Understanding the basics of project management software

Understanding the basics of project management software will help teams to find the right app, work smarter and combine features.
21 April 2023

Task list: sticky notes on the move from analog to digital. Image credit: Shutterstock Generate.

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Project management can make a huge contribution to the success of modern businesses. And – despite the boom in generative AI and rise of advanced chatbots – people remain a key part of the commercialization process that converts resources and talent into products and services. At its heart, project management involves planning, organizing, and managing those steps as efficiently as possible. And understanding the basics of project management software can help companies find the right tools for the job.

The good news for firms is that project management software isn’t hard to find. A quick Google search will generate pages of entries. And if you hit the blue button on your Bing mobile app, prompting the newly added generative AI functionality, ChatGPT delivers a similar message – noting that there are many project management software products on the market. The big challenge for companies is narrowing down that long list and choosing the project management solution that works best for them.

Understanding the basics of project management software gives teams a head start on which features to prioritize and helps firms to focus on the apps that meet their key criteria. We live in an age of digital tools, but it’s still possible to perform project management using a whiteboard and a pack of Post-it notes. However, analog implementations have their limitations. Set the office heating too high, and when staff return in the morning, all of those carefully placed sticky papers will have dried out and fallen to the floor. But if the overall idea appeals, a digital version could be perfect.

Streamlining product delivery

Digital project management solutions such as Jira, Kanbanize, Monday.com, Planview AgilePlace, Stackfield, Trello, and Wrike all feature so-called Kanban boards that graphically represent workflow management using a series of cards. Columns represent the various stages in the product delivery process, from feature requests, and work that’s in progress, to completed tasks. And cards – in this case, virtual ones – are moved from left to right as progress is made by project teams.

The technique has its origins in the manufacturing industry and was championed by Taiihi Ohno, an engineer at Toyota in Japan. And decades later, Kanban boards have become popular tools for delivering software development. Their strength is that representing the workflow visually, quickly highlights where bottlenecks are occurring and allows managers to allocate resources where they are needed the most to keep projects on schedule.

Another solution for visualizing all of the work that has to be done to deliver products and services on time is the use of Gantt charts. Like Kanban boards, Gantt charts also run from left to right. But rather than using cards, project tasks are represented by a series of tracks stacked vertically with start and end dates that extend horizontally.

The planning and visualization method particularly suits large and complex projects and comes into its own when deadlines begin to shift, which could ordinarily throw key stages in the delivery process off track. “A Gantt chart can combat this by breaking down a project into smaller and more manageable tasks represented on a timeline,” writes Yuvika Iyer, a blog author at Wrike. “Team members can view the Gantt chart to quickly understand project milestones, individual and team workloads, resources, and dependencies.”

Wrike has Gantt chart creation features built into its project management software. But it’s by no means the only solution out there. For example, general business software such as Microsoft Excel has Gantt chart templates, which make it quick and easy to start drafting project plans. But there are some good reasons why you might not want to use a spreadsheet. And this is why it’s advantageous to understand the basics of project management software.

Full service automation

Custom tools are great at keeping tasks on track, but that’s not all they can do. For example, solutions include a wide range of additional features such as workload management, budgeting, and cost estimation. Platforms such as Smartsheet, include widgets for building dashboards to quickly communicate how programs are performing. And apps such as Bigtime go beyond project management to deliver professional services automation that enables team members to submit timesheets and expenses. Systems can also streamline tasks such as billing and invoicing.

It’s important for users to focus on what they need to achieve using project management software. If a to-do list no longer cuts it, then it’s certainly time to consider using a Kanban board or Gantt chart, for example, to keep track of project tasks, resources, key deadlines, and budgets. And modern project management apps will automate alerts and allow team members to work across devices. Clever UX features can compress big-screen project overviews into informative scrollable and swipeable mobile-friendly versions, so users don’t miss out when they swap laptops for smartphones.

Plus, when the tech stack starts to bulge, keep in mind that project management can be just one of many features that software products bring. And it’s possible that a single end-to-end work management solution could replace many of those individual digital tools, saving users on software fees. Scoro offers a full service plan that provides users with a control hub, which combines multiple features, including time management, collaboration, cost tracking, and many other workplace activities.

Understanding the basics of project management software lays the groundwork for making the most out of services available on the market. And helps organizations to select the solution that’s right for their business.