Project management is all about organization.
The success or failure of a project (or string of projects) often boils down to the manager's ability to stay on top of critical deadlines, resource allocation and budget parameters.
That can be a tall order – especially if your company requires you to manage multiple products that involve stakeholders located both inside and outside of the organization. The bottom line is that you're going to need help, and that's exactly what project management software is designed to give you.
More than anything else, you'll need to make sure your management software is capable of delivering the features you need to complete your projects on time and on budget. Software solutions vary, but here are some of the project management software features you should expect to see in a robust application.
- Scheduling. Decent project management software should have features that make it easy to schedule events and critical tasks for complex projects. Pay close attention for features that accommodate dependent events (events that depend on other events), resource scheduling, human asset scheduling and uncertain timelines.
- Time management. A big part of project management involves managing time at both the macro and micro levels. Many solutions offer features that include time logs (with statistics), billable vs. non-billable hour tracking and personal/shared calendars.
- Budgeting & billing. A good project management application has to be capable of tracking budgets and expenses in a granular manner. Your solution should let you track costs on a per project, per user or per activity basis. It should also produce billing reports and be capable of integrating with your current accounting software.
- Progress tools. Progress reports weigh heavily on the minds of project managers. Project management software usually has progress reporting features that carry some of the burden for you by tracking critical project indicators and generating Gantt charts that can be shared with other project stakeholders.
- User-defined fields. Complex projects can get confusing because they have a large number of moving parts. User-defined fields introduce a degree of specificity into the management process and eliminate the potential for confusion.
- Collaborative resources. Finally, it's important to make sure your software facilitates collaboration so that al of the stakeholders are involved in tracking and monitoring the project's progress.