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Best Project Management Tool

Complete Guide to Project Management Tool

Product

Category

Pricing

Training

Mobile App

Free Trial

MS Project Management Software

MS Project

General Purpose

$30 per user/month

Mandatory

No

No

ZilicusPM Project Management Software

ZilicusPM

Mid to Enterprise

$25 per user/month

Optional

Yes

Smartsheet - Project Management Software

Smartsheet

Basic, General Purpose

$25 per user/month

Optional

Yes

Yes

Wrike - Project Management Software

Wrike

Basic, General Purpose

$25 per user/month

Optional

Yes

Yes

CA Clarity Project Management Software

CA Clarity

Complex, Enterprise

$55 per user/month

Mandatory

Limited

No

Liquid Planner Project Management Software

LiquidPlanner

Complex, Agile

$45 per user/month

Mandatory

Yes

Yes

MS SharePoint Project Management Software

MS SharePoint

General Purpose

Unavailable

Mandatory

No

No

Clarizen - Project Management Software.jpg

Clarizen

Complex, Enterprise

$45 per user/month

Mandatory

Yes

On Request

RallySoftware Project Management Software

Rally Dev

Agile

$35 per user/month

Mandatory

Yes

Yes

JIRA - Agile Project Management Software

JIRA

Basic, Agile

~$10 per user/month

Optional

Yes

Yes

Buyer's Guide to Select The Best Project Management Tool

Usually, it doesn’t happen this way, that you buy a project management software just because you came across a nice product website or someone in your network has referred it. Before customers hit a buy button of a project management software product, there are plenty of activities performed by senior manager (along with his/her colleagues). Business managers/owners should clearly evaluate following aspects right at the beginning of PM tool selection exercise.

  1. What is the current maturity of project management in the company (planning process, quality/scope/change/risk management, project delivery process, certified PMs, etc.)?
  2. Where does your organisation want to reach (maturity goals, transformation objectives, etc)?
  3. Do you have executive buy-in for the transformation: budgeting & support through adoption challenges

Best Project Management Tool - People, Process Maturity

What Should You Look in a Project Management Tool?

Your quest for the best project management software can be fulfilled only if

  • You get all the bells & whistles you need to streamline your project management
  • The tool is simple to use for end users and gives right information to management
  • You can roll it out for a small team and scale to hundreds or thousands of users
  • You get role-wise training and multi-channel support is also available
  • There is no head-ache of frequently maintaining the tool by your own team
  • It meets the budgetary/cost restrictions
  • The product is secure, robust and vendor is reliable

Process to Evaluate Project Management Software

You will have consider following aspects as you begin the process to select PM tool

  • Decide whether you want to start the PM tool evaluation process alone or as a team
  • Prepare a checklist of feature requirements of project management software
  • Prepare a questionnaire for the vendors for clarification
  • Scan through the list of project management software, PPM Software available in the market
  • Shortlist handful of the tools based on initial screening
  • As for and take a free trial of all shortlisted tools, see the features, usability as well as support by yourself
  • Filter fewer tools after free trial and ask for a personalised demo by shortlisted vendor
  • Ask for customer references and product-industry fit from vendors

You will have to be absolutely clear about the factors that takes highest precedence in terms of adoption. You will have take in to account

  1. Ease/intuitiveness of the tool so that large number of users will use it
  2. Must-have features to meet expectations of project managers, executive managers as well as team members
  3. Cost of the project management software, not just procurement/subscription cost but also support cost, training cost ,etc
  4. Senior management buy-in to go for the project management tool
  5. Availability of the software if it is on cloud, software/hard requirements to install/use the tool (desktop, browser, iPhone, iPad apps, etc)

Refer select the best project management software, buyer’s guide for detailed process to select PM tool.

It was during medieval time when most things were memorised or written on paper. We are living in 21st century. We have technology to simplify our life. When our teams are working on multiple projects at the same time, it is unrealistic to expect them to memorise things from meetings or keep referring Excel or Notes or even emails for their pending activities or upcoming assignments. We all know, email is probably one of the best discoveries of our time but it is also killing employee productivity. In order to deliver projects, there needs to be a central place as a single source of truth to plan project, share document, track project activities and more.

 

Project management tool is a software product that is designed and created to help project manager, project team members as well as clients of the project to work together, collaborate in order to achieve the objectives/goals of the project. The goals and objective of the project typically is to deliver project outcome to meets stakeholders’ expectation. Stakeholders can be project sponsors, end users, clients, partners or vendors. Projects are expected to be delivered on time, within budget, of desired quality. Project management software helps project managers and project sponsors to be more realistic to achieve project goals by working together in project planning, during project execution as well as project delivery using project dashboard, reports, Gantt chart, collaboration features. It helps project team members to remain focused on delivering project work than spending time in status calls/meetings or such avoidable/unnecessary things.

Project Management Software is IT application that enables project delivery and make the process of managing projects more efficient. Using project management software, project teams can set sensible timeline and milestones, automate schedule dependencies & communication, giving project manager better visibility to project progress and enable him/her to take corrective actions based on early warning indicators or project management KPIs.

It is a popular misconception that task management tool is project management software. This is largely incorrect. Task management tools are basic or essential functionality to manage project schedule but project management is much more than task schedule. It primarily involves budgeting, cost estimation, time tracking, expense management, cost management, resource planning and assignment, risk planning and management, incident tracking, project scope and change management, document management, team collaboration and so on. Do read Task Management Tool Vs Project Management Software.

Project portfolio management software (PPM Tools) also falls in a different league from a typical project management tool. PPM tools can offers capabilities of a project management software but most importantly, PPM software allows businesses manage portfolio of projects from strategic and tactical perspectives i.e. managing portfolio of projects, rebalancing risks, analysing cost-benefits across projects, selection of projects, and dashboard/reports to decide on project selection or project kick-off, cancellation, etc.

Compared to past few decades, the process of managing projects has become more demanding as well as complex. There are quite a few reasons – the business environment itself has become highly challenging, companies are looking to invest in only those projects with greater RoI, greater value to business. Many Businesses have to follow and comply with regulatory and statutory requirements and audit is becoming a regular exercise.

 

Because we have to learn from the history and recent history suggests projects undertaken in Information Technology industry highlights worrying statistics – large sized projects getting delayed, cancelled, run over-budget, offering sub-par or negative return on investments. This trend has also been observed in other industries. These factors have changed the expectations of management, project sponsors and clients. Now there is a constant pressure to deliver on time, and the delivery has to meet stakeholders’ expectations.

 

Project management professionals are trusting project management software to help them plan, monitor and manage multiple initiatives, projects more effectively. PMs are using project management tools to break down large complex projects into smaller sub-projects, setting inter-dependency among projects. Project management tool allows managers easily identify potential risks of failing projects, specific reasons behind degraded performance of projects and enables them to mitigate these risks through mitigation plans, contingency planning and strive for project success.

44 percent of project managers do not use project management software; interestingly though top consulting firm PWC has found out that using PM software increases performance [1].

High-performing organisations successfully complete 89% of their projects, while low performers complete only 36% [2]. 

77% of companies use project management software, and 87% of high-performing companies use project management software [3].

Here are the reasons, why business should project management software:

  • It help project team members focus on the project work than mundane tasks, be on top of their things
  • It help project managers and sponsors be more realistic in planning and achieving project milestones, cost, risks, resources,etc
  • It gives project managers more visibility into project progress, status and overall health
  • It automates project communication, data roll-up
  • It provides KPIs to track health of projects, early warning indicators
  • IT offers single point of access to all project information such as project schedule, Gantt, resources, budget, cost, billing, documents, issues, risks, changes, meetings, discussions, comments, calendar, timesheet, expenses, dashboard, reports and more
  • Project management software help you avoid loss-of information and miscommunication

Information technology (IT, Software Development) industry was quick to adopted project management as well as PM tools. As it gained popularity and leaders from different industries saw its benefits, it became mainstream tool for industries such as:

  • IT Consulting
  • Finance
  • Engineering
  • Automotive
  • Government
  • Marketing & Research
  • Life Sciences
  • Energy, Oil & Gas
  • Architecture
  • Aerospace and Defence
  • Construction
  • Healthcare
  • legal
  • Management Consulting
  • Advertisement & Digital Marketing
  • Non-Profit
You will find categories, types of project management software in the section below. Broadly, at one end there PM Tools offering basic features like task list coupled with team-client collaboration; on the other end, there are PM tools offering complete project management capabilities to manage projects right from ideation to planning to execution to monitoring to delivery to closure. Described below, are the common project management features project manager and team needs to manage projects effectively.

Project Planning

Project management systems allows project sponsors & managers define the scope of the project, assign project manager, set task schedule, milestones. The best project management software goes beyond task schedule and allow project manager to see projects plan with a bigger picture. It includes budgeting, cost/billing estimation, resources planning, risk planning, scope planning, etc. Often, one can use project management templates to speedup the planning process.

Project Tracking

Even the well thought project plans will slip through the cracks, it may suffer with changes, issues, risks during its lifecycle. The best project management software provides all the bells and whistles to give you early warning indicators, track project health with finer details of areas where project is lagging so that you can keep the project on track. 

Project Collaboration

Once projects are kicked-off, the major hurdle project manager faces is connecting team members, clients, vendors and partners together appropriately. Project collaboration features in the best project management software enables team members work together on tasks, issues, risks, meetings, changes, discussions in various ways such as comments, document sharing, messages, etc. Best PM tool speeds up the project delivery process through better collaboration among project stakeholders.
  • Project Calendar
  • Project Discussion
  • Project Documents
  • Task Comments
  • Sharing Project Task Schedule
  • Project Meetings

Project Scheduling - Task Management, Gantt Chart, Kanban Board

Basic project management tool may offer simple task listing and calendar function. However the best project management software provides robust Gantt chart tool to manage tasks timeline, milestone, dependencies, resources assignment and more. The ability to visualise project timeline using Gantt chart or see project activities visually on Kanban board make it easier for project stakeholders to gauge project progress. Knowing when things are falling through cracks, one can fix the problem with timeline, resources or cost. Project management software helps project manager with that too.

Project Scheduling Tools include

  • Gantt Chart Tool
  • Task Dependency
  • Multiple Resources Assignment
  • Task Comments
  • Tracking Costs at Task Level
  • Schedule Baseline, Critical Path
  • Kanban Board, Cards with States

Project Budgeting & Cost Management

Many businesses require their projects to be budgeted using elaborate budgeting process. It involves breaking down project phases, estimating costs, requesting project budget/approval, tracking finer elements of project costs, billing, earned value management, etc.

Even simple client projects may need time to be tracked and billing to be monitored. For large project the process of tracking cost and billing is also advance in terms of the depth of data collected and trends analysed for profit/margin, earned value management or better realisation of funds/budget.

  • Projects Budgeting
  • Earned Value (EV) Management
  • Project Cost Estimation
  • Project Billing Software
  • Project Actual Cost Tracking
  • Project Financial Health – Cost
  • Project Financial KPIs Dashboard, 
  • Tracking Expenses, Resources Cost

Project Resource Management

Resource allocation allows managers to plan for and assign all appropriately skilled resources a given project will require. Project management software treats project resources differently, they can staff member and/or non-personnel.
The best PM Tool offers features to identify, allocate, assign/re-assign appropriate resources right through planning process to execution to closure. It provides clear visibility to resource assignments, availability, over-assignment, etc.

 

  • Resource Skills Index
  • Resources Roles Index
  • Resources Availability
  • Resources Task Assignment,
  • Resource Allocation Chart
  • Resources Capacity Planning
  • Resources Cost, Billing Rates
  • Resource Working Calendar

Project Risk Management

Real project management tool offers robust capability to identify potential risks associated with projects and/or its activities and highlights risks to project manager. The best project management software allows project manager to review risks and prepare response strategy/implementation plan. 

Responsible project managers are particular about regularly reviewing risks and working with stakeholders, communicating  to manage risks in transparent manner.

  • Projects Risk Register
  • Project Risk Assessment
  • Risk Probability, Impact
  • Risk Response Strategy
  • Mitigation Plan
  • Contingency Plan
  • Risk Impact on Schedule, Resources
  • Risk Comments, File Sharing

Project Time Tracking, Expenses & Billing Management

Many simplistic project management tool include time tracking feature. So it is a kind of minimum for a PM tool. What separates the best project management software from the rest is the ability to view project financials right from the start to delivery to closure.
Using these tools,  company can select projects based on reasonable budgeting requests, backed by realistic project cost estimation. Next, the ability to track project cost as projects is being executed and keep a tab on billing, margins of the projects so that it delivers desired RoI. Many businesses use project management tool to submit invoices based on tracked time, expenses, input project data to financial and accounting systems.

Project Scope & Change Request Management

The one of the biggest factor that can derail project is scope creep. There are very few project management systems which allow project managers define and publish the project scope with stakeholders. The best project management software gives you the ability to tackle scope creep through change management process. With change management feature, PM tool allows you to assess usefulness, value and impact of change request before approving/rejecting it. With change management feature, project teams are well positioned to drive project outcome keeping a measured control over scope creep.

Project Scope Management Tool Involves

  • Projects Scope Definition
  • Project Change Management Tool
  • Evaluate Change Request for Impact, Benefits
  • Approve, Reject Change Request
  • Set Implementation Plan
  • Delegate Change Request to Staff

Project Incident/ Issues Management

There is no project that gets delivered without a single issue. Every project some or other encounter with incident/issues. The right way to go about incidents is acknowledging it and setting a process to identifying cause-effect analysis and way to resolve (or keeping in unresolved, depending on its type).

The best PM tool not only allows you to manage issues online but also enable  you to link the issue with project schedule so that you can trace the impact, a given issue has created on project schedule, resources, cost and quality.

  • Projects Issue Tracking Tool
  • Client Collaboration
  • Attach Documents
  • Add Comments
  • Track Pending Issues
  • Assign/Re-Assign to Staff
  • Check Audit Trail

There are various types of tools depending on what you are looking for whether it is about features or project management methodology or based on industry or usage/pricing model. Let’s look at some of these types of project management software.

Based on Methodology

  • Traditional Project Management Software
  • Agile Project Management Software
  • Hybrid Project Management Software

Based on Features

  • Project Scheduling Software – Gantt Chart Software
  • Project Kanban Board Software
  • Project Bug Tracking Software
  • Project Risk Management Software
  • Project Change Management Software
  • Product Document Management Software
  • Project Meeting Management Software
  • Project Time Tracking Software
  • Project Cost Management Software
  • Project Budgeting Software
  • Project Expense Management Software
  • Scrum Management Software
  • Project KPIs Dashboard Software
  • Project Portfolio Management Software
  • Integrated Project Portfolio Management Software

Based on Usage/ Industry

Based on Technology

  • On-Premise
  • Cloud Based
  • Supporting Mobile, Tablets with Downloadable App
  • Supporting Mobile, Tablets with Responsive Web App

Based on Usage/Pricing

  • Free/ Open source
  • Freemium
  • Subscription based
  • Customised Pricing
 

References:

[1]. PWC Global Project Management Report (http://www.pwc.com/en_US/us/public-sector/assets/pwc-global-project-management-report-2012.pdf)
[2]. PMI Pulse Report (http://www.pmi.org/~/media/PDF/Business-Solutions/PMI_Pulse_2014.ashx)
[3]. Enterprise Project Management Survey – InfoWeek (http://reports.informationweek.com/abstract/83/12175/IT-Business-Strategy/research-2014-enterprise-project-management-survey.html)
[4]. Microsoft Project Pricing(https://www.bemopro.com/Pricing/Project/MicrosoftProjectOnline.aspx)
[5]. Logos of the products referred above belongs to respective companies. Product information presented as available during trial and/or publicly available information
 .