6 PM Software Features That Will Skyrocket Your Project Performance

Karola Karlson |  December 29, 2015 |  Last updated: December 6, 2016

project management software

 

Successful project managers have loads of responsibilities – running meetings, planning and scheduling, managing resources and budgets, and analyzing reports to name a few. On a busy day, the workload becomes quite overwhelming.

 

To automate time-consuming tasks and run a large team of professionals, managers need the best project management software solution.
 
In fact, 77% of companies use project management software, and 87% of high-performing companies use project management software.
 

While we’d all love to download the magical tool that implements all the tasks and covers everything in our required feature set, the plethora of options available make it a daunting task to find an all-powerful PM tool.

 

There are hundreds if not thousands of software solutions all focusing on the same features – tracking and organizing the project management process and enhancing team collaboration.

 

To find the best software for your team, consider which features you need to manage your projects efficiently.

 

To ensure that you don’t leave some important aspects uncovered when searching for new software, take a look at the must-have features of project manager tools.

 

After you’ve finished this guide you’ll have a clear understanding of the essential PM software features and are ready to make informed decisions when it comes to choosing the right PM software for you.
 

1. Planning and scheduling

 

When managing a team, it is highly important to have everyone’s tasks and responsibilities outlined and visible. Helping to avoid misunderstandings and knowing whom to delegate new tasks.

 

The best online project management software enables assigning tasks to team members and setting priorities and deadlines. Adding  due dates to tasks automatically sends a notification each time the scheduled completion date approaches and the activity is still incomplete.

 

Prioritizing tasks

Goes without saying that you should also be able to prioritize your activities. Prioritizing tasks is incredibly helpful whenever urgent problems arise. By using a planning tool with scheduled time slots, you can quickly make room in your planned schedule without manually rescheduling the whole project plan.

 

Agile task management tool

When leading a project team, you need a tool to outline all your upcoming activities and assign tasks to team members.

 

Task management features are nearly ubiquitous among the web-based project planning tools, meaning that finding one is not a difficult task. But don’t ignore it while searching for new PM software as it’s essential to efficient teamwork.

 

Shared team calendar

A team calendar for scheduling and organizing meetings is another must-have for PM software. Establishing a shared calendar that synchronizes with popular calendar tools ensures that everyone receives notifications and attends  meetings on time. You can also add important due dates to your team calendar to have a quick overview of upcoming milestones.

 

If your team members use different calendars, find a PM tool that integrates with popular calendar tools such as iCal and Google Calendar.

 

Planning and task scheduling tool

A great tool for teamwork is the planning mode feature that outlines all your planned project tasks and makes scheduling new activities incredibly easy.

 

Here’s how the planning mode enhances your project management:

 

  • Time slot view gives an overview of how many hours and tasks have been booked for each team member, showing the unscheduled time slots
  • You’ll get insight to whom assign new tasks in the next step of a project
  • Quick overview of everyone’s tasks and unscheduled time helps to set realistic deadlines and to avoid overbooking people
  • Whenever an urgent task needs to be prioritized, you can move other tasks ahead and make room for these high-priority ones
  • If one team-member finishes their task ahead of the planned schedule, you can assign them further responsibilities if necessary.
  • You’ll end up with a vastly more productive project team

 

If you’re looking to bring some extra efficiency to your team, try browser extensions to increase productivity and read the best Medium articles on effective work and life.
 

project management software
 

2. Collaboration

 

A large project team may consist of tens or hundreds of people, each working on specific tasks and having expert knowledge in a different field.

 

Frequently, project team members are required to access each other’s work in order to complement their own. Meaning that it’s highly important to establish an organized and quick communication through multiple channels.

 

File sharing

The best project management software include features for file sharing, shared calendars and contact lists. Every team member can insert information to the system and others will have  quick access whenever and wherever they need it.

 

Some PM tools enable adding files to projects for quick sharing. When choosing your project software, check whether they offer free storage for uploading your files and data.

 

Team communication

Some software providers have built a messenger app inside the project management tool.

While it’s a nice-to-have (IF the messenger tool covers all your team’s needs), it’s missing shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

You can always use Slack for effortless and quick team communication.

 

Team dashboards

If possible, choose a software solution that enables creating team dashboards that everyone can access. You can add graphs, charts, visual metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to your dashboard.

 

A team dashboard can serve as a project KPI report and is the perfect tool for utilizing during meetings, presenting to everyone your tracked metrics and comparing actual real time results to the planned schedule.

 

Viewing the KPIs provides a quick overview of whether the team is reaching their goals, leading to more informed decision-making. Also, you can share the graphs with team members so that everyone can express their ideas on how to improve project performance.

 

Learn more about KPI dashboards and how to create one.

 

Sharing the customer data

If you’re working in an agency, it is highly important to store and manage your client data. The best project management tools aid you in doing that and let you create a customer card that you can share with other team members.
 
For more examples of helpful customer management tools, see the list of 20 essential CRM features.
 

For example, insert your clients’ contact information and link projects and invoices to customer profiles. Later, you can quickly manage and organize your customers by different categories such as companies with due invoices, people waiting for your product, or even trustworthy partners.

 
project management software
 

3. Documentation

 

You’re not managing all your project data on Excel spreadsheets, are you? Did you know that up to 88% of spreadsheets contain errors? Have a look at all the business processes that you need an Excel alternative for.

 

All data accessible in one place

Wouldn’t it be nice to have all your project information accessible in one place? Including planned and completed tasks, past and upcoming calendar events, customer data, project resources, expenses and bills sent to clients.

 

Quick access to your data

Having all the data collected to a comprehensive PM tool means that you can easily share it with your team and access it in a few clicks. No need to switch between multiple spreadsheets to find bits of data.

 

When searching for the best project management software, ask companies which types of information their tools enable to store and manage. Not all PM tools include a customer relationship management (CRM) or invoice automation.

 

Another underused benefit of gathering your information in one place is the detailed reporting you’ll get. More on this in the next section.

try project management software

4. Reporting

 
To successfully manage your projects, you need to be aware of the shortcomings and problems that require a quick solution. To obtain a thorough overview of your project progress, you need at least two features – insightful reports and a KPI dashboard.

 

Customizable reports

The best project management software includes reporting tools that collect your previously inserted project data and enable creating customizable reports.

 

For example, you can get reports on your project budget, expenses, completed tasks and team members’ performance. As you have already gathered a large data set to your PM tool, you can create new reports any time and choose the parameters and information categories you’d like to include on the graph or chart.

 

Reports enable to get a quick overview of how the project is doing and you’ll also notice the best-performing project teams. If there’s a negative trend outlined on your graphs, you can take immediate action.

 

It  is easier to tackle a problem if you know it’s root cause. You can determine the issues by comparing multiple reports and discussing with your team members.

 

Project KPI dashboard

The quickest way to keep track of your project performance is to create a project dashboard that updates the information automatically in real time. Include important metrics like planned and actual project value, schedule variance and the percentage of completed tasks.

 

See the slideshow of 16 essential project KPIs to find metrics to include on your dashboard.

 

Create multiple KPI reports for multiple purposes:

  • Shared team dashboard
  • Financial KPI report
  • Project performance dashboard
  • Project manager dashboard

 
project management reporting
 

5. Resource management

 

It’s not only your team’s time needs to be managed. You probably need a tool for keeping track of other project resources, for example meeting rooms, and materials used in the project process.

 

Schedule your project resources

A great project management tool includes a feature for resource management, outlining all the scheduled and planned resources and calculating the cost of their use. This helps to avoid over-assignments and possible conflicts for lacking resources.

 

You’ll instantly notice when a resource is over-used and can decide whether to limit its use or set new guidelines for its exploitation.

 

As a project manager, you can manage and assign resources to specific tasks and ensure that everyone has the resources and tools to complete their tasks.

 

6. Managing the project budget

 

The larger the project, the more expenses you need to document and manage. For efficient expense management, an Excel spreadsheet is not an option.

 

Budget reports

You’re going to need a project management tool that tracks your expenses and provides quick and clear reporting on the budget performance.

 

The best project budgeting software gives you weekly and monthly reports on your project expenses, expenditures and totals. You also notice when your project goes over budget.

 

To save the data to your computer, you can easily export all the data you need.

 

To get a quick overview of your budget performance, create financial analysis reports. Some project management software tools also enable integrations with accounting software so you’ll have all you financial data linked to projects and customer profiles, without the requirement to re-enter existing data

 

Project budget dashboard

Create a financial reporting dashboard and add multiple KPIs to reflect on your project progress.

 

Add graphs and charts to your dashboard to get real time updates about your project. To share the dashboard or budget reports with team members, set up access rights, ensuring that the right people receive the data.

 

Time billing and automated invoicing

When working in an agency and dealing with multiple customers, you also need the software to enable time billing and invoicing. You need to track the time spent on tasks, add hourly rates to users and compile invoices according to the work done.

 

Time tracking

Use a time-tracking tool like Toggl to document the time spent on tasks and use the data to automate your invoicing process.

 

You can find PM software with integrated time tracking tools but it might come at the cost of other important features. There’s always the possibility to integrate a time-tracking solution to the PM tool to document your work and link it to customer profiles and projects.

 

Automated invoicing

While invoicing may take the best of your time, there’s a way to compile and forward a bill in a few clicks. You can do so by using pre-designed PDF templates and software that automatically sends the invoice for you. The best time billing software enables setting up email reminders for due invoices and further relieve your workload.

 

Starting to use project management software with time billing features can save up to 10 hours of project manager’s time every week. Try an invoice automation to determine how much of your time it is saving.

 

When choosing an invoicing tool, you need to consider multiple questions. See this guide to finding the best time billing software.

 

Summing It Up

 

So what are the irreplaceable project management software features you need to successfully run a project team?

 

Are you looking for a single tool to cover all your needs or are you willing to use multiple tools for different activities? Usually, the all-in-one PM tools have better reporting capacities and enable you to access all your project data in one place.

 

There’s always the possibility to integrate comprehensive project management solutions with small specific tools that your team also uses.

 

The verdict? – find project management software that covers all the features important to you and complement it with specific tools such as a time tracker or accounting solutions. There is no perfect tool, but you can come pretty close to it if you do your research properly.
 
See a helpful guide for choosing project software and get a free project planning software comparison spreadsheet.
 
After you’ve found the perfect tool, make sure to follow all the necessary steps of new software implementation process and generate high user acceptance for all the new tools.

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