Jeffrey Lear, Lear Communications
When starting to write about the top project management (PM) tools, it quickly became apparent that what constitutes a ‘top tool’ would vary significantly based on the user’s expectation. The project then morphed to focus more on helping readers understand and evaluate key functions of PM tools and where to find out more information.
What to Consider
- Price: The cost of different tools can vary from a flat fee per month to fees based on the number of users per month. If you are looking for a PM tool that will be specific to your firm’s marketing department, flat fee options are probably your best option. If you are part of a team evaluating PM tools for the firm, some of the per-user tools offer functions that go beyond traditional calendar and task management features and may be more customizable for larger firms. Some tools offer free service levels, but they are so limited when it comes to the number of projects and the amount of data they support, that it is hard to consider the free option as anything more than a trial.
- ‘Traditional’ Project Management: Typically, all PM programs offer a basic calendar, task management, to-do lists, and so on. However, each will manage these functions a little bit differently. When making your decision as to which to use, it is helpful to make notes about how you perform these tasks now, what will be most beneficial to your department, and what you do and do not like about the tool.
- Email/Messaging: If you use outside contractors, an email function in the PM tool can help you monitor progress and communications between your team and the outside resources. Some PM tools also have integrated chat features that might allow for online discussions, making it that much easier to contact individuals who are not employees of the firm.
- File Sharing Integration: There are PM tools available, which house electronic files that are part of each project, while others are designed to connect seamlessly with file sharing sites like Dropbox. If you regularly work with resources outside of the firm, an integrated file sharing system can save a lot of hunting and clicking as well as the added bonus of not weighing down your email server with bulky attachments.
Where to Research
Three websites that are particularly helpful in researching PM tools include:
- SoftwareInsider.com: An interactive tool for comparing features on more than 400 different project management tools and screens allowing you to sort by features. A research guide provides background information into different criteria used when evaluating. The site also includes a helpful article from 2015 on selecting project management software.
- Reviews.com: A review of 111 PM programs as of November 2015 and reports on the top 20. While there is good information, it is limited in scope and dated. It does provide a detailed explanation of their rating criteria, but there is no interactive comparison tool; only a comparison that listed financial management/budgeting features among its evaluation criteria.
- PCMag.com: Their ‘Best Project Management Software of 2016’ article reported on seven programs as of March 2016. These programs each received the site’s rating of at least four stars, but no information was available on the other software tested receiving less than four stars. There is a helpful chart comparing each program’s key features but no interactive comparison functionality.
The key to finding the best PM software for your department or firm is understanding what functions matter most to your users and determining which software delivers that functionality in a user-friendly, intuitive interface.