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PHOTO: Nicu Buculei

Now that we have compiled a long list of enterprise project management systems, it’s time to discuss the strategy behind successfully choosing a project management system that’s going to serve your brand and support the development of your projects.

Let’s dive right in.

What Makes Good Project Management Software?

First things first, how can you distinguish between a bad, average, good or great project management tool?

A great project management tool “allows for templates so that similar projects can be kicked off without reinventing the wheel [every time],” said Sarah Meerschaert, a PMP certified project manager at Hamilton, N.J.-based Billtrust. “At the same time, the ability to customize a project and cut tasks or add tasks is so important; every project is unique.”

Praveen Malik, a PMP certified project management consultant based in New Delhi, asserted that good project management software should “handle all aspects of project management: namely initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and control, and closing.”

“It should help project managers, employees and stakeholders of all kinds to plan and track projects,” he added.

John Furneaux, CEO and founder of London-based Hive, said a “silky” user interface (UI) is also important.

“In 2018, user expectations are high. When someone has been on Instagram on their journey into work, being confronted by an ugly 2005 interface at work destroys enthusiasm,” Furneaux said.

Related Article: What Is Agile Project Management (And How Can It Help Your Business) 

Selecting a Project Management System: Features to Look For

When choosing a project management system, there are some features you shouldn’t compromise on. Outlining his idea of a great project management tool, Malik said he looks for the following seven features:

  1. Task creation, assignment and tracking.
  2. Resource planning and tracking.
  3. Availability of Gantt charts for presentation and reporting.
  4. Network diagrams for planning analysis.
  5. Project performance dashboards.
  6. Detailed project reports.
  7. Team and stakeholder collaboration.

Meerschaert added that she looks for tools that offer lots of different “views” of data.

“I want to be able to see my projects as a whole, but also look at the workload of a team member assigned to more than one project,” she explained. “I want to be able to prioritize my week by [metrics like] project annual recurring revenue or by what’s due next.”

Meerschaert noted that one feature in particular always stands out for her: the ability to export data in a variety of formats so you can share it with your customers. She said a project management tool “should allow you to view your projects in a number of different ways, and ideally should also allow for document storage.”

Related Article: How the Digital Workplace Is Changing Project Management and Execution

Selecting a Project Management System: Mistakes to Avoid

In addition to making sure your project management system has all the features you need to succeed on a long-term basis, it’s also wise to watch out for red flags that could either impede that success or make life difficult when you want to evolve your project management strategy.

Meerschaert said you should avoid systems that aren’t updated regularly and can’t be customized, as well as systems whose records can’t be imported into other systems.

“If your software doesn’t let you export your records into another project management system, that’s a bad sign for the future,” she said. “It should also allow you to make your own customization and should be regularly pushing updated features. It’s also a great idea to check on their APIs. Is there integration with your CRM provider? That can be valuable.”

Malik said his advice is to avoid investing in “desktop software.”

“If the tool is not web-based," Malik said, "the project team will not be able to communicate and collaborate [adequately] through the tool.”

Last but not least, Furneaux said you should get input from “front-line users” when choosing project management software. “Your users know the realities that your decision-maker does not,” he said.