From smart kitchen appliances to drone delivery to telesurgery, technology is swiftly transforming everything we know about the world. Inside and outside our homes, the digital transformation has changed how we learn, communicate, entertain ourselves, and even get things done.
Indeed, computer software has revolutionized the way we collaborate and carry out demanding tasks. Where project managers once drew up network diagrams and Gantt charts by hand, specialist software can now produce them with a few left clicks. Not only that, it can streamline activities, reduce project costs, and help teams meet their deadlines.
In this article, we’ll be looking at how project management software does this, why you should invest in it, and how to choose the right one for your team.
What is it?
You can think of project management software as a sort of virtual room that your entire team has access to. In one “corner”, you’ve got all the relevant files needed to complete your project. In another, you’ve got a calendar with important milestones and due dates. Turn around and there’s a “bulletin board” where your colleagues can exchange notes, comments, and ideas. Unlike a physical room, however, all this information can be accessed by anyone, anytime, from anywhere in the world.
Though variations in features do exist between programs, web-based management software typically allows managers to prioritize and delegate tasks, share documents, create reports, manage resources, and see what everyone on the team is working on.
Why you need it
If you hold a leadership role within a team, you should never underestimate the power of great communication. In fact, you actually can’t afford to. A report from Grammarly and The Harris Poll estimates that ineffective communication in the workplace costs US businesses $1.2 trillion each year. Unclear objectives, lack of transparency, and unaddressed issues will only confuse, demoralize, and frustrate your colleagues. And, if your colleagues aren’t happy, your clients won’t be, either!
By keeping everyone in the loop it can help you build trust and align your team’s efforts. With it, you can also monitor progress and performance thanks to real-time updates, you can appropriately assign resources, and manage costs. A precise plan of action and clear project team roles will save time and maximize results.
Benefits of project management software
With a powerful combination of features at your fingertips, there are multiple ways in which using project management software can benefit your team. Let’s look at these in more detail.
1. Better collaboration
Give your colleagues access to a common dashboard and watch people from within your department or separate teams collaborate smoothly. With effective task management, everyone will know what needs to be done, who’s doing what, and when the project’s due.
2. Improved communication
Add a file, link, or comment to a task description and the right team members will be notified instantly. You could even give your clients access to your project management system and retire from your role as middleman. All this can slash the need for back-and-forth emails and time-consuming meetings.
3. Easier scheduling
Though your colleagues all have something to offer, time management isn’t everyone’s strongest suit. Luckily, your project management software can help the ones that typically need a bit of chasing after. All you have to do is add due dates to projects and your teammates will receive reminders as deadlines approach.
4. Efficient remote project management
Though physicist Jack Nilles coined the term “telecommuting” some fifty years ago, the practice only boomed in recent years. As remote work is being embraced by millions around the US, business leaders must be prepared to navigate a lack of physical presence. Project software allows for that thanks to its real-time project updates.
5. Faster task delegation
When you’re managing multiple people or projects at once, you have to keep a close eye on your financial and human resources. Effective resource management can ensure that team members aren’t overbooked, and that anyone who completes a task can quickly be assigned a new one. Your project management application will let you do that at a glance.
6. Enhanced risk management
This software is designed to help you out in all aspects of managing a project, which includes identifying and mitigating risks.
Having all relevant information in one place can make the risk management process easier, by illuminating factors that could contribute to the success or failure of a project.
7. Quicker file sharing
If you’re anything like us, you often dream of the day you can whisper “good riddance” to those long, cluttered email threads. Sharing files within your project management system is a fast, secure way for everyone to access the digital files that are relevant to them.
8. Faster integration of new team members
Onboarding a newcomer in the middle of a project can be stressful. However, giving them access to your software can help. That way, they can find all key information in one place, familiarize themselves with the deliverables, and jump right in.
9. Optimized forecasting
It’s easy to lose track of things when you’ve got multiple projects underway. With who’s-doing-what and what’s-due-when insights around the clock, you can set realistic timeframes and reduce the risk of failure for your projects.
10. More well-defined goals
When you assign tasks, effective communication doesn’t just depend on what you say but who’s listening. When instructions in clear writing replace verbal communication, mistakes are less likely to happen; your colleagues can quickly double-check even the most minor of details.
Here's a quick overview of the biggest benefits of project management software:
How to choose the right project management software
With each team being as unique as the individuals it consists of, there’s no “one-size-fits-all’ software. Below, we’ll look at certain factors you should consider when selecting the right application for yourself and your colleagues.
1. Pain points
Most top-quality project management applications will offer similarly useful tools. However, they may not all include features like automated invoicing, instant messaging, or time tracking.
To make the right decision, consider the needs you’re trying to cover and decide on what features can be sacrificed with no significant impact on your day-to-day tasks.
Software pricing can vary greatly based on the features you want and the number of users you need. Some services are free to use, while others can cost hundreds of dollars every month. Consider your budget and needs, but take into account that what's cost-effective in the short term doesn’t always save you money in the long run.
When considering your budget, you need to think beyond monthly fees. If the software you choose is unintuitive or needlessly complex for your requirements, you might also need to provide training to your staff to make up for it. Not only that, but an unsuitable application might also exacerbate existing problems instead of solving them.
4. Long-term plans
Most of us can recall our parents buying oversized clothes for us in childhood and justifying it with a “you’ll grow into it.” When choosing a software, you’ll need to apply the same logic.
Before making a choice, ask yourself what your team size and operations are going to look like in a few months’ time. If your plan is to onboard more team members or take on larger projects, consider how the fee per user or file storage capacity might get in the way down the line.
Whether you’re leading a small team or juggling multiple large-scale projects, harnessing technology for more reliable project planning is a no-brainer. Before you begin your research to find your perfect software match, let’s quickly recap what we’ve covered in this article:
- Software offers a range of tools that greatly simplify the organization of tasks and resources
- A team’s strengths, weaknesses, and forecasting should all be considered when choosing the right software
- The ability to view clusters of key information in one place makes project management tools useful in identifying risks
- Some of the most common reasons for project failure, like communication breakdown, can be prevented with the use of project management systems
Have you ever used project management software before? Let us know what your experience was in the comments section.
Originally published January 18, 2018.