We know that the inefficient and unorganized management of projects results in low team productivity, which causes project failure. It’s one reason why businesses consider investing in project management software for their teams.

A GetApp survey about understanding small-business challenges and approaches to technology investments found that “productivity improvements” is the top trigger for small businesses to invest in new technology. One in two companies find “identifying the right technology” to be a top challenge when planning to invest in new technologies.

To see positive results from the project management software, businesses need to know which features are must-have and which are optional. Investing in the wrong feature means you lose your money and make project management a tougher task than what it was earlier.

In this article, we’ll provide a breakdown of the features of project management software. We explore the technical aspects of the top and notable features as well as the benefits of each feature. This report also mentions some vital facts about the features to help businesses choose the right software.

Project management features
Technical aspects
Key benefits
Project planning
  • Project roadmap
  • Project templates
  • Provides the team a vision
  • Helps in risk mitigation
Task management
  • Task creation and scheduling
  • Workflow automation
  • Task tracking
  • Increases the team’s accountability
  • Improves cross-functional team coordination
Collaboration
  • Centralized and shared workspaces
  • Real-time chats
  • Fosters cross-functional teamwork
  • Boosts employee engagement
  • Saves time during meetings
Reporting and analytics
  • Custom reports
  • Report sharing
  • Real-time progress monitoring
  • Improves productivity and performance
  • Allows for time and budget forecasting
Document management
  • Document storage
  • File sharing
  • File versioning
  • Ensures document security and archiving
  • Enhances the flexibility of working from anywhere

Top features: The 4 core ‘must-have’ project management features

This section will provide you information about four “must-have” features. Read on to find out about the technical aspects and benefits of each feature.

1. Project planning boosts project performance

The project planning functionality helps project managers define the overall project plan based on the project scope, timeline, budget, and resource requirements. They can use Gantt charts and Kanban boards to create the overall plan that provides stakeholders complete visibility into projects.

Key facts

  • In 2018, listing incorrect requirements led to project failure in 35% of small businesses. Other reasons are inadequate vision or goal (29%) and inadequate resource forecasting (18%).
  • Also, 52% of the projects experienced scope creep or uncontrolled changes to the project’s scope.

Key technical aspects of project planning

  • Project roadmapping: Project managers can divide projects into several smaller tasks and organize tasks to create a project roadmap, in the form of Kanban boards and Gantt charts. A project roadmap shows the workflow and dependencies between tasks. It helps businesses maintain project timelines, budgets, and the scope.
  • Project templates: Project management software offers project templates that can be duplicated to avoid repetitive and manual data entries. Users can also create their custom templates for each unique project.

Key benefits of project planning

  • Offers a vision to the team: The project roadmap allows users to share their vision about the project with their team. When the team clearly understands the sequence of tasks for a project and each individual’s contribution to the overall project, it increases the chances of project success.
  • Helps in risk mitigation: A project plan offers the overall picture that makes it easier to identify risks and create plans to mitigate risks, so that the project isn’t derailed or delayed.

2. Task management and tracking help the teams perform better

The task management and tracking feature involves creating an outline for the project with a definite scope, time of completion, and estimated budget. The overall project is broken down into multiple tasks that are assigned to different team members.

Key facts

  • Resource dependency was cited as one of the primary causes of project failures in 2017-2018 (26%).
  • About 34% of project managers feel task management is the “must-have” feature that’s missing from their current project management solution.

Key technical aspects of task management and tracking

  • Task creation and scheduling: Project managers can break down big tasks into smaller subtasks to streamline the workflow. Each subtask is tied to a larger task, which in turn, is tied to the overall project. You can also add stakeholders and deadlines to each task and subtask.
  • Workflow automation: This feature allows users to automate recurring tasks using predefined templates. This saves team members’ time as they don’t have to manually add all the steps to each project. They can simply duplicate the projects and customize the workflow.
  • Task tracking: Users can track task progress, ensuring that each task is completed within time, so that the project stays on track. This prevents and/or minimizes any project delays.

Key benefits of task management and tracking

  • Increases the team’s accountability: Assigning tasks to individuals makes them accountable for their share of work. When they adhere to the task schedule, the overall project stays on schedule.
  • Improves cross-functional team coordination: Users can create a list of their tasks and make it visible to everyone. They can prioritize a task and check it off after completion. The easily accessible task list helps cross-functional teams coordinate with each other in case a task needs to be prioritized or postponed.

3. Collaboration improves employee engagement

The collaboration functionality allows users to coordinate on individual projects and overall team projects. It lets them chat with individuals and the group, work in shared workspaces, and access each other’s task lists to be in sync.

Key facts

  • In 2017-2018, a primary cause of project failures was inadequate and poor communication, according to 29% of the respondents.
  • About 28% of them feel that collaboration management is another vital feature that’s missing from their project management solution.

Key technical aspects of collaboration

  • Centralized and shared workspaces: This allows users to add comments, share files and feedback, tag team members, and discuss concerns together. Everyone can access the centralized and shared workspace, which aids collaboration, ensures flexibility, and updates everyone on vital developments.
  • Real-time chats: Project management software offers users the ability to chat with individuals and groups in real time. Some solutions also offer video conferencing and audio calling, which allow project managers to hold virtual project meetings. Users could also share files via chats.

Key benefits of collaboration

  • Fosters cross-functional teamwork and agility: Collaboration features help users stay connected with each other across different time zones, places, and teams. This eliminates silos as well as boosts agility and collaboration on cross-functional projects. It saves time and prevents lengthy email chains, miscommunication, and misunderstandings.
  • Boosts employee engagement: A collaborative culture improves employee engagement and eliminates any feelings of isolation. Engaged employees are more productive, and the chances of them staying on at the job are higher.
  • Saves time during meetings: When teams are well connected and in sync, they don’t need to waste meetings on just sharing project updates. Instead, meetings are used to discuss the concerns, bottlenecks, and effective action plans. This way, meetings are more productive and less time-consuming.

4. Reporting and analytics aid successful project forecasting

The reporting and analytics functionality lets project managers create and share error-free electronic reports for their teams. It allows project managers to quickly check the project status, performance, completion rates, costs, etc. They can also download the reports as PDF or CSV files and view those on live project dashboards.

Key facts

Key technical aspects of reporting and analytics

  • Custom reports: The reporting feature allows project managers to create custom reports based on custom filters. It offers predefined filters and report templates. You can create short, easy-to-read reports with the help of visuals such as bar graphs and pie charts.
  • Report sharing: Users can export reports (as CSV and Excel files) and share those with team members, both online or offline. These reports help the teams keep their stakeholders updated at all times.
  • Real-time progress monitoring: Users can get a snapshot of the project progress on the real-time dashboard. It provides updates about team members, tasks, and projects as well as the latest data.

Key benefits of reporting and analytics

  • Improves productivity and performance: Project managers can take specific measures, based on real and accurate data, to improve their team members’ productivity and performance. They can also plan an individual’s performance improvement plan.
  • Allows for time and budget forecasting: Reports on past projects allow project managers to better forecast the required time and budget for future projects. They can anticipate the risks and plan to mitigate those based on the insights from the reports.

Notable feature: Optional feature to be considered against specific business needs

This section will provide you information about the “optional feature” in project management software. Read on for details about the technical aspects and benefits of this feature.

Document management improves team coordination

The document management feature helps businesses organize and store all the files associated with a particular project in a centralized location. You can define and change access to versions of the files at any time. All users receive notifications when the files are updated and can see the change history at any time.

Key facts

  • About 77% of business owners want to access files remotely.
  • Surprisingly, 83% of workers struggle with document version issues daily.
  • On average, a professional spends 18 minutes searching for a document, which adds up to nearly 50% of their total time on the job.

Key technical aspects of document management

  • Document storage: This functionality allows users to store and organize documents, videos, graphics, spreadsheets, etc., in a central location. They can access the repository at any time and have varying levels of access rights. Older documents are archived, while the new docs are easy to view and retrieve.
  • File sharing: Users can share files with the entire organization because of the central repository. They have the option to share within the software or export a file and email it.
  • File versioning: Users can retrieve the latest versions of files stored in a document management system. This feature offers revision tracking, access control, file search, and retrieval.

Key benefits of document management

  • Ensures document security and archiving: Document management ensures that confidential and vital documents aren’t misplaced, but are stored in a secure location. It allows you to retrieve old documents any time as those are archived and securely stored.
  • Enhances the flexibility of working from anywhere: Online document management improves everyone’s flexibility to work. Stakeholders can retrieve important documents from anywhere, at any time, using filter words to search within the documents.

Next steps and additional resources

Having understood which features are must-have features and which ones are optional, you can take the following steps to shortlist a tool based on your business needs:

  1. Collect your team’s feedback and understand their challenges with project management.
  2. Use their feedback to create a document listing the solutions and benefits of using project management software.
  3. Shortlist a solution and have your team assess it. Check their acceptance levels, and then create a plan for step-by-step implementation, training, and deployment.
  4. Follow up with your team, offer them additional resources for training, and focus on quickly solving their concerns.

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Results presented are based on a GetApp study to understand small-business challenges and approach to technology investments. The primary research was conducted online during July-September 2018 among 715 respondents in the U.S. Companies were screened for company size in terms of number of employees (2-249) and enterprise-wide annual revenue (less than $100 million). Respondents were required to be involved in purchasing technologies for the organization and hold a position of manager and above in the company.

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