Tired of losing track of tasks, missing deadlines, and feeling like you're constantly putting out fires? Well, have no fear — project management tools are here!
Whether you're new to project management or have been at it for a while, finding the right software to help you stay organized and on top of things can be a challenge. A reported 77% of high-performing projects use dedicated software as the basis for their success. That's why we've put together this guide to help you navigate the wild world of project portfolio management (PPM) software and find the perfect fit for your team.
We’ll first cover the must-have functionalities before exploring some more specific features. Then it will be time to look at what the big guns are using to power their projects, as well as the most-used project management tools that small businesses run on. So sit back, grab a coffee (or a beer, we don't judge), and get ready to learn everything you need to know about project management tools in 2023!
If you ask 100 project management specialists what a good tool needs, they’ll give you 100 different answers. However, you’ll see some clear patterns through all their answers. These are what we’re going to call the must-haves — functionalities that all good project management tools should have.
Every project management tool should be easy to use and navigate for all team members, regardless of their technical expertise. You can’t afford to waste time and effort when it comes to accessing information, switching between priorities, or communicating, and a tool that is too hard to use will only hinder productivity.
Project management is all about teamwork, so it's crucial that the tools you use enable effective collaboration. Teams should be able to communicate, share files, and assign tasks all within the platform. This keeps everyone on the same page and ensures you’re all aware of what needs to be done.
Every project has different requirements, so it's important that your tools, especially PPM software, can be customized to meet those needs. Teams need to be able to configure the tool to match their processes, workflows, and reporting needs. Customization options also help teams to get the most value out of their tool and allows it to grow with their needs.
The most efficient teams need a complex web of tools to be effective, so your project management software should integrate with all your other apps like calendars, email, and cloud storage. If you can find a platform that integrates all its features natively, even better!
Teams need to be able to track their progress, identify areas for improvement, and make data-driven decisions. Project management tools must therefore offer robust reporting and analytics capabilities. This helps teams to better understand how their projects are performing and to identify areas for improvement.
Organizations can grow quickly, and you need to be ready to take the opportunity when it comes. That’s why project management specialists look for the most scalable options out there. A tool that can evolve seamlessly to more storage space, users, and contacts is ideal.
An often-overlooked element, but absolutely essential: these tools have to offer robust security features, such as encryption and access control. There’s a lot of sensitive information in projects that you need to keep confidential and secure.
Once you’re past the beginner’s stage of project management, it becomes starkly clear that no two teams are the same. And that means you may have to find software with more specialist tools built-in.
Resource management enables teams to see who is available to work on a task, what skills they have, and what their workloads are. This information is crucial for ensuring that projects are properly staffed, everyone is working effectively, and they are completed on time and within budget.
Time tracking shows teams where they are spending the most time and identifies areas where they can work more efficiently. This provides valuable insights into productivity and resource usage and also helps teams to write up quick invoices for collaborators.
As the crux of project management, task management features let you create, monitor, and evaluate tasks. This is how you include instructions, assign relevant people, and monitor deadlines. Combine your task management with automated reminders and notifications to stay on top of everything task-specific.
Visualizations like Kanban boards and Gantt charts bring your data to life and make teamwork more efficient. Kanban methodology allows you to track project progress at a glance, or dive deep into the finer details of specific tasks. On the other hand, Gantt charts are the smart way to monitor each individual’s agenda, using timetable gaps to your advantage without overloading your staff.
Budget management identifies areas where costs are exceeding expectations, and allows you to make data-driven decisions about how to stay within budget. This helps you avoid overspending and ensures you’re using your resources effectively.
Risk management is a method of assessing potential risks and developing contingency plans to minimize their impact on your project delivery. This allows projects to absorb the impact of unexpected challenges and still meet deadlines and budget constraints.
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The list of PPM software out there is almost limitless, so we’ve picked a few of the best for big organizations to give you an idea of what they excel in.
Microsoft is great for its enterprises and mid-market organizations who are already using Microsoft tools — the integrations are a piece of cake. It has a user-friendly interface that most people are used to, but the big name does come with a price tag that might be out of your budget.
Now owned by Broadcom, CA Technologies takes pride in giving you all the features under the sun. But if you think it’s an easy process setting yourself up, you’re going to get a shock. For this advanced-level project management tool, you’re going to either need an expert or spend your weekends trying to figure it out.
Planview is easy to customize, so you can fine tune your PPM software for each project. You’ll also enjoy some great reporting and analytics to track your performance. Again, it’s not the cheapest, but sometimes you have to pay top-dollar to get top-quality apps.
Sap is all about tech innovation and its project management features a range of advanced project management features, including resource management, budget tracking, and risk management. Of course, SAP’s PPM software can integrate with their other products, and they span a range of different languages and currencies.
ServiceNow is among the easiest on this list to set up in your company and integrate with other tools. It is favored by agile teams and comes with a strong product team who help their clients from onboarding onwards.
Oracle will allow you to share data between different systems and tools, and has a bunch of great integrations. But it really comes to life with its scalability. Whether you’re growing or already at a large scale, Oracle will keep you on track. However, as you might have predicted, it does come with a painful price tag and you’ll probably need an expert to train your team.
There is usually a trade-off between high customization and user friendliness, with more refined products taking a long time to fully understand. Deltek bucks the trend somewhat, with an easy interface and a wide range of customizations too.
Just like you wouldn’t buy a Lamborghini to do the school run, we’d highly recommend small businesses to steer away from the hugely expensive tools in the previous section. You might start licking your lips at the amount of customizations that the expensive options offer, but when you look at the cost and consider what you’ll actually use it for, we think you’ll change your mind.
That said, there are tons of excellent project management tools for small to medium-sized businesses, like those in our list:
Asana is well-known for its clean interface that makes it easy to track projects on one or many Kanban boards. It opens the door for growing companies to collaborate efficiently through task assignment, comments, and file sharing, but it isn’t too impressive in terms of reporting and analytics.
Very similar to Asana, Trello works as a Kanban board that integrates with a bunch of other tools such as Google Drive, Slack, and more. Everybody can see what everybody else is doing, which is great, but project management specialists still find it limited in features.
Monday.com has a modern, color-coded interface to organize your tasks and workflows. To get started, you can load project templates and customize them to a high degree. It also comes with handy automations that can speed up your processes, but the pricing is frankly confusing and too high for most teams.
Although not technically purpose-built for project management, a lot of teams use Basecamp to organize tasks, communicate, and synchronize efforts. With one fixed monthly price regardless of users, it’s attractive to managers who plan to grow but need to keep an eye on their budget, but it lacks modern project tools like Kanban boards and Gantt charts.
With 36.57% of the market, Jira must be doing something right. It began life in software development teams but has since spread across industries, used both as a project management tool and as a ticketing system. However, despite being aimed at marketing, sales, legal, and more teams now, it’s still clearly for technical users, and communication tools are quite poor.
Somewhat limited in terms of project management functionalities, Slack is the go-to instant messenger option for teams all over the world. It easily integrates with a bunch of other tools, but you can do file sharing and conversation on the native app. This makes it basic as a project management tool, but that doesn’t stop teams stretching it as much as possible to keep their expenses low.
Microsoft Teams offers tons of features and integrations as you might expect. In terms of usability, it does seem a little dated, which doesn’t exactly inspire modern, fast-moving teams. Furthermore, you can only really get the best out of it if you’re a Microsoft-based company already.
Zoom is of course a video conferencing tool first and foremost, so it doesn’t come with collaborative tools, analytics, task management, or cloud storage. However, remote teams spend so much time on it that it often becomes their company HQ. Luckily, you can integrate it with other tools to stop things falling through the cracks.
If you’re looking to tick all the boxes, Bitrix24 is a dedicated project management tool with agile features like Kanban boards and Gantt charts. Store all your files on the cloud, collaborate on documents, communicate across a vast range of channels, and streamline your approach with workflow templates and automations. But Bitrix24 goes further, providing an all-in-one platform that natively integrates your task and project management tools with:
Customer relationship management
Website building software
As we’ve seen, project management tools have become essential in today's fast-paced business world. They offer teams a way to streamline processes, increase efficiency, and improve collaboration.
With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for your organization. But as an all-in-one platform, Bitrix24 offers small to medium-sized businesses owners and entrepreneurs a single place to manage your projects and grow your organization.So why wait? Head on over to Bitrix24 today and see how you can take your project management to the next level!
A project management tool helps teams manage individual projects, while professional project portfolio management (PPM) tools are for multiple projects across a portfolio. PPM tools typically offer a wider range of features, but can also be more complex and expensive.
The most important functionalities to look for in a project management tool are: