Most organizations believe that project management is critical to project success and business performance. Project planning tools assist in efficiently managing various resources and organizing tasks so as to successfully complete a project within the specified timeframe. Therefore, project planning tools play a very important role in managing projects and ensure organizational success. Due to the huge demand for planning apps, more and more project management apps are being developed. The real challenge is to choose the right project planning tool which suits the needs of the project and organizational goals.
The first step in the selection of a project planning tool is to identify the purposes of using the tool. Do you need to map out project plans and schedules? Do you wish to integrate communication tools? Do you intend to collaborate on documentation? There are innumerable project management apps to choose from, but you have to decide what functionalities you want to use.
Here are the basic project management features to look for while making a choice:
- Time tracking– This feature helps in measuring the overall productivity and allows project managers to set deadlines, log the time spent on each task and report what was accomplished during that time.
- Budgeting – The budgeting feature allows to track expenses, multiple rates and currencies, cash-flow requirements, material cost, labor charges, etc. Estimating project costs becomes easy and is accurate when project management software is used. Also, the Invoicing process can be automated.
- Resource planning– Resources could be people, equipments or empty rooms. Resource planning monitors the availability and capacity for each.
- Risk analysis– This feature helps in maintaining data regarding risks & threats, risk probabilities, sensitivity analysis, etc. This ensures an accurate analysis of the project life cycle and helps in mitigating risks.
- File sharing– An important component for collaboration, file sharing facilitates having a central location for all documents relating to the project. Whether the data is hosted on local servers or in the cloud, file sharing should provide data security as well as an easy interface that keeps everything organized.
- Email integration– This feature prevents team members from having to navigate between two different platforms while working on a project.
- Issue tracking– This feature helps to monitor various problems and allows team members to report issues that require urgent attention. Issue descriptions are tracked in real time, with notifications created for status and systems affected.
- Gantt charts– Gantt charts provide a wide-angle view of the project through a visual timeline. This feature allows you to see what tasks team-members are working on, monitor deliverables and actual results.
Other important factors
- Scalability–The project planning tool should be scalable to keep up with a growing team and meet your requirements. You can consider software which has hierarchical user roles where tasks could be assigned accordingly.
- Vendor Support–You need to ensure that the software provider has a support portal and provides email or phone support, a helpful set-up guide and demo sessions. Also, the frequency with which vendor releases newer versions or incremental updates of the software have to be checked.
- Reliability- To ensure reliability of data, it is important to check how regularly and efficiently the vendor will be backing up your data, in case of cloud based software.
The choice of a project management tool depends primarily on project requirements and management strategy. You may either choose a single tool to provide a bit of functionality in a large number of areas or select a single tool to address an important area like time-tracking or material management. Last but not the least; go through the user experiences and price of each tool, you will end up selecting the best one.