Project Management Software is a product category that has seen an explosion of developers, solutions, features, and options, all vying for their piece of this growing pie.
This article takes a deep dive into the most critical questions to help any company find an excellent project management solution to best address it’s needs.
Statistics show that only 23% of today’s companies use project management software, be it enterprise or small business level products (Wellington, 2020). However, research shows that project management solutions significantly improve productivity and enhance collaboration and team communication.
There is no shortage of project management tools on the market. However, it’s essential to take time out and carefully assess which one will best fit your requirements to maximize productivity and minimize cost.
We’ve compiled a list of vital questions you should consider before selecting the best project management software for your virtual team.
But let’s start with the foundational questions first:
What Is Project Management Software?
Project management software is a type of application software to manage project activities, processes, tasks, and schedules.
It integrates all the information typically provided by separate applications into one coherent system. This approach ensures that all aspects of the project stay on track under changing conditions (i.e., access to resources or changes in requirements).
The idea behind most project management programs is to provide a single database for tracking progress and providing overviews that allow large projects to be coordinated centrally rather than from individual workstations.
What Are The Project Management Software Benefits?
Project management tools allow an organization to plan and conduct the many tasks involved in a project.
The software provides a way to keep track of all the people, money, and various other resources allocated or needed to complete the project successfully.
One of the benefits of project management tools is that they allow for collaboration with your team members. Another benefit is that they offer all-in-one solutions to communicate across teams, streamline processes, and stay on top of deadlines.
Project management solutions allow the user to organize all or parts of a project into an easy-to-read dashboard, freeing up more time for higher priority duties.
The software also helps to ensure accountability and transparency by producing comprehensive reports that detail all aspects of your projects’ progress.
In addition, it saves time as tasks are completed without trouble, thanks primarily, in part, to the software roadmap creator, which creates blueprints for each task. Hence, every team member has a clear idea about what they’re responsible for.
What Is The Difference Between Project Management Software & Other Administrative Tools?
Project management software has many features for managing projects (like scheduling, task management, project/portfolio workload management), whereas other administrative tools will only have a handful of these functions.
Administrative software is typically less complex in its design and more straightforward to use. It has fewer features since it doesn’t serve one specific function such as managing work schedules and projects but instead is multi-purpose.
What Are The Main Functions Of A Typical Project Management Software?
There are many different project management solutions available, and each offers a slightly different set of functions.
Standard features found in all project management systems include:
- Planning tasks by assigning them to team members or clients;
- Tracking progress on these tasks through reports and dashboards;
- Managing budgets with time-based budgets and cost overrun alerts;
- Automatic calculation of resource costs based on labor hours spent for the task assigned;
- Tracking issues and risks associated with projects;
- Defining milestones and estimated time required and remaining amounts of time needed;
- Ability to store knowledge in one place so that new employees won’t need to start from scratch.
Who Uses Project Management Software?
Project managers use project management software to delegate tasks, keep track of what needs to be done and with whom, allocate resources (people or money), measure progress, and analyze quality.
Project portfolio and program managers also use it for the same reasons mentioned above – but on a larger scale in terms of time-span and reaching more stakeholders.
The best reason for non-managers to use these tools is that they will not have any excuses when faced with criticism about how their team tackled their projects. They could easily show how they prioritized issues at hand and followed up on them accordingly.
Why Should You Use A Project Management Software?
One of the main reasons to use project management tools is better collaboration and communication with your team members.
The project management solution will keep everyone on your team updated and in sync, meaning all members have access to relevant information at a glance.
It also means you can assign tasks with ease. When someone updates their progress, it’ll show up on another’s screen automatically.
Project management software provides a way for multiple parties involved in the project to be aware of the progress being made, what needs to be done next, and any issues.
It can also provide a way for different departments (such as marketing, sales, production, etc.) to overview tasks and milestones.
What Are The Main Project Management Software Categories?
Project Scheduling Tools
Some examples of project scheduling tools are Kanban Boards, Gantt Charts, and PERT Charting. These tools help with scheduling tasks in order of importance. You can view your progress against deadlines as well as see where bottlenecks might occur.
- Kanban boards – are visual project management tools that can help teams visualize work, limit their current workloads, and maximize their efficiency.
Kanban boards use cards to represent tasks at different stages in development or completion. They also have columns for items being worked on and those completed.
Continuous improvement is critical with these types of agile project management tools. Using them, you’re allowing your organization to rethink how it completes tasks and what resources may be needed next time around.
- Gantt Charts – These are bar charts showing when tasks need to be completed for milestones within projects or more significant initiatives (like annual goals) to happen as planned. They help keep team members working at the right place to don’t end up doing everything too late or too soon.
- PERT Charts – PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. It’s a collection of data-driven methodologies that involve forecasting, planning, managing, and controlling projects. The heart of PERT is the “critical path,” which is the line or curve drawn with time estimates from milestone to milestone. In project management theory, as earlier milestones are completed without significant problems or delays in completion, the rest of the tasks can be accomplished with limited risk because they are inside this “safer zone” created by the critical path.
Workflow Management Tools
These tools let you create workflow diagrams that map how data is transferred through an organization from one person to another so that no task falls between cracks (or never gets done). This type of tool will also look at dependencies, so you know what has been completed when assigning new responsibilities to others.
Resource Allocation Tools
These tools allow project managers to manage resources such as people, money, and time. These tools often include a project schedule with milestones, deadlines, and resources needed to complete them.
These tools like Dashboards or Scorecards provide a snapshot of where your projects stand on various criteria so you can make better decisions about the next step.
Work Management Software
This project management software is designed to help teams collaborate more effectively by sharing workflows, documents, and calendars in real-time.
This approach allows each person’s responsibilities within the team to be updated automatically when something changes.
For instance, if someone else takes over an assignment, their tasks appear in everyone else’s task lists all at once without anyone having to do anything extra while also seeing what parts of the project have been completed already (and which haven’t).
This type of project management software offers tools for teamwork in project management. Rather than emailing a document back and forth, you can upload the file to an online workspace with one click.
Collaboration tools save time and allow multiple people to work on that same project simultaneously without worrying about it being edited by someone who has permission but not all the information needed.
Now, let’s see the list of crucial questions you should consider before selecting the best project management software for your virtual team:
What Are Your Project Management Needs?
- What is the size of your team? Do you have a large virtual team that needs to work closely together on projects from different locations worldwide? Are they working on projects individually or collaboratively? Do any of them work remotely at all times? How important is it for your team members to collaborate and communicate in real-time? How many concurrent users do the software system should allow for at a time? (While still providing a practical experience for each user).
- What are your team members’ skillsets and experience levels? Do employees prefer simplicity in the interface? How much training does staff require to get started with this project management software?
- How many stakeholders or clients are there in each project? How often will they be communicating with each other during the project lifecycle? What language(s) do you need your software to support? Some project management tools offer translation services.
- Can you customize your view and filter tasks on an ad hoc basis? What are the levels of detail that need to be present for each project task category/grouping? Can tasks be categorized or grouped in different ways? How much control do you want over how the data is managed within the software tool? How does this relate to reporting requirements at the stakeholder level/client level – e.g., deadlines, which may be required by contract or regulation.
- Does your company have any particular international compliance requirements? For example, EU data protection legislation might affect what software can be used overseas.
- What type of tasks will your teams complete most often? How many projects will run concurrently at any one time? What is the average length of each project within this timeframe?
- How does your company use data inputted into project management tools? For example, for tracking hours for financial purposes such as billing customers and paying staff members who work on projects outside of office hours. Also, the data that will be shared with other people in your organization – either internally or externally – can be fed back into reports and dashboards for executives at HQ to view figures on productivity rates across all departments and teams worldwide?
What is your company’s budget for project management software?
- How is the project management software organized? Does it integrate with other software products already in your company, like CRM or accounting software systems? Does it allow you to manage tasks by stages?
- What features do you need in your project management system? Do you need time tracking, budgeting tools, resource allocation, or something else? Do you need a project management tool that allows you to communicate with outside vendors/vendees (such as contractors or clients from different countries)? Are there any other features you’re looking for?
Having an idea about which features would be beneficial is vital for narrowing down potential tools.
Make a list of your project management requirements. Once you have identified the key features, please list and rank them in order of importance.
This technique will help to narrow down which project management software might be best for your company. Consider your business needs. Keep in mind that the software you choose should be tailored to meet your unique needs.
Consider how often employees will use it and what type of project management they need for their work environment.
What Project Management Tools Are Available At Your Disposal?
Ask around and see if anyone you know is using a project management tool that they recommend. Are there free trials available?
If you’re not sure which software to choose, take advantage of any offer for a free trial period so that employees can do an “in-house” test drive before making your purchase decision.
Remember: It’s better to be safe than sorry for choosing the right project management software.
Is your chosen option affordable?
There is no point in spending more money than necessary, so it might help compare prices with other solutions before settling on one software program.
Is your chosen brand trustworthy?
When deciding between multiple applications, look at who has the most experience in project management. You can also ask for recommendations from friends, colleagues, and other professionals you trust to recommend what is best for your needs.
What is included and excluded from this project management software?
Are there any limitations with how many users or projects you can use at once with this software? For example, if you only have a few projects but need to add users, will it be easy? If not, then what are your options here?
Do you have the opportunity to upgrade if these limits become an issue for you in the future?
There is a myriad of project management software solutions to choose from.
Start by visiting reputable sites like Capterra, Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, or ESG Research to explore what is available for your company’s needs and budget.
What Are The Cost, Features, And Integrations?
How much does the project management software cost?
Will it be worth that price in terms of features and integrations with other programs on your company’s computer network? What is your budget for this kind of software tool?
Does this application have full functionality across multiple devices?
For example, iPads/Android Tablets so your team members have access anywhere.
Are you looking for project management software that’s easy to use?
Choose a tool with an intuitive, simple interface. This approach will save your team time and eliminate frustration. Is it responsive so it can be used on any device, or have the ability to connect via a mobile app?
What features your chosen application has?
Does this application offer to track different phases of a project – such as assigning tasks, keeping records up-to-date, scheduling meetings/events? Do you want more than just project management tools integrated into one program like CRM, Gantt charts, etc.?
There are many questions to answer before picking the right project management system. It can seem overwhelming at first, but you will find yourself feeling better equipped to make an informed decision by following these steps.
There’s a wide range of project management software solutions that can meet your needs. However, it is essential to consider the costs and what features you need. In addition, who else in your organization will be using this service to communicate with each other about projects.
What Security Options You Need To Consider?
What type of security the project management tool offers for project data and users’ information? Is there IT support available if needed?
When considering purchasing a tool for project management, how does data get encrypted? Who has access to sensitive data? What happens when credentials change hands?
For example, one popular tool includes speed limits on specific users, so one person cannot make changes without another approving them first.
Security is always a concern, but it’s even more important to consider if you’re using an enterprise-level solution because patching and updates can be tricky. There may not be someone monitoring potential threats as thoroughly with those solutions, so they’ll likely take longer to respond with patches or fixes.
When in doubt about which option will work best for you, ask yourself how much time each person on your team spends on projects that need secure access. If it’s only one hour per week, then maybe all of them should have limited access.
Can You Get Feedback From Other Users?
What others who have used the same project management software think about it? What issues have people had with the software?
What are some of the reported benefits people who have used this type of provider report about themselves – improved efficiency in planning, executing, and analyzing project tasks? Do they recommend it?
Whether this means talking with colleagues, using social media, or posting a question on message boards and forums, it is essential to get feedback from people who have experience with the project management software to help you make your decision.
This should be done before signing any contracts and committing yourself to use their product for years at a time.
Can You Experiment With The Project Management Tool?
It’s always a good idea to experiment with the project management software before committing to using it for an extended period.
Try out different features such as email support, scheduling and collaboration tools, and document storage – this will help you learn how easy or difficult it is to use.
Experiencing the software firsthand can also provide insight into whether you would adjust if something changes down the road (such as budget constraints).
Can You Gather Comments From Your Colleagues?
It would help if you also asked your colleagues, partners, or fellow project managers what they think about your chosen project management software.
This should be done before signing any contracts and committing yourself to use their product for years at a time.
This approach will likely provide you with some valuable insight into how others perceive the tool and whether it meets their needs – which could be different from yours. The responses may even influence your decision to use a particular product more than another one.
If any other project management tools have been used by someone on your team before, take time to explore those options through meetings or demos to make an informed decision.
Have You Looked At Vendor’s History?
A company with long-term support and robust customer care will be more likely to provide better service in the future than those who don’t have that kind of history or focus on customer care.
What is the company’s vision?
If a project management tool is continually evolving and has new features that you are interested in, this will likely be a good option.
Is the company agile and willing to change with the times?
While it’s important not to be afraid of trying something new, you’ll want your project management software provider to be able to adapt when changes do happen quickly.
How they handle data storage and security measures?
This question is crucial because you don’t want someone else having access to sensitive client information without proper authorization.
Are there any updates that are coming out soon?
Be aware of when new versions get released and how often they usually update their software with more unique bugs being fixed.
What is its customer service like?
Do they respond quickly and helpfully? Do you have an in-depth customer service team to provide some assistance and answer questions when they arise – what is their response time typically? And do they work on weekends too, if anything goes wrong during our busiest times of operation?
Take some time to know who will be working on your account – their experience in project management matters.
The company you choose will affect how successful you can be in achieving your goals for the year, so make sure you thoroughly examine ALL aspects before signing anything!
They should offer proper security measures and provide tools that allow team members access from different devices (iPhones, iPads, Android phones) without having any compatibility issues.
What Is The Vendor’s Pricing Model?
Does this vendor provide a free trial period?
With a free trial, your team can see what this project management software offers before committing to a paid option.
Are there any monthly, annual, or lifetime fees?
What are the recurring payments for each month or year, and who covers these charges? Are there any maintenance fees or contracts/licenses with annual renewals?
Project management solutions can become expensive, so it is best to know from the start what may happen down the road before signing any deals.
Some companies have different monthly or yearly rates based on how many employees are using the project management software, while others offer tiered packages so you can choose what features work best for your needs.
Enjoyed this article? You may learn more about how to choose the right collaboration tool for your virtual team here: Collaboration Tools – How To Choose One For Your Virtual Team?
It may not seem like much but understanding as many of these questions as possible before making this type of purchase will save both time and money in the long run.
This list has been created by listing some common questions we encounter when discussing project management software. Hopefully, it can serve as a starting point for anyone looking into taking even more steps towards finding what they need.
We’ll also continue updating this post regularly. So if there are any questions we’ve missed that you think would be valuable, please let us know in the comments, and we’ll make sure to include them.