With so many project management software tools on the market, trying to choose one tool for an entire team can feel pretty overwhelming. Between industry-specific tools, huge differences in functionality, and of course, wide disparity in pricing, it can feel difficult to know just how to narrow the list down.

To help you make the right choice, we’ll go through:

  • The importance of project management software for small businesses
  • What you need to consider when evaluating project management solutions
  • The key features to look for in a project management system

Why Is a Project Management System Important for Your Small Business?

Small businesses with limited resources often cut corners when it comes to investing in software tools in a bid to save on costs. However, for those in both the startup and early phases of their business, project management software is vital for identifying available resources and the milestones and deliverables that need to be realized.

Here are a few other benefits that small businesses can realize by using project management software:

  • Helps them stay on budget and on schedule by helping them visualize and organize projects from start to finish
  • Gives them control over processes, and allows them to react quickly when things don’t go as originally planned
  • Increases team collaboration, and gives everyone an overview of the tasks at hand
  • Creates accountability by assigning roles, tasks, and milestones to individuals and teams
  • Provides insights and reports on what went well, how much time was spent on certain tasks, and other performance metrics that help them optimize future projects

What To Consider When Choosing a Project Management System

Aside from the features that project management systems offer, you need to bear a few other factors in mind when creating your shortlist.

Type of Business

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing project management software is your type of business and industry. If you work in a field where projects have highly-specific intricacies, then you might find that a generalized project management solution won’t address your needs.

Fortunately, there are tons of specialized project management solutions with advanced features on the market for specific industries, including:

Your Employees

Think about your employees when creating a software shortlist :

  • Who will be using the software most often?
  • Does the platform properly support the number of employees who will use it?
  • What features do they need to enable them to work more efficiently?
  • Does the platform enable you to set roles and access permissions?

Ease of Use and Training

One issue small businesses encounter when they invest in new software is low levels of adoption and employees experiencing a high learning curve. You want the software to be robust enough to support the planning, tracking, and organization of all of your projects, but you’ll also need to look into how easy it is to implement, how much training your employees need — indeed, if the vendor offers any training — and how long it takes to onboard all of your employees and projects.

Monday.com's Project Board
monday.com’s project boards are not only visually appealing but very easy to navigate.
Source: monday.com

Integrations

The project management tool you choose needs to connect, integrate, and work well with your existing software stack. Before adding a solution to the shortlist, make sure it integrates with your other systems.

Scalability and Customizability

As your business grows and your project load increases, you need to know that the software can grow alongside you and support your expanding needs. Customizable features are also necessary since no one team or business is the same.

Customer Support

Bugs and downtime can seriously affect your team’s ability to achieve milestones, so you need to be clear on what level of customer support the vendor offers. Do they offer 24/7 support, or can they only fix issues from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.?

Pricing Plans

Each vendor offers different pricing tiers based on the number of users and features you need. Even though keeping costs down is a priority for most small businesses, don’t base your choice on price alone. Choosing the cheapest option means you’ll likely end up with a software solution that doesn’t support your business’s requirements.

What Features Should You Look for in a Project Management System?

While each business’s needs vary, it’s important to note that there are some key features any solid project management system for small businesses offers.

Dashboards

Dashboards are the central hub of any project management system, providing a 360-degree overview of project progress at a team, individual, and department level. They include up-to-date and easy-to-read key performance indicator (KPI) information, milestone trackers, progress reports, and many other insights.

With many platforms, individual users can curate and adjust their own dashboard visuals. Project management tool Teamwork, for example, provides users with templates for dashboards, as well as the ability to customize their own user experience.

Teamwork Dashboard
With Teamwork, users have multiple dashboard options, including the ability to customize them.
Source: Teamwork

Multiple Views

Any good project management software offers multiple views. Since every individual has their own personal style of working, this is an incredibly important feature to look for. Project management systems usually offer board view, list view, Gantt chart or timeline view, Kanban boards, and table view.

Templates

Templates are a crucial project management feature — unless you want to create new workflows, timelines, and automation from scratch every time. For similar projects that follow the same structure, this feature allows you to create custom templates projects, task lists, workflows, and tasks.

Zoho Projects Dashboard
Zoho Projects enables you to create and customize your own project templates.
Source: Zoho

Built-in Communication and File Sharing

Chat functionality, direct messages, file sharing, and @mentions within project management software platforms are vital for team collaboration and communication. This is especially true as remote work has increased over the past two years. This feature reduces the amount of platform switching, such as emails and communication software, needed to complete tasks and collaborate on projects.

Task Dependencies

Task dependencies are the relationships between tasks. For example, when one task relies on one or more tasks to be performed and completed in a certain order before it can be marked complete. This helps define valuable, relevant workflows for projects.

Reporting

A good project management system offers a variety of reports to help you optimize your workflows and processes, such as:

  • Individual task reports
  • Timesheet reports
  • Budget forecasting
  • Planned vs. actual costs

Next Steps In Choosing Project Management Software

That’s a lot of information to take in. However, you’ve now got a solid basis from which to begin your project management system search. Before you do so, make sure to double-check the “what to consider” section, and make a list of your business requirements — both “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.”

Once you’re ready to start looking, set some time aside to do the proper research. To make this process even easier, we’ve already done much of the legwork for you. Our experts have spent more than 40 hours researching more than 140 of the best project management software systems to help you find the right solution for your needs.

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