Online project management software allows teams to collaborate on and manage projects from initial concept to completion. Online tools, which run on a Web-based user interface (UI), offer potential benefits over traditional systems that are installed on-premises. For example, most online tools can be licensed for a relatively low monthly fee, which reduces your upfront investment.
We wrote this buyer’s guide to help you better understand this market and research the solutions that can fit your needs.
Here's what we'll cover in this guide:
Online project management systems track and manage the lifespan of a project, offering functionality for everything from planning to defining a budget to assigning individual tasks to team members. By giving each member an up-to-date view of the progress, teams can coordinate and collaborate better to see a project through to completion.
Screenshot of the team management feature in AtTask, an online solution
An online project management tool can be a cost-effective choice for self-employed individuals, small businesses and enterprises alike. And because users can access their platform from anywhere with an Internet connection, it can also be a great tool to connect teams that are located in different parts of the world.
Since online project management software is built to be delivered over the Web, it has a modern look and feel that can often provide a superior user experience (UX). And because it is built in the cloud, vendors are able to maintain, host and update it for you. This reduces the need for dedicated IT staff to manage your company’s software infrastructure. It also makes it easier to keep your company running on the most recent version, since vendors roll out updates to customers automatically.
There are many types of project management tools, and it’s important to select a system that fits your needs. Here are a few special scenarios that will require extra attention when selecting a new system:
Small businesses. Most small businesses we speak with are looking for collaboration features, task management, project scheduling and document-sharing capabilities. This allows small businesses to keep up-to-date with the current state of the project and with tasks that are assigned to team members.
Departmental buyers. Some companies purchase software to manage projects for a specific department. For instance, design teams may require a system that allows for easy collaboration on projects and lets team members share and comment on design mockups. Meanwhile, IT departments may require features that support a specific development methodology, such as agile development. If you are buying for an individual department, make sure your software supports that department’s workflow.
Screenshot of a burn down chart for agile software development in Clarizen
Industry-specific buyers. A few industries have very specific project management needs. Construction project managers, for instance, need to be able to review blueprints, track job costs and allocate inventory within a single system. As a result, they need highly specialized software. Other industries that have unique project needs include complex custom manufacturing and software development firms. If you fit into this buyer type, make sure to find a vendor that supports your industry-specific requirements.
When evaluating these systems, you should keep the following considerations in mind:
Mobile applications. If your project managers spend a lot of time out in the field, you may want to consider vendors who support a mobile application. This will allow project managers to log issues, track project progress and access important documents while outside the office. Some vendors offer an app built to run natively on your iPhone, iPad or Android device, while others simply provide a mobile version of their Web application. Make sure you take your mobile needs into account before selecting a vendor.
Relatedly, if you're looking for a product designed to run optimally with a Mac operating system, we've profiled PM solutions for Mac here.
Social activity stream support. Several vendors now incorporate activity streams—which look similar to a Facebook news feed—into their software, so that team members can report on and discuss progress. Team members can quickly attach approval documents, expense sheets or any other document to a comment. If you think this type of social collaboration would help your team better execute projects, ask vendors if they support activity streams.
Integration options. Many companies will want to integrate their project management system with existing business applications. For instance, integrating your project management system with your accounting application will allow you to send project expense reports and other financial data directly to accounting to make billing, invoicing and financial management of the project more fluid. If you want to connect your project management system with existing applications, be sure to check with the vendor to see what integrations they currently support, as building your own integrations can be time-consuming and difficult.
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