Whether you’re buying something as small as a camera or as big as a new car the first step is research. The wealth of information available online allows us to gather facts and opinions to inform our purchase decision. This could include compiling a list of features to reading what others have said about the new product. It’s no different if you are in the market for project management tools. You want this to be the best project management software that is available so in order to make this decision you’ll need to do your research. If you look for and include the features listed you will be on the right track with your purchase for your purchase
10 Attributes of the Best Project Management Software
#1. Security of Project Management Software
The first feature that you’ll want to look for in the best project management software is security. Security is a pretty common feature these days as more and more people transact their business online. However, you will want to make sure that the application you choose uses at least 128-bit encryption. This makes it as safe as online banking and is a good rule of thumb to follow as far as security is concerned. Another aspect of security has to do with who has access to what features in the application. You will want to make sure that the software allows different users to have different access as the best project management software will accommodate different views and permissions easily. For example:
- Administrator: access to everything.
- Project teams: access to everything with some exceptions i.e. setting up new users, assigning permission rights.
- Clients: read only view of their particular project.
#2. Online Collaboration
The next feature of the best project management software is the ability to collaborate. E-mail used to be the collaboration tool of choice now the advent of social media and other technologies has left email in the dust. The project management software you choose must allow for real-time collaboration. This includes the ability to send instant messages, share documents, images, and videos, and run discussion threads that anyone who has been assigned the right to do so can provide their input. This type of collaboration ensures that everyone is on the same page, can reference the history of the discussion, and keep up to date with the latest direction of the project.
#3. Integrates with Microsoft Project Management Software
Let’s face it, MS Project is the 800-pound Gorilla when it comes to project management. Most project managers use MS Project or have used it at some point in the not so distant past. There are many project plans that are developed and monitored in MS Project. The software you choose needs to have the ability to integrate with MS Project. This includes bringing in project schedules that were started in MS Project and exporting project schedules from the best project management software into MS Project. Why is this helpful? Your project may be one of many that a client is managing. The ability to import your project schedule into their version of MS Project and link it to other projects will be a big time saver for them and help keep activity on track.
#4. Project Reporting
Much of project management has to do with reporting out on the status of a project. This includes progress reports, resource reports, variance reports, and a host of other reports that help keep the project running smoothly. The best project management software should include the ability to quickly create, customize, define, and refine your reports at the click of a button. You have much better things to do than sitting at your computer and struggling with getting the right information out of the project management system you have chosen. Your software should make this as easy as possible so you can get on with the real business of project management.
#5. Project Expense Tracking
Keeping your project within a specified budget is critical if you want to be a successful project manager. The best project management software should help you monitor and control expenses. Make sure that the software will allow you to categorize and enter any type of expense. This could be a one-off expense that happens every now and then to the ability to enter recurring expenses such as paying contractors to help work on the project. This is another area where you should quickly be able to run reports to manage a number of expenditures that are being applied to your project.
#6. Risk and Issue Management
This is another big feature of the best project management software. Managing risks and issues is arguably one of the more important jobs of a project manager. Risks are constantly trying to attack your project to prevent it from being complete. Issues are risks that have been realized and have been able to get a foothold into your project and slow it down. The software needs to have the ability to capture, categorize, and report out on risks so that they can be discussed on a weekly basis. Then, when (unfortunately) a risk has become an issue, you need to be able to assign an owner to it and track the progress of resolution. These features will help you maintain focus on the right things in order to keep your project moving forward.
#7. Project Member Timesheets
The largest expenditure on most projects are the people that have been assigned to work on them. You will want to capture and report out on the time spent. This is more challenging than it sounds because human resources are typically reluctant to continually account for their time. The best project management software will make this task easy to enter and easy to keep up with time. This will help the adoption rate of time reporting within your company that much higher.
#8. Project Planning
You spend days and weeks talking to people about what it will take to get the job done when you start out on a new project. The best project management software will allow you to capture these tasks in one place along with indentation for related groups of activities, different types of dependencies, and the ability to change things as circumstances dictate. Another important feature you should look for is the ability to baseline your projects. This will allow you to capture your project schedule at that moment in time and compare how the changes to the plan have affected (positively or negatively) the original project schedule.
#9. User-Friendly Dashboard
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to managing a project. The best project management software will capture these relevant moving parts in one place and make sure that you can quickly and easily monitor what is happening with your project. You should ensure that the project management software you choose will allow you to customize your dashboard for your purposes. For example, one project may be highly sensitive to the amount of time that is being spent on it, so you will want to move that dashboard element to the top. Another project you are managing may be highly sensitive to a number of expenditures, so you will want to move that dashboard element to the top. This allows you highlight what is most important to those who are interested in the success of the project.
#10. Project Management Templates and Documentation File Storage
Finally, you will want to make sure the application you choose is online and comes with plenty of file storage. There can be hundreds of documents and versions of these documents that are necessary to manage a project. You need to have plenty of room to store these documents and more importantly back them up. The last thing you want to do is go back and have to recreate a complicated document that was corrupted or lost somehow.
The above list of 10 attributes of the best project management software is a starting point for your buying decision. Be sure to talk to other users who already have purchased the software as well. This will provide you with the necessary information you need to make the best decision possible.