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How to Choose a Project Management Tool
A project management tool can help with time tracking, assigning tasks, and displaying progress. This article will provide insight on what to look for when buying these tools.
Project Management Software
What is it?
Project management (PM) software helps companies manage teams and accomplish projects collaboratively. You can use it to assign tasks automatically, allocate resources, and track project milestones across each phase of work.
The benefits of project management software include:
consistently hitting milestones
staying on budget
achieving the best outcome for your clients
This technology lets your team view progress across tasks and projects, monitor and identify at-risk deadlines, and share status updates while centralizing relevant documents and communication. The most powerful project management features are time and expense tracking, resource planning, reporting, budget management, and integrations.
Businesses that forego project management software are at risk for lost time, poor communication, errors, insufficient data analysis, and other serious pitfalls.
To ensure your business avoids these issues, we’ve made it easy to understand the importance of project management tools and features, and how to choose the right software for you.
What if I don't Use Project Management Software?
Strategically managing projects and tasks is vital to the success and growth of your business. Without the right tooling, reaching your company’s peak productivity is out of reach and unsustainable.
If you don’t have efficient processes in place, it is difficult to properly plan and execute a project. Consider how many moving pieces there are in any project.
You have to delegate tasks; monitor each team member’s progress; forecast the project results, adhere to schedule, scope, and budget; communicate feedback and updates; make adjustments as you go; and collaborate with outside stakeholders.
Something can go off track at any point.
A project management tool helps you plan a data-supported project that’s more likely to produce the best possible result for you and your client while avoiding costly mistakes.
Time and expense tracking errors
Without a project management tool that automatically tracks team member time and expenses for you, you lose hours to manually reporting time, creating invoices, balancing your budget, and paying bills. You’re also more prone to human error in your planning, forecasting, and billing — areas that demand precision.
To put it bluntly, if you’re currently handling these workflows manually, you’re putting your business, employees, and clients at a disadvantage.
From a project planning standpoint, if tasks aren’t planned and reported in enough detail, you’re setting up your team and clients for mismanaged expectations. Worse, inaccurate time and expense tracking can negatively impact project costs and whether a project is profitable.
If you don’t track your time and expenses, you risk under- or overstaffing, miscalculating project scope, and running out of time or money before your work is complete. A time and expense tracker keeps you on course and in communication by reassuring clients at essential milestones and allowing you to forecast profitability.
Say you forget to send out an invoice, pay a bill, or accurately compensate an employee on time. You not only lose money and find yourself in trouble, but you also sacrifice your reputation, which as a business owner, is your most valuable currency.
Project management software optimizes your time through features like automated reporting, time and expense tracking, centralized communication, and file sharing. Equipping your team with tools that streamline and automate parts of their work allows them to get more done in less time, and gives them the opportunity to tackle more valuable tasks.
A PM platform tracks your team’s performance on a project and visualizes progress through built-in reporting. The alternative to automated reporting is manually tracking project metrics in a spreadsheet, which requires too much time and effort and quickly becomes outdated.
Manually updating a spreadsheet puts you at risk of errors, isn’t always stored in a central location available to your collaborators, and doesn’t automatically reflect real-time updates.
File sharing is another easy way to save time and stay aligned when collaborating. If your team has multiple versions of the same file, it leads to confusion over which version is accurate, updated, and should be used by team members. PM platforms can sync files and alert you to duplicate files or even automatically delete them to eliminate any confusion.
Project management software with built-in file sharing is a much more secure way to store and share files. When everyone has access to the same materials that are always up to date, they waste less time looking for what they need, emailing back and forth, and downloading documents.
Without good project management software, employees spend more time on manual tasks like entering data into spreadsheets. This takes more time upfront and increases the likelihood of errors.
Automate manual tasks
Project management software reduces repetitive tasks that eat up company time. By using automation to speed up or complete these tasks fully, your team is free to focus on more interesting work, and it can reduce their workload and stress.
Some easily automatable business tasks include generating analytics reports, creating and sending invoices, recording time and expenses, and filling out timesheets.
Think of all the time your employees spend updating spreadsheets and tending to their inbox each week. With the right tools, you can be more strategic with your time and resources.
A study by the Project Management Institute found that ineffective communication is the primary cause of project failure one-third of the time and negatively impacts project success more than half the time. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but project management software helps.
Poor communication on a project commonly manifests in the form of unclear task assignments, confusing deadlines, redundant documentation, low accountability, and a disorganized virtual workspace.
With effective PM software, you can easily share questions, concerns, suggestions, and updates with a project team before anything goes wrong. It also cements accountability for each task and ensures everyone is aware of approaching milestones.
PM software also keeps management in the loop by making it simple to track time, tasks, and progress. If a team leader sees that one person has way too much on their plate, they can reassign work, so the team is at its most efficient.
Centralizing your digital workspace supports communication, too.
If a project team isn’t using a unified platform, not everyone has access to the necessary task assignments, data, calendars, and files.
A centralized, cloud-based system for documents and reporting keeps everyone informed, grants them quick access to key information, reduces paperwork, and allows you to communicate updates to clients faster.
What Project Management Features to Look For?
Typical features in project management software serve functions related to time tracking, task management, project scheduling, budgeting, progress tracking, billing, and alerts.
Before you start shopping
Before testing out or purchasing a project management platform, conduct an internal review of your processes to determine pain points, repeatable successes, and contributing factors to both. This will provide insight into the features you should prioritize.
Suppose you consistently spend more time than anticipated in the planning phase of a project. In that case, you need a tool that gathers business intelligence and makes it easy to use that data to scope projects more accurately.
Many work management software options offer some customization, so you aren’t stuck with an out-of-the-box solution that’s too broad for your needs.
Consider the future of your company, too, not just past results. Take into account the size of your business, desired scope of projects, and if you plan to change either in the future. A great perk of PM software is that its automation and optimized workflows allow you to work efficiently as you scale without hiring additional personnel.
Last, establish a budget and schedule to implement. How much can you afford to pay for a PM solution?
Try to factor in the money it will save you in the long run, and keep in mind that there may be a ramping-up period to onboard employees.
Your perfect solution should be user-friendly, but it still takes time to familiarize your entire organization with it.
Depending on your industry or work style, you’ll probably still need some third-party integrations that aren’t native to your project management platform.
Make a list of the tools your team likes and frequently uses. While your PM software will have built-in functionality (e.g.,calendars, billing, or file sharing) that could replace systems you already use, you may still prefer the option to use what your team already likes.
For flexibility, make sure the platform you choose integrates with your preferred tools for increased efficiency, whether Google Calendar, QuickBooks, Dropbox, or another.
Cross-team collaboration and communication tools will improve your overall project delivery, saving you time and money along the way. We recommend project management software with an emphasis on task management. Task management organizes projects into tasks, associated tasks, and sequential tasks, all of which are planned, assigned, and monitored automatically.
Task management tooling keeps all stakeholders aligned by working cohesively to schedule, provide progress reports, and track time across tasks and projects. It sends alerts if a task is at risk of missing the deadline and tells users exactly how much time they’ve spent on a task. Task management features such as email sync, unified calendars, to-do lists, and task reminders all improve communication and alignment.
Deeper into phases of a project, progress tracking, feedback, and notes associated with specific tasks keep the project moving forward and hold users accountable.
Time tracking captures all worker hours accurately and collects real-time metrics to monitor project progress. PM time tracking integrates with your financial workflows so that between hourly wages, overtime, overhead, and client billing rates, all of this information combines to automate and streamline your company’s invoicing and payroll functions.
With time tracking, task management, and resource planning built into project management software, managers are more informed about their employees' work, including its impact on budget, schedule, and overall project progress.
PM solutions provide insightful overviews of where employees spend most of their time, making it easier to effectively organize, schedule tasks, and assign project resources.
Time tracking features include automatic time capture, pre-filled timesheets, overtime calculation, GPS tracking and mobile access, automated reminders, billable vs. non-billable hours, and more.
A time tracking solution enables you to streamline payroll processes, offers clients transparency into your work, encourages employee accountability, and offers insight into your resource and time management, setting you up for better project planning in the future. Your per-project profitability can improve when you optimize your time management and employee utilization rate.
Budgeting and accounting
Project management software allows you to automate your accounting and avoid budget overrun.
With built-in forecasting and progress monitoring, you’re informed and can step in before a project goes over budget. Budget management tooling helps define budgets for individual tasks, phases, and projects during the planning phase. You can set alerts to get updates about when a project’s budget is at risk, so you readjust your resources before exceeding the original budget.
Automating your billing and accounting workflow improves cash flow and financial efficiency. With a system like BQE CORE, instead of manually creating invoices, they are generated automatically according to your desired schedule.
CORE auto-creates invoices for you rather than creating a new invoice every period, so all you have to do is approve them. Invoice templates are customizable and span multiple contract types and percent-complete billing.
Ineffective accounting practices can disrupt cash flow, lead to payment errors, and cause tax reporting issues. A project-based accounting system will save you hours and hours of data entry and ensure you accurately calculate all figures.
A PM system with efficient accounting workflows measures profitability at the project level, so you gain knowledge of how to improve profits and your company’s financial trajectory.
Content management features related to project management include document tracking, document management, asset storage, and resource management, all of which keep project teams organized, informed, and productive.
These features make it more convenient to collaborate on files remotely and securely and give your team a centralized place to share documents so everyone has access to what they need and it’s always easily searchable.
Document management allows users to create, store, and share documents, such as contracts, forms, blueprints, and service agreements — and even collaborate by leaving corresponding notes, feedback, or other document-specific one-to-one communication.
When shopping for a project management software platform for your business, keep user experience top of mind. If it isn’t reasonably simple to set up, navigate, onboard users, and use every day, you’re not making the right choice.
Because this is a system that will be part of your daily professional routine, it needs to be intuitive and backed by on-demand support in case you need guidance. Let the vendor take you through a demo, try the platform’s free trial if available, and read plenty of user reviews before committing to one software.
Consider if you need both desktop access and a mobile app, so that it supports any employees who travel, visit client sites, or work out of multiple offices. The platform you choose should offer reliable customer support, troubleshooting articles, and other detailed support documentation.
The rise of remote workers means your project management tool may need to accommodate team members who solely or primarily work from home. To track time for freelancers or remote workers, it’s best to use a system with automated screen capture, so you can accurately monitor the total time team members spend on work vs. non-work activities and you pay them accordingly.
Remote workers in various time zones also benefit from a PM system’s content and document management features. If you’re not working the same hours and can’t always communicate in a timely manner, team members need to know where to find documents, how to check the status of a task, and leave comments that you’ll see when you’re back online.
Project Management Software by BQE
BQE CORE is a project management platform that includes time and expense tracking, project monitoring, performance dashboards, budget and accounting management, automated invoicing and billing, and much more.
With CORE, it’s accessible and seamless to monitor progress, automate reporting, align team members, and maximize your company’s profits.
We provide all of the project planning and collaboration features you need, with the flexibility to work on desktop or mobile, and integrations for RFIs and ASIs built in.
Sign up for a free demo today to see how CORE can transform your project planning and execution.