For teams managing tasks through to-do lists, or - even worse - paper, post-it notes, and endless meetings, modern project management software is a game changer. But what is project management software and what can it do?
In this article, we will explore what project management software is, common features and key benefits, and a few considerations in selecting the best solution.
What is Project Management Software?
Project management software is designed to streamline the project management process by providing a central location for all project-related data, including tasks, schedules, resources, and more.
It allows project leaders to collaborate with team members, create assignments, monitor progress, and track performance in real-time.
Basic project management tools focus on task and resource management. But a robust system can do much more than that. And, depending on its feature set, a project management software solution can help manage an entire portfolio (group) of projects and project teams.
It’s probably obvious that project management software is particularly useful for organizations that work on complex projects that involve multiple stakeholders, timelines, and budgets. But a project of any size or complexity can realize substantial benefits from the organization and tracking that this kind of software provides.
The basics - what are the typical features provided by software management software?
Using a project management tool provides a single, centralized location for storing and organizing project information. This makes it easier for team members to access and collaborate on the project with the latest information.Team leaders and members can identify and plan tasks to manage projects from inception to delivery. Here are some core features to expect:
Task and Resource Management
Project management solutions necessarily manage both tasks and the resources assigned to them, allowing teams to estimate, allocate, and track work. Effective task and resource management features make all the work on a project easy to see, report on, and adjust.
Time is a focal point of any project, so tracking it is a key. Project management software allows team members to estimate and record the time spent on tasks and projects, helping with time management and project billing.
Most project management software allows project leaders to generate reports on project progress and resource utilization. This level of reporting allows them to analyze basic project data and identify areas for improvement.
Beyond the basics
Today’s project management software solutions enable more than simple task and resource management. They work to support collaboration, efficiencies, and optimization of project outcomes. Here are features you should expect:
Support of Project Management Frameworks
Project management tools vary in how they support various project management frameworks, which range from agile approaches (such as Scrum and Kanban) to traditional ones (such as Waterfall). Some tools focus on supporting a single framework, while others provide features that accommodate more than one.
The most flexible project management tools will provide capabilities to accommodate different types of project management approaches.
Project management tools that provide advanced collaboration give users more than the opportunity to look at and interact with a schedule. With advanced collaboration features, everyone can see and work on project tasks. Typically this means users are offered a collaborative workspace for every task within the project. This allows them to communicate, share files, and provide feedback in one place. In this way, documentation, comments, references, and other assets are always up-to-date.
Sizing, estimation and prioritization capabilities
Moving beyond simple tasks management are features that enable project managers to optimize project planning capabilities.
These include features that help teams estimate time, task size, and priorities:
PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) provides time estimates using a formula with a calculated weighted average that combines an optimistic, mostly likely and pessimistic assessment.
T-Shirt sizing and story points are ways to estimate the size of a project task. T-Shirt Sizing is a quick and simple way to estimate the size of a feature or user story, from xs to xxl. With story points, items are assigned a point value based on the estimated effort, complexity, and time to complete each item.
WIP (work in progress) limiter settings allow project leaders to keep tasks to a reasonable number in a given period in order to focus on prioritization and efficiency.
Integration with Other Tools
Many project management software solutions integrate with other tools and systems, such as development tools (like GitHub), and document management systems (such as Google). Integration with the right tools greatly reduces silos, rework, and lack of visibility.
Next-level project management capabilities
For more complete project management capabilities there are some “next-level” features that modern project management systems also provide. These features help teams and leaders alike make connections to value, streamline workflow, and understand the true state of the work.
Connecting Strategy to Execution
As critical as strategic planning is, it is essential that projects are aligned with organizational objectives. Project management tools can provide a framework for connecting strategy with execution. The most innovative of these tools streamline this process and make it visible, allowing teams and leaders to connect the dots to value delivery easily.
Efficiency-focused project management tools provide automations to create efficient workflows. But these more sophisticated features shouldn’t be complicated. Tools that do this most effectively also make these automations easy-to-use, increasing overall agility. Examples of what is possible through automations include:
- Task creation and assignment
- Due date and work allocation
- Prioritization tracking
- Automated notifications
- Event, conditional, and time-based reporting
- Event and exception management
- Approval workflows
- Automated interactions with integrated tools
A significant way to save time and create repeatable best practices is through templates. Project management tools offering the ability to use templates allow individual users and teams to make their best work happen again and again.
Advanced filtering, reporting, and analytics
The best project management tools not only track projects, tasks, and resources, but also provide decision support through filtering, reporting, and analytics. Getting to the heart of what is happening within each project and across a portfolio of projects is critical to overall success.
Project management tools can increase visibility into project health as well as potential pain points. Data-rich filtering capabilities and reporting analytics equip teams and their leaders to drive continuous improvement.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is here to stay. And project management tools are no exception. Project management solutions are quickly integrating AI in many ways, such as through automations, predictive analytics, content creation, workflow recommendations, and more. Stay tuned to see what else is on the horizon as artificial intelligence will continue to offer more opportunities to optimize project management capabilities.
Benefits of Project Management Software
So why move beyond your basic to-do lists? Project Management software leads to effective workflows and better project outcomes. Here are just a few benefits to consider:
Work that focuses on value
Tools that are able to connect each item of work to the strategic value it provides help organizations better focus their efforts. This alignment is critical to ensuring organizations produce valuable results - not simply deliverables.
Increased productivity and organization
Project management software increases productivity by streamlining tasks and processes, freeing up team members to focus on more important work. It can also help identify and resolve bottlenecks and inefficiencies.
Strengthened communication and collaboration
Project management software allows team members to work together on projects in real-time. Project management tools with collaborative workspaces and integrated workflows that allow team members to communicate, share files, and provide feedback, improving the quality and accuracy of project-related information.
These capabilities keep team members working together even if they are working in different locations.
Project management software allows project leaders to assign tasks and monitor progress in real-time. It increases accountability among team members, as they are responsible for completing tasks and updating their progress in the software. This kind of visibility helps identify and correct potential issues early on, before they become bigger problems.
Effective risk management
Speaking of identifying potential issues, managing risk is a crucial component of any project. Features such as progress indicators, rich data tracking, and alert automations allow project managers to get their arms around potential project risks and manage them for successful outcomes.
Project management software provides project leaders with real-time data on project progress, resource utilization, priorities, goals, challenges, and more. It allows them to make better decisions based on accurate and up-to-date information.
Project management solutions can lower costs by streamlining processes, managing risks, and reducing or eliminating fragmented or redundant tools. By decreasing room for error and the need for rework, organizations can gain greater efficiencies across the board.
Improved project delivery success
By improving organization, communication, productivity and decision making, project management software helps teams deliver projects that enjoy customer satisfaction, on time and within budget.
Process improvement and best practices
Project management tools that provide significant analytics and a single source of truth help teams identify what works, repeat their successes, and eliminate issues. By gaining data-rich insights, teams can achieve continuous improvement.
Choosing the Right Project Management Software
Choosing the right project management software can be challenging - there are so many options available. As you review project management software options, it’s important to decide which capabilities are most important to your organization and whether or not a given provider delivers their features in a way that is easy (and helpful!) to use.
Here are some key factors to consider when choosing project management software:
- Capabilities that meet objectives - spend some time identifying your organization’s project management goals. Determine which features will best help you meet your objectives.
- Benefits to the entire organization - From individual contributors to leadership and stakeholders, does the tool support the work that needs to be done while providing answers to critical questions and driving success?
- Project Size - Typical project size is an important factor to consider when choosing project management software. When evaluating software, consider what types of projects a tool can effectively manage. Some tools are best suited for smaller projects, while other tools focus on larger, more complex projects. If you have both types of projects, you’ll need a tool that is flexible enough to scale appropriately.
- Team Size - Just as the size of the projects is a factor in tool selection, so is team size. Evaluate tools based on how they handle team size according to your needs. If your team is small, can the tool support you without being overwhelming? If you belong to a large organization, does the tool offer enterprise capabilities?
- Innovation - Is the project management software company innovative, staying on top of key industry trends, such as AI, in meaningful ways?
- Budget - The cost of the project management software is another important factor to consider. Find out what tools, capabilities, and support come with the subscription being offered. Are integrated tools causing an increased price tag?
- Ease of use - Is the tool complete for your needs without being complicated? What kind of learning curve is involved in undertaking use of the tool? Is the tool fast and flexible enough to scale to your needs? Does it actually reduce stress?
DevStride Stands out from the Pack
While there are many software solutions out there, DevStride stands apart. DevStride is a modern project and portfolio management tool purpose-built to promote collaboration, communication, and cohesion, reducing the stress factor and making managing projects - successful. A refreshingly easy-to-use tool, DevStride provides the robustness and insight project leaders need and support that teams love.
DevStride offers strategic project and portfolio mapping, visual boards and tools to track work progress, decision support, and flexible ease of use. Here are just a few of the key ways DevStride’s powerful solution can help you:
- Project Management savvy -support for agile project management frameworks as well as traditional approaches. Purpose built for project and portfolio management by teams who have lived it.
- Workstream mapping to strategic goals and objectives - ensures work is focused on the right projects and is aligned with goals.
- Visual boards and indicators - display throughout the tool for ease of use and information at-a-glance, including priorities, completion rates, and status.
- Collaborative workspaces - promote communication through common workspaces, breaking silos and promoting cohesion.
- Advanced filtering and reporting - DevStride gives instant access to status and multidimensional data up and down the portfolio of projects. Its flexible custom fields and tags allow team members to track risks, bugs, ratings, priorities and any other relevant information, providing an easy way to search, sort, and report on any data, any time.
- Prioritization and sizing - Priorities are clear and easy to manage through priority fields, tags, stack ranking, Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) estimation capabilities, T-Shirt sizing, story points, and more.
- Dynamic roadmapping - provides a visual way to manage story and epics for release tracking.
- Workflow automations - allow users to make use of easy customizable, event and criteria-based triggers to notify owners, promote task management, and stay informed.
- Work in Progress (WIP) limiters - manage the risk of task overload and potential delays.
- Rich Analytics - DevStride analytics are a powerful and effective way to identify potential issues before they become problems. Beyond raw data, DevStride tightens feedback loops and provides deep insights to make the kind of informed decisions leaders and teams need.
- Meaningful AI, today - DevStride provides the ability to easily generate workstreams, tasks, and even relevant content through impressive artificial intelligence capabilities.
DevStride can help
If you need access to a modern project and portfolio management tool that can help you plan and control projects, then schedule an introductory call with us today. Our integrated work management platform provides teams with superior visibility and alignment. Understand the true state of the work, even as priorities shift.
By using DevStride’s platform, you can gain a holistic view of your projects and initiatives, enabling you to deliver successful projects and improve the overall performance of your organization.
We’ll show you exactly how DevStride can help your teams manage exceptional projects and product delivery. For projects big and small, DevStride is here for you!