Five Questions You Have To Ask Before Buying Project Management Software
Yuliya Skorobogatova 28 October 2016
Due to its overwhelming complexity, project management is a discipline best suited for those with flawless organizational skills, scheduling abilities and collaborative prowess. Regardless of the niche or department, every time-sensitive business undertaking can and should be treated as a project in order to be broken down into more easily manageable units and approached gradually, one milestone at a time.
No matter how capable the manager is, a project should be handled using the best project management software tool available – when chosen with care, these intuitive solutions are certain to lead a project to its timely completion. Here’s our selection of important factors to consider.
1. Required Features
The most beneficial project management software products are those that combine organizational solutions, collaborative platforms and productivity apps, all within a single, easy to use and intuitive package. If resorting to one for some much-needed assistance in assigning and coordinating tasks, effective scheduling and project progress monitoring, don’t settle for less. Instead, be sure to scrutinize the market until you finally find the solution that envelopes all of the following.
Gantt Charts: A veteran among effective project management methods, the Gantt chart is still as brilliant as when it first appeared a little more than century ago. State of the art tools use this graphical solution for displaying convoluted data in the form of easy to read and manage timeline charts that are essential for both scheduling and project tracking.
Task Dependencies: As one of the fundamental steps in a project’s lifecycle, a work breakdown structure requires a sturdy support to lean on. When successfully established, this structure reveals individual milestones, their respective tasks and, if needed, a number of subtasks that have to be accomplished if the objective is to be reached. Being in an obvious interrelationship, these individual work phases need to be arranged in a transparent chain of dependencies.
To-do lists: It’s not rare that even the hierarchically lowest tasks need to be further fragmented into smaller steps. Such complicated projects usually involve multiple participants as well, which is why great visibility of current progress is of utmost importance. To-do lists are therefore indispensable for workflow coordination and status monitoring, both at one glance.
Task Reports: Be they daily, weekly or monthly, timely status reports are convenient for a number of reasons. Aside from providing a deeper insight into efficiency and contribution of individual team members and allowing managers to stay on top of the project progress at all times, this accomplishment feature serves as a great incentive for meeting deadlines.
Templates & Automation: Project management tools are all about time efficiency, which is why a simple templates and automation feature should always be a part of the package. That way, your staff can take a break from arranging regular chores and recurring tasks and focus on concurrent, time-sensitive assignments.
Calendar: From office event schedulers to group calendars, this productivity feature contributes to overall efficiency of your team by helping them stay on the same page. Once included on an office calendar, a project deliverables meeting is hardly to get overlooked.
Team Dashboards: When running on a tight schedule, emailing your staff each morning can cause additional halts in a project development cycle, which is why real-time communication is a key for fast and successful realization. Besides great visibility of appointed tasks, team dashboards also provide an appropriate platform for staff members to consult each other, discuss potential issues and collaborate on, regardless of where they are.
Access to Data: Mobile accessibility brings us straight to the next essential feature of project management systems – data availability. While all of them offer a clear look at valuable information about a project, only certain types ensure that intelligence is available to everyone involved, no matter the time, place or device; by doing so, cloud-based online solutions are slightly ahead of on-premise project management software systems, although both have their own strengths and circumstantial weaknesses.
2. Hosted Vs. Web Based PM
Cloud computing has been spurring digital trends for some time now, but for your specific needs, you won’t need to look any further from hosted PM and its main counterpart, web-based solution.
Being both affordable and mobile accessible, the cloud-based type holds the popular vote, but that still doesn’t mean that the second solution doesn’t have its own advantages. In addition to 24/7 accessibility, the first guarantees greater flexibility and supports an unlimited number of user profiles as well.
Unlike the cloud-based ones, the self-hosted versions allow customization and are usually more feature-rich. Still, the most significant difference between the two is the security factor – for those dealing with sensitive data, the self-hosted option is certainly a better choice.
3. Integrations with Necessary Tools
What makes project management tools even more powerful is their huge potential for extending. When added to the system, integrations can make up for whatever the PM platform lacks, thereby upgrading it into an all-in-one solution created especially for your needs.
Google Drive, for instance, is one of the most basic, but necessary additions to project management tools, since it provides an integrated storage space for files and keeps them attached to your project or individual milestones. And this is only one of the examples – depending on particular project requirements, you can consider integrating with other productivity, time-tracking or marketing automation tools, customer support and software development systems, just to name a few options.
Luckily for those who don’t like wasting their time on leaving the platform, the PM integration market is in no shortage of complementary tools and apps, and when it comes to such options, the rule for choosing the right project management software is simple: the more, the better.
If buying on a limited budget, you’ll probably have to say goodbye to most of the shiny PM add-ons. Usually, these are not included to the original deal, which is why you should be extra careful while comparing prices. On a monthly basis, a project management solution will cost you between 10$ and 50$ per user, depending on both the quantity and quality of its features.
For those willing to try, but not to pay, the market offers plenty of online project management tools that are either free or low-cost. Another option is to agree to the trial period and take time to consider a purchase. Whatever you choose, bear in mind that in the software niche, a price tag doesn’t just promise a high quality product – it delivers it too.
After all of the previous factors have been thought through and the perfect solution almost chosen, you should consider only one more thing before finally sealing the deal.
Instead of chitchatting with a help desk, hit the forums and ask around for prior experiences. You’ll want to know exactly how long it will take for your new project management system to become a part of your team – the adaptation period varies with each of them and some on-boarding processes might last up to two weeks. If in no need to rush, however, granny-proof interfaces, instant delivery and overall contribution to a team’s efficiency should be your only concerns.
When feature-packed, available 24/7, apt for timely additions and seamless to use, an automation tool is a valuable member of every project management team.
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