Project management software is confusing but they don’t have to be. If you’re thinking about using project management software there are three things you need to know. One, what is project management software? Two, what kinds of project management software are there? And three, which project management software is right for you and the type of work that you do?
What is project management software?
At its core, it’s a collaborative app that people use to track their work and not just any work but specifically project work. A project is a group of workers with a beginning date, end date, and deliverable.
So for example, building a house is a project because there’s a day that you start, a day that you end, and at the end, you have a house. That’s different from something we might call ongoing work. And an example there would be like answering support emails.
Projects are usually complex, and that’s why it makes sense to write down all the tasks that need to be done. Like who’s doing what and when, and how long is each task going to take.
What kind of project management software is there?
the very simplest kind is more of a collaborative work management app. And you can use those for either ongoing work or very simple projects, or both. They’re essentially to-do list apps with a few extra features and collaboration built in. Two examples are Trello and Todoist. I wouldn’t technically classify them as project management software, but sometimes people do. In any event, they give you visibility into all the work that’s happening across a team, and then they can help you manage work as it travels through a workflow.
If you get a little more advanced, you’re into traditional project management software territory. A feature you can expect to see at this level is dependencies. And dependency just means you have task A and you have task B, and task B literally can’t be done until task A is finished. So if you are assigned to do task B, and somebody else is assigned to do task A, the project management software can send you a notification when task A is done so that you know when to start.
Most project management software also includes Gantt charts, which are nothing more than a chronological view of tasks that illustrate the sequence in which they must be completed and how long each job will take.
The most advanced project management apps do even more, like budgeting or even people management. At the very highest level of project management apps, you’ll find features like automatic rescheduling, not just for tasks and internal people, but also for contractors or even equipment that you might have to share across projects.
What kind of project management software is right for you?
it depends on how many people you have on your team, and how many projects you’re managing at any given time. For really small teams with only a few projects, you can usually do just fine with a free app or something that’s pretty low cost. For that, I like Zoho Projects, Teamwork, ProofHub, and AceProject.
If you’re relatively new to project management, you’ll want something easy to use. For that, I like GanttPRO and also TeamGantt.
If you need something pretty high-end, I would recommend looking at Celoxis, LiquidPlanner, and Smartsheet. They each have different strengths and you might not know which one is right for your work until you give them a try.