's progress, you need at least two features - insightful reporting and a KPI dashboard.
The best project management software includes reporting tools that collect pre-listed project data and enable the creation of customizable reports.
For example, you can get reports on project budget, expenses, tasks completed, and performance of team members. Since you have already collected a large set of data for the PM tool, you can create new reports at any time and choose the parameters and categories of information you wish to include in the graph.
The reports make it possible to get a quick overview of the project performance and you will also notice the best performing project teams. If there is an identified negative trend in the charts, you can take immediate action.
It's easier to treat the problem if you know it's the root cause. You can identify issues by comparing multiple reports and discussing them with members of your team.
Project dashboard KPI
The fastest way to track your project performance is to create a project dashboard that automatically updates information in real time. Include important metrics such as planned and actual project value, schedule variance, and percentage of tasks completed.
Watch the slideshow of 16 key KPI projects to find the metrics to include in your dashboard.
Create multiple KPI reports for multiple purposes:
- Shared team dashboard
- KPI Financial Report
- Project performance dashboard
- Project manager control panel
5. Resource management
It's not just your team's time that needs to be managed. Perhaps you need a tool to keep track of other project resources: for example, meeting rooms and materials used in the project process.
Scheduling your project resources
The great project management tool includes a resource management feature, which identifies all the scheduled and planned resources and calculates the cost of their use. This helps to avoid over-allocations and potential conflicts due to lack of resources.
You will immediately notice when a resource is overused and can decide whether to restrict its use or create new guidelines for its exploitation.
As a project manager, you can manage and assign resources to specific tasks and ensure that everyone has the resources and tools to complete their tasks.
6. Project budget management
The larger the project, the more expenses you need to document and manage. For efficient expense management, an Excel spreadsheet is not an option.
You'll need a project management tool that tracks your expenses and provides fast and clear budget performance reports.
The best project budgeting software gives you weekly and monthly reports on project expenditures, expenses, and totals. You also notice when your project goes over budget.
To save the data to your computer, you can easily export all the data you need.
Project budget dashboard
Create a financial reporting dashboard and add multiple KPIs to reflect on the progress of your project.
Add graphs and charts to your dashboard to get real-time updates about your project. To share dashboard or budget reports with team members, set up access rights, and make sure the right people receive the data.
Term billing and automated billing
When working in an agency and dealing with multiple clients, you also need the software to enable time billing and invoicing. You need to keep track of the time you spend on tasks, add hourly rates for users, and group invoices according to the work done.
Use time tracking software to document time spent on tasks and use data to automate your billing process.
You can find PM software with integrated time tracking tools but it may come at the cost of other important features. There is always the possibility to integrate a time tracking solution with a PM tool to document your business and link it to customer profiles and projects.
Although invoicing can take a long time, there is a way to collect and forward your invoice with just a few clicks. You can do this with pre-designed PDF templates and software that automatically sends the invoice for you.
The best time invoicing software enables setting up email reminders for outstanding invoices and further lightens your workload.
Getting started with project management software with time-billing features can save up to 10 hours of a project manager's time each week. Try invoice automation to determine how much time you save.
When choosing an invoicing software, you need to consider several questions. Check out this guide to find the best billing software for time.
So what indispensable project management software features do you need to run your project team successfully?
Are you looking for one tool to cover all your needs or are you ready to use multiple tools for different activities?
PM-all-in-one tools usually have better reporting capabilities and enable you to access all your project data in one place.
There is always the possibility of integrating comprehensive project management systems with specific small tools that your team also uses.
- Find project management software that covers all the features important to you, and supplement it with specific tools like time trackers or accounting solutions. There is no perfect tool, but you can come close to it if you do your research properly.
See a handy guide to choosing project software and get a free project planning software comparison spreadsheet.
After you have found the perfect tool, make sure you go through all the necessary steps for the new software implementation process and have a great user acceptance for all the new tools.