How To Find The Right Project Management Software For Your Needs
Project Management Software
The term “project management software” refers to a wide array of resources that facilitate the organization of complex projects. For instance, project management software can be used to create a step-by-step schedule for a project, from inception to completion. It can also keep track of which team member has been assigned to which task, and the resources he or she needs for the job. While the project is ongoing, the software can also keep track of what has already been accomplished, and when. Many other details also fall within the capabilities of project management software.
Online (Web-Based) and Desktop Software
Different project management programs can be accessed in different ways. Some are present online as Web applications. Those assigned to the project can run the program via a browser using the organization’s intranet (or, if applicable, its extranet).
Another type of project management software, somewhat less common but still readily available, runs directly off of the computer’s desktop. It is still possible to use this kind of software on multiple computers, provided that the disk drive on which it is located is shared on the network, but only a single user may access it at any given time. Ease of access is, therefore, one advantage of online software. Another is the convenience of needing to install the software and keep it updated on only one computer. However, if the network goes down, the software becomes inaccessible. Furthermore, online programs are a bit slower than their desktop counterparts, so large or complex files take longer to view. With that in mind, it is best for someone considering project management software to consider his or her specific needs in order to decide which is optimal.
Single-User and Collaborative Software
Project management software can also be divided into “single-user” or “collaborative” programs. To some extent this division overlaps with that between online and desktop programs, as desktop-based software is usually not ideal for those needing collaborative programs.
Collaborative software is designed to be modified by more than one user. For instance, if one member of the project has been assigned to a certain specific task, he or she can open the program and make a progress report or adjust the relevant data. The results will then be available for viewing all authorized group members.
For larger, more complex projects, the advantages of collaborative software are obvious. Projects may be more efficiently subdivided into smaller tasks, with individuals or small groups responsible for working on them and keeping the rest of the project team up to date on their progress. Smaller, simpler projects may not require so much involvement from so many different users; for them, single-user software remains a viable option.
Understanding Additional Features
Project management software typically includes a variety of features. Below is a list of the most common.
- Issue tracking: Keeps a record of reported issues, or problems. The software may allow issues to be assigned a priority, such as “critical” or “minor.” As work is performed to resolve the issue, the original issue report can be updated, and when it is resolved, it can be marked as such. This feature is useful, for example, for any organization that may have to face customer complaints.
- Scheduling: Helps with the difficult process of creating and keeping track of a project’s time schedule and resource schedule. Scheduling often becomes very intricate for more complex projects (if, for instance, events depend upon other events). Project management software makes it much easier to plan the project’s schedule.
- Project portfolio management: Provides a way to manage a set of projects more efficiently. Only large organizations with multiple projects are likely to find this feature helpful, but for them it can be very useful. PPM software allows users to more easily connect individual projects with “big picture” concerns such as available company resources and business strategies.
- Resource management: Helps users keep track of and efficiently allocate the organization’s resources. This feature will track the organization’s resources and the resources required and used by the project. The more complex a project’s resource needs, the more valuable this feature becomes.
- Document management: Stores and organizes documents related to the project. This creates a single, easy-to-access location for all electronic documents for better reference. Paper documents can be scanned and added, as well. For projects that use extensive documentation, a document management feature is very important.
Proprietary vs. Open Source License
Different project management software options are licensed differently. The two licensing options are known as “proprietary” and “open source.” Propriety licenses are somewhat more common, but there are many options available for those seeking open source project management software, as well.
When software comes with a proprietary license, it means that the publisher retains certain rights, as documented in an end-user license agreement, or EULA, which users must agree to before they may access the software. In exchange for giving up certain rights, the users receive some advantages from proprietary as opposed to open source software. Proprietary software tends to include automatic update features, for instance, and the software is easier to implement.
Open source licensing means that the end user has full ownership of the software he or she purchases. Therefore, it is not necessary to accept a EULA, and the user has total freedom to use the software however he or she wishes.
The cost of project management software varies widely, and customers must be sure to avoid either overpaying or skimping on needed features. The project management company 4PM states that prices range from “$50 to $20,000 or more,” though only large companies with very complex project management needs will need software that is above $500, and most smaller organizations should probably spend no more than around $125.
Also, some brands of project management software charge users on a monthly or other periodic basis. Some online software publishes also allow users to download simpler versions of their products for free.