Project teams must deliver on time and within a budget. They have to manage task delegation, collect and share information, collaborate, and, above all, communicate, communicate, communicate. In the past, this meant that every team member had to be in the same place physically, so that regular meetings could be held to ensure that everyone was on schedule and to address any issues.
Then, along came email. Now, team members could work a bit remotely, but productivity was often sacrificed. Messages had to be sent back and forth, and decision-making was often delayed while waiting for everyone to respond.
Today, there is project management software – a solution that allows teams to work efficiently and an organization to thus maintain its market competitiveness.
The Essentials of Good Project Management Software
These elements constitute the most effective PM software:
- It is cloud-based so that all team members can work and collaborate online, in real time, when necessary. Everyone knows exactly “where” everyone else is, can communicate openly, and individual and common issues can be resolved.
- All details of a project’s progress, resources, and budget are on full display at all times
- Reports are generated so that managers can see the broad picture and make decisions on workloads. Time can be tracked for purpose of invoicing, etc.
- Tasks can be re-assigned and/or re-scheduled on the spot, as necessary. Many PM apps include a Gantt Chart that lets leaders see who is working on what and what tasks are related and in what sequence they must occur.
- Third-parties are often granted access permission – other staff, contractors, and even clients who must sign-off on formative parts as a project moves forward.
One “wrinkle” relates to overseas activity. As many organizations now do business in foreign countries, projects may be competed in a native language and then need to be translated. Consider this: a new employee manual is being developed by an HR team. The organization is launching in another country, and the employee manual must be translated. The goal will be to find a business translation service with a history of success in the target language. This will require research translation reviews and checking references obviously. But, once the right service is found, that contractor can then be given access to the project, in order to meet that need.
The project management software/app is distinguished from other work management apps, in that it is for projects – those tasks that have a start and an end date – not ongoing work.
Choosing the Best PM Software
Obviously, every organization has unique needs for project management. This translates to selecting a product that will have the tight elements.
But there are PM software products that do appear to be among the top rated by reviewers. Here are five of them.
- ZOHO Projects
The first attractive feature of this product is that it has a free service level, so an organization can try it out before making a decision to purchase a paid plan. The other attraction is that it comes with lots of add-on tools, so that the product grows as the business does. And higher levels of the product can be purchased as the number of projects increases. And some add-ons, like a bug tracker, come with an extra charge.
The big advantage that reviewers see is the clean layout and the simplicity with which projects can be set up. Dashboards can be customized, and the app will prompt based upon what is being used. And a live chat feature is built right into the workspace that does not disappear when anyone using it logs out. Notifications also show up in the workspace as they are put out, so that every user is immediately aware of them. Time tracking and task reports are available with a single click.
- Teamwork Projects
This is another product that has taken the complexity out of project management. The UI is self-explanatory, and it comes with a myriad of tools to cover all facets – managing projects, of course, but also monitoring team members’ time, budget and resources and even billing clients, etc. In terms of pricing, Teamwork Projects has raised its prices recently, but still offers several options, including a Forever Free plan that has limited options. All plans, however, support unlimited users. The lowest price plan is now $69/month and will allow up to 50 projects.
In terms of feature, this product has a great color-coding feature that will differentiate tasks. Navigation among management functions (create project, generate tasks, report milestones, assigning tasks, calendaring, task status, etc.).
This product has a Kanban approach to managing the work of all team members. Users can label cards as they wish, along with the criteria for moving cards across the columns. And there is a feature that will send an email to a manager and other team members when a milestone has been reached. And there is a chat feature, but users have to open a new tab to do that.
Teamwork has apps for both iOS and Android and can integrate other services such as ZenDesk and Zapier. What’s more, there is a free trial without even having to provide credit card information up front.
- Liquid Planner
Here is an impressive but also complex project management tool. In fact, it manages far more than just projects, tracking any kind of work that must be done. Because of its complexities, there is a rather steep earning curve, but, for large enterprises, it is ideal.
Liquid Planner has only two account levels now – professional and enterprise. And they are pricey. Potential buyers can try it free for 14 days, but there is no free permanent account.
The tool offers everything that might be wanted or needed for managing projects – create the project, assign tasks to team members, set deadlines, monitor and report milestones, etc. Project dashboards are very customizable, which is a big plus. Liquid Planner can be used for a number of other work tracking too. And it smartly provides estimates of amounts of time that tasks may consume.
One cool feature is drag-and-drop, making it very easy to adjust team members’ schedules, lists of tasks, notes, etc. Managers can change priorities of projects and tasks with this feature – it’s amazingly simple. Other features include integrations with services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Zapier and mobile apps for both iOS and Android.
In short, the big pros of this tool are its easy and quick setup, support for an unlimited number of projects, time tracking, fully customizable dashboards and reports, and integration with a number of other apps and services.
Any company in a hurry to set up a PM solution, should choose Wrike. There are five pricing tiers, depending upon the services a business wants, and, in this respect, there are offerings for small businesses through large enterprises. As we, there is a free plan that will support five users, but features are so limited, it is difficult to see who can benefit.
In terms of features, projects are easily created and can be swiftly populated with tasks and assignments, deadlines, etc. Non-project work can be managed through a system of folders. It has a unique feature – pinning notifications so they stay in sight of everyone. There is also a document editor, with access of all team members who can add their revisions and comments. A complete history of these editing activities is held. It’s time-tracking feature is great.
This is a tool for large enterprises that are really serious about their project and work management, as well as needing to highly customize those projects and work tasks. While the setup can actually take several weeks, it will be well worth it. The system allows full task management and delegation, progress tracking, resource balancing, budget monitoring, and review/approval of all parts of project tasks, as well as non-project workloads.
There are no set prices on the website, because each enterprise is unique and will negotiate pricing with the company. Plans tend to begin at $30/month per user and graduate up from there. There is a free trial, but the company has to set it up for the company – it’s not just downloadable.
Dashboards for each project can be completely customized. There are also tools to hep re-balance workloads as members become overloaded or must take time off. Updates and reports are easily accessed and are customizable as well. The open API feature also allows enterprise to integrate other tools they are already using.
WorkFront is obviously designed for large organizations that need a more formal structure for innumerable projects and workload tasks.
These are just five of the myriad of project management tools out there. But, at the moment, they seem to be five of the most popular. As a group, they can offer any organization, from small startup to large enterprise, the project management system they need. Check out their websites, talk to their people, and make a decision that is right for you.
Elisa Abbott is a freelancer whose passion lies in creative writing. She completed a degree in Computer Science and writes about ways to apply machine learning to deal with complex issues. Insights on education, helpful tools and valuable university experiences – she has got you covered;)