Polish economist Karol Adamiecki’s 1896 harmonogram and Henry Gantt’s still commonly-used Gantt chart from 1912 are often referred to as the first project management software. The first paperless digital project management platforms were launched by Oracle and Artemis in 1977, and the decades that followed saw many iterations of PM software while the management concepts and methods driving tool design also multiplied and evolved. Now, project managers can choose from numerous options that provide a broad range of information beyond basic scheduling and task activity monitoring functions.
One of the most popular new types of PM software comes in the form of web-based applications accessed via a web browser or a mobile device. The Internet is now populated with a huge variety of such software – a Google search for “online project management software” produces over 31 million results, and many of these programs are free and open-source. With such an avalanche of PM tools out there, how does one begin to narrow the field? The best way is to start with some basics.
Get PM that fits right.
Look for the right size. Does your organization need to reach across world time zones, work in 5 languages, and access 24/7 service and support? Or do you need a package that serves the needs of a small team in one office while offering ease of use and leaving the budget uncrushed? Start out with a list of who, when, where, why, and how in regards to your projected PM software use.
Know your users.
Speaking of who, you definitely want user-friendly. Even if the software comes with superlative setup and support, technical capabilities and comfort levels will vary widely across project teams, and team members come and go. People need to be able to work effectively with the software almost immediately.
Question your motives.
What are your reasons for deploying project management software? What does your organization hope to achieve with it? For example, improved communication and collaboration between team members is probably a given, as is more efficient project reporting and tracking. Now add to this list.
Choose your features.
Now that you know what you are going to be doing, pick the tools needed to get it done. There are some nice options out there, and real-time collaboration with social-media style messaging and discussion features is just the starting point. Consider completion alerts and summary-level progress reports that include access to details. You can get task dependency and critical path information, charting and reporting, and of course customized role and responsibility settings. Just be careful not to go overboard, because you need to hold on to simplicity and ease of use.
Check the bottom line.
Finally, look at cost and licensing options. Small companies might want to go with a subscription or a per-user-license. If you want some help with these details, and to experience the kind of customer service and support a top-shelf PM software provider offers, get in touch with the project management experts at Timewax. Start by covering the items in this article, and you will be well on the way to running projects with low friction and maximum efficiency.