The Best Software For Project Management
You know how to manage your business routine operations effectively. However, managing specific goals for process improvement or new products requires a different skillset known as project management.
Projects are not business-as-usual. They are short-lived, finely tuned optimizations of time, quality, human and monetary resources. The key ingredients to project success include careful planning, clearly defined goals, task assignment and tracking and exquisite communication across the project team. Here are some tips and software suggestions to help fine-tune your company’s project management.
Focus on Features, Not Cost
There are so many software offerings for program management that choosing one may seem a daunting task. To narrow down options, concentrate on the features you need now and will need later as your business grows. There are free or inexpensive packages, but cost should be secondary to finding PM software that gets the job done.
Important Project Management Software Capabilities
The main software features to consider include the following:
- Planning – Your PM software should support goal setting, time estimates, quality standards and resource availability. Visual representation of the project is essential.
- Task management – Choose software that allows fine-grained task creation, assignment and tracking. Dependencies between tasks and resources must be displayed clearly.
- Document management – The best packages include off-line storage and control revision of documents related to the project.
- Reporting – Regular or real-time reports of progress and issues keep small problems from turning into team efficiency killers.
- Collaboration – Business operations, personnel and clients are usually scattered across locations and time zones. Keeping everyone up-to-date requires PM software that can reach everyone on any platform.
PM Software That Grows with Your Business
Ponder whether or not you will install your PM software on-site or an external server. Are you going to manage only your project or manage both the project and the software itself? The answer is not as obvious as it might seem. Consider if freedom, flexibility and expansion of capabilities are important to your company especially as the business grows. Source code PM software, such as Collabtive, can provide all of that and is free. With access to the source code, you can mold your PM software to fit your company’s other functional systems. For example, integration with your business’ CRM and financial systems is possible. Alternatively, inexpensive, full-featured packages, such as Basecamp, let you choose specific project management capabilities as your needs expand.
To Be or Not to Be in the Cloud
For a company that consists of a small, tight-knit group, locally installed PM software may be just the ticket. Popular examples include Gannt Project or ProjectLibre. For businesses spread around the globe, instant sharing of project details is required. Enter cloud-based PM software.
Top Cloud-based Project Management Software
Cloud-based PM software means that wherever you can get an Internet connection, you can get to your project and from any device. Here is a sampling of the best cloud-based PM packages:
- Teambox focuses on collaboration and communication. Its Twitter-like interface lets your team provide instant updates or alerts. The cost is zero to $200 per month for 50 users.
- Zoho Projects is a full-on buffet of features. Messaging, Gantt charts, screen-sharing, and integration with Microsoft Office are just a few of its features. Cost is $0 if you only have one project at a time but can range up to $700 for 50 users a month.
- Freedcamp is a free alternative to the popular pay-as-you-go Basecamp. It is strong on collaboration with support for IM, SMS and email alerts. Their project template library will kick-start your planning process. The dashboard interface provides an instant overview of your project’s health.
Take Your Time Finding the Best PM Software
There are dozens more choices in the cloud-based PM software space. Visit this comprehensive spreadsheet to compare their capabilities. The correct choice of project management software will increase your company’s effectiveness, reduce risk and improve everyone’s objectivity regarding your business capabilities.
Alex Faubel enjoys writing about topics related to business and technology in career-focused education programs.