Project management is failing. Almost half of all traditional software projects are delivered late or exceed their budgets. For every $1 billion invested in the U.S., $122 million is wasted due to poor project performance. Only 2.5 percent of companies successfully complete 100 percent of their projects.

Using the right project management software can play a crucial role in solving this problem. Project management solutions are the most sought-after software in 23 U.S. states among small and midsize business (SMB) buyers. So, it’s not surprising that project managers who work in small businesses are actively using project management software. What is surprising is the lack of loyalty to project management software that’s in today’s market. 

Software Advice’s 2016 Buyer Report on IT project management tools found that the majority of IT professionals surveyed (56 percent) were actively looking to replace their existing project management software. When asked why they wanted to switch software solutions, 37 percent said that they needed a more robust system, while others wanted to streamline or automate their processes.

These numbers led us to the following hypothesis:

A gap exists between the project management software features that users need and what is currently available in the market. As a result, we guessed that project managers are willing to spend more for project management software that can scale along with their business needs.

To learn if we were correct, GetApp surveyed more than 200 U.S.-based project managers who use project management software. Nearly 45 percent work in the IT sector, and more than three quarters work in a small business. You can use these links to navigate through each report’s section:

Key findings

  • 95 percent of project managers use more than one tool regularly.
  • Task management (12 percent) and collaboration management (11 percent) are the most common project management software features that are currently missing.
  • Two thirds of project managers (66 percent) are open to switching project management software within the next year.
  • 91 percent of project managers are willing to spend more for project management software that includes the missing features they need.

A toolkit that’s too big

More than half of the project managers surveyed use project management software every day in their jobs. However, three quarters of those surveyed also reported that they use between two and five total tools to manage projects.

These results imply that project managers are likely to manage their work using project management software. Unfortunately, the features that are available within these applications don’t always reflect how cross-functional project teams have become.

Project management software features

Key takeaway: More than half (56 percent) of respondents use project management software every day.

Project management software features

Key takeaway: 95 percent of project managers use two or more total tools for project management.

Previous research on the project management software market led us to believe that small businesses are most likely to buy and use project management software. Unfortunately, there also seemed to be a disconnect between the tools that are available in market and the processes that project managers use in their daily work.

Our survey’s results revealed how wide that gap is. Almost three quarters (74 percent) of project managers surveyed use between two and five total tools for project management. Five percent of these project managers use more than 10 tools for project management – the same number of respondents who only use one.

 

These numbers don’t surprise some project management software vendors. Andrew Filev, CEO of Wrike, believes that most project management software supports built-in workflows that are out of touch with how today’s project managers work.  Filev says that modern projects have more diverse needs that vary depending on each project, manager, and team:

“The fact that 74 percent of [project managers] use multiple tools for project management is mirrored in our customer base.”

Despite these challenges, Filev says they can be eased if project managers shop for software that integrates with the other cloud-based products that they use most often. This protects project managers from having to wrangle with disparate data and systems for project management, marketing, customer management, and others.

“One project may have components managed in a marketing-specific project management tool, tasks managed in an IT-focused project management tool, and aspects that are managed by the tasking engines in CRMs or help desk systems,” Filev says. “An unlucky [project manager] would need to utilize all of these tools to get the big picture view or to update the unifying Gantt chart.

“This is why we believe in convergence – leveraging integrations and two-way sync. [They allow] teams to view all of the components of the their project from within [their project management software] – while still using the vertical [project management] tools of their choice.”

Missing project management software features

Microsoft Project owns the lion’s share of project management software users. Our survey revealed that two in three project managers use it as their software of choice.

But regardless of which software they use, project managers are split in terms of which features they say are missing. 12 percent cited task management as their “must-have” missing feature. Collaboration capabilities were the second most popular longed-for feature. Then, a five-way tie between budget management, integrations, idea management, a chat tool, and reporting followed.

Project management software features

Key takeaway: More than two in three respondents (67 percent) use Microsoft Project for their project management software.

Microsoft Project’s domination continues. Our results align with Capterra’s research on project management software which was published last year and also found that two in three respondents used Microsoft Project. Rachel Burger, the report’s author, noted that this is due in large part to the number of teams that share default reliance on Microsoft’s Office Suite.

This result also echoes feedback from GetApp readers. “Try putting an alternative into the UK construction industry and you will get nowhere,” wrote a reader of our article on Microsoft Project alternatives. “It’s MSP or P6 and that’s all big organizations are interested in.” Since most of our survey’s respondents work in small businesses, it seems that this ethos transcends business size.

Project management software features

Key takeaway: One in five (19 percent of) respondents cites task management as the most important feature.

Project management software features

Key takeaway: Task management and collaboration are the most common project management software features that respondents say are missing.

Our research revealed that one specific feature was not in substantial demand over others. Instead, respondents cited a wide range of features that they need most urgently, from budget management and more integrations to idea management and reporting.

This range of missing features suggests that project management software doesn’t always reflect how project management is evolving. The discipline is changing drastically in several key ways. These include a rapid shift to doing digital business; an increase in the number of project stakeholders; and a business emphasis on change management. In fact, project management is changing so quickly that it’s forcing project managers to be more agile than ever. Unfortunately, this seems to have left project managers with software features that either don’t meet their needs or are absent altogether.

The market gap is not project management software that can scale – as that already technically exists – but rather a gap in software vendors who are willing and able to innovate and transform their software based on the needs of today’s project manager,” explains Bill Mabry, PMO Director, Digital Transformation at Salesforce.

“This digital transformation may include, and in fact necessitate, changes to their business models, workflows, and even partnerships in the industry. Project managers used to be execution experts. Go-live was the major success metric. Now, they must be strategy experts as well.”

Speaking with their wallets

Project managers are willing to spend more on software that helps them get the job done. 91 percent of our survey’s respondents shared their willingness to spend more for solutions that include the missing features they need or provide more advanced versions of the features they need.

Project management software features

Key takeaway: More than half of respondents (57 percent) work at organizations with annual budgets of $2k or more for project management software.

Project management software features

Key takeaway: 91 percent of project managers are willing to spend more for project management software that includes the missing features they need.

This finding is significant within the B2B software landscape. Previous research from CEB found that just 14 percent of B2B buyers “see a valuable difference between brands’ business value.” In other words, B2B buyers are not willing to spend more on a different product just because it comes from a specific brand.

As KISSmetrics explains, “Unless you’re selling something truly revolutionary – solving a problem that has not yet been solved in any way, shape, or form – your UVP [Unique Value Proposition] is pretty much the same as your best competitors’ UVPs.”  

Compare this analysis with the fact that most project managers surveyed are willing to spend more for project management software that includes the missing features they need. These results imply that while consumers don’t tend to see distinct brand-based value, they do value software products’ distinct feature offerings.

These results also present an opportunity for project management software vendors who sell to small businesses. Vendors can create project management software products with unique feature sets that are tailored for diverse user bases (such as an “Agile” plan for project teams of nine people or less alongside an “Enterprise” plan for multi-project support across several teams). This gives project management software buyers a product that scales as their needs evolve.

At Wrike, we have three product tiers (Professional, Business, and Enterprise),” Filev explains. “Each tier is offered at a different subscription price and offers a different level of functionality that is targeted at a specific user/team persona.  

Additionally, we offer add-on features that provide teams with the opportunity to utilize features that (due to their targeted nature) may not be useful for every Wrike team. These add-ons can be added to any product tier, and each is offered at a separate subscription price.”

Project management software features

Key takeaway: Two in three (66 percent of) project managers are at least “somewhat likely” to switch project management software within the next year.

Our research revealed that not only are project managers willing to spend more for software that meets their needs – the majority are also open to switching software within the next year.

Mabry says that this reflects how rapidly today’s business needs are changing. Project managers must constantly adapt their roles, responsibilities, and teams to lead projects that fulfill business strategies.

These goals are not impossible. They can be achieved if project managers shop for software with APIs that let different applications “talk to” each other. Enterprise-level project management is one of the main software spheres to adopt APIs. This sets a strong precedent for project management software aimed at small businesses to follow suit.

“If a [project management] software vendor cannot transform to enable and support vision, strategy, goal alignment, and execution in a very meaningful way…they should build APIs to partner with vendors that specialize in this area,” Mabry advises. “They shouldn’t necessarily scale their software, as that can imply adding features to an outdated model.

“[Instead], they need to transform their models and build partnerships and/or expertise (where and if needed) to fully satisfy the needs of today’s modern project manager.”

Mabry also shared that vendors can’t ignore their customers. Monthly reports might show more recurring revenue and less churned accounts. But even in this best case scenario, there’s no substitute for social listening. Scheduling time to check in with customers can help software vendors build enhanced features that meet users – and prospective users – where they’re at.

“Identify leaders…in the project management industry, get to know them and their needs really well, and prioritize their requests,” Mabry urges software vendors. “Many of today’s top PMs are working on innovative and transformative projects and programs; seek them out and understand their needs.”

Conclusion

A market gap exists for project management software that supports the evolving role and workflow of today’s project manager. If project managers can’t find software that meets their needs, they risk continuing to deliver projects that are late, over budget, or disconnected from high-level business strategy.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to happen. Project managers can make well-informed buying choices if they:

Methodology

GetApp collected the data in this report through a 14-question online survey to project managers who work in the United States and use project management software to manage their work. This survey received just over 200 qualified responses, which provide the data in this report.

Demographics

1. Which title best describes your current role?

Associate Project Manager – 17.82%

Project Manager – 48.51%

Senior Project Manager – 8.42%

Project Director – 4.46%

Project Lead – 16.34%

Other – 4.46%

2. Which industry do you work in?

IT – 45.05%

Finance – 11.88%

Manufacturing – 10.40%

Healthcare – 9.41%

Digital – 8.42%

Construction – 5.45%

Non-profit – 4.46%

Other – 4.95%