Using project management software tools

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Project management software tools can help a project manager be more methodical and better organised when it comes to planning, scheduling, tracking progress, maintaining documentation, managing the budget, allocating resources, and controlling risks and changes.

There are literally hundreds of project management software tools available and a good tool is another useful weapon to add to your project arsenal. It, clearly, cannot replace real-world experience and professional training but a software tool can enable you to hone your organisational skills, refine your scheduling and gain a better understanding of how and why things go right or wrong on particular projects.

It's not difficult to research the different tools available but individual project managers and individual organisations have different needs so it is important to be sure you know what to look for, what you need and how you could benefit from project management software before making a commitment to a particular package.

Some simple project management apps are very inexpensive (some are even free) but most software is a major investment so the decision is not always easy. However, on large or complex projects, project management software brings many advantages, such as:

  • resources are efficiently assigned
  • changes are kept under control
  • the project stays within budget
  • the project stays within scope 
  • documentation is properly managed
  • the right priorities are established and maintained
  • progress can be accurately tracked 
  • tasks can be efficiently managed

From installed software to web-based, cloud-hosted products and mobile apps there are tools for every type of project and every type of company. And with so many global projects being managed, software tools can ensure that wherever different teams are located they can be effectively managed and the teams themselves can communicate and collaborate easily. 

What are the main types of project management software?
There is plenty of choice when it comes to project management software. Some is aimed at specific industries or certain team and company sizes. Some focuses on certain tasks such as time management or risk management and others focus on the way a project is managed so, for instance, some tools are specifically designed for agile projects. 

Software type
Perhaps the first choice to be made is whether you want a web-based, cloud-hosted solution or software installed on your own servers. If nothing else this will enable you to cut down the many choices to a more manageable number. This choice will often be a financial one as the web-based, cloud hosted solutions are more affordable but it is also true that installed software may be less well suited to small companies who simply do not have the resources to manage the installation.

Project attributes
Look for tools aimed at your specific industry, project size and team size so its features are useful and meaningful to the people using them.

All-round solutions
Good all-round project mamagement software can ensure all project activities are organised in one place and everyone has access to all project data. This means that project data can be easily viewed by all stakeholders and they remain engaged for the project life. It also means team members can easily communicate and collaborate.

Targeted Solutions 

  • Scheduling – for resource allocation, task assignment, progress tracking, dependencies, milestone and deadline setting features. 
  • Time management – make better use of available time and help people work "smarter not harder". 
  • Financial – make better business decisions by gaining a clearer understanding of which projects are providing the most financial benefit.
  • Agile - solutions designed specifically to support agile approaches like XP, Scrum, Kanban or DSDM.

This is a project management fundamentals blog written and sponsored by Parallel Project Training. For more about our project management training courses visit our website or visit Paul Naybour on Google+.

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Posted by .pnaybour on 1st Mar 2016

About the Author
Paul Naybour is Business Development Director for Parallel Project Training. He is a well known speaker in the APM Branch Network, a Project Management Training and Consultant, working for Parallel Project Training. He also runs the PM news site Project Accelerator.

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