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Perusing the (seemingly endless) options for project management software and struggling to understand which type of project management software you actually need?

The project management software type you choose will largely come down to a few factors (which should be considered as you're building a requirements checklist for project management software): your industry or vertical, a specific set of features, software deployment or device type, the size of your business, or the main project methodology you use.

Types of Project Management Software By Industry

There are highly-specialized types of project management software for each industry. 

  1. Project management software for media, advertising, and marketing: Key features include planning and adjusting who’s working on what, timelines, and budgets; real-time messaging and collaboration; and tracking project health and project performance. 
  2. Project management software for software development and IT: Key features here are bug tracking and issue management, backlog planning and maintenance, and storage for documentation, team wikis, and knowledge bases.
  3. Project management software for construction: Features include Gantt charts and critical path capabilities; allocating and tracking utilization of labor, equipment, and materials; and quality management and compliance.
  4. Project management software for financial services: Key features here are identifying and mitigating risks; planning, managing, and tracking entire portfolios of projects; and tools for managing vendors and suppliers.
  5. Project management software for education: Features include CRM capabilities for tracking and engaging students; integrations with LMS platforms and SIS platforms; and allocating resources such as classrooms, teachers, or equipment.
  6. Project management software for healthcare: Features for scheduling and managing staff, equipment, and facilities; identifying and monitoring risks; and storage and management features for healthcare documents and resources.
  7. Project management software for telecommunications: Key features include compliance with regulatory standards, project scheduling, tracking milestones and deadlines, and monitoring project and network performance and health. 
  8. Project management software for manufacturing: Features include planning and scheduling for effective production and efficient use of resources, tracking and managing inventory and the supply chain, and features for quality control and compliance. 
  9. Project management software for retail and ecommerce: Key features here are inventory and order management and fulfillment, CRM capabilities for managing customer information and data, and analytics and reporting. 

Types of Project Management Software By Use Case

You might be looking for software for a specific use case or with a specific feature set to add to your existing software stack or use as a standalone. 

10. Collaboration

Collaborative project management software lets the team work closely together, give feedback on each other’s work, and work on the same documents or deliverables simultaneously. The main features in this type of software include:

  • Collaborative docs: These are wiki-style documents where your team can co-create documentation and teamwork related activities.
  • Real-time messaging: Unlike Slack which is a tool that lives outside of your projects, this type of messaging occurs within the software. Therefore your team can engage in conversations regarding a specific task, deliverables, or any work item.
  • Proofing: This feature is particularly useful for teams that use cloud-based software to review collateral and ask for client feedback. This feedback can be in the form of comments and approvals.

Examples of collaboration tools for project management include Basecamp, Wrike, and Miro.

Wrike's file approval screen has a comments section to improve collaboration.
Here's an example of team members collaborating in Wrike.

11. Reporting

If you’re looking for software to compile, analyze, and report on project data, what you need is a reporting tool. The main features of reporting software include:

  • Data visualization: You should be able to create graphs, charts, and dashboards to present the data and metrics visually in order to better interpret them.
  • Real-time updates: Your data should update in real-time, or on a frequent basis (i.e. every 15 or 30 minutes) so you have the most up-to-date possible information when you’re making decisions.
  • Analysis of historical data: You should be able to go back and analyze data from previous projects and identify trends and areas of improvement. This might include budgets, incidences of errors, or how often projects were under or over budget.

Examples of reporting tools for project management include Celoxis and Zoho Analytics.

Celoxis - Reporting and Dashboards
Some examples of reports you might find in Celoxis.

12. Time Tracking

Keep track of what your team is spending their time on. Time tracking is useful for small teams, freelancers, and any organization that needs to report time spent on tasks in their invoicing. The main features of time tracking software include:

  • Real-time tracking or manual logging: Team members should be able to both track their time as they’re completing work and edit or add time after the fact, according to their preferences. 
  • Rates and invoicing: The tool should be able to store employee rates and automatically generate invoices with amounts calculated based on those rates. 
  • Shift and attendance tracking: If your business is using shift work, look out for features that can generate shift assignments and track team member attendance. 

Examples of time tracking software include Clockify, Harvest, and Monday.

time tracking in
Here's what time tracking looks like in

13. Client Management

If you’re working with clients, you likely need software for managing and communicating with those clients (also known as customer relationship management software, or CRM). This set of features might be included within project management tools, or it might be a standalone tool. 

Main features include:

  • Contact and lead management: Store, manage, and edit existing client information, as well as potential client information. You should also be able to record and access communication history and notes for existing and potential clients.
  • Client portals: Client portals give external access to your projects and allow different stakeholders to view your project and interact with the team according to predefined permissions.
  • Client reporting and analytics: Build custom dashboards and reports tailored to your clients, as well as internal reports. You should also be able to create custom report templates, schedule regular report updates, and integrate with multiple data sources. 

Examples include Zendesk, Pipedrive, and Zoho.

crm in zendesk
Here's an example CRM from Zendesk.
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14. Document Management

Projects result in a lot of documents, and those documents need to be stored, accessed, and updated throughout a project (and even after the project as templates for future projects). The main features of document management systems include:

  • Secure storage and backup: Documents should be regularly and automatically backed up in case of technical issues, and the system should also be secure enough to keep out hackers and prevent potential data breaches (this is especially important for industries that store sensitive data, such as healthcare or financial services).
  • Search capabilities: The team should be able to quickly and easily find what they are looking for, either through a search function or by navigating a user-friendly interface. 
  • Version control: You should be able to track changes, clearly find and access the latest version of a document, and ensure everyone is working from the latest version. 

Examples of document management software include Google Drive, Guru, and DocuWare.

document management in guru
Guru has strong document management capabilities.

15. Resource Management

Resource management is focused on assisting project scheduling and project planning from a human resource perspective. Rather than focusing on teamwork, they focus on the team’s work. The main features in this type of software include:

  • Resource allocation: This is a feature that will show you the tasks and subtasks assigned to your team and whether they can take on more work or not. Resource allocation is usually a percentage out of 100 and allows you to balance work throughout the project team.
  • Utilization tracking: You should be able to track how much work team members have on their plates and create reports to indicate how and where resources are being used, whether there are any conflicts, and what upcoming resource demand looks like.
  • Mobile app: This is common in tools that provide time tracking features and is very useful for teams that have members who are on-the-go. These apps normally have an easy and user-friendly interface in which recording time requires a few taps only, which reduces the difficulty of using project management software.

Popular resource management software options include Runn, Smartsheet, and Float.

runn resource capacity and utilization
Here's what monitoring resource capacity and utilization looks like in Runn.

16. Risk Management

If you’re struggling to identify, track, and mitigate risks on your projects, risk management software is a good solution. Here are the key features of this type of project management software:

  • Incident management: You should be able to log, plan for, and assess the likelihood of each risk and incident.
  • Compliance management: The software should be able to understand and incorporate specific regulations or standards for your industry.
  • Prediction and estimation: The software should be able to help predict and prevent incidences of risk before they occur, and provide insights that can help you make decisions about how to mitigate or proceed with a risk.

Examples of top risk management software include Corporater, Deel, and StandardFusion. 

corporater risk management dashboard
Risk management in Corporater.

Types of Project Management Software By Business Size

You can also choose project management software according to the size of your business. 

17. Small Businesses

Small businesses need lightweight (read: cheap) software that provides good value for the money and can support a small but growing number of users. Look for the following in project management software for small businesses:

  • Project tracking and monitoring: You should be able to track individual tasks and deliverables, as well as the project as a whole, to make sure work is completed on time and on budget. 
  • Collaboration: In addition to basic messaging and chat functionalities that allow team members to communicate with each other right in the app, look for standout features like in-app video calls or collaborative editing on documents. 
  • Onboarding and customer support: Make sure the tool you choose has plenty of resources and training materials, and that you’ll be able to get a hold of someone on the support team quickly when you run into an issue. 

Examples of the best project management software for small businesses include QuickBase, Zoho Projects, and FigJam. 

calendar and workload reports in zoho projects
Small businesses need a comprehensive view of all the projects that they have on the go.

18. Enterprises

Enterprises, on the other hand, need a robust set of features to stay across all the projects being carried out in the organization and different departments (especially when the org is spread out in different regions or countries). Look for the following in enterprise project management software:

  • Project portfolio management: Keep track of each portfolio or program of projects throughout the organization, and see key information in one dashboard or report. 
  • Resource utilization and forecasting: Manage resource allocation by department, and optimize utilization across the board to ensure timely project completion. You should also be able to forecast upcoming demand for resources so you can plan accordingly. 
  • Advanced security measures: Protect your sensitive data with features like two factor authentication and encryption, and store large amounts of data.  

Examples of enterprise project management software include Wrike, Monday, and Nifty. 

executive portfolio dashboard wrike
Enterprise businesses need a clear view of the health of the portfolio and the utilization of the team.

Types of Project Management Software By Deployment or Device Type

You can also choose software by what kind of deployment you need (on-premise or cloud-based) or the primary device that you use. There are plenty of options in the project management software market that cater to these needs.

19. On-Premise

This describes software that is installed and uses servers on the organization’s property. Certain industries that are heavily regulated often require this kind of deployment for security purposes.

On-premise software also typically offers additional customization capabilities, and data processing tends to be faster because servers are located internally. 

Popular project management software tools with an on-premise option include Microsoft Project, Jira, and Celoxis. 

20. Cloud-Based 

Cloud-based software is becoming a more popular choice than on-premise, due in part to having a lower upfront cost, easier maintenance, and easier scalability when it comes to things like adding or removing team members or adding or removing features.

It also typically requires less onboarding and training to get up and running. Examples of cloud-based project management software include Monday, Asana, and Smartsheet.

21. Open-Source

Open-source software gives you access to all of the most common features of project management software, but in a free plan. This type of project management app can be a great option for small businesses on a budget.

However, if pricing is not a problem, these tools also have paid plans that offer more features than commercial tools for a fraction of the price.

This type of software is often preferred by organizations with in-house development capabilities as they are community supported and require tweaks to adapt to your needs. Popular open-source project management tools include OpenProject, ProjectLibre, and Odoo.

22. For Mac

Most cloud-based software works well on both Windows and Mac, especially if you’re running the software in your browser instead of an app.

You can check out our list of project management software for Mac to find options that play especially nicely with Apple’s sensibilities. Ones to consider include ClickUp, QuickBase, and Wrike.

23. For Desktop

Again, most cloud-based software options offer apps that run well on your desktop, regardless of whether you’re using Windows or a Mac. Have a look at our list of desktop project management software to find an option that fits your needs. Consider examples like Productive, Zoho Projects, and Monday.

24. For Mobile

If you or other project managers in your organization are primarily on-the-go, you’re going to need a project management software tool with a robust app.

Make sure you can get all the same features in the app version as you can in your browser, and you’re definitely going to need a cloud-based product.

Check out our list of the best project management apps here, and consider examples like Process Street, Bonsai Agency Software, and Monday. 

Types of Project Management Software By Methodology

Consider choosing a type of project management software based on the primary methodology that you’re using on your projects. 

25. Waterfall

Waterfall project management software focuses on the traditional project life cycle and supports you throughout that cycle. Therefore, you have features that will help you define a project scope, create a schedule, assign tasks, and track project progress.

The main features in this type of software include:

  • Task management: Normally displayed in a list view, this is a place where you can define the project tasks, set due dates, deadlines, milestones, dependencies, assign resources to tasks, and monitor progress.
  • Gantt charts: This is a visual representation of your projects on a timeline. This view is normally a drag-and-drop interface that makes it intuitive to create new or alter current project conditions. This view will display additional information like the critical path for the project, so you know the key moments when you can’t afford to be delayed.
  • Project portfolio management: A few tools will go the extra mile and give you access to portfolio views. These are helpful boards that provide a quick status on different project initiatives across your portfolio. Information like this is beneficial to decision-making.

Examples include Microsoft Project, Primavera P6, and Hive.

Landing Page Project Timeline (Waterfall) Sample
An example Gantt chart in Microsoft Project Professional.

26. Agile

Agile project management software has its main focus on supporting agile methodologies like Scrum and Kanban. Therefore, you can find views that support these types of software and help you see sprints, epics, and stories in one place.

The main features in this type of software include:

  • Workflow automation: A common feature with this type of work as it helps streamline work. Automations can reduce complexity in complex projects by sending notifications across team members depending on a task’s status. Find more benefits of workflow automations here.
  • Real-time dashboards: These dashboards display information about your team, such as the tasks they have assigned, how many have been completed, and team velocity.

Popular tools in the agile project management software category include Jira, Trello, and Asana.

collaboration in Jira
Agile teams collaborating in Jira.

27. Scrum

Many of the agile tools that fall into the category above can also be to facilitate projects using Scrum.

Some specific features to keep an eye out for in the Scrum tool you choose include: backlog management capabilities to prioritize and organize tasks, features for facilitating daily stand-ups and sprint retrospectives, and specific collaboration capabilities that allow the team to work together more closely. 

Examples of Scrum-specific tools include Jira, Monday, and ClickUp.

backlog from Jira
Sample backlog in Jira.

28. Kanban

The primary feature to consider here (which is typically included with most major project management software tools these days) is a Kanban board.

This is a vertical swimlane-style view where cards represent tasks to be done and columns represent workflow stages. Therefore, you can have a column for your backlog, another for the tasks being worked on in the current sprint, and another for completed work.

Examples of Kanban-specific tools include Monday, QuickBase, and Zoho Projects. kanban board view screenshot's Kanban view.

FAQs About Project Management Software

What is the best project management software?

The best project management software is the one that includes all the features and capabilities you and your team need to complete projects successfully.

This might sound like a cop out, but as I mentioned, today’s tools have a mix and match of the features mentioned in each of the categories I discussed. Therefore, you need to decide which features to pay attention to and which will most benefit you.

To get you started with your research, I thought I would share a quick list of the best project management software.

What are the Best Types of Project Management Software for Different Types of Businesses?

There are many different types of project management software designed to suit businesses of every shape and size. For example, Evernote has a popular project management app that syncs with computers and other devices, while Basecamp is popular with small companies with basic needs.

The best type of software project tool for your business will depend on your size and specific needs. Look for the right tool for your portfolio management—what’s best for one company may be entirely unsuitable for yours.

Consider your business’s goals and challenges, and then select the project management tool that serves them.

How Much Do Different Project Management Software Tools Cost?

It really depends on your needs. Post-its, spreadsheets, or going to someone’s desk to nag them about their deliverables have little to no cost. Software on the other hand can be cheap or really expensive.

The cost of the tool will be directly linked to the number of people that need to use the software. If you have a small team (less than 5 people), you will be able to find a free version that will suffice.

However, as your team grows or you require more features, the cost will change to a fixed amount per user per month, in most cases.

If you reach the point where you need to pay for software, I recommend you look for free trials and test different options before making a decision.

Need expert help selecting the right Project Management Software?

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Hermann Fink
By Hermann Fink

Hermann Fink is a technology enthusiast and the co-founder of Rünna Advertising, a multinational digital agency that has been active for over a decade and served clients like Ford, AstraZeneca, Disney, and Didi. In addition to being a business owner, Hermann gathered corporate experience in project management during his time at Hewlett Packard in the mid-2010s.