Buying Guide: What Project Management Software Features Matter and Why?
Table of ContentsTask Management
What are the Different Types of Project Management Software?
Task Management is made up of every feature that enables a project manager to create and manage tasks or action items. For most, task management is the cornerstone of project management. Just about everything revolves around a group of tasks. A project management software that offers task dependencies, subtasks, recurring tasks, and multi-user assigning is going to score well in this category. It helps to be able to import tasks via Excel or CSV.
Comment on Tasks
You can comment on individual tasks.
Custom Task Fields
You can customize the fields related to a task, like the status, to fit within your workflow.
You can set dependencies (finish to start, finish to finish, start to start, start to finish) to indicate that a task relies on the status of a separate task to be performed.
You can import tasks in bulk to avoid manually creating individual tasks.
You can assign multiple users to one task.
You can set a task to repeat at a specific time or date, if it occurs on a regular basis.
You can create subtasks and a task hierarchy to manage the smaller tasks that make up a larger task.
You can set the length of time it will take to complete a task from start to finish.
Notifications for important updates are automatically sent to resources, like being assigned a new task or removed from a task.
You can save time by creating templates for common tasks for later use.
Task Work Hours
You can set the amount of hours it will take to complete a task.
Team Collaboration measures the features that allow a team to work together online within the project management software. As technology advances, more teams are being managed virtually. This is where team collaboration features become important. Discussions, activity stream, sharable notes, and wikis are all features of a project management software that is leading the way in terms of Team Collaboration.
The software has a stream of recent activities, usually located in the dashboard.
You can collaborate with other team members using a designated discussion area.
Notifications for important updates are automatically sent to resources, like being assigned a new task or removed from a task.
You can send private messages to other users through the software.
Team members can create and share notes within a project.
You can create a document within the software used for brainstorming and collaborating in real time.
Learning Materials covers every feature that helps someone learn how to use a project management software. The more that a company provides to get a user started with the software, the better. More than that though, anything that speeds up the learning process is important. Project management software can be tricky -- not only does a manager have to learn how to use it, but so does an entire team. The bigger the team, the more important it is that the learning curve is not too steep. Features that help with the initial learning curve are help articles, user guides, video tutorials, and webinars.
A set of detailed articles is available to help learn and understand the software.
A user guide is available to help learn and understand the software.
Video tutorials are available to help learn and understand the software.
Webinars are available to help learn and understand the software.
Email Integration is the ability to use the project management software with email. For many, email is a way of life. Most are comfortable with email, and have grown accustomed to it. For that reason alone, Email Integration has the potential to be a make-or-break category of features. The most important feature to Email Integration is integrated discussions that can be replied to via the project management software and via email alike. When everything syncs nicely and users can collaborate via email and inside of the project management software, that is when a project management solution is truly integrated with email.
You can choose to receive automated email reports to track the progress of projects.
Comments and Discussions
Comments and discussions can integrate with email, either by default or as directed.
You can create new tasks from your email.
Provide Progress Updates
A resource can provide progress updates on tasks through email.
Receive Progress Updates
You can receive progress updates from resources via email.
File Management hits on all of the features related to managing files and documents within the project management software. File management can easily be handled with a third-party document management solution like Dropbox or Google Drive. For many, though, the ability to manage files directly within the project management software they are using is important. The features that we cover when it comes to the File Management category range from whether or not there is a central file storage system to how well the project management software integrates with those third-party solutions mentioned above. While using a third-party solution, it's still important that file management is solid within the project management software. Linking to and sharing files is an action that most groups use on a daily basis.
Third-Party File Storage
You can store files by integrating with a third-party application.
Attach Files to Tasks
You can attach files directly to a task.
Central File Storage
You can access all files in a central location.
You can comment directly on an uploaded file.
You can organize files within a central file storage location.
You can upload multiple files to the software at the same time.
You receive storage space as part of your package.
Multiple users may edit files simultaneously, with each version being tracked and saved.
Mobile is a straightforward category that digs into how well a project management software works for mobile devices. A project management software that has an Android App, iPhone App, iPad App, and also has a mobile website version would score high in the Mobile category. For project management software, Mobile is considered to be fairly important because a solid, simple project management solution should have the ability to be used on the go.
You can download a native Android application of the software.
You can download a native iPad application of the software.
You can download a native iPhone application of the software.
You can access a dedicated mobile version of the website on your smartphone.
Third-Party Integration covers features that enable the user to integrate the project management software with third-party services. We focus more on the commonly used tools that would go hand-in-hand with working on projects, such as Google Apps, Salesforce, and some of the popular document management products. Third-Party Integration may be important for some, but as a whole, this category is less important because the integrations that matter are very different from person to person.
The software can integrate with Box.
The software can integrate with Dropbox.
The software can integrate with Google Apps.
The software can integrate with iCal.
The software can integrate with Microsoft Outlook.
The software can integrate with Salesforce.
Customizations allow someone to control the look and feel of work areas within the project management software. For some, this is trivial; for others, this makes a big difference. This could mean anything from being able to upload a custom logo all the way to completely customizing the structure and foundation of the workspace. At the end of the day, this probably is not something that will make or break a decision to use a project management software.
You can customize the look and feel by changing colors and/or adding a company logo.
You can customize the display and layout of your work areas.
Reporting is everything to do with running reports related to the work being done in a project management software. There are a variety of different approaches to reporting that are used. The bottom line is that each individual will want to report on all sorts of different things. The more options a project management software offers, the better. Reporting is extremely important to project management as it is what allows high-level individuals to see what they need to see. In many cases, reports drive the process of managing projects. Reports wouldn't be as necessary in cases where simple project management software would be used.
You can create reports to view budgets on different elements of projects.
You can create reports exclusively for clients.
You can generate customized reports based on the data within your projects.
After running a report, you can email the results.
You can create reports exclusively for executives.
You can create reports to view expenses.
You can export/download reports into various file formats.
You can create reports to view current resources and resource allocation.
You can create and customize reports around tasks.
You can create reports to show the time allocated and/or spent on certain tasks or projects.
You can create and view reports on each user within your projects.
Scheduling covers all of the features that allow project managers to schedule out tasks, timelines, and roadmaps. For simple project management software, scheduling may or may not be important. For traditional project management, Scheduling is one of the most important categories of all. Without these features, it's very difficult to forecast and estimate. It's also hard to manage the time of resources (employees). The purpose of using simple project management software would often be to cut out the headache of scheduling and granular timelines, making these features less important for that type of project management software.
You can set deadlines on overall projects, subprojects and tasks.
The software offers a Gantt chart to illustrate start and finish dates as well as the summary elements of projects.
You can assign a task to a temporary resource as a placeholder to help determine resource needs for upcoming tasks.
Integration features help maximize a project management software's functions. Other tools or products may integrate into a project management software and be more customizable level. A basic level of integration is importing and exporting data, while a more advanced, yet important, feature for many would be an application programming interface (API). This would allow the project manager to integrate into just about any tool out there.
Application Programming Interface (API)
The software has an application programming interface (API).
You can back up all of your stored data.
You can export CSV and Microsoft Excel files.
You can import CSV and Microsoft Excel files.
You can import and/or export files by integrating with Microsoft Project.
Project Management is the category of features related specifically to managing projects. Project hierarchy for example, is a feature that is relevant to Project Management. In one way or another, every feature in a project management software is somehow indirectly related to the Project Management category. However, these are the features that directly impact the category. Project templates, project roadmaps, and milestones are among some of the other features in this category that would be considered important.
A calendar is available to help you manage important dates and events.
The software calculates the earliest and latest that each activity can start and finish to show the longest path to the end of the project.
You can set dependencies that span across multiple projects.
You can track issues, submit bugs and view fixes in real time.
You are able to set up alerts for events that require special attention.
You can analyze, prioritize and manage a list of projects in order to achieve specific business objectives.
You can organize a project by creating multiple levels of subprojects for better organization.
You can create a template from a current project for future use.
You can view the high-level plan of a project, including key milestones, in chronological order.
Time Management features allows a manager to track time on tasks and projects. Some of the features offered by most project management software in terms of time management would be time tracking tools, a time clock, and time approvals. For basic, simple management software, time management may not be critical. For comprehensive project management software, however, time management would be very important.
A manager can approve tracked time submitted by a resource.
You can start and stop a built-in clock to accurately track your time on a task.
Users are able to track and log time on a given task.
Consumer Profiles: Who Uses Project Management Software?
The tech manager will have specific requirements for project management needs, particularly when dealing with 'bug' reports. Tech managers will covet dedicated issue management features that are tailored to their needs.
A service provider will generally need a special set of features to help execute client support. Service providers will appreciate the ability to give clients insight into projects without offering too much information.
A startup company looking for a project management solution knows that flexibility is key. With so many changes each day, the startup company needs to be built around the concept of directional change and adaptability.
Aspiring Project Manager
The aspiring project manager is a beginner who wants to dig in and manage projects efficiently. This person appreciates powerful features, but doesn't quite understand a feature's capabilities. At the same time, the aspiring project manager is ready and willing to invest time into learning.
Experienced Project Manager
An experienced project manager will appreciate flexibility and customizations within a project management software. Each project manager has a special way of managing projects, and the last thing an experienced project manager wants is to be limited by the tool intended to save time.
For managers that are constantly on the go, mobile features will be a top priority. A manager on the go will want a solution that has a nice and efficient mobile experience as well as strong email integration with the project management software.
Heavy Email User
A heavy email user will value a project management solution that is built around the concept of working in email. Sometimes emails can get in the way of building a workflow when a project management software is incorporated. The heavy email user will be able to continue his or her normal email activities by sending and receiving messages, comments, or updates that integrate with the software.
A large enterprise will most likely have professional project managers and dedicated resources for managing projects. A comprehensive PM software with a full feature set, including resource management and financial reporting, is a must for any enterprise.
The one-person show is someone who may not have a team, but wants to get organized with a project management solution. The one-person show will not need a solution that allows for much collaboration or sharing, but task management and reporting will be significantly important to this person.
Small Business Owner
A small business owner will have a handful of employees with fairly well-defined work. The small business owner should place a high value on time tracking, client billing, and task management. Most small business owners are seeking a cost effective solution that comes with a low learning curve.