Project Management Tools
Projects can often be large and unwieldy undertakings that can become very difficult to keep ordered and co-ordinated. Because of this, there is a vast number of project management tools that professionals use to help them achieve their project goals. Read on to learn all about these different tools.
What is a project management tool?
A project management tool can be almost anything that increases the effectiveness and efficiency of a project management team in their efforts to execute a project successfully. A tool can be used to help in the planning process, to streamline communication or facilitate team management, or to help reduce project costs.
Most commonly, project tools are project templates or computer software programs. However, even project management methodologies can to a certain extent be defined as tools.
Project management templates
A project management template is a pre-set form or document that is customisable according to a project’s unique specifications. A template thus speeds up the project processes by having already created documents, forms, or graphs for your project.
Here are some of the templates used by project managers:
- Milestone checklists: A list used to determine whether team members are on track with their tasks in terms of the project deadline.
- Scorecard: A scoring sheet used during the closing phase of the project that helps a project manager to assess the performance of his team and to compile a report on it.
- Project plan: A project plan template can include fields for all the processes needed to complete a comprehensive project plan.
- Project charter template: A template to establish the project charter that will inform the project planning process.
- Change log: a document that allows you to record all changes to the project and evaluate each one of them.
Other templates that are often used are things like charts and diagrams that help you organise and present project data visually. Examples of these are:
- Fishbone Diagrams
- Gantt Charts
- Critical Path Analysis Flow Diagrams
Diagrams and charts can help in the planning, execution, and monitoring of a project. However, because of the laborious nature of data processing, these templates are usually incorporated into project management software packages.
“Creating a Gantt Chart using Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect software”
Project management software
Templates and other documents are often digital, as most project managers these days work with laptops, smartphones, and tablets in their day-to-day dealings. Consequently, project management computer software and apps have become very important project tools.
Software used by project managers can include simple word processing programs or programs like Microsoft Excel. There are also a number of complex project management software packages specifically designed for people working in this profession, however.
Project management software can either be specialised tools designed for a single purpose – such as time management – or it can be a comprehensive program that can co-ordinate all aspects of a project: from planning, to resource and cost management. There are also plenty of single-function apps that you can get on your tablet or smartphone – especially when it comes to collaboration tools for brainstorming.
Here is a list of the different functions that project management software can have:
- Time managing: Create schedules, and co-ordinate team member task assignment with these schedules.
- Tracking: Track project and task progress by keeping track of who completed which tasks when.
- Resource assignment: Co-ordinate resources and assign them to team members and tasks.
- Collaboration: Collaborate on plans, brainstorming sessions, and assignments via collaboration software that allows team members to simultaneously work on the same documents from different locations.
- Presentation and reporting: Convert raw data into visual graphs, tables, processed data, and reports.
- Decision making: Software that allows you to enter data and variables and receive processed data in return that can help you make educated decisions.
Top 5 Project Management Software Packages
Capterra, a software solutions company, ran a survey on project management software usage in 2014. They ranked the following software as the top 5 project management programs based on their popularity amongst professional project managers:
- Microsoft Project: By far the most popular choice, Microsoft Project is a comprehensive desktop software package that includes multiple features, tools, and templates. It is also fully integrated with other Microsoft tools such as Word and Excel, and has online collaboration capabilities.
- Atlassian JIRA: This is a tracking product used by project managers. It has functions such as issue tracking, project tracking, and software development tools such as bug tracking.
- Podio: This is a cloud-based collaboration service, which means that different people can access a project and collaborate on it via the internet. It also offers a number of different business apps that you can add on.
- Smartsheet: This is another online project management tool, specialising in spreadsheet data. It is also uniquely adapted for mobile