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Picking a project management software tool for your team to use can be overwhelming. There are a lot of options out there and many have shiny, appealing features that can be a big draw.

How do you go about objectively making a decision on which tool to pick? This article will provide some project management software evaluation criteria to simplify your decision-making process.

5 Evaluation Criteria For Project Management Software

1. Presence of Key Features

First and foremost, the project management software you pick should have the features that will help you and your team members plan and execute your project.

There’s no point in picking a project management tool because it sounds cool or because a celebrity endorsed it. It must have features that will be of value to you. 

Here are some of the features to look for in a project management software:

  • Task management: The software should have the ability to create, assign, and track tasks whether you’re following waterfall, agile, or hybrid methods. This will help with project planning, as will features that can prioritize tasks based on due dates or dependencies. 
project task management software screenshot's task management capabilities include color-coded statuses, due dates, and priority levels.
  • Collaboration tools: Look for functionality such as file sharing and document management, comments and messaging, and notifications. Also, look to see if the software has templates that can help with collaboration. 
click up collaboration screenshot
Send team members messages, links, and audio files in ClickUp.
  • Time tracking: The tool should have features for logging hours and managing timesheets for the team.
jira time tracking screenshot
This example from Jira gives you an idea of how the time tracking feature might look in your tool of choice.
hub planner software resource scheduler dashboard view screenshot
An example of an interface for scheduling and allocating resources in Hub Planner.
  • Budget management: The software should have tools for tracking expenses and managing project costs. Features such as dashboards and financial forecasting are also helpful. 
  • Reporting and analytics: The ability to generate reports, project dashboards, and get insights on project performance and metrics is important. You should be able to share project information with stakeholders, and monitor project progress and project success.
click up reporting tools screenshot
A sample reporting dashboard from ClickUp.
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2. Integration Options

There is a lot of technology out there. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could play nicely with each other and get along? 

The right project management software will offer third-party integrations with other apps, or at least have some compatibility with other tools and software (e.g., email, calendars, CRM, etc.).

If you don’t have any other software that you need to integrate yet, does the software allow for scalability so you can add integrations at a later point in time? 

Integrations make the software not only more appealing for your team to use, but it can also help make the project more efficient. For example, integrating your project management software with your calendar helps ensure you won’t miss important project meetings and milestones.

3. Usability

Project management software should be intuitive and easy to navigate. In other words, can you find what you need easily when using the app?

Consider ease of use in the context of you and your team accomplishing tasks and managing projects. Are menus easy to use? Can users complete their project tasks quickly? 

Also, new software takes some time to get used to. The project team may need some training to get up and running, so make sure the tool you choose offers tutorials, guides, and customer support.

4. Accessibility

It’s important to consider accessibility when selecting a project management software tool, especially if some of your team members are working remotely. 

Make sure the software has mobile access and is cloud-based. Is the software available via mobile apps for iOS and Android? Is there cross-platform compatibility? Consider the consistency of features and performance across different devices and operating systems (e.g. Windows and iOS).

5. Price

Pick a project management software that doesn’t break the bank (i.e. fits your organization’s budget). 

There’s a few things that you should consider when looking at the cost of the software:

  • Pricing model: Understand the pricing structure (e.g., if it’s subscription-based or a one-time fee). 
  • Value for money: Assess the cost relative to the features and benefits provided. You want to make sure that you won’t be overpaying for features your project team doesn’t need in the present or near future.

Project Management Software Evaluation Process

Let’s take a look at the selection process you can use to evaluate whether or not a software fits what you are looking for.

1. Separate Your Needs & Your Wants

The first step is to determine what you actually need. You and the project team may want those cool, shiny features, but think in terms of what the project team actually needs. There will be lots of features to tempt you. 

What features are important for the daily tasks the team does? What criteria from the list above must be met by the software? Ask yourself whether you need a specific feature to do your job, and whether there will be a negative impact to the project if you don’t have that feature. If there won’t be any negative consequences, chances are it is a want. 

Also make sure that the project management methodology your organization uses is supported by the software.

Does the software have functionality that will allow for projects to be planned for waterfall, agile, or hybrid projects? If your organization loves Gantt charts or Kanban boards, make sure the software has these features.

2. Determine Your Budget

As ABBA  said in their famous song, “money, money, money….”: it’s important and it’s definitely going to influence which software you can purchase. Just like a project, you need to determine a budget for the software you will be purchasing. 

Account for any extra costs in your budget, such as taxes. Sometimes, additional services from the software vendor such as training and customer support come with an extra cost as well. 

3. Shortlist & Test Software

Once you have taken a look at a couple of different software products, spend some time testing them out. Many software vendors offer free trials of their software for prospective users to try before they buy. 

Take advantage of this to set-up a test project that mimics a typical project at your organization. Try out the features that are most likely to be used by your team. Are there processes and tasks you cannot do? Is the software usable? 

After you have tested out a couple, narrow your choice down to the top 2 or 3. From there, select the software that best meets the needs of your team and fits within the budget.

Top Software For Project Management

Selecting a software for your organization is not a task that should be taken lightly. It often means a long-term commitment that binds your organization to a specific vendor. 

That’s why it’s important to take the time and effort to thoroughly evaluate what’s on the market and to pick the right software for your organization based on needs and budget.

Not sure where to go to find project management software? Fear not, we’ve put together this handy list of software and vendors to get you started.

Need more help?

Just share your needs in the form below and you’ll get free access to our dedicated software advisors who match and connect you with the best vendors for your needs.

Christina Sookram
By Christina Sookram

With over 15 years of corporate experience as a project manager, Christina Sookram is an experienced project leader and educator. She has provided project leadership experience at some of Canada's largest technology companies. She has subject matter expertise in both waterfall and agile project delivery and product management functions with a focus on Scrum, Kanban, and SAFe® agile methodologies. A successful entrepreneur, Christina founded CNS Project Consulting Inc in 2020 to help clients in the IT, education and Web3 industries. Christina is also an instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University and OCAD University where she enjoys sharing her love of all things project management with students.