Project management is the process and method of guiding a project toward its end goal — delivering something of value to a stakeholder or customer. Projects require the orchestration of stakeholders, their vision/goal, the resources required to achieve that goal, and the management processes and tools to make sure the project reaches those goals
Even the best projects with the most experienced team members need strong guidance. As such, project management is key to consistent, dependable, and replicable success. Because it’s such a broad field, project management includes the technology, methodology, and resources that enable project completion. Over time, project management technology and methodology have gotten incredibly sophisticated.
According to research from S&P Global Market Intelligence, business leaders in project-centric organizations like professional services and financial services firms said their top challenges when executing across projects include combining scale and agility in portfolio management, standardizing delivery methodologies, and adapting to fluctuating customer needs.
WHAT IS PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE?
Project management software is a powerful tool that offers an array of features to enable project managers to control project costs, achieve milestones, and meet deadlines. The main objective of project management software is to help businesses deliver on the commitments they’ve made to project stakeholders, ensuring project execution drives desired results.
For professional services organizations that drive significant revenue from customer-facing projects, the focus is on executing projects on time, on budget, and in alignment with the scope agreed with the customer in s statement of work (SOW). Many project management software solutions targeted at the professional services industry will even help managers keep track of customer payments and manage project expenses.
Common project management software features include:
Project dashboards that give managers the ability to make fast changes and understand project performance at a glance instead of searching through exported data.
Time tracking software, where team members enter their time worked for specific tasks to support accurate customer billing and project burn rate tracking.
Task management tools, which give managers the ability to assign detailed work related to a project to resources, with modern systems allowing all of this to happen in one easy to control dashboard.
Gantt charts that define and control the flow of interconnected tasks that make up a project to improve utilization and hit deadlines. Gantt charts are often used in the SCRUM management style.
Project templates that allow for quick and easy replication of projects when creating similar work to previous projects.
Throughout the course of a project, project management software will provide both information regarding its performance and the controls necessary to change the work being done. Everything from conceptualization and contract signing to product delivery can be completed and tracked within a strong modern project management software tool. And by living all within one location, organizations can be better equipped to control all aspects of work, as well as better understand where improvements can be made for future projects.
WHO USES PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE?
Plenty of people use project-management software, including everyone from airplane builders to employees performing non-billable work. Some industries rely more heavily on project management software than others, with professional services organizations in particular needing the support of project management software to deliver complex projects while working with many different customers simultaneously. Consulting firms, IT services providers, and marketing agencies, and technology companies with embedded professional services teams commonly use project management software to handle a massive project workload spread across many different customers.
It’s not just project managers using these applications – in these organizations, nearly everyone involved in providing services to customers across a complex project delivery lifecycle touches project management software. This includes sales teams who set up SOWs, resource management teams who assign resources to tasks, consultants who track time and expenses and provide updates on assigned tasks, and finance team members who track project costs, payments, and revenue. These team members need tools that let them sustain high quality work, fuel creativity, make the most of their team members, and keep clients engaged and satisfied.
According to S&P Global Market Intelligence’s recent research report, “The Macro Technology Shift Impacting the Professional Services Industry,” there is a growing demand for stronger software solutions that can meet the growing demands of today’s professional services firms. According to the research, 41% of respondents want to break down collaboration barriers, 40% want to manage resources better across project life cycles, and 39% want to increase their agility and responsiveness to changes and scenarios based on data.
In professional services, each project is an opportunity to generate revenue. But it is also the chance to build lasting customer relationships that foster repeat business. This means more predictable profits and greater financial stability as a business.
Software that keeps track of the granular details that make up every project can help. But before choosing a project management software solution, you should consider the pros and cons of each option.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE?
Project management software provides an array of advantages for companies seeking to optimize their operations, enhance efficiency, and maintain a consistent, seamless workflow. In a dynamic business environment, it is essential to maintain high productivity levels, and this is where project management software excels.
Improved organization and prioritization are some of the top benefits of project management software. These solutions allow managers to define tasks clearly, set deadlines, assign responsibility, and keep track of all project components in a centralized location. It further aids in scheduling and resourcing, preventing bottlenecks or under-utilization of resources.
Project management software also enhances communication and collaboration, particularly vital in a distributed or remote work setting. Team members can exchange ideas, updates, and feedback in real-time, leading to improved decision making, higher customer satisfaction, and better customer retention. Also, project management software provides a clear overview of each team member’s workload and progress, facilitating equitable distribution of tasks.
Another significant advantage of project management software is risk mitigation. These tools provide managers with insight into a project’s potential pitfalls and how to circumvent them, thus ensuring the project stays on track. Through early detection of any deviation from the set plan, preventive measures can be undertaken promptly, saving time and resources.
Some applications reduce redundancy, particularly in businesses that are dependent on spreadsheets to manage projects and project resources — project management software consolidates systems so that information exists in only one place. This helps team members avoid file redundancies, which can contribute to what some call a “versioning nightmare.” In addition to mitigating the number of differing files, project management software also ensures teams use one method to track time, tasks, expenses, other budgeting items such as invoices and more. Having one system encourages teams to work creatively within a given framework and prevents miscommunications and errors that often come from using multiple solutions for one project.
Finally, modern project management software can automate many different recurring processes and provide a central hub to manage resources, tasks, schedules, projects, and communication. All this information living in one system gives you a huge opportunity to run progress reports — whether daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly, all on an automated schedule. Today’s advanced systems can offer real-time progress reports, so you can easily visualize and share information related to project health. This not only gives you insight into where you can adjust your resources to make smarter project-delivery decisions; it also enables you to give detailed, transparent responses to stakeholder questions.
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE?
Despite its multiple advantages, there are potential disadvantages to the use of project management software that are essential to consider before its implementation.
One of the primary drawbacks is the initial costs involved. The purchase of software licenses, equipment upgrades, and training sessions can pose a considerable financial burden for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Additionally, using project management software might increase complexity rather than streamline it. With the plethora of features that such software offers, team members might become overwhelmed. Unless proper training is provided, user resistance and reluctance to embrace the software can negatively affect productivity.
Project management software also runs the risk of depersonalizing project management. Over-reliance on the software can make team members less connected, reducing the interpersonal and spontaneous communications that are key in a dynamic work environment. It can create a false sense of security, causing users to neglect or overlook significant tasks, believing that the software will catch any oversight.
It also introduces the potential for security and privacy issues. The sharing of sensitive information on a platform accessible to multiple users can be problematic if proper protocols and controls are not implemented.
Lastly, project management software often requires an initial time investment for users to get acquainted with its features and functions. This could result in a temporary dip in productivity as users navigate the software, interrupting regular workflow until familiarity and fluency with the system is established.
HOW TO COMPARE PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
The project management software landscape is complex and multi-faceted, with hundreds of solutions vying for buyers’ attention. These solutions run the gamut from simple task management tools to collaborative work management applications to specialized industry clouds like Professional Services Cloud platforms that cater to the unique use cases of a specific sector. The good news is that the right solution for your business’s needs and core use cases almost certainly exists. The bad news is that it might be hard to find in a crowded project management software landscape, and there might be a lot of dead ends to explore on the way there.
Put bluntly, not all project management solutions are created equal. For professional services firms that have unique needs across the services delivery lifecycle, it is important to adopt software that is purpose-built to address the essential project management needs that come with managing revenue-generating, customer-facing services. This is where vertical-specific tools like Kantata’s project management software differ from horizontal point solutions.
Many project management software solutions are focused on getting work done, and not on the larger business impact of that work. In a survey from S&P Global Market Intelligence, businesses using popular project management tools in the collaborative work management category to manage client service delivery say their top three challenges with these tools are:
Difficulty integrating financial information into how they manage their projects
Difficulty doing detailed resource management and capacity planning
Lack of features specific to how professional services teams work
Using tools like these to manage revenue-generating, client-facing projects can leave project managers and team members clear on the next steps, but unclear on key performance indicators like utilization, burn rate, and margin. This is why professional services firms looking for solutions to improve project performance should explore industry-specific software solutions that include project management capabilities like Professional Services Cloud (PS Cloud) and Professional Services Automation (PSA).
Before you begin reviewing today’s project management software solutions, you should define what you want your new system to do for your organization. Once these are defined by a team of stakeholders that will be part of the decision process, you can begin your project management software research. Some trusted websites like G2 already provide reviews and rankings highlighting the best project management software out there to save you time.
Once you have narrowed down your search to a few leading solutions, use the following 5 steps to help compare and contrast software to find the right one for your company.
1. Do your research. Use sites like G2 to conduct research that helps you find your most promising project management software solutions.
2. Schedule a demo with a prospective software provider. Usually, this option appears on their website and will get you in touch with a representative.
3. Assess the full cost of software systems you want to consider. Don’t forget to factor in the hidden costs of integration, inviting clients to use your system, and training time.
4. Get your team’s buy-in. These are the folks who have to use the software, so let them evaluate the product you are considering so they can alert you to advantages and disadvantages they would know best related to actually using the software in daily work.
5. Build relationships with the provider’s staff. Your interactions with representatives will show you the quality of customer experience you will have once you adopt their technology.
Together, these steps will lead you to a solution that will address your company’s needs both today and for years to come.
GET STARTED TODAY
If you are ready to start evaluating project management software, you can schedule a call with one of Kantata’s representatives to discuss your organization’s needs. If you have any questions, we’re available to answer them 24/7 by clicking the Live Chat button on the right. We look forward to working with you!.