If you've been watching your collection of spreadsheets and limited collaboration tools grow burdensome and inefficient, you should consider an online project management solution. Some companies estimate an increase in production by as much as 30 percent by using a helpful project management solution. The best online project management services can help you manage multiple projects, from the initial project request to the final invoicing. Today, most of these services also provide mobile tools and modern social networking features for time entry, expense tracking, status updates and secure team collaboration. Additionally, these solutions are cross-platform compatible so they can support your team even if some of your team members use Macs.
The most capable solutions also provide free client interfaces so that your customers can submit requests and view the status of projects. Global and remote teams can take advantage of always-available Web access, while companies that need to control their own security can install the solution on-premise. Endless, customizable reporting options can help you easily prepare communications for your executives and clients. Most top project management software works alongside your current business solutions, including Outlook, SAP, ERM, CRM, accounting software and Salesforce, either via direct integrations or application programming interfaces (APIs). More and more current project management software also incorporates social media so that your team can more easily collaborate.
If you're familiar with traditional project management methodologies, you can use the best project management software to implement Gantt charts, Agile SCRUM processes and similar tools. You'll also find these PM tools simple to use even if you haven't studied formal PM methodologies.
To weigh the costs and benefits of acquiring a project management system and decide for yourself whether it's worth the cost, see our article "Cost Analysis: Determining the ROI of Project Management Solutions." This information will help you run some sample numbers. If you are ready to check out our top choice, try Clarizen. If your team needs Agile SCRUM support and social media tools, check out Genius Project. For custom integrations and high adoption rates, AtTask might be your best choice. To learn more about team communication, cost analysis and other project management issues, read our articles on online project management.
When reviewing these products, we considered their basic project management tools, such as budgeting and task management, as well as their resource management and collaboration tools, including allocating team members and the ability to communicate via social media. We also evaluated the companies in general, because adding a project management solution is often a long-term partnership. In addition to evaluating their current offerings, we asked companies what new features they've added and plan to add, to check how well they keep up with evolving technologies and customer needs.
Other considerations: We also evaluated the relevance of the company's technologies, using the following questions as a guideline: Have they created a useful product that caters to market and customer demand? Are they evolving with emergent technologies? Will they answer your phone call when you really need them? Will they fly in to train your team in person? The best companies value customer retainment and strive to provide exceptional service.
Below are the criteria that we used to evaluate online project management services:
Project Management Tools
Top online management solutions support traditional project-management methodologies and incorporate emergent technologies. For example, they should easily handle traditional methods such as Waterfall, Agile, PRINCE2 and Chain methods, as well as help you create new processes. We checked that the project management tools to see how well they handle the basics, such as request management, budgeting, issues, risk assessment and task management. The top choices in our analysis set themselves apart by also providing extensive reporting options and easy ways to share those reports with stakeholders and others.
We evaluated the tools available for project managers to manage and allocate resources, including team members, external resources, generic resources, documents and physical assets. This section also evaluates the tools for tracking expenses and timesheets. We checked whether the software offered advanced search tools for filtering resources, so that project managers can find the available resources that fit the experience level of users and the price requirement for the project.
Although this comparison focuses on project manager tools, we briefly looked at how the software enables team interaction and facilitates project monitoring. Collaboration tools include discussions or streams, file sharing and announcements. Social networking-type tools have become increasingly popular, and the best software provides these features. Most collaboration tools do not require users to rely on other solutions such as SharePoint. We also checked whether the services offer free tools for nonpaying users, such as report viewing and read-only accounts.
Ease of Use
To get your team and company as a whole to adopt a PM solution, it must be easy to use. Your team will abandon difficult applications, making your investment much less valuable. Even if team members do adopt the project management tools, they may not use it to its fullest capacity if it is difficult to understand. We looked for convenience features such as project templates, customization options, import tools and automated functions to determine the ease-of-use and convenience of each software choice. The service providers should also offer ample training through webinars, documentation, videos and even one-on-one training to help your team learn how to use the tools quickly.
Integration & Professional Services
When you add project management software, you usually enter into a long-term partnership. So make sure you find the company that will provide the services you need and that will support your ongoing use. The best services create customized implementation plans, provide one-on-one management training and connect you with a dedicated account manager (for large contracts). Your project management software should also work with your existing business systems; if not, the software company can create custom integrations for your business or provide access to APIs. Your project management software might also include onsite training, implementation assistance, scheduled checkups with a dedicated account manager, 24-hour telephone support and one-on-one training. Look for the features that matter most to your business: if you have a large company, where a lot of people will use the software, you may benefit from on-site training and direct-support options.
By accessing an online project management software solution, you can eradicate cluttered project management habits. A good tool will keep you from wasting resources due to inefficiency, while helping you obtain visibility and quantify production efforts for stakeholders. These comprehensive products greatly increase efficiency by better organizing requests, resource availability, issue tracking, communication, document management and scheduling — giving everyone involved greater clarity and better direction.
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