A project management system can improve your business’s collaboration, streamline workflow, and allow you to easily navigate a shared digital workspace with your employees. However, to reap the most rewards from a project management system, make sure the solution you choose has the right features. If you understand your team’s needs and how different tools can work for your company, you can ensure you select the right project management system for your organization.
Project management features are the capabilities of a project management system that allow you to complete projects efficiently and on time. These systems can form the backbone of your project resource management and task delegation process. Among their many advantages, these tools can manage recurring tasks through automated systems that save you time. You can also follow project timelines and monitor progress to maintain optimal workflow.
The best project management software will have a range of functions, and some vendors even let you choose the specific tools your business needs. Still, most products have a core set of features that rival one another.
Many components of a project management system are designed to make it easier to manage your workspace. We recommend picking a program that offers the following features.
Project management software usually offers many ways to handle your team’s workflow. Through visual tools such as Gantt charts, timelines and calendars, you can get a clear view of which tasks and projects your team members have finished, what they’re currently working on, and what they still have left to complete.
These scheduling and task organization tools should be easy to use because they’re the roots of your project management system. They allow you to assign tasks to your team and understand what everyone must do to meet the company’s goals.
The collaboration and communication tools built into project management systems are especially helpful if you have a large freelance team or remote workforce because they give you a digital space where you and your employees can share ideas and files and discuss assignments. Collaboration and communication tools may include discussion boards, file-sharing systems and messaging features.
Many project management systems can be integrated with other business software. These integrations streamline your workflow so you don’t have to hop back and forth between multiple applications. When everything is in one place, it keeps you organized and connected while saving time. Choose a solution that can integrate with the other programs being used to operate your business.
You and your team need to remain up to date on assignments. With the real-time reporting enabled in project management systems, you can receive instant notifications about project progress, missed deadlines or any changes to ongoing projects and address issues before they turn into serious problems. With some software, you can even customize the reports or use different templates, like setting up financial key performance indicator (KPI) reports.
Budgeting is sometimes a critical part of project planning, and it’s so much easier when invoicing features are embedded within your project management system. You can use these tools to communicate with clients about pricing and calculate additional costs and billable hours. Invoicing features also give you access to your team’s finances and budget reports.
Knowing how much time your team spends on certain tasks and projects is helpful to your planning, and wasting time isn’t an option when you’re on deadline. Time tracking is a critical component in project management systems that can help you identify which team members need more time-management guidance. These tools usually come in the form of milestone features that highlight certain levels of project progress and help you accurately calculate billable hours.
A data analytics module in project management software gives you tools to examine your team’s productivity and flow so you can see where to make appropriate changes based on hard data. A quality program will show your team members’ progress as well as their shortfalls, so you can gather information and make improvements.
If you aren’t convinced a project management system is right for your team, consider the following benefits.
Sometimes, when everyone on your team is working on separate parts of the same project, workers become siloed in their own tasks. Project management systems help bridge that gap by allowing everyone to check in and comment on one another’s work. Discussion boards and other team collaboration spaces allow employees to offer insight and ideas. When all assignments and tasks are in one space, it’s easier for teams to interact. This in turn promotes cooperation and teamwork.
When your project management system gives out real-time updates, you won’t ever be out of the loop or miss a follow-up email. These notifications are especially useful for complex projects, which are often molded by many voices, ideas and meticulous steps. You need to be able to keep up with any changes. Real-time updates help you address mistakes early on and solve problems that could delay progress.
Support when planning a project is always helpful, especially when you’re budgeting and assigning tasks. The organization facilitated by project management systems lightens the load, ensures everyone is on the same page, and provides tools that allow you to analyze workflow. No matter what size your team is, managing projects within this shared online space can boost your company’s productivity.
Streamlining operations through a project management system benefits not only your team, but also your customers. With a smoother and better monitored workflow, you can ensure your staff is continually delivering quality work on time. This keeps your clients happy, which is vital for the longevity of any business.
Within each project management system, there are usually several ways to visually map out your projects. Here are a few of those methods.
A Gantt chart provides a visual breakdown of a project, usually through a horizontal template that shows who is responsible for which tasks and the status of each assignment. In this chart, your task lists and milestones are organized on a timeline or dateline, allowing you to track your team’s progress. This management tool also helps users view projects in real time, so everyone knows where their teammates are in their work.
A program evaluation and review technique (PERT) chart can help you understand the timeline of completion for projects by visualizing the connections between tasks and helping you understand exactly how much time your company needs to complete the work. You can use this chart to determine what would speed up your progress or delay your team. It’s also a great way to manage the funds involved in the project and foresee any bumps in the workflow that might throw assignments off course.
A project timeline allows you to see the full extent of your workflow. You can view the assignments and projects that have been completed, the items that need attention and the tasks you need to manage in the future. This is especially helpful for outlining the start dates and deadlines for your projects.
Each of these project management formats provides a breakdown of the work and a way to map out start dates and deadlines for projects.
Most project management systems include the features highlighted above. Now that you know the essential tools to look for, compare and contrast different products to find the right solution for your business. If you’re still unsure which solution is best, take advantage of free trials until you find the perfect fit. Just as you wouldn’t rush through a project, take it slow as you set up the backbone of all your future work. Consult our project management software buying guide for further insight.
Max Freedman contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.