Project Management Tools | Thinkful
Project management is both highly challenging and incredibly rewarding. Completing a major project on time, to a high standard, and within budget will bring you immense job satisfaction. You’ll gain the respect and trust of senior management and gain confidence as a competent leader.
But the day-to-day can sometimes feel like juggling spinning plates. You’ll need to keep on top of costs, deadlines, and team workflows. You’ll also need to identify project risks and draw up mitigation plans.
There’s a range of project management tools to help make your life easier. In this article, we’ll go through the types of tools available and list some of the most commonly-used software packages out there.
Required Skills to Become a Project Manager
Let’s start by looking at the skills and personality traits you need to make it as a top project manager.
1. Highly Organized
As a project manager, you’ll rarely have an empty-calendar day. You’ll need to handle multiple teams and different tasks while keeping track of looming deadlines. The success of the project rests on your shoulders so you can’t afford to buckle under the pressure.
You need to be effective at prioritizing tasks and managing your time. You’ll have to learn to say no to keep things moving in the right direction.
2. Excellent Risk Awareness
Identifying and managing project risks is an essential part of project management. There are five steps to the risk management process – identify, analyze, evaluate, solve, and monitor. You’ll need to own these risks and report to company stakeholders on how you plan on mitigating against them.
3. Effective Negotiator
Project managers need to be hardcore negotiators. You’ll need to discuss budgets, resources, and schedules with both internal teams and external suppliers. Your aim is to get the best deal for the success of the project. This will often involve balancing the requirements of different stakeholders and third-parties.
4. Strong Communicator
Articulate speech and impeccable writing skills will prove invaluable when dealing with team members, customers, vendors, and senior management. You’ll also need solid presentation skills to report to company stakeholders, motivate your team, and set project goals.
5. Natural-Born Problem Solver
Business projects seldom go according to plan, so expect a few curve-balls along the way. You’ll need to think on your feet to solve problems quickly and effectively as you encounter them.
6. Confident Leader
A good project manager is inherently a good leader. Your job is to drive the team towards the desired project goals. Team members will look to you for answers and motivation.
7. Understanding and Empathetic
As a manager, you’ll need to understand human constraints, problems, and issues that might arise within the team. A good project manager ensures that the team has a balanced workload and any personal or professional issues are addressed.
Types of Project Management Tools
There’s a wide variety of tools out there that cover all areas of project management. They’re designed to boost team productivity and increase your chances of completing on time. Some of the important features to look for in a project management tool include:
Kanban boards are workspaces used to visualize a project and are similar to real-world whiteboards. They include a simple board and card system that’s visible to the entire project team. Each team member has access to their individual tasks together with an overview of the whole project.
2. Task Management
A project is a collection of tasks with milestones, that must be completed to finish the entire project. The more complex the project, the more tasks there are. These tasks can be sequential, dependent on other tasks, or completed simultaneously. Every task is assigned to a person or a team.
3. List Handling
A good project management (PM) tool should provide a centralized to-do list for all team members. This allows each individual to track their own set of tasks and mark them as complete or pending while keeping an eye on deadlines.
4. Time Tracking
A time tracker allows you to effectively measure how long each task takes. This helps you identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks in the workflow. This is important for accurate billing, project planning, and progress.
Collaboration tools are especially useful when leading large teams, combining professionals from different backgrounds, and remote-working structures. Collaborative features help local and global teams to work in tandem and include options like real-time updates, video conferencing, and instant messaging.
Since projects are comprised of many interconnected sub-tasks, a delay or change in one area may impact another. Integration tools can help analyze trade-offs and ensure effective resource allocation for the smooth running of the overall project.
Company stakeholders and senior management will need to be kept up-to-date on project progress. Reporting tools are designed to help deliver this information in an easy-to-digest format. They automatically pull data from other systems and generate reports on milestone completion, budget allocation, and workflow inefficiencies.
Top 7 Project Management Tools
Now let’s discuss some of the commonly-used tools in project management.
1. Microsoft Project
Used by over 20 million users, Microsoft Project includes the following features:
- Project scheduling and costing
- Built-in project templates
- Project timelines
- Resource management
- Reporting and business intelligence
It’s available in both cloud and local formats. To run on the cloud, it costs $30 per month, per user. For a local license, it costs $1159 per user.
Touted as the best alternative to Microsoft Project, Celoxis is an all-in-one PM tool. It helps companies plan and track their tasks, projects, portfolios, timesheets, risks, and other issues, all in one place.
Celoxis offers extensive collaboration features like a customizable free client portal. Its reporting features are some of the best on the market. The tool is intuitive and highly customizable with plenty of features like:
- Gantt charts for visualization
- Easy resource allocation
- Advanced scheduling options
- Project tracking
- Financial management
- 360-degree real-time insights with dashboards and reports
- Quick collaboration and sharing of files, discussion and comment options for peers and clients
- Easy to customize and intuitive
Celoxis offers both SaaS and on-premise options. The pricing ranges from $25 per month, per user, for the cloud version and $450 per user for the local version.
Scoro is a comprehensive tool that incorporates many areas of project management including contact management, quote generation, projects, tasks, team collaboration, billing, and reporting.
It provides a solid structure to your workflow and streamlines processes so you don’t need multiple tools for multiple activities. Some of the top features are:
- Real-time KPI (Key Performance Indicators) dashboard
- Create sub-tasks with deadlines
- Schedule meetings and sharing team calendar
- Time tracking and work billing
- Contact management
- Detailed automated reports on project progress and finances
- Quotes and invoices with pre-defined templates
- Single, common platform for projects, clients, and teams
- Integration with tools like DropBox, Mailchimp, Outlook, and more
A free trial version of Scoro is available for 14 days, while premium plans are charged at $33 per user, per month.
ProofHub is a versatile PM package used by organizations like NASA, Taco Bell, and Disney. It’s an all-in-one tool packed with powerful features. It offers a centralized workspace for workflows, task lists, discussions, Gantt charts, calendars, and documents. These can help plan, organize, and keep track of your team’s tasks.
Collaboration both within teams and with external clients is easy. Since ProofHub emphasizes simplicity, the integrations and task management features are streamlined, which is good for both freelancers as well as big businesses. Some of the key features of ProofHub are:
- Visualization using Gantt charts
- Online proofing software
- Streamlined task management
- Reporting options like workload and resource reports
- Available as a mobile application for Android and iOS users.
ProofHub has two pricing plans – an essential plan that starts at $50 per month, and an ultimate control plan charged at $99 per month.
Asana is a cloud-based tool that focuses on collaboration. It offers a lot of flexibility to plan out projects to the smallest detail. It’s an intuitive tool with different task displays that support custom fields and forms.
There are workflows to automate recurrent tasks, as well as options to create custom rules and approval workflows. The tool is easy to use, but a lot of the core functionality is managed through integrations that may not be suited to all users.
It’s designed with businesses in mind, especially those with small teams and simple projects. But may not be the perfect tool for freelancers.
Some of the key features of Asana are:
- Work breakdown and resource allocation
- Define tasks for projects and create corresponding roadmaps and timelines
- Schedule and prioritize tasks on Asana calendar
- Review milestones and team’s progress
- Project dashboards available for quick overviews
- Project update notifications
- Gantt-type view of how multiple projects fit together
- Detailed progress reports
Asana offers three pricing options: Free, Premium, and Enterprise. Costs range from $10.99 to $24.99 per user, per month.
Another cloud-based project management application that focuses on simplifying project planning, milestone tracking, monitoring deadlines, document management, collaboration with stakeholders, and transparent communication.
It offers advanced features including task management, Gantt Charts, and a real-time newsfeed. You can prioritize tasks to push the crucial ones forward ensuring the deadlines are met. Wrike also offers plenty of integration options.
The number of features can be quite overwhelming for new users, and the unintuitive interface isn’t ideal. Some of the notable features of Wrike are:
- Gantt charts for creating visual timelines
- Synchronize milestones and tasks with Outlook, Google, and iCalendars
- Formulate strategies into actionable plans
- Provide up-to-date and accurate information to customers
Wrike has a freemium version with limited functionality for up to 5 users. Paid plans start at $9.80 per user per month.
Trello is a lightweight, simple, and easy-to-use task management app. It features boards, lists, and cards to create tasks and stay organized. It’s perfect for visualizing project tasks on a single dashboard.
Users can collaborate within the cards, exchange files, and comment. The software lacks features for creating reports and time-tracking. It’s best suited to individuals or small teams that manage just a few projects at once. Some of the features of Trello are:
- Create unlimited task lists
- Easy task management
- File and image sharing
- Commenting and collaboration options
- Organize lists by priority or dates
The basic plan is free and paid plans start at $9.99 per user, per month. They provide additional features like automation, integration, and priority support.
How to Master These Tools and Launch Your Project Management Career
To learn these tools and level-up your PM skills, enroll in our online project management bootcamp. The course is perfect for both PM veterans looking to upskill and newcomers to the field.
We’ll teach you everything you need to deliver quality projects on time and on budget. Our team of leading experts will provide one-on-one mentoring and career coaching to get you hired, fast.
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