Engineering work is complex and ever-changing, so engineers need to be adaptable and up to date to ensure they remain on schedule and within budget. Technology like engineering project management software helps firms accurately plan scope and stay organized to ensure they deliver their best work.
For engineers, project management requires careful planning and communication to their team and clients. Software like BQE CORE makes it easier to plan a project and keep everyone on the same page, checking off goals and milestones along the way. With so many logistical factors to consider in an engineering project plan, PM (project management) helps you define scope, manage resources, collaborate with stakeholders, and leverage automation to work more efficiently.
The Difference: Engineer Software vs. Project Management Software
Engineer software is a broad term, but generally centers on managing engineers and engineering tasks. It can be technical software for design or analysis, such as CAD (computer-aided design) or finite element analysis, or can fulfill administrative functions like managing personnel, basic project planning, and optimizing/automating various business operations.
There are many engineer software programs capable of adding effectiveness and efficiency to your projects, but few offer the centralized power of project management software like BQE CORE.
Project Management Software
Project management software helps you better manage projects and engineering teams while eliminating menial tasks. These programs highlight a project team’s progress, monitor upcoming deadlines, and share status updates, while centralizing all the relevant documents and communication. Many project management platforms include tooling like:
- Shared calendar
- Budget management
- Message board
- Time tracker
- Purchase/expense tracker
- Document manager
- Content storage
- Goal monitoring
- Project plans approval
A key difference between engineer software and PM software is that PM software lets you oversee all aspects of a project, not limited to your engineers or engineering tasks. This includes employee utilization, resource management, plan documentation, and budget management. A platform like BQE CORE integrates your clients, staff, projects, and billing in one place so all stakeholders stay up-to-date and aligned.
What if I don't use project management software?
Lost time and money
Without deliberate processes in place, it’s difficult to accurately track employee time and expenses. Tracking tools give your firm the power to record and reimburse every dollar spent on your engineering work, while eliminating the annoying paperwork. And your staff will be grateful to spend less time on manual time entry!
Beyond saving time, money, and reducing tedious tasks, PM software with built-in tracking capabilities provides your team with valuable data about business processes (e.g., cost estimates and employee utilization rate) that allows you to steer every project toward profitability.
If you don’t track your time and expenses, you risk overspending or running out of money before completing the project. CORE provides detailed forecasting tools, easy-to-use resource allocation, and real-time reporting to keep you on course and fully aware of project performance.
Communication can make or break a project’s success. A communication breakdown in an engineering project often leads to delays, budget issues, and disappointed clients. Effective PM software helps you easily share questions, concerns, and updates with the project team before something goes wrong.
It also clarifies accountability for each task and ensures everyone’s on the same page regarding upcoming milestones. When team leaders know what’s on everyone’s plate, they can plan and assign work more efficiently.
A lack of organization can also cause communication issues. Without a centralized system, it’s tough to organize your virtual workspace, which complicates pulling KPIs or sharing important files and messages quickly. Having a unified dashboard for metrics and documentation adds efficiency to your workday, cuts down on paperwork, and improves communication across teams.
What features to look for?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all engineering project management tool, there are core features to consider when choosing a platform. Consider the tooling your team likes to use and prioritize a PM system that integrates with these tools. A powerful project management solution will replace many of the separate platforms you use, but you may choose to retain a select few.
Depending on your needs, look for a platform that works with cloud-based project storage and file-sharing (e.g., G Suite, Dropbox, Box, and One Drive), payment processing (such as Stripe and Square), and accounting tools (like Xero and QuickBooks).
As we mentioned above, clear communication is key to a successful project, and project management software makes it simple to communicate with all stakeholders. Features such as task management, shared calendars, and progress tracking offer smoother communication and insight into progress made by individual contributors, your entire team, and other teams.
A shared calendar for organizing meetings and deadlines is a must-have for engineer project managers. Creating a shared calendar that synchronizes with popular calendar tools like Google Calendar ensures that everyone on a project (including those outside your firm) receives notifications about upcoming check-ins and milestones. Adding critical due dates and goals to your shared calendar keeps everyone accountable.
Task management and progress monitoring provide an overview of whether the team is reaching its goals, so you can prevent major derailments and adjust if a milestone is at risk. Using a shared project dashboard and message board allows every stakeholder to view project performance and offer input.
Time tracking captures all employee hours accurately, highlights real-time metrics to monitor progress, and even automates invoicing and accounting functions. It’s one of the most important project management features because it provides transparency into your work, encourages accountability, improves utilization, and streamlines your billing. Optimizing your firm’s time and expenses can significantly boost your profit margins.
Firms that utilize time tracking software get more out of their employees and accomplish tasks with greater effectiveness and clarity. Time management software allows engineers to understand their workload, prioritize urgent tasks, and communicate with clients and colleagues quicker.
A system like BQE CORE, which has built-in time and expense tracking, optimizes project performance, helps you get paid faster, and improves your firm’s record keeping — all of which ensures high-complexity projects finish on time and within scope and budget.
Budgeting and accounting
Powerful PM software supports the switch from manual time entry and paper billing to online billing and automatic invoicing. Employees don’t want to spend their valuable time manually creating invoices and reports. There are a multitude of tools available that provide recurring invoicing with the option to customize invoices for multiple contract types and percent-complete billing for phased projects.
Digitizing your firm’s billing and invoicing workflows saves you so much time and tedium. CORE’s billing software ensures everyone gets paid faster and automates many billing tasks, so engineers have more time to spend on their work.
Centralizing document and asset storage keeps a project team organized, informed, and on track. PM software with document management makes it convenient to collaborate on files, any time, any place. Choosing software with a place to share documents, files, and images gives everyone on the project access to what they need and makes data easy to find. Many engineering project management platforms offer free storage for files and data.
Your firm will ideally use its project management software every day, so it’s important that you enjoy using it. Look for a program that’s user-friendly and easy for everyone on your team to navigate. Completing a demo and reading user reviews before purchasing will help you make a judgment call about this.
While it takes time to get onboarded with any platform, the right one should allow you to get up to speed and comfortable using it in days rather than weeks or months. The platform you select should offer readily available customer support, troubleshooting tips, and support documentation about the product. Consider if you need a mobile app option to use on-site or if you'll primarily use a desktop version from your home or office.
BQE CORE offers project management software for engineers that helps you monitor progress, automate reporting, align teams, and maximize 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.
Using BQE’s top-rated work management platform, you’ll successfully plan, track, and deliver engineering work on time, within budget, and profitably through real-time status updates, ideal resource utilization, accurate budgeting, and clear cross-team communication.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive project management solution tailored to tackle the challenges of running an engineering firm and deliver a successful project every time, start your 15-day free trial of BQE CORE today.
Frequently Asked Questions: Software for Engineer Project Management
Do I need engineer project management software if I already have engineer software?
- Yes, you likely need both, as they serve different purposes. Depending on your firm and its specializations, you may need more technical design and analysis technology, but every engineering firm can benefit from implementing project management software.
Why do engineers need project management skills?
- Developing strong project management skills will make you a better engineer and team leader. The ability to complete a project on time and on budget, avoiding the dreaded cost overruns and scope creep is absolutely crucial, and developing consistent project management skills leaves you more time to focus on your engineering tasks.
What is the difference between a project engineer vs. a project manager?
- A project engineer primarily handles the hands-on work needed to accomplish project objectives in the field, while a project manager generally manages personnel, billing, and resource management for a project.
Why does my engineering firm need time tracking?
- Manually tracking and entering payroll information can be inaccurate due to human error. Automating your time tracking through software ensures accuracy, saves employee time, and makes it easy to apply this data to future projects for scheduling and profitability estimates.