Discover how project management tools work and which type is best for you.
- Project management tools help you schedule, understand and participate in your team's workflow.
- Scheduling, task and reporting tools are key features you need within your project management system.
- Business owners can use collaborative tools, like discussion boards or messaging features, to communicate with their team about projects.
- This article is for business owners and managers who want to know which features they need within their project management system to properly manage their team's projects.
A project management system can be incredibly useful for your team by improving collaboration, streamlining workflow and allowing you to easily navigate a shared workspace. However, to reap the most benefits from a project management system, you need to make sure the system you choose has the right tools and features. By understanding your team's needs and how these features work, you can ensure you select the right project management system for your team. Read on to learn what to look for in a project management system. In addition, see which software solutions we recommend.
What are project management tools?
Project management tools are the features and characteristics of a project management system that allow you to complete projects efficiently and on time. These systems can also manage recurring tasks through automated systems to save you time. Using these tools, you can follow your project's timeline and operate the system to maintain your workflow.
Key takeaway: Project management tools are the features of a project management system that help you streamline workflow and complete projects efficiently.
Features to look for in project management tools
There are many components of a project management system that can make it easier to manage your workspace. Pick a program that offers these tools:
Scheduling and task management tools
There are many ways to handle your team's workflow. Through visual tools such as Gantt charts and timelines, you can get a clear view of what tasks and projects your team members have finished, what they are working on and what they still have left to complete. Your scheduling and task organization tools must be easy to use, because they are the roots of your project management. They allow you to assign tasks to your team and understand what everyone must do to meet the team's goals. This can come in the form of a shared calendar as well.
Team collaboration tools
Team collaboration tools are especially helpful if you have a large freelance or remote workforce, because they give you a digital space where you and your team can share ideas and files and discuss assignments. Collaboration tools may include discussion boards, file-sharing systems and/or messaging features.
Integrations with other programs can streamline your workflow so you don't have to hop back and forth among multiple applications. When everything is in one place, it keeps you organized and connected, and saves time. Instead of adding every integration available, select the apps that match your company's needs and are not already included in your project management system.
You and your team need to remain up-to-date on assignments. With real-time reporting, 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 systems, you can even customize the reports or use different templates, like financial key performance indicator (KPI) reports.
Budgeting is sometimes part of mapping out the project plan, which is so much easier when invoicing features are already embedded within your program. 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.
Wasting time is not an option when you're on deadline. Knowing how much time your team spends on certain tasks and projects is helpful to your planning. Time tracking is a key feature that can help you identify which team members need more time management guidance. These tools usually come in the form of milestone features, which highlight certain levels of project progress and help you accurately calculate billable hours.
Data analytics system
A data analytics system gives you the tools to examine your team's work ethic and flow so you can see where to make the appropriate changes. A quality program shows your team members' progress as well as their shortfalls, so you can gather information and make improvements.
Key takeaway: Scheduling, task management, team collaboration, reporting, invoicing and time-tracking tools are essential to efficiently navigating your project management solution. Also look for a data analytics system and integrations that match your company's needs.
Benefits of project management tools
If you're still unsure whether a project management system is right for your team, consider the following benefits:
Sometimes, when everyone on your team is working on separate projects, workers can become siloed in their own tasks. Project management tools help to 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 of the assignments and tasks are in one space, it makes it easier for teams to interact, thus promoting cooperation and teamwork.
With 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 must be able to keep up with the changes, and real-time updates help you address mistakes early on and solve problems that could delay progress.
Streamlining project management benefits not only your team but also your customers. With a more streamlined and monitored workflow, you can deliver work on time. This keeps your customers happy, which is an added perk of using project management tools within your workflow.
Having support in the project planning world is always helpful, especially for managing invoices and assigning tasks. It lightens the load, puts everyone on the same page and provides tools that allow you to analyze workflow while supporting employees with their assignments. No matter what size your team is, managing projects within a shared online space can help boost your team's organization.
Key takeaway: A project management system can improve collaboration among your team members and keep them up-to-date on projects. It can also help you provide quality work on time, which can boost your customer approval, as well as give you the tools you need to facilitate your planning process.
Types of project management
Within each project management system, there are usually several ways to visually map out your planning process. Here are a few of those methods:
A Gantt chart provides a visual breakdown, usually through a horizontal template that shows who is responsible for which tasks and the status of assignments. 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 you view your projects in real time, so everyone knows where their teammates are in their work.
TeamGantt has a great free tool you can use to get started.
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 you need to complete your 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 your project and foresee any bumps in your workflow that might throw your assignments off course.
With Lucidchart, you can create a free PERT chart.
Using a project timeline allows you to see the 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.
For project timelines, we recommend TimeGraphics.
Key takeaway: Gantt and PERT charts are great for assessing your team's progress and seeing the connections between tasks. Timelines are used to create a project plan and understand the steps within ongoing projects. Each of these charts provides a breakdown of your work and a way to map out your start dates and deadlines for projects.