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I will guide you through the process of selecting project management software using my requirements checklist. Ensuring your team can produce deliverables effectively through the right task management tool is essential, and I’ll help you navigate and select key features to optimize your task management and prioritize metrics that are important to you. 

With this checklist, I hope you feel empowered to enable your team's effectiveness (doing the right things) and efficiency (doing the right things well) to achieve your project goals. 

Key Requirements For Project Management Software

Robust project management software is a necessity across industries. It ensures efficient planning, collaboration, risk management, and successful project delivery. The benefits are numerous and the potential features are vast. 

This checklist will help you identify the vital requirements and eliminate unnecessary features, making your software experience less overwhelming and more efficient. I’ve also included examples of each feature, shown in Asana (a tool I use regularly), so you can get a sense of what to look for. 

Usability

When selecting project management software, it's essential to consider and prioritize functionality that is within the scope of project team goals. 

Ensure that the tool supports task management in a way that aligns with the team's workflow and enhances productivity rather than hindering project timelines and due dates. 

  • User interface: A welcoming interface contributes to adoption rates. User-friendliness supports your efforts to find key features quickly. It allows users to complete their tasks with a minimal learning curve. Onboarding pop-ups within the software for first-time users are tremendously helpful in making a software tool more usable and reducing difficulty of use.
  • Efficiency of use: Users must be able to complete their tasks quickly and correctly, without redundant steps, slow loading times, or forgotten changes. 
  • Mobile application: A mobile app allows team members with flexible and remote work setups to check in and contribute in real-time. 
asana interface screenshot
Asana’s user interface is clean and simple. 

Integrations

The ability to integrate with other tools is essential. Project management software should seamlessly connect with your tech stack—think email platforms, cloud storage services, CRM systems, and other software used by your company to streamline processes and improve productivity.

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Key Features

Effective project management software should offer a robust set of features to manage and prioritize tasks. 

This includes, but is not limited to, visual comparison (various views such as Gantt or Kanban), task assignment and capacity management, posts and comments, file storage, project overview, portfolio management, and reporting dashboards to help you monitor project health and make data-driven decisions.

Project Planning

Project planning can be complex, but it is much more achievable with the right project management software. The software should allow you to define and refer to project scope, create a workback schedule, set milestones, create task dependencies, set appropriate rules and reminders, and see visual workflows. 

These planning features enable resource allocation and budget tracking, making it simpler to monitor and support the many moving parts of your project. With the right software, you can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that project planning is no longer daunting and time-consuming.

example of project planning for an event in Asana
The ability to plan projects is a must-have for project management software. 

Workflows

Automated workflows in project management systems offer several benefits. Customizable workflows are vital for managing projects effectively and efficiently

Task automation streamlines operations, while team productivity increases with the clarity and simplification workflows offer. Through workflows, teams spend less time on "work about work" while benefiting from enhanced collaboration, role, and task clarity, and improved (and shortened) decision-making due to effective and efficient planning.

workflow example for receiving and implementing customer feedback
Here’s an example workflow that you might set up—the software you choose should also allow automations between various steps in your processes. 

Gantt Charts

Gantt charts allow project managers to examine the schedule and progress of tasks using a visual overview. Monitoring and executing activities are more effective through Gantt charts because project managers can quickly identify overlaps and dependencies. 

Project progress is tracked and compared against dependent or succeeding tasks, while resource views allow for effective resource planning. The optimal project management software should provide an interactive Gantt chart feature that will enable you to adjust timelines and view the impact of changes in real time.

example gantt chart in asana
Here’s what a typical Gantt chart might look like in your chosen software. 

Resource Management

Resource management features help you allocate people and materials at the appropriate time according to the right plan. The software should offer resource planning, capacity management, and availability tracking tools to prevent issues such as overallocation and burnout. 

Understanding the different features available to manage team schedules will be your resource management superpower. 

example of resource management in asana
Make sure you can assign specific team members and resources to tasks, and see capacity and time estimates. 

Risk Management

The ability to manage and mitigate potential risk proactively is a core function of project management. 

Look for features such as risk management templates; risk registers that save you time; risk rating or color-coding capabilities; and visual comparison of the risk, rating, and status. Through visual comparison, the software will allow you to foresee potential problems and plan appropriate responses.

example of risk management in asana
Most project management software tools offer some kind of risk tracking capabilities. 

Document Management

A centralized document repository with version control is the dream. Centralizing documents often requires third-party integrations, so integration with cloud storage is of high value.

Make sure to consider the security requirements for your organization—cloud storage often isn’t an option for businesses in heavily-regulated industries. 

Access control features allow team members to define permissions for sensitive documents. Document workflow enables team members to assign and track approval steps and statuses. Other key features to look for are document collaboration and document version history. 

example of document management in asana
If the software tool you’re looking at doesn’t have built-in document management, check whether it integrates with other software you’re likely already using (i.e. Google Docs).

Time Tracking

Time tracking capabilities vary by software. If tracking billable vs non-billable is essential, be sure to do your research before selecting a general project management tool. Some tools provide timers to track the length of time spent on an activity, while others offer a manual entry option. 

Project managers can track the project or the task level, influencing project reports and analytics. For simplicity, some tools provide calendar integrations which allow users to track time directly from their calendars. Other factors to consider are mobile accessibility, invoicing, and integrative or centralization capabilities. 

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example of time tracking in asana
Time tracking is also key—there needs to be a way for team members to record their time and for project managers to be able to keep an eye on their timesheets for invoicing purposes. 

Requirements Gathering

Requirements gathering features in project management software allow project managers to collect, document, and manage project requirements. Requirements templates are helpful as they can serve as a guide for standards in requirements gathering

Custom fields, collaborative editing, and the ability to prioritize requirements will add value to your projects. For large or more complicated projects, requirements analysis tools, requirements traceability, and visualization tools such as flowcharts are essential considerations. You can capture, prioritize, and track project requirements with the right features.

Questions To Consider When Buying Project Management Software

When selecting project management software, consider who will use it, your budget, the technical implementation, team onboarding and skill levels, and what format (desktop, mobile, cloud) suits your project goals and deliverables.  

Asking questions that are relevant to your goals when selecting project management software is crucial in aligning your methods with project demands and setting you up for project success. When evaluating project management software, consider the price and long-term value. 

  • Are there built-in fees for features you do not require? 
  • Can you opt out of what is not necessary? 
  • Is there a joining fee and a monthly subscription fee? 
  • What is the price per seat, and will you have to pay for unused seats? 

Additionally, ensure the software can scale with your projects without limits on capabilities or features as your projects manage increasing amounts of information and tasks. A thoughtful and informed decision process is worth the effort. 

  • Who will use the project management software? Consider how many people need to use the software and if they only need to view information vs interact and make changes. Will it be used by various small pods of team members or across multiple departments in a large organization? If skills and needs vary cross-functionally and significantly, it’s worth considering a tool with baseline features most users will benefit from. You’ll need the option to give some users more advanced licenses with additional features or integrations.
  • What is your budget? Determine your budget. Remember upfront costs and ongoing expenses such as subscription fees, training, and support. Often, it is best to start with the minimum viable solution and enhance it as needed. Beginning with a basic, less glamorous setup simplifies onboarding and, through usage, will inform which features are excessive or lacking.
  • What will the technical implementation look like? Assess the technical requirements for setting up the software. Will you need technical support and onboarding included in the software package? Or is your team savvy in software development and equipped to code their way to success? Consider the time and resources required for implementation and integration with existing systems. Sales support from the tool would ideally offer technical support. Some tools lack onboarding staff and a sufficient call center. Technical implementation planning is a vital piece of homework, especially if you need a sophisticated tool for a team that lacks the technical skills to implement and tailor software for the organization or department. 
  • Do you need on-premise software or can you use a cloud solution? Decide if you require on-premise software for security or regulatory reasons or if a cloud-based solution is suitable. Cloud solutions offer flexibility and lower initial costs. In contrast, on-premise solutions might provide more customization and control over data.

The Best Software For Project Management

Choosing the best project management software takes time and thoughtfulness. Assess your needs, gather them, and effectively challenge and prioritize them. 

Consider your team's workflow, scaling needs, budget, and current technology. The best tool ensures tasks are completed with greater ease, efficiency, and clarity, ultimately enhancing productivity and the success of your projects. 

Here is a list of popular project management tools on the market, each offering a wide range of features to support your team:

These tools are in high demand in 2024 for their features, ease of use, and the value they bring to project management teams and business bottom lines. 

The right project management tool can significantly influence the outcome of your projects. 

  • It simplifies task organization and task data storage, enhances communication, and keeps the team informed about the most recent updates without notification overwhelm. 
  • It can conserve time by diminishing extensive email threads while providing simple visibility to the project status and team communication about specific tasks. 
  • It fosters clarity for stakeholders and team members, leading to healthier projects, happier teams, and effective management and oversight throughout the project's duration.

Need expert help selecting the right tool?

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Stephanie Best
By Stephanie Best

Stephanie is a project manager and value delivery expert. She has 15 years of experience in project management and business strategy. She has led cross-functional, multi-local project teams to successfully launch complex SaaS and IT infrastructure projects, focusing on building high-performing teams and optimizing project value delivery. Stephanie is the principal consultant at Greannmhar Consulting. She is passionate about building strong connections, project management, and unlocking growth opportunities through value delivery optimization.