Project management software must, by definition, help the project team to become more productive.
This involves enhanced control over all the milestones and task assignments for both project planners and managers.
It should enable clear task deadlines for the team and clearly presented, informative reports for the sponsors and senior management outside the project.
So let’s look at the top five packages that may tick these boxes.
Asana Timeline from Sono Sanctus on Vimeo.
Asana is a web-based package for project planning. It has a strong focus on communication among team members, together with the usual task tracking features found in most project management software packages.
However, it also has some features that boost collaborative working, and verge on a workflow approach to project management. Asana has recently enhanced this functionality by introducing features that allow a review and approvals process to be tracked.
Given the number of projects that have documents, audio visual products, or specifications that need to be reviewed rather than simple tasks that are finished in a single pass, this is a useful addition.
It’s likely to prove popular with project teams that are producing creative deliverables because review and rework is an integral part of the way in which these teams work.
Trello emphasises its visualisation of project tasks and communications . It uses “Trello cards” to index and cross-reference project activities. It allows you to integrate activities and project tools into its workflow.
Trello is adept at recognising the plethora of information types that can flood in during a project. One of the problems encountered is that vital information may be buried in an email or posting somewhere. Trello allows you to bring every item into one place on the Trello board. This helps to eliminate lengthy email chains. You can organise teams by setting up a team page and inviting members.
Trello’s strength is undoubtedly in its information sharing. It probably won’t be the tool of choice for very formal, corporate projects, but for creatives it’s an attractive option.
This is another web-based system and although it too emphasises creative teams and collaboration, it takes a different approach from Asana and Trello.
It is probably a better fit for organisations using a structured project management methodology such as PRINCE2. This is because many of its organising concepts are an easy plug-in to aspects of a project method.
For example, you can create project roles, so it would be easy to set up a Teamwork template for use across the organisation, encompassing the key PRINCE2 roles as Teamwork roles.
The Project Activity Overview feature is an excellent tool for Project Managers on large projects, possibly based at several sites or even operating multinationally. It allows the PM to get an instant snapshot as to what an individual or team is doing.
Similarly, the notification preferences feature uses triggers and could easily be adapted to exception reporting triggered by tolerance breaches, as in PRINCE2.
4. Microsoft Project
MS Project has the virtues of its vices. Yes, it’s not particularly easy to use and has endless complex functions. But that also means that it can be customised to do the heavy lifting on large projects.
It’s easy to plug a structured method such as PRINCE2 into MS Project because it is essentially a database into which you can add customised fields in categories such as Resources, Tasks, Task Assignments, Roles, Reporting, Budget, Rates, Hours and more.
If you need to access the project technical data, such as Earned Value, MS Project has the requisite functions. It also has a highly customisable reporting suite.
It’s tended to be associated with impenetrably complex Gantt charts. However, with a simple timeline feature, it can also give users and senior management an easy to understand snapshot of the project. There are useful integrations with Visio too, for integrating business analysis and project data.
5. SAP Project Builder
Probably the least friendly project software ever invented, yet widely used for big, serious projects. Why? Because in large organisations, it integrates with the SAP accounting system so that the serious business of financial forecasts, budget reports, committed and actual expenditure and the rest of it can be produced.
Easy to integrate with a methodology such as PRINCE2, because it implements the rules, policies, roles, exception limits and so on that have been agreed by the organisation.
So there it is – we have friendly, creativity oriented software packages contrasting with less friendly, budget-oriented behemoths. The appropriate package depends on the type of organisation implementing the software and whether it is already using a structured project management method.