You have heard it from us countless times: use project management tools! They’ll make your projects more efficient. You’ll increase efficiencies. They’ll automate the busywork and give you time to devote on more important matters. It’s all true.
But there are a lot of project management tools out there. From project tracker software to products that boast that they’re the only online PM software you’ll ever need, it can get a bit confusing.
We feel your pain. Choice is good, but too much choice is worse than no choice at all. It can be paralyzing. Therefore, it’s good to have a roadmap to help you get from wanting project tools to getting the right one for you, your team and the project.
So, what are the best project management tools? That… depends on your particular needs. But for most projects, teams (and really any methodology), these five are going to prove invaluable. Make sure that whatever project management software you’re considering for your team has these core tools.
The dashboard might be the most important tool in your project management toolkit. From this one screen, you have a bird’s eye view of every aspect of the project, rendered in easy-to-read graphs and charts. When this tool is part of an online PM software, then you’re getting that data in real-time, which allows you the time to make the right decisions based on the most accurate information.
Better still, those graphs and charts can be shared with a simple keystroke. When you want to share data with your stakeholders, sponsors or team members, there’s no wasted time creating colorful and clear presentations, the dashboard tool does it for you. But each audience requires a different focus. Stakeholders and sponsors don’t require the depth of detail your team will need, which is why the dashboard allows you to filter your reports to get just the data you want.
Online Gantt Chart
Gantt charts get a bad name. They’re thought to be hard to use and complicated, but that’s only true if you’re still using a static Excel spreadsheet to create them. But using an online Gantt chart streamlines the creation of Gantt charts, and offers you so much more. It’s easy to add tasks and due dates, or upload your spreadsheet with this information, and then the tasks and their durations populate your online Gantt chart instantly, giving you a visual timeline of the project schedule.
Now you can assign tasks to your team and monitor their progress, as their updates are reflected on the chart in real time. This leads to a more collaborative work environment, as well, as team members can dialogue and share files, documents and photos right at the task level. As people add to that discussion, all involved are notified, keeping the conversation moving forward.
Another aspect of the online Gantt chart that lends itself to project scheduling is the way you can just click and create a milestone, which marks a major phase or event of the project. The other unique feature of online Gantt charts vs. Excel timelines are that you can create task dependencies. Tasks are often dependent on other tasks to get completed before you can start them. These task dependencies can be linked on the Gantt chart, which helps to avoid leaving team members blocked or idle. And when you must change a task’s deadline, no problem: just drag-and-drop to schedule the work.
There’s more to project scheduling than online Gantt charts, of course, so you want an online PM software that can do things like give you visibility into every part of the project, as well as bringing your team into the process by creating project schedules online.
Project scheduling allows you to create task lists for your team that can be updated anywhere and at any time, because you’re online. These tasks can then be viewed as a personal task list for you or an individual team member, on the dashboard and online Gantt chart, of course, but also on calendars, so there’s no reasons for anyone to be out of the loop.
The calendar is a great tool to manage team schedules, but even better is the ability to manage team workload. With workload or resource management capabilities, you can schedule your team’s working days, see when they’re available, manage their hourly rates and even reallocate work when necessary. The workload calendar is color-coded to make it easier to see who is working, available, on vacation and over- or under-allocated. Also, look for a tool that can integrate your other calendars so they’re all in one place.
Reporting doesn’t have to be complicated, not when your project reporting can monitor project, task and team status by generating reports with one click. Your online PM software can create a report based on almost any aspect of your project, from tasks and timesheets to workload and expenses. They can be customized to get the data you need by filtering the project and data columns. But you can also drill down into greater detail if required.
Reporting software gives you the ability to calculate your planned versus actual progress, whether that’s overall on a project or portfolio of projects or an individual team member or even task. Then when you want to run a report, you have options: print, export or share online, either as a PDF, Excel or CSV file. Now everyone can stay updated. Plus, sharing reports fosters team collaboration, as they’re notified of a new missive by the system or email. Any comments and emails around that report are saved in the system, so they can be viewed in one place.
Project & Task Tracking
Tracking the tasks in your project will help you manage your project deadlines and monitor your team’s productivity. With this tool, you’re never caught unaware of when a task is due, either on your personal task list or across every project you’re managing. By filtering the task lists by due date or owner or project or whatever you need, with this project tracking software, you’re able to focus in on what you want to monitor.
By sharing the tasks with your team, you can help cultivate collaboration. Tasks can be shared by URL with anyone. Now your team can see the tasks and update them as they progress through their work. Again, because this is part of an online PM software, they’re notified by emails to make sure no task deadline is overlooked. And, being online, you can manage those tasks anywhere and at any time, whether on your desktop, laptop or mobile device.
Do you need some of these project tools? You should, they’re instrumental to running a more efficient and productive project. The cloud-based ProjectManager.com software has all these features and so many more, all designed to help you and your team through every phase of your project’s life cycle. Try it free with this 30-day trial and see what it can do for you.