If you are trying to see if project management (PM) software is right for your team, you have come to the right place.
Below we will answer the most common questions about project management software, answering what it is, who uses it, how much it costs, and more.
Project management software is any software that aids project managers as well as other people in an organization to complete projects efficiently, or on time, on budget, and with the least resources possible to get the desired outcome.
1. Individual or Desktop Software
Individual or desktop project management software is typically used by a single project manager on a single machine. Although it can be collaborative, usually files are shared (via email) changes made are visible to the person in charge of the project, and those changes can be accepted, rejected, or incorporated by the project manager. The most common example is MS Project.
The disadvantage of this type of software is that it can be difficult to use when a project is being updated by one or more individuals.
2. Shared or Cloud Software
Shared or cloud project management software has become the gold-standard for PM software in the past few years. Especially with the development of Asana, Monday.com, Wrike, and many other robust online collaborative project management tools. Unlike individual desktop software, every person involved in a project can update the piece they are working on, upload relevant files, give approvals, etc., BUT at the same time robust permission sets allow only certain people (Project Managers) to do certain actions or access certain parts of the projects.
With cloud PM software being the gold standard, we won’t focus too much on desktop software and the following on the list are sub-types of cloud project management software.
3. Project Collaboration Software
For projects that go across departments, users, and teams, but do not require full end-to-end project management software there is collaboration software.
Do not let the name fool you, these software can be just as robust as end-to-end project management software offering: collaboration, scheduling, task tracking, bug and issue tracking, resources and document tracking, reporting and analysis, and workflow systems. The main difference is that they typically lack integrated financial systems (time and cost tracking, budgeting and invoicing) as well as production management systems.
If you need budgets, invoices, or connection to manufacturers through production management systems, your team might need an end-to-end PM software.
4. End-to-End Project Management Software
End-to-End PM software offers a full suite of tools to track all aspects of a project and differentiate themselves from other systems in that they track financials (budgets, time cost tracking, invoicing), material resource planning (MRP), as well as production management systems.
This is the most comprehensive type of project management software, but for smaller enterprises the same results can be accomplished by using multiple piecemeal project management software as discussed below.
5. Piecemeal Project Management Software
Piecemeal PM software is software used for managing smaller teams who make up part of a larger project being managed.
For example: whether you are designing a website, an app, a television advertisement, or packaging for a new product, there is a very high likelihood that a graphic design team will be involved at some point in your project. This graphic design team will likely use Figma or Sketch which are collaboration or project management tools built specifically for design teams.
If you just need to manage marketing’s piece of a project, or accounting’s piece of a project, there are tools built specifically for those industries which typically integrate with the end-to-end project management software.
The main selling point of any cloud project management software is the ability to allow people working on completing the same task to effectively complete their goal. Through collaboration people can see what others in their team or group are working on, what has been completed, what comes next, and address any issues that may arise.
Scheduling software provides transparency into the question: Who is doing what, and when? Project management software scheduling features allows anyone working on a project to know when a deadline is approaching, if any items are being delivered in advance or after deadline, and in the case of dependent tasks - when they can expect delivery from another team or team member.
3. Bug Tracking & Issue Tracking
Either through integrated or built in bug tracking software, project managers are able to keep track of all bugs or issues reported and assign these to members of the team to address them. Bugs and issues can be labelled and prioritized by importance, with critical issues taking priority over nice to have fixes or changes.
4. Quality Assurance
Before many projects are completed they need some form of review or inspection to ensure that each piece, as well of the project as a whole, upholds the desired level of quality. This can be done in most project management tools by allowing managers or team leads to approve tasks before they are marked as complete and passed on to the next phase of the process.
5. Project Portfolio Management
Few organizations are working on only one project at once. Project portfolio management is a feature in most PM software that allows project managers to see what projects are being worked on, upcoming future projects, and past completed projects, all in one place.
6. Resource Management
Resource management is a feature in project management that allows PMs, managers, and team leads, to assign resources (from equipment to people) where and when it is needed to find the optimal path to project completion. For example, a designer might not be needed until a mockup is completed 2 weeks from now, so that resource (designer) can be assigned to other tasks in the meantime.
7. Document Management
Document management is a very important feature for any project management software as it serves as a centralized place to track, receive, manage, store, and share documents across the project team. With paper and filing cabinets rarely used in the digital age this feature is key to project success.
8. Workflow Management
Workflow management systems are often built into PM software, and they allow for the monitoring and automation of step by step processes directly within the PMS itself. For example: if all design images have to be converted to a web-ready format, that could be a step that is automated as soon as design finishes and uploads their files.
9. Time and Cost Tracking
Tracking both time and cost within a PM software allows for full transparency on where resources are being used, and what the utilization of those resources are costing an organization. At the same time, time and cost tracking software (typically built into many PM programs) allows for the flagging of people who are hitting or exceeding bandwidth or resources that are going above costs.
10. Budget Management
One question that project managers receive on a day to day basis from their superiors is: Will it be delivered on time and on budget? More robust and enterprise PMS allow for budgets (both in time and money) to be added to each task needed to be completed. This allows project managers to quickly answer the aforementioned question.
If a project needs to bill, pay for, or charge costs to external companies or even internal departments, more robust PM software allows this feature as well as what has been paid and what is outstanding in one centralized system.
12. Reporting and Analysis
With project management being focused on driving efficiency from teams, it is no wonder that reporting and analysis is a key feature. Many PM software allow for robust reporting, some even offer predictive reporting so you can identify bottlenecks and technical debt in advance.
Project management software is used by project managers who create, monitor, track, and report on all projects in the system. However, project management software only truly works if most, if not all, employees use it on a regular basis. What this means is, if employees do not update the PM software on a regular basis with outstanding, completed, or upcoming tasks. The entire system fails.
Typically project management software costs an initial setup fee, as well as a per user and per usage fee, often with additional fees for more advanced features. Basic PM software for small teams can usually run around $10 per month per user (so a team of 10 people would spend $100 per month), while more robust systems can cost as much as $200 per user per month.