As a project manager, you’re juggling resources, phases, responsibilities and team members every day. Luckily, there’s help available – lots of help. These days, tons of project management tools are clamoring for your attention. But what features should you look for?
What separates a good project management tool from a great one? Next to ease-of-use, it should help you centralize information while also enabling each co-worker to consult his or her tasks at any given moment. Flexibility – allowing adjustments without losing focus – is another key element here. But, and this goes for every tool, it’s mainly the features that give you the best overview of the tool’s real value.
The planning tool is the very essence of your project management software. At the very least, it helps you keep track of all scheduled tasks and deadlines. A shared team calendar can be a great asset as well, just like automatic notifications when a deadline is approaching.
More sophisticated project planners let you distribute tasks and responsibilities to specific team members, giving you an even clearer picture of workload distribution and timing.
2. Task management
Task management is another basic feature of most project management tools. A good task manager allows you to divide projects into larger milestones and smaller tasks to which you can add deadlines and budgets. More advanced tools even integrate the ‘critical path’: the precise order in which tasks have to be completed to keep the project going forward.
3. Collaboration and communication
Swift communication is key to the success of any project – so it should be part of your project management tool as well. Well-designed project tools function as central hubs for basic data and detailed information. This positively affects in-house collaboration.
Some tools also facilitate the sharing of project information with customers. This can be an easy way to keep your client updated on progress without having to schedule a meeting every few days.
Reports and statistics are great ways to gain insight into your business and learn from previous projects. Why did a project go over budget? Why did we miss a deadline? It’s all there.
5. Budget and resource management
Some tools offer a specific resource management feature. This gives you an overview of meeting rooms booked, planned and used resources and what all of this would cost. It’s also useful to avoid double booking and resource shortages.
6. Time tracking
Time tracking features tell you which tasks took the longest to complete during a previous project, enabling you to better estimate costs and time in the future. Many tools offer basic time tracking, but the option to set different hourly rates and to automatically add invoiceable hours to your invoice could save you hours of work.