Project management sees a project through from concept to delivery, making sure it’s on time, on budget and on point. It’s a discipline of many skills, best practiced with the help of the latest tools and technology.

The best project management software helps project teams get their work done, no matter how or where they work. Traditional applications may not have what it takes to fully support today’s dispersed teams as they work through planning, budgeting, managing tasks, allocating resources, tracking and reporting progress, and other functions. From free apps to cloud services, the latest project management tools empower project teams to work together from anywhere, and get projects done.

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The best project management software provides a streamlined interaction between individuals and their work.
The best project management software provides a streamlined interaction between individuals and their work.

One of the most compelling developments in project management is the way project teams come together. Teams can be put together in traditional ways, or they can self-organize from far-flung locations and disparate organizations. Team members can have varied skill levels, come from diverse disciplines, and work within the organization or for external partners, contractors, suppliers and clients. Project managers can have skill sets that range from project management certified to accidental, where they fill a role that is far removed from their areas of expertise. No matter where they work and what skills they bring to the table, project teams need the right tools to communicate, collaborate and work on tasks together.

Working well together is a prerequisite for project success. The Project Management Institute (PMI) notes that every project is unique, and getting a project done is not a routine operation. When people who don’t usually work together form a team to accomplish a goal, the process must be expertly managed to deliver the desired outcome. A powerful combination of project management software and team collaboration tools can deliver the functionality your organization needs to expertly manage projects from initiation to closing.

Why is Project Management Challenging?

For a project to succeed, the project team needs to collaborate to get their work done on time and within budget, and apply the best available skills, tools and techniques to achieve the desired quality outcome. Projects fail at an alarming rate, in part, because team members do not work well together.

According to Planview’s 2017 benchmark report, Project and Portfolio Management Landscape, 46 percent of organizations do not collaborate well on projects. Not surprisingly, 49 percent of those organizations have seen a project fail in the past 12 months.

PMI’s 10th Global Project Management Survey, Pulse of the Profession 2018, indicates that the top reasons projects fail include inadequate vision or goals, changing project objectives, inaccurate requirements gathering, insufficient task time and resource estimates, and poor communication. More than one in five failed projects had inexperienced project managers. These issues reflect common challenges in project management.

Today’s geographically dispersed teams make it more difficult to engage and motivate team members. Project managers must keep everyone on schedule and within budget and manage communication and documentation. Inefficiencies abound. A Forrester report on collaboration tools found that employees spend 24 percent of their time creating and reading emails, documents and presentations and only 18 percent of their time on actual task activity. Time is wasted trying to find specific email messages and their attachments, especially when team members are looking for the latest versions of the attachments.

These sorts of inefficiencies waste time and result in missed project deadlines, according to more than half of the participants in Planview’s 2018 study of project collaboration, Everyone is a Project Manager. The global survey discovered that teams typically use five or more so-called productivity tools—apps for audio or web conferencing and the like—and that members rarely use the same tools, rendering them ineffective. Without the right tools, project managers must overcome significant hurdles, including ineffective communications, budget overruns, missed deadlines and poor-quality outcomes.

Planview’s project collaboration study also found that one fifth of professionals are accidental project managers, and two thirds are not project management certified, leaving a gap in training for the role. Organizations need to help their project managers become more effective, or the consequences could be dire. Together, inefficient project management and poor collaboration exact a heavy toll, costing organizations the equivalent of 9 work weeks per year in North America and nearly 3 work weeks per year in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Failings of current project management tools

Even organizations that already use project management software can struggle with various inadequacies. Some applications provide a tool for every task, making things unnecessarily complicated. Consequently, tasks take longer than they ought to.

Others don’t provide tools for simple functions like notifications. While team members work heads-down on their assigned tasks, project leaders must continually remind them about impending milestones, deadlines and deliverables.

Some project management software packages don’t support the level of transparency and visibility organizations expect today and restrict status reports to a select few recipients. As a result, most team members don’t have any real idea of how the project is going and whether there are issues to resolve.

Gantt charts allow users to track a project's status and show how each person involved is progressing.
Gantt charts allow users to track a project’s status and show how each person involved is progressing.

Given these shortcomings, it’s no wonder project managers are at a disadvantage. Compounding the problems, fewer than 40 percent of organizations make it a priority to develop the technical, leadership and business skills necessary for project management, according to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession survey.

Without adequate training in project management tools and techniques, project managers are unlikely to have the capabilities required to deliver on project goals. Project management software becomes a liability instead of an asset when lack of training contributes to project setbacks or failure.

Although these trends indicate problems are widespread, they are not insurmountable. Using intuitive tools for project management and collaboration can reverse the trends and produce real gains in project team productivity. The ideal solution should work for all types of project managers, regardless of department, role or experience level. It should connect dispersed teams in easily accessible desktop and mobile apps. And the technology should streamline the experience, no matter what type of project is being delivered. With the right tools (and without the unproductive ones), project teams can expect to waste less time, experience fewer delays, avoid over-spending and produce higher quality work. When team members work well together and waste less time on inefficient processes, they are more productive and better able to fulfill their commitments. Better tools mean better results.

Finding the Best Project Management Software

Project managers looking for solutions may consider traditional wall charts or desktop tools, but experience has shown that about half of these tools are insufficient for complex projects. Instead, enterprise-class project management software can create a secure, virtual project room where projects are tracked from concept to completion. Project managers can set goals and schedule, assign and track tasks. Team members at any location can collaborate online, and their communications are centralized. Shared documents are centrally stored, with version control and change tracking. Security features such as role-based access control, two-step verification and military-grade encryption safeguard project data.

The leading software solutions provide the project management tools you need to promote team collaboration and improve project performance. Before you can select the right solution, you need a solid understanding of how project management workflows and processes currently work in your organization, what project teams could do better, and which tools are underperforming. Know what project management styles (agile adaptive methods and/or predictive waterfall methods) your teams use, typical team sizes and project complexity, and whether you plan to integrate the project management software with other applications such as project portfolio management. And gather the technical requirements and integration points for data transfer from your legacy systems.

Make a checklist with your current and future requirements, what features you need the most, which features you want but probably won’t pay extra for, and where you’re willing to make trade-offs in functionality. One caveat:

Never trade the flexibility to manage projects the way you want to for a few bell-and-whistle functions.

Selection criteria for project management software and collaboration tools

Make a checklist with your current and future requirements, what features you need the most, which features you want but probably won’t pay extra for, and where you’re willing to make trade-offs in functionality.

The criteria for selecting the best project management software and collaboration tool should include the features and functionality that your organization requires to manage projects your way. Start with these core processes. Be sure to check off features related to how the software will be implemented as an enterprise solution for the organization.

1. Team Collaboration

  • Collaborate with internal, external, remote, and distributed team members
  • Virtual workplace encourages collaborative project planning and workstreams
  • Communication tools such as real-time messaging apps replace email
  • Conversation threads connect comments, feedback, tags, and attachments back to tasks
  • Project calendars are managed, shared, and synced with personal calendars
  • Personal task lists and deadline reminders help individual team members keep commitments
  • Online meetings are scheduled and convened in the virtual workplace
  • Team members share centralized data, documents and contacts
  • Virtual workplace and project information is accessible on any device
Communication is vital for any project that involves more than one person, and the need to collaborate increases with the complexity of the project.
Communication is vital for any project that involves more than one person, and the need to collaborate increases with the complexity of the project.

Must-have tool: Communication tool – Used in lieu of email, a communication tool lets team members share ideas, ask questions, attach files and give feedback. It keeps the conversation in the virtual workplace, where other team members can access the information, instead of dispersing information among siloed email inboxes that even the owners have trouble searching. Team members are more engaged when entire conversation threads are collected in one place, and they can quickly get up to speed on issues. Tagged team members get notifications about new comments and feedback in real time. Hashtags for keywords make topics easy to find in the future.

2. Task Management

  • List, assign and prioritize tasks by deadlines and dependencies
  • Organize, track and update task lists with status visible to the team
  • Use Kanban boards with tasks, files and comments in one place
  • Personalize task management for individual team members
  • See what tasks are overdue, ongoing and planned
  • Automate notifications about task activities and deadlines
  • Visualize day-to-day tasks and progress across teams and projects
  • Execute multiple projects on time, quality and budget
Keep your projects on track and your team engaged with online Kanban board software.
Keep your projects on track and your team engaged with online Kanban board software.

Must-have tool: Online Kanban board – A visual tool for organizing and managing the project team’s work. Each task is represented by a card on the Kanban board. The team member assigned to the task drags and drops the card between planned, working on, and done columns. Checklists on the cards prioritize actions to complete before moving the cards. Each card also centralizes conversations about the task. Project managers use Kanban boards to quickly assess the status of deliverables throughout their projects. Kanban boards can be customized and are ideal for agile project management.

3. Planning and Scheduling

  • Set goals and plan how to get there
  • Create virtual project teams with geographically dispersed members
  • Define and manage project requirements
  • Schedule task duration, milestones, and deadlines
  • Visualize project schedule, tasks, and dependencies with online Gantt charts
  • Use project templates or create your own
  • Build roadmaps for long-term work strategies
Stay on top of project progress by visualizing your goals and plans, with all major steps, in modernized classic Gantt charts.
Stay on top of project progress by visualizing your goals and plans, with all major steps, in modernized classic Gantt charts.

Must-have tool: Online Gantt chart – A horizontal bar chart that illustrates the duration and hierarchy of project tasks. Team members use Gantt charts to plan, coordinate and track specific tasks required to produce project deliverables and meet goals. Gantt charts connect to work posted on Kanban boards. Work signaled as complete on a board is automatically reported to the project schedule. The Gantt chart’s real-time visualization of project progress eliminates the need for additional progress reporting tools.

4. Workload and Resource Management

  • Get an overview of current and upcoming work commitments across teams and projects
  • Assign team members and allocate resources based on availability and capacity
  • See who is working on what, who is overloaded, and who is and is not available for work
  • Assign new work or balance workloads for overloaded team members
  • Track project budget, cost-to-date, and expected outcome per project
  • Manage in-use, planned, and scheduled resources by cost of usage
Workload self-assessment gives project managers a clear view of who can take on more work and who is overloaded.
Workload self-assessment gives project managers a clear view of who can take on more work and who is overloaded.

Must-have tool: Workload self-assessment – Allows project team members to assess their individual workloads and provide feedback on the level of work demand. Whether a member feels comfortable or uncomfortable with the workload can influence whether project managers assign more work or redistribute work to other team members. Workload self-assessments reveal who is available for more work, who needs help and where work is at risk of not being completed, making bottlenecks less likely to occur.

5. Document Management

  • Secure file sharing among all team members from multiple devices
  • Share files from within all project management and collaboration functions
  • Keep everyone current with version control, change tracking, and document history
  • Document repository for uploads and attachments provides a central library
  • Manage and archive project files in a secure, structured, accessible way
Timely access to the right version of documents is critical to making plans a reality.
Timely access to the right version of documents is critical to making plans a reality.

Must-have tool: Document Control – Makes finding and sharing files easy and trouble-free. This tool allows team members to drag and drop files to upload so others can preview, comment, and collaborate on revisions. A document control tool tracks changes and makes them visible in real-time. Locking files prevents changes from being overwritten. Document histories reveal who has read/edited the files. With document control, team members access the most current versions of project documents.

6. Monitoring and Reporting

  • Get overviews to monitor and track how all projects are performing
  • Dashboards provide instant overview of project progress, status, and performance
  • Visual metrics display real-time updates on KPIs with timelines, charts, and graphs
  • View team performance and progress relative to plan
  • Track projects with a digest of upcoming, ongoing, and overdue work
  • Centralized data provides a single source of truth for reporting
  • Track issues and analyze and manage risk
  • Use templates or create custom dashboards and reports
Stay up to date on projects, allocate workload appropriately, and get the reporting you need.
Stay up to date on projects, allocate workload appropriately, and get the reporting you need.

Must-have tool: Project Dashboards – Give project managers, team members, and stakeholders an instant overview of the status, progress, and performance of the project. Dynamic widgets provide real-time updates with visual charts and graphs of metrics such as completed tasks, next steps, time-to-project completion, average cycle time for tasks, and cumulative flow of planned, ongoing, and completed tasks. The high-level visibility of dashboards keeps everyone up-to-date and focused on the goal.

7. Enterprise-class Solution

  • Trusted service for cloud-based project management
  • Assurance it is an ISO-certified information security management system
  • Security that protects data confidentiality, availability, and integrity
  • Vendor-hosted, maintained, updated, and supported
  • Proven track record of high availability, with at least 99.9 percent uptime
  • Automated username and password entries with one-click single sign-on
  • Intuitive user experience for novice to expert skill levels
  • User mobility with mobile apps for smartphones and tablets
  • Customization with integration services and developer APIs
  • Proven user base with documented success
  • Vendor longevity, revenue stability, and employee depth
  • Dedicated account manager plus email, live chat, and phone support
  • Available in multiple languages
  • Free trial period and transparent pricing
Automate your username and password entries with just a single click.
Automate your username and password entries with just a single click.

Must-have tool: Single Sign-on – Provides single sign-on (SSO) access to the project management software and collaboration tool. SSO is an authentication process that allows users to enter a name and password once to gain access to multiple applications. Using any computer or device, users can login via their web browser. This eliminates the need for multiple passwords and simplifies user provisioning without compromising security.

What’s the Best Software for Your Organization?

Project management is a complex, multifaceted process. If you had to name one function that can make or break a project, what would it be? The project management software and collaboration tool that is best for your organization is the one that does that function better than anyone. It could be planning and scheduling, task management, team collaboration, or any other task on or off this list.

For nearly half of the organizations Planview surveyed, collaboration is their Achilles heel.

The Forrester Wave™ report on enterprise-class collaborative work management (CWM) identified 25 criteria for evaluating CWM solutions that allow users to centralize collaborative work, share deliverables, capture conversations and commitments, plan and schedule tasks, and monitor and manage workloads. The leading solutions provide project collaboration tools to track conversations, threads, feedback, and commitments that trigger actions. Tasks can be planned, allocated, and tracked so the team knows who is working on what, and what the capacity is to take on more work.

Among the six leaders in the CWM market defined by Forrester, Planview’s Projectplace Enterprise offers a balanced work and collaboration experience, with robust collaboration and flexible task management. This project management software and collaboration tool improves team productivity while allowing project teams to work the way they want to work. With its novel approach to collaborative workstreams, Projectplace Enterprise empowers teams to:

  • Collaborate from anywhere with desktop and mobile apps
  • Communicate and share documents all in one place
  • Self-organize diverse, virtual teams
  • Plan and execute projects on time
  • Gain visibility for workload management
  • Monitor project status across the portfolio
  • Track real-time progress with visual dashboards

Projectplace’s centralized virtual workspace provides the tools project teams need to get things done. These include Gantt charts, Kanban boards, a conversation tool, secure file sharing and version control, synced calendars, notifications, online meetings, visual dashboards and reports, portfolio overview, customizable project templates and other project management and collaboration tools. Projectplace Enterprise provides the security (encryption, verification, certification), assurance (99.9 percent uptime, redundancy, acceleration) and control (access, audit, single sign-on) that you expect from an enterprise-class, cloud service. Projectplace Enterprise integrates with Planview’s project portfolio management (PPM) applications such as Planview Enterprise One and Planview PPM Pro.

What Project Management Software Users are Saying

You’ll know you adopted the right project management software and collaboration tool when project teams get on board and begin to save time right away, from less time spent looking for project information to fewer unproductive meetings. They have a better understanding of their commitments and have the tools they need to meet their deadlines. Whether they work in an office with other team members or remotely from the offices of project stakeholders, each team member can access real-time communications, up-to-date documents, current task assignments, and the project status and schedule. Dashboards with visual metrics and reports keep everyone informed, so in-flight decisions can be made to avoid mistakes, mitigate risk and optimize results.

Project teams that use Projectplace as their all-in-one tool for project management and collaboration report that they are better connected, more up-to-date and less stressed. Leadership understands how time and resources are being used, dispersed team members access project documents and communications all in one place, and no one wastes time searching through emails for recent versions of documents. Global organizations with teams spread across departments, business groups and countries have found that Projectplace Enterprise is “the best tool we have found so far for virtual work teams,” according to TrustRadius reviews.

With more than one million users, Projectplace has helped organizations around the world to achieve measurable success.

“We’ve saved approximately 1,000 hours a year across our 12-person PMO using Projectplace.”Dawn Acosta – PMO Consultant at Hallmark Cards Inc.

“By using Projectplace we saved a full man-year on the project.”Kim Christensen – Senior Project Manager at Carlsberg

“We have reduced our travel costs and the time for travel by more than 20 percent.”Bernd Sengpiehl – CIO AEG Power Solutions B.V.

Read the case studies, see the reviews and ratings and follow the trends as part of your project management software evaluation process, then sign up for a free trial of Projectplace Enterprise to experience collaborative project management firsthand.