Management software has the capacity to help plan, organize, and manage resource tools and develop resource estimates. Depending on the sophistication of the software, it can manage estimation and planning, scheduling, cost control and budget management, resource allocation, collaboration software, communication, decision-making, quality management and documentation or administration systems. Today, numerous PC and browser-based project management software and contract management softwaresolutions exist, and are finding applications in almost every type of business.
Tasks and activities
One of the most common project management software tool types is scheduling tools. Scheduling tools are used to sequence project activities and assign dates and resources to them. The detail and sophistication of a schedule produced by a scheduling tool can vary considerably with the project management methodology used, the features provided and the scheduling methods supported. Scheduling tools may include support for:
- Multiple dependency relationship types between activities
- Resource assignment and leveling
- Critical path
- Activity duration estimation and probability-based simulation
- Activity cost accounting
Project planning software can be expected to provide information to various people or stakeholders, and can be used to measure and justify the level of effort required to complete the project(s). Typical requirements might include:
- Overview information on how long tasks will take to complete.
- Early warning of any risks to the project.
- Information on workload, for planning holidays.
- Historical information on how projects have progressed, and in particular, how actual and planned performance are related.
- Optimum utilization of available resource.
- Cost maintenance.
- Collaboration with each teammates and customers.
- Instant communication to collaborators and customers.
Project management software has been implemented as a program that runs on the desktop of each user. Project management tools that are implemented as desktop software are typically single-user applications used by the project manager or another subject matter expert, such as a scheduler or risk manager.
Project management software has been implemented as web application to be accessed using a web browser. This may also include the ability to use a smartphone or tablet to gain access to the application. Software as a service (SaaS) is also web-based and has become a common delivery model for many business applications, including project management, project management information system (PMIS) and project portfolio management (PPM). SaaS is typically accessed by users using a thin client via a web browser.
In recent years project management software has moved to Mobile devices. In 2015 there are more cell phones than computers in the world , therefore the move of SaaS applications to the mobile devices makes perfect sense. This migration has had the additional benefit of enabling the users to view and update project details on the go.
A personal project management application is one used at home, typically to manage lifestyle or home projects. There is considerable overlap with single user systems, although personal project management software typically involves simpler interfaces. See also non-specialised tools below.
A single-user system is programmed with the assumption that only one person will ever need to edit the project plan at once. This may be used in small companies, or ones where only a few people are involved in top-down project planning. Desktop applications generally fall into this category.
A collaborative system is designed to support multiple users modifying different sections of the plan at once; for example, updating the areas they personally are responsible for such that those estimates get integrated into the overall plan. Web-based tools, including extranets, generally fall into this category, but have the limitation that they can only be used when the user has live Internet access. To address this limitation, some software tools using client–server architecture provide a rich client that runs on users’ desktop computer and replicates project and task information to other project team members through a central server when users connect periodically to the network. Some tools allow team members to check out their schedules (and others’ as read only) to work on them while not on the network. When reconnecting to the database, all changes are synchronized with the other schedules.
A common problem in project management is a difficulty with both viewing and understanding large amounts of fluctuating project data.To tackle this, some project management software utilize information visualization, so that users can more easily find, analyze and make changes to their data.To avoid information overload, the visualization mantra of “overview first, zoom and filter, then details on demand” is often followed.
Who Uses Project Management Software?
Plenty of people use project-management software, including everyone from airplane builders to employees performing non-billable work. Some industries rely more heavily on project management software than others. Consultants, service providers, and marketing agencies commonly use project management software. Nearly anyone serving a client needs some way to estimate, track, deliver, and get paid for their services. They need tools that let them sustain high-quality work, fuel creativity, and keep clients engaged and satisfied.
Each project is a single opportunity for revenue. But it is also a chance to build a lasting relationships and repeat business. (Check out this interview with PR 20/20 CEO Paul Roetzer to learn what deep client relations and exceptional service mean for your bottom line.) Software that keeps track of the granular details can help. But consider the pros and cons of picking your project management software.
Project managers need specific tools to manage and deliver their projects on time. Traditional project management software helps these managers perform functions including managing project scope, cost, and resources. Modern collaboration software offers even more tools. (Understand project collaboration with this free resource.) These tools help reduce wasted time, such as time spent looking for files or data and time spent manually updating schedules and timetables. They need tools to share files, communicate in real time, and ensure all team players are working on one page. Some tools reduce redundancy — they consolidate systems, so that information exists in only one place. And they also avoid file redundancies, which can contribute to what some call a “versioning nightmare.” In addition to mitigating the number of differing files around, project management software also ensures teams use one method to track time, tasks, expenses, other budgeting items such as invoices, and more. Having one systems allows teams to work creatively within a given framework.
Moreover, with the onset of cloud-based project management software, organizations no longer have to work in a single physical location. They can easily work as a team while dispersed across geographies, while retaining the same access, updates, and collaboration levels. Software as a service (SaaS) project management solutions facilitate teamwork — and thus project delivery, client satisfaction, and repeat business.
Finally, software automates your processes and provides a central hub to manage resources, tasks, schedules, projects, and communication. All this information living in one system gives you a huge opportunity to run progress reports — whether daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Today’s advanced systems can offer real-time progress reports, so you can easily visualize and share information related to project health. This not only gives you insight into where you can adjust your resources to make smarter project-delivery decisions; it also enables you to give detailed, transparent responses to stakeholder questions.
Project management software has its cons too. Picking one system requires an investment, which means you need to carefully consider and determine which system will work for your unique workflows. The system you pick should be just as customizable as you need. You should consider the cost of time and possibly money to train your employees. Employee adoption of the technology you pick is critical to gain the highest return on your investment in a project management software, as well as avoid having employees not use the system out of lack of understanding its user interface and total functionality. You want your project management software to speed up processes, not create extra burdens on your team’s time.