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What Is Project Management Software Used For?

Project management software is used by project managers to plan, execute and control projects.

It’s used to get everyone involved in a project aligned on tasks, milestones, timelines, responsibilities and deliverables. And once the project is underway to stay aligned.

But it’s far more than just that. Project management software helps people get stuff done – whether that’s in marketing, sales & CRM, design, software development, HR or real estate.

So if you’re wondering what project management software is used for, look no further. We’ll explain how you can use project management software to plan something – and then keep your tasks, resources, schedule, budget milestones and asset management on plan as you make magic happen.

In this article

Why Should You Use Project Management Software?

If you haven’t been using a project management tool, it means you’re probably stuck using sticky notes and spreadsheets. You might wonder if you need it. Spoiler Alert: You need a project management tool!

10 Benefits of Project Management Software

Once you learn about the features and advantages of some of the best project management software. tools, and apps, you’ll realize you’ve got to make the switch, because it’ll transform your projects and your team’s effectiveness. It’ll help:

  1. Improve communication and file sharing for the project team.
  2. Increase clarity of project objectives, tasks and deliverables.
  3. Set and visualize the project plan and track tasks and budget against it.
  4. Deploy the project team’s resources effectively.
  5. Provide accountability for the team.
  6. Improve project budget and costs tracking.
  7. Help the team hit their deadlines and project milestones.
  8. Provide visibility for external stakeholders.
  9. Automate repetitive project tasks with templates and automation.
  10. Integrate project data with other tools.

In short, it helps your team deliver the tasks they commit to. It helps keep them on track. And helps you, as the project manager, sleep better at night knowing where the project is at.

Advantages of Project Management Software

As French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” A project management tool allows you to create a plan to put your goal in action.

Here are some benefits of project management software:

  • It makes planning and scheduling easier by providing an all-in-one place to set up deadlines, create deliverables and milestones, and allocate resources.
  • It allows better collaboration between teams and team members by creating a centralized place for communication.
  • It helps prevent “budget creep” by keeping track of expenses in real-time.

Basically, a project management solution lets you create a detailed road map to your goal.

Features of a Great Project Management Platform

Some project management platforms are more impressive than others. Here are some features of a truly great project management app:

  • Task tracking. In addition to simple task scheduling, it’s very helpful to know where each project team member is in the process at any given time. Some platforms let you assign tasks as not started, in progress, or completed, which lets you closely track the overall progress of a project.
  • Collaboration. A great project management tool lets team members exchange information easily. A collaboration tool should be able to seamlessly facilitate comments, file attachments, and updates so everyone can stay in the loop.
  • Reporting. Project report functionality will help you check how close you are to your projected timelines, costs, and other goals. A project report can help you identify any problems and figure out how you can remedy them.

Related Read: 10 Best Project Timeline Management Software [2022]

Tracking Personnel Using Project Management Software

Keeping track of a project means keeping track of both the project’s goals and deliverables and the personnel involved. Tracking the time that team members are spending on each aspect of the project, personnel availability, and whether team members are delivering properly are some of the most important things a project management software tool is used for.

People Involved in Project and Personnel Tracking

The project manager is at the helm of any project. This person’s role is to keep a project moving forward throughout its life cycle: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. The project manager must set up systems that ensure collaboration with all involved team members to make sure the project is staying on track. Project management software is a great way to do this.

In addition, with project management software, any stakeholders in the project can stay informed of its progress. These stakeholders might include investors, board members, and executives.

Tracking Personnel Time

Time tracking features within project management software are helpful for several reasons: they help identify whether any tasks are taking too long, set time expectations for future projects, and provide data for time-cost analyses.

The most user-friendly time tracking features simply let employees hit a button to start and stop tracking their time. Depending on the software, employees may be able to categorize their time by project, department, client, and other useful descriptors.

Time Tracking Project Management Software

Project management software that includes time tracking can be helpful for small businesses, ensuring team members are using time and resources wisely. There are also a variety of options specifically for time-tracking that you can check out here.

Top Capabilities of Project Management Software

Project management software can do so much more than track personnel. From Gantt charts to project planning to resource management, project managers should be aware of all the time- and sanity-saving features that good project management software can offer.

Here are some of the capabilities that you should be on the lookout for as you seek the right project management software for your project, team, and organization.

Project Planning

One of the foremost capabilities of any project management software is project planning, the ability to separate a project into steps and goals. There are many different project management methodologies; different software may be built for a particular methodology, or they may provide flexibility for the methodology you want to use.

Here are some of the top project management methodologies you’ll encounter as you seek the right project management software:

  • Waterfall methodology. The waterfall approach is one of the simplest methodologies for project management—each step of a project is broken down sequentially, and team members must complete its steps one at a time. This method works best if your project goals, circumstances, and budget are not subject to change throughout the life of the project.
  • Agile methodology. This approach was created to allow teams to continually revise projects midstream. It typically involves short phases of work followed by analysis and adaptation. Agile methodology has led to other popular methodologies like kanban, scrum, lean, adaptive project framework, and extreme programming. It works best for projects that are subject to change and need to move quickly.

Resource Management

Resource management refers to tracking resources such as the people and equipment needed to complete a project. With resource management, you can compare available resources with demand and allocate resources to ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget. Some project management tools include resource management, while others can be integrated with the resource management tool of your choice.

Visualization Tools

One of the benefits of project management software is that it provides an easy way to visualize your project plan, goals, and needs at any given point in the process. Visualization tools that a good project management software should have include the following:

  • Project calendars. Built-in calendars allow you to selectively view only the project information you need at that moment. For example, a project calendar will allow you to see a high-level view of tasks by day, week, month, and year. Calendars include other useful features such as adjusting timelines and including related files and conversations so that you can jump from the calendar right into work.
  • Gantt charts. A Gantt chart is essentially a bar chart that shows the different tasks within a project plan against the time needed to complete each step. With a Gantt chart, you can visualize how long each task will take, where tasks overlap, and the start and end dates of the project.

Generating Reports from Project Management Software

Once you’ve got your project management software up and running, how do you track your project results? The answer: a project management report.

Project management reports are extremely helpful because they help track your project progress. A project report is essential for updating stakeholders and team members on project planning.

Information Included in a Project Report

Every work management report should include the following:

  • Updates on a project’s progress
  • Tasks that have been completed so far

Project management reports should always answer the questions that are foremost in stakeholders’ and team members’ minds: Is the project progressing according to plan? What’s the next step? What’s the budget status? Are there any issues that need attention?

Types of Reports Project Management Software Can Generate

A good project management tool can slice and dice your data in several ways to provide the information you’re looking for. Here are six types of reports that project management tools should be able to generate:

  • Status report. This type of project report provides a big-picture update that anyone can look at for a quick overview of the project’s status.
  • Health report. Health reports are a type of project management reporting focused on uncovering issues with project planning. They show whether you’ve gone off course or fallen behind schedule and how to fix issues.
  • Risk report. This kind of project management reporting shows risks the project is facing and categorizes them in order of urgency.
  • Availability report. These reports show team members’ availability and schedules. It comes in handy when you’re determining optimum team member collaboration.
  • Time tracking report. Time tracking reports show how team members are spending their time on a project. This type of project management reporting can help you figure out where processes need to be more efficient.
  • Variance report. To avoid “mission drift” on your project, you need variance reports. It’s surprisingly easy to veer away from your targets, so this report helps you get back on track by showing your team’s progress on deliverables, objectives, and milestones.

Why Project Reporting Is Essential to Project Management

Every project manager must generate reports as they’re managing projects. Here are some project reporting benefits:

A project reporting tool keeps things on track. With all the moving parts, collaboration, and stress that come with every project, every project manager knows it’s easy to let projects veer away from their original targets—or simply stagnate. Regular project reports help you stay on course and provide solutions when you run into problems.

A project reporting tool provides accountability. Every project will run into issues. Without some form of accountability, these issues could derail the project. A project reporting tool shows exactly how a project’s progress compares to its goals and where improvements need to happen as the team manages tasks.

A project reporting tool allows visibility. Stakeholders and team members must know how projects are progressing. Project reports provide clear, factual data about a project’s status, progress, and problems to ensure optimal collaboration.

Great Projects Deserve to Be Celebrated

Now that it’s clear what project management software is used for, you can start selecting a software that makes your projects sing.

Subscribe to The Digital Project Manager newsletter for more on project management software use cases, tool reviews, and more.

Related Read: 8 Project Management Software Benefits: Why Use It?

By Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of thedpm.com. I've been in the industry for more than 15 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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