Project management software is essential for helping your team collaborate. Before committing to a project management tool, however, you need to ensure that it has the right features and capabilities to suit your team’s needs.
A startup working on several projects simultaneously will need software that can keep up with its rapid pace. A client-facing small business may prefer an all-in-one project management and CRM solution. Larger enterprises will likely need many different permissions settings and workspaces for all their users.
We will explore some of the factors everyone should consider when choosing project management software. We’ll also look at some specialized features offered by some tools that might benefit your team.
If you’re new to project management, you can watch this video first for a quick primer on what it is, and how it can help your business:
Key Considerations for Choosing the Best Project Management Software
Let’s look at several key factors to keep in mind when comparing options.
Ease of Use
The goal of using project management software should be to streamline your workflow. Options with an intuitive interface will make task tracking significantly less tedious for your team.
Ease of use will mean different things depending on your team’s baseline level of tech-savviness and how you plan to engage with the software. For a simple user interface that your whole team should be able to get the hang of quickly, consider an option like Trello.
Trello is structured primarily around a simple kanban board view. It features color coding and uses simple checkbox and drag-and-drop options for marking tasks completed. This software also features many pre-built templates that you can use without needing to create a board from scratch.
Ease of use may also mean plenty of built-in automation features to make individual actions faster. Most project management software has great automation features.
Your project management tool should be customizable enough to meet your team’s needs. Whether you use waterfall, agile, or a hybrid methodology, you should look for software that can adapt to your project planning system.
On the higher end of the customizability scale is a tool like Airtable. Each user can choose from several different views, including calendar and Gantt charts. Even the color scheme is customizable. You can similarly customize the data outputs you see in reporting and various kinds of automation you need.
Seeking out a highly customizable option should make teamwork smoother. This is especially true if you have team members with a lot of different work styles or preferred ways of visualizing. It’s also a good choice if your workflow tends to differ greatly between projects.
Your business may have a set of tools you already utilize. You need a project management solution that integrates with all the tools your team loves.
The right choice for you will vary depending on your industry. For example, Jira, a project management software designed with DevOps in mind, will integrate well with Bitbucket and GitHub. Adobe Workfront, designed for marketing and IT teams, will integrate smoothly with other Adobe software.
Most major project management software will integrate with most basic office collaboration tools. Still, make sure to check the integrations list before committing to software that isn’t compatible with the tools you already use.
The best project management software for your business will be capable of handling all sizes of projects your team takes on. It should be able to grow with your business as you take on bigger and more complex projects over time.
Look for options with pricing tiers that fit your current and future needs, and your current and future budgets. Monday.com is one highly scalable option that is popular with businesses of all sizes.
If you’ve found a project management software that meets all your criteria, it still needs to fit your budget. Most project management software vendors offer several different tiers of pricing.
There are two different pricing models that project management software vendors use. Some provide their software at a flat monthly rate with a set (or unlimited) number of users, while some have you pay per user (or “seat”) per month.
Pricing is the best area to keep your business’s future in mind. If you anticipate growing substantially, a flat rate pricing model will be a better bargain in the end. Paying per seat for your entire team could get unreasonably expensive in the future.
Here’s a quick pricing comparison of the software we’ve talked about so far. For those with a per-user pricing model, the price for 50 users per month is listed as well to provide an example for comparison.
|Per-user or flat rate?
|Highest listed tier pricing
|$5/user per month ($250/month for 50 users)
|$17.50/user per month($875/month for 50 users)
|$10/user per month($500/month for 50 users)
|$20/user per month($1,000/month for 50 users)
|$7.50/user per month($375/month for 50 users)
|Enterprise tier starts at $128,000 annually
|Pricing is not publicly available
|Pricing is not publicly available
|$8/user per month – 3-40 users(Pricing is not publicly available for 50 or more users)
|$16/user per month – 3-40 users(Pricing is not publicly available for 50 or more users)
As you can see, the price per-user model is the most popular choice among some of the major names in the field. The per-user price can vary greatly depending on the kinds of features you need. Most of these major players also offer limited free versions, and some offer free trials of premium features.
No matter what your budget is, there is project management software out there for you. If you’re not ready to commit to a monthly payment for your PMS yet, we put together a list of the best free project management software.
Specialized Project Management Software Features to Consider
Your business may have unique project planning needs outside the general considerations. Perhaps project planning looks a lot different in your industry than it tends to in a general business context. You may want your project management tool to work as a CRM or messaging platform as well, allowing you to consolidate multiple apps.
There is more specialized project management software that can fit right into your team’s workflow.
One of the most popular capabilities for a PMS to offer is the ability to track time spent on each task. This can help you plan project schedules more effectively in the future as you learn how long each task takes in real-time. You can give each employee a realistic and achievable workload and each project an attainable timeline. Reporting and analytics can also show you ways to increase efficiency and productivity.
Time tracking is especially handy when it is included as part of a set resource management feature. These features allow you to schedule blocks of time for employees or contractors to work on specific tasks. Built-in time tracking is also handy if you work with clients and have billable hours as part of your client contracts. You can easily track how much time you spend on each task for each project and client.
Planview Projectplace is one option that includes time tracking and associated features. You can create reports and gain valuable insights using the time tracking information. There are also iPhone and Android versions of this project management app to make time tracking easier when you’re not at your computer.
While some level of real-time collaboration is a core component of all project management software, some go the extra mile. These tools incorporate extra collaborative features like chat and in-app document collaboration. Software with these communication functions is ideal if you don’t want to invest in several separate tools.
Asana is a popular project management tool that includes extra collaborative capabilities. You can have conversations with groups of team members or send private messages. You can even invite guests from outside your company to collaborate on individual projects. There is also a “teammate view” option. The teammate view allows you to see all the tasks one of your teammates is currently assigned so you can get a better idea of their workload.
Customer Relationship Management
Do you have a client-facing business that involves working with customers over project cycles? If so, it might be ideal to look for a project management software that also has customer relationship management features. This is another all-in-one solution approach that allows you to minimize the number of separate apps you need to switch between every day.
One project management software that also functions as a CRM is Hubspot CRM. Hubspot CRM has all project and task management capabilities of a project management system. CRM features include contact and email management, billing, invoicing, and marketing automation. You can keep your customers and your projects organized from the same platform with combined PMS and CRM tools like this.
The right PMS fits into your specific workflow. Your industry may have such a unique project planning process that you need specialized software.
Construction is one use case where an industry-specific PMS is ideal. Procore is designed for managing construction projects. This software’s capabilities include file sharing and marking up plans, as well as sharing specs, change orders, and RFIs. It also has a mobile app, which is a requirement in an on-the-go trade like construction.
If you don’t want industry-specific project management software, still reflect on your team’s needs. One great way to prepare for buying PMS software is sitting down with your team and talking about their perceived needs. This will give you a shopping list with all the features your team requires along with their concerns.
Conducting Further Project Management Software Research
We’ve talked about some of the most important factors to keep in mind when choosing project management software. A great way to keep narrowing in on the features you need in a PMS is to define your business’s project planning process. Check out this video for a breakdown of the difference between agile and waterfall methodologies:
User reviews are a great way to learn from people who have direct experience with the tools. You can read user reviews and compare your project management software options here on TrustRadius
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