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Whether you're a project manager on purpose or by accident, knowing your way around project management software is going to make your life a lot easier. Creating a single source of truth for your project will help align your team, identify bottlenecks, and keep everything on track.

If you're new to using project management tools, this article will walk you through what it is, provide an overview of how it works, and give you some guidance on how to use it to make your project management duties run smoother.

What Is Project Management Software?

Project management software is a computer application that helps you prioritize and manage project-related work. This type of software usually exists as:

  • A web-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution
  • A software solution that is hosted on your servers, also called "on-premise."

Likewise, you can access it via desktop project management software or mobile app.

Core functions of project management software typically include:

To achieve these functions, project management software usually includes features such as:

  • Project time tracking features
  • To-do lists
  • Task organization features
  • Collaboration features
  • Resource allocation tools
  • Checklists

Project management software is designed for organizations and project teams that need transparency and oversight of their projects. It helps organizations achieve goals such as real-time reporting on the status of project tasks, audit and version history tracking on deliverables, and visibility into key, documented events such as meeting minutes, decisions, and project feedback. It can help streamline a business’s operations and workflows through the automation of tasks.

Regardless of the project management methodology used (agile, waterfall, SAFe), project management software can help teams improve on their task management, time tracking, resource management, and team collaboration.

Types of Project Management Software

Project management software comes in various forms, each designed to accommodate different business needs and management styles. Consequently, the right type of project management software for you may not be the right type of software for another team. It is important, therefore, to understand what type of project management software will be best for you.

Types of project management software include:

  • Web-Based Software: This software operates entirely over the internet with no need for installation on individual computers. This type of software offers flexible access from any device with an internet connection, making it ideal for remote teams.
  • On-Premise Software: This software is installed and runs on company servers and hardware, which provides more control over data security and customization, but requires more upfront investment in licensing, infrastructure, and IT support. Learn more about project management software security here.
  • Project Scheduling Software: This software focuses on planning, scheduling, and tracking project timelines and milestones. This software typically includes tools like Gantt charts, critical path analysis, and milestone tracking.
  • Task Management Software: This software simplifies task delegation and progress tracking, and often includes features for setting priorities, deadlines, and reminders. Task management software is generally useful for managing daily activities and smaller projects.
  • Resource Management Software: This software helps plan and allocate resources such as manpower, materials, and budget. To do this, resource management software usually includes capabilities for forecasting resource needs and tracking availability.
  • Integrated Suite: This type of software offers a comprehensive set of tools that cover all aspects of project management, from initiation to closure. These tools generally facilitate better integration of data and workflow across various project management functions and are ideal for organizations looking for an all-in-one solution to manage complex projects and multiple teams.
  • Standalone Tools: This type of software focuses on specific aspects of project management, such as task management, time tracking, or budgeting. They can be more flexible and less costly than full suites, and they are particularly suitable for teams that need specialized functionality without the breadth of features that integrated suites offer.

Not Sure What Type Of Project Management Software Is Right For You?

If you’re struggling to choose the right type of project management software for your needs, let our experts help you. Just share your needs in the form below and we’ll connect you with a dedicated software advisor who will match and connect you with the best providers for your needs.

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Use Cases For Project Management Software

Imagine you are the project manager for a team. The project charter has been approved. Your team has been formed and you are now ready to begin planning.

As part of planning for the project, you need to consider not only what tools will be required to complete the deliverable or end result for the project, but also the tools required to run the project itself. You and the team have decided to use project management software based on the following use cases:

  • The need to have a tool to assist with project planning
  • The need to have a project scheduling tool to help the team with scheduling and manage project timelines
  • The need to have a tool that will provide the ability to store and share important project files and documents
  • The need to have a tool to assist with communications among the team 
  • The need to have a tool that provides reporting on project expenses and resource usage throughout the project’s life cycle

If you are shopping for PM software, writing down detailed project use cases can help you narrow down your tool choices and get the most out of demos.

Hermann Fink

Hermann Fink

Project Management Software Expert

Luckily for you and the team, project management software provides functionality to address all of the use cases identified by the team. Let’s look further at some of the specific features and functionality that project management software can provide teams.

How Much Does Project Management Software Cost?

Project management software is typically priced using various models catering to different features, scalability, and user bases. The most common pricing strategy is subscription-based, where users pay a monthly or annual fee. This fee can vary based on the number of users, the complexity of features, or the level of support provided.

Some providers offer a tiered pricing structure with different levels of functionality and services at various price points to suit the needs of different organizations, from small businesses to large enterprises. Additionally, many services include a free version with basic features, which can be upgraded to premium versions as business needs expand. For more specialized needs, licensing fees for on-premises installations and customizations may also apply.

Below is a side-by-side comparison of common project management software and their entry-level tier pricing.

Tools Price From $8/user/month (billed annually, min 3 seats)
Celoxis From $15/user/month (billed annually)
ClickUp From $7/user/month + free plan available
Wrike From $9.80/user/month min. 2 seats
Jira From $7.50/user/month (billed annually)
Zoho Projects From $4/user/month (billed annually) + free plan available
Visor From $9/user/month
Quickbase From $35/user/month with a 20 user minimum
Hub Planner From $7/user/month (billed annually)
Workzone From $25/user/month
Compare Software Specs Side by Side

Compare Software Specs Side by Side

Use our comparison chart to review and evaluate software specs side-by-side.

Compare Software
Tools Price From $8/user/month (billed annually, min 3 seats)
Celoxis From $15/user/month (billed annually)
ClickUp From $7/user/month + free plan available
Wrike From $9.80/user/month min. 2 seats
Jira From $7.50/user/month (billed annually)
Zoho Projects From $4/user/month (billed annually) + free plan available
Visor From $9/user/month
Quickbase From $35/user/month with a 20 user minimum
Hub Planner From $7/user/month (billed annually)
Workzone From $25/user/month
Compare Software Specs Side by Side

Compare Software Specs Side by Side

Use our comparison chart to review and evaluate software specs side-by-side.

Compare Software

Common Project Management Software Features

If you are not technically inclined, using a new tool like project management software can be a bit intimidating. Not to worry—we’ll take a more detailed look into some of the features and functionality you can expect to see in the project management software you decide to use. 

As this article does not focus on a specific software product, provider, or vendor, we’ll take an agnostic view of the more common features of project management systems and software. Regardless of the specific product or vendor, the following are core functionalities in project management software:

  • Project planning: Many project management apps, such as project planning tools, can help users to create task or activities lists, allocate project resources, and identify task dependencies. These project management software applications can also allow for real-time collaboration on project planning artifacts and allow teams to use both waterfall or agile project management methodologies. Tools such as Scrum or Kanban boards can easily be created by a project team as a planning output. 
  • Schedule planning: This feature is designed to help teams effectively plan and execute projects by mapping out timelines, tasks, and resources, as well as helping users to create detailed project schedules, set deadlines, assign tasks to team members, and monitor progress through Gantt charts or similar visual representations. These features often includes capabilities for adjusting schedules in real time, accommodating changes, and optimizing resource allocation, helping to ensure that projects are delivered on time and within budget.
ClickUp project timeline screenshot
Gantt charts make it easy to see project progress and plan multiple projects and allocate resources together
  • File sharing: Once project planning artifacts are created, having a centralized place where the project team can store and access documents is great. Project management software often allows teams to upload and attach files (documents, images, pictures, and videos) for access by the entire project team, improving team collaboration and efficiency.
Microsoft projects task view with file attachments screenshot
Many project management software solutions offer attachments to make it easy to share files and media with projects
  • Communication: As project managers can spend up to 70% of their time communicating while working on a project, excellent communication tools can be vital. Project management software typically features collaboration tools such as email notifications, mentions, in-app comments, and sometimes live chat that enable project team members to stay informed about the latest project changes. 
  • Reporting: Many project management software tools offer robust reporting features that allow teams to monitor expenses, resource usage, and overall project progress. These features can also help project managers to issue invoices based on milestones or project completion and provide customizable dashboards that can be shared with key stakeholders like sponsors. For organizations with multiple projects, the reporting features can offer a consolidated view of performance across the entire portfolio, enhancing management efficiency and stakeholder communication.
Wrike project reporting dashboard screenshot
Project management software like Wrike help users review multiple projects and tasks along with progress in a single dashboard

Types of Businesses Project Management Software Supports

Project management software applications can play an important role in supporting an organization based on the type of business it is. By tailoring their features to meet the specific needs of different industries, these tools help streamline operations, improve collaboration, and ensure projects are completed efficiently and successfully.

  • Small businesses: Small businesses often juggle multiple projects with limited resources and personnel. Project management software for small businesses can help them streamline their operations by organizing tasks, setting deadlines, and tracking progress in one centralized location. This efficiency not only saves time, but also enhances productivity, allowing small businesses to focus on growth and customer satisfaction.
  • Enterprise-level businesses: Enterprise-level businesses manage large-scale projects involving numerous departments and complex workflows. Enterprise project management software supports these organizations by providing advanced features like resource allocation, budget tracking, and real-time collaboration tools. This ensures that all team members are aligned, projects stay on schedule, and any potential issues are identified and addressed promptly.
  • Nonprofits: Non-profits often operate under tight budgets and need to maximize their impact with limited resources. Project management software aids non-profits by facilitating better planning, coordination, and execution of their initiatives. It enables these organizations to track donations, manage volunteers, and report on project outcomes, thereby increasing transparency and accountability to stakeholders.
  • Creative agencies: Creative agencies work on diverse projects ranging from marketing campaigns to design and development tasks. Creative project management software helps these agencies manage their creative workflows, assign tasks to the right team members, and monitor project timelines. This results in improved project delivery, enhanced team collaboration, and a higher quality of output for their clients.
  • Healthcare organizations: Healthcare organizations need to manage a multitude of projects, from clinical trials to facility upgrades and regulatory compliance initiatives. Healthcare project management software helps these organizations by providing tools for detailed scheduling, resource management, and compliance tracking. This ensures that healthcare projects are executed efficiently, regulatory requirements are met, and patient care is not disrupted.

How To Choose The Right Project Management Software

Technology is an investment for a business that will have a lasting impact on its day-to-day operations. As such, it’s important to take your time and review all applications that might fit your needs before making a purchase. Afterall, like any major purchase, you want to make sure the software you are buying will meet your PM tool requirements checklist, not just that it looks ‘cool’ or is the latest trend. 

This may seem like an overwhelming process, but it can be boiled down to six essential steps you can use to choose the best tool for you:

  1. Analyze your business needs: By identifying and analyzing your specific business needs, you can narrow down the best-suited tools for your projects. For example, if you have issues with lack of team communication, your team might benefit from a cloud-based solution.
  2. Consider your team's needs: Consider various factors such as your team's size, their preferences for features (comprehensive vs. simple, etc.), and their locations, especially if remote work is necessary. By doing so, you can ensure that your chosen tool can accommodate these needs effectively.
  3. Set your budget: Cost shouldn't be your only consideration when choosing software, but it is an important factor. Keep in mind that there is a wide-range of options available, from enterprise-level solutions to free project management systems if pricing is a constraint. Account for potential subscription fees and essential feature costs to narrow down your choices effectively.
  4. Assess the basics: Once you've determined your business needs, team preferences, and budget, you can start evaluating specific project management tools, focusing on the basics—user interface, ease of use, and available integrations.
  5. Evaluate features and functionality: Next, evaluate specific features and functionality of project management tools by comparing essential features side-by-side to see which tools best meet your needs. To start, look for common features that you might want, such as task management, progress tracking, resource management, and reporting and analytics.
  6. Test your chosen tool: The final step is to use free trials to test the tools you're considering to see how they fit your work scenarios and team needs before making a larger commitment—and a larger financial investment.

Follow the above tips to choose the right project management software, ensuring all your project bases are covered before you commit.

Benefits Of Using Project Management Software

Project management software can provide many benefits for project teams and organizations. These benefits include:

  • Consolidation of project data: Instead of having to pull data from multiple sources for project reporting, many project management software applications will store multiple types of project data such as schedule and budget performance and resource issues. This can result in less reporting errors and gaps, and a more streamlined reporting and audit result for the project. This benefits can also be achieved with a project portfolio management tool.
  • Easier task delegation and collaboration: By allowing project teams to have full transparency and access to project documents, project management software allows project managers to delegate more responsibilities to the team to complete. For example, a project team member can update the status of tasks assigned to them in a schedule rather than the project manager updating it after a status meeting. Overall, project management software can allow for more collaboration and accountability.
  • Easy-to-use and little time required for set-up: Many project management software applications are designed to be intuitive for users and leverage technology tools most people have already used in the workplace, including spreadsheets and calendars. As such, there is usually little time required for training on how to use project management software, and users can start to use the software immediately after purchase if it is a cloud-based application.
  • Integration into other technology applications: As investment in technology can be expensive for businesses, it’s important that project management applications can integrate well with what a business may already have. Many project management software applications do integrate with other 3rd party applications that an organization may already have and use.
  • Increase in productivity and efficiency: Project management software can help increase productivity and efficiency by automating a lot of tasks that would previously be done manually. For example, tasks such as generating a weekly status report for stakeholders can be done by clicking on a button in many applications that will produce a project dashboard (learn how to set one up here) that can quickly and easily be shared with stakeholders. This saves time from having to update a report template manually and having to maintain an email distribution list.

Here’s a list of some of the best project management software on the market:

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Find Your Project Management Solution

Deciding to use a project management software application for your project is a big decision. However, once you and your team have decided to make the investment, you will see that there are many more benefits than disadvantages to using one. 

While using a new technology can be a scary and intimidating experience at first, you and your team may see that a lot of the functionality closely mirrors what you may already be using in your daily work. Now it’s just a matter of deciding which project management software tool is the best fit for you.

Need expert help selecting the right Project Management Software?

If you’re struggling to choose the right software, let us help you. 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.