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How Do I Choose The Right Tool For Project Management? 6 Expert Steps

Being organized is hard. Even as a project manager, you’ll run into challenges when trying to stay on top of everything. The frustration of trying to do it all with pen and paper or manual spreadsheets may send you on a quest to find a project management tool to help you get things on track. But a quick Google search turns up dozens of options, leaving you sitting there wondering..."How do I choose the right tool?"

There are plenty of tools to solve problems, organize thoughts, manage timelines, and more. So, how do you know which one is the right tool for your specific project and organization?

In this article, I'll outline six steps that will help you make the best decision possible. I'll discuss everything from resource management software to agile tools, so you can find the perfect solution for your team's needs!

I’ll cover:

6 Steps To Choose The Right Tool

A great project management tool makes planning, executing, and tracking project progress a breeze. With a range of features, automations, and customization, it's important to narrow down your choices by determining what your needs are and how to meet them with the right tool.

The tool should offer all the features you're looking for as well as easy integration and collaboration for your team.

Finding the tool to satisfy all these needs may be challenging, so we've outlined 6 steps to ensure you and your team find the best project management tool to fit your goals.

Step 1: Define Your Project's Needs

The first step is to take a step back and analyze your project. What are its specific needs? Are you looking for something that will help with task management? Do you need a tool to track progress or visualize your project plan? Maybe you need something that will help with resource management or staying on budget.

Potential problems you and your project might be running into include: 

  • Lack of communication between teams
  • Disorganized project management and missed deadlines
  • Inability to gain insights from customer feedback
  • Uneven workload between teams
  • Overflowing email inbox
  • Too many unproductive meetings

By identifying your project's needs, you can start to rule out tools that don't fit the bill. This will leave you with a smaller pool of options that are better suited for your project.

Step 2: Consider Your Team's Needs

The next step is to think about your team and what they need from a project management tool. Do they prefer something simple and straightforward? Or do they need robust features and customization options?

You'll also want to consider how big your team is and if you need a tool that can accommodate a large number of users. Additionally, think about where your team is located. If you have team members working remotely, you'll need a tool that makes it easy to stay connected and collaborate no matter where they are.

Step 3: Determine Your Budget

Your budget is an important factor to consider when choosing a project management tool. There is a wide range of options available, from free tools to enterprise-level solutions, so it's important to know how much you're willing to spend.

Don't forget to consider the long-term costs of a tool as well. Some tools may have a lower upfront cost but require a subscription or additional fees for features that are essential for your project. By considering your budget and what you're willing to pay, you can further narrow down your options.

Step 4: Consider Integration and Ease of Use

Once you've determined what your project needs and what your team wants, it's time to start evaluating specific tools. When looking at different options, pay attention to how easy they are to use and if they offer seamless integration with other software you're using.

You'll also want to consider how user-friendly the interface is. A tool with a complex interface may be challenging for your team to use, which can impact productivity and slow down your project.

Step 5: Evaluate Features and Functionality

Now that you've considered the basics, it's time to start evaluating specific features and functionality. When looking at different tools, pay attention to features that are essential for your project and compare them side-by-side. This will help you see which tool offers the best solution for the business needs.

Some features to look for include:

  • Task management
  • Progress tracking
  • Resource management
  • Budgeting
  • Visual project planning
  • Reporting and analytics

Step 6: Try Before You Buy

The final step is to try out the tools you're considering. Most project management tools offer a free trial so you can test them out before making a commitment. This is an important step because it allows you to see how the tool works in real-world scenarios and if it's a good fit for your team.

For some more tips on this, listen to my chat with Olivia Montgomery about getting the most out of your software demos and trials here!

What Types of Software Tools Do Project Managers Use?

Project managers use different types of software tools to help them plan, execute, and track projects. These tools can be divided into several categories, including project management software, resource management software, task management software, Gantt chart makers, digital asset management software, and agile tools.

Project Management Software

Project management software is the most common type of tool used by project managers. This type of software includes features for task management, resource management, progress tracking, budgeting, and reporting. Common examples of project management software include Asana, Trello, Basecamp, and Jira.

screenshot of project planning in monday.com
Plan, organize, and track projects with your team in one visual, collaborative space.

Resource Management Software

Resource management software is another tool that project managers often use. This type of software helps them to track and allocate resources, such as human resources, equipment, and materials. It can also be used to schedule tasks and monitor utilization rates. Common examples of resource management software include Smartsheet and Microsoft Project.

screenshot of managing resources in a project management tool
Software can help project managers keep track of resource utilization and availability.

Task Management Software

Task management software is another tool that project managers might use to plan and track tasks. This type of software includes features for creating task lists, assigning tasks to team members, setting deadlines, and tracking progress. Common examples of task management software include Todoist and Wrike.

screenshot of task management features in Wrike
Wrike is a project management tool that includes features for managing and tracking project tasks.

Gantt Chart Makers

Gantt chart makers are another type of tool that project managers use. This type of software helps them to create visual representations of their projects, including timelines, Gantt charts, and schedules. Common examples of Gantt chart makers include Microsoft Project and Smartsheet.

screenshot of a Gantt chart in project management software
Many software tools include Gantt chart capabilities, where users can drag and drop to build Gantt charts and define dependencies.

Digital Asset Management Software

Digital asset management software is another tool that project managers use to store and track digital assets. This type of software helps them to organize files, such as images, videos, and documents. Common examples of digital asset management software include Adobe Creative Cloud and Dropbox.

screenshot of managing assets in mediavalet
Centralize your digital assets: marketing material, video, content, and media with digital asset management software.

Agile Tools

Agile tools are another type of software that project managers use. This type of software helps them to plan and track agile projects. Common examples of agile tools include Jira, Trello, and Asana.

screenshot of an agile kanban board in Zoho
Many agile tools offer Kanban board capabilities, in addition to a variety of other features to help manage agile projects.

Getting Started

By following these steps, you can be sure to find the best project management tool for your needs. From small businesses to enterprise, with the right tool in place, companies can streamline your workflow, improve communication and collaboration, and keep projects on track from start to finish.

Ready to get started? Check out our buyer's guide for choosing project management software to help narrow down your choices.

And if you’d like to stay up to date with the latest best practices for project managers, subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you never miss a beat.

By Galen Low

I am a digital project management nerd, a cultivator of highly collaborative teams, and an impulsive sharer of knowledge. For the past decade, I've been shaping and delivering human-centered digital transformation initiatives in government, healthcare, transit, and retail. I'm also the co-founder of The Digital Project Manager and host of The DPM Podcast.

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