Understanding Project Management Systems and How the Right One Can Help You

Every healthy, actively growing company inevitably has one or more projects in production at any given time. Projects are a natural result of corporate evolution, designed to handle new challenges and address the ever-changing needs of a business in today’s world.

But just as there are many different types of projects, there are many ways and means of managing them. Today, we cut through the clutter and show you what makes a good project management system, why product management systems are necessary, and choosing the right project management system.

Let’s start with some basic definitions, then work our way into the heart of the matter.

What is a Project Management System?

When we talk about a project management system, we need to differentiate between two different contexts of the phrase.

The first definition of a project management system is “the whole system of principles and processes required to complete a project.” This context refers to the entire process and its place in the organization. This definition is further broken down into subsystems such as project planning, project control, techniques and methodologies, and cultural ambiance, to name a few.

The second definition is “the software or technology used to conduct project management.” This encompasses tools, spreadsheets, general software applications, and dedicated project management applications. Sometimes the terms “project management system” and “project management software” are used interchangeably.

For the record, we will be focusing more on the latter, although we will often make callbacks to the first definition when appropriate.

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What are the Stages in Project Management?

But what exactly is project management? Appropriately enough, the Project Management Institute has the best definition, describing project management as “…the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.” In turn, a project is defined as a temporary endeavor that creates a unique result, service, or product. While “temporary” sounds fleeting and ephemeral, it’s appropriate in this context since every project has a beginning and an end. Hopefully, the latter also includes a successful result!

 There are usually five separate project management group processes:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Controlling and monitoring
  • Closing 

Looked at it another way, successful project management results from the following three primary stages or pillars:

  • Planning
  • Tracking and management
  • Collaboration

We will use the three pillar model as our guide for breaking down and identifying the best features of the ideal project management system.

A Look at Project Management System Features

Project management systems offer a host of features, and although there’s a lot of variety out there, there are certain fundamentals that most offerings adhere to. Here are the most common project management features, broken down by the three previously mentioned pillars.

Planning

Before you launch your project, you must assemble a team with appropriately skilled people. You then must predict what resources the project needs. Once you know who and what you have at your disposal, you can begin forecasting, scheduling, and allocating those resources.

  • Scheduling. Every project management system must provide the leader with a way to schedule completion dates for each stage of the project. This feature includes making a timeline and delegating tasks
  • Forecasting. Project leaders, drawing upon information and experience from earlier projects, rely on their project management software to calculate a project’s return on investment (ROI), including how much time, resources, and revenue will be required
  • Resource Allocation. This feature goes together with forecasting and helps project managers visualize where the organization’s energy, materials, and time are going. Resource allocation gives managers an accurate overview of available personnel and resources and helps the project team to respond to unforeseen yet inevitable challenges

Tracking and Management

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. That’s old news. Tracking and management help the project leader oversee progress and respond quickly to delays and glitches.

  • Time Tracking. Any good project management software system provides time tracking— measuring productivity, and monitoring the amount of time every contributor spends on their assigned tasks. This feature is especially valuable for managers who have team members who work part-time or remotely. When you consider the recent “work from home” measures implemented due to quarantines, it’s clear that this feature is essential
  • Task Management. Which team member is doing what task? Task management features help managers not only assign responsibilities to project members but also provides a means of measuring each member’s contribution and identifying bottlenecks
  • Permission Settings. In this security-conscious age, a good project management system allows managers to control who can change, edit, or view tasks, files, and other aspects of the project
  • Budget Tracking. A comprehensive project management tool provides managers with budget and expense tracking capabilities. Considering how many stakeholders view going over budget as the ultimate sin, this is an essential feature
  • Reports and Analysis. This feature allows project managers to look at data and metrics without requiring Gantt charts 

Collaboration

Collaboration is the process of keeping different departments connected, a task that becomes even more challenging in the face of increased remote working situations.

  • Document Sharing. How often has a project stalled because team members can’t get the latest version of crucial files? Email isn’t always the answer—project team members need a means of quickly and easily sharing vital information. Simple file sharing features increase production and efficiency
  • Internal Messaging. Team members need access to a rapid and convenient means to communicate beyond email
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Why Use a Project Management System? What are the Benefits?

There are three significant advantages to using a project management system. They are: 

  • Accountability. There are many factors to consider when running a project, including deadlines, overlooked assignments, version confusion, and tasks that fall behind schedule. Project management provides timely project updates for all interested parties throughout the organization. Accountability helps to ensure that nothing gets missed
  • Organization. How much time gets wasted by project members searching for crucial tools and files? Project management systems provide a secure central location for updates, tools, files, templates, and more
  • Visibility. Project management systems provide team members, end-users, and interested stakeholders with a real-time view of project statuses. You can monitor timelines, spot projects at risk, and view any project’s overall progress 

Disorganization, waste, and redundancy are the bane of any project team. A robust, effective project management system helps keep everyone focused and connected and provides a useful snapshot of the project’s progress.

Project management software also helps keep stakeholders in the loop by enabling them to find any questions or concerns that they may have. By providing stakeholders with answers and progress reports, project management software saves team members from distractions like taking time to answer questions—time that’s better spent actually working!

Selecting the Right Project Management System

There are many factors to consider when looking for the ideal project management system. Project managers need to take everything into account, including the project’s nature and size, available staff, the company’s size and type, the urgency of the project, cost of the project management software, and what resources are at the team’s disposal.

When choosing the right project management system, use the features mentioned above as your guide, and keep an eye out for the following:

  • Risk management. Projects come with risks. This feature identifies and manages risks, helping managers find pain points in advance and develop mitigation strategies
  • Resource management. What will the project cost, and what tools and resources will it need? This function helps calculate expenditures and organize resource allocation
  • Critical path, dependencies, and milestones. Milestones help assure managers that the project is moving along smoothly. Also, sometimes one task’s completion depends on a different task having been completed first. This feature sorts out the best path to follow, including prerequisites and timelines
  • Ease of use. Project team members should be spending most of their work time working on the project, not trying to understand how the project management tools work!
  • Third-party integration. It’s rare to find a company that uses software and apps from one vendor exclusively. Your project management system should be able to gather and share data from other critical apps
  • Agile compatibility. Given agile’s popularity, your project management system should be able to accommodate agile methodologies
  • Project management boards. Management boards provide project team members with a visual representation of the project’s status. This feature makes progress tracking easier
  • Effective time tracking. Time is money. A good time tracking feature helps managers estimate the completion date of the project, and spot possible problem areas and delays
  • Customizable workflow. No two teams are the same, and this feature considers the different levels of creativity and unique processes
  • A native mobile app. We are a society on the move, and that includes working on mobile devices
  • Collaboration. That mobility also means it’s challenging to keep everyone in contact and able to share information easily. This feature enables team members to share files, documents, tasks, and timelines quickly and efficiently. There should also be a useful chat/discussion tool, keeping in-house teams and remote workers in contact
  • Easy task delegation. Smart delegation is the key to a successful project, and this feature makes it easy for managers to assign tasks and roles.

What Project Management Systems are Available Today?

Although there are dozens of tools, here’s a sampling of five of the more popular project management systems available today. 

  • Basecamp. Basecamp is a top-rated tool that offers a robust search function, designated discussion areas, and status and update reporting. On the downside, it lacks customization options and milestones
  • Wrike. Wrike is cloud-based and integrates with resources such as Dropbox, Google Apps, and Excel. It makes it easier for leaders to track day-to-day operations and make sure a project is coming in at budget and in a timely manner
  • Trello. Trello is an online Kanban tool, letting managers visualize the whole project in a single view. It’s excellent for tracking tasks and overseeing workflow but lacks reporting features
  • LiquidPlanner. Suited more for large businesses and enterprises, LiquidPlanner is a powerful tool that touts visibility as one of its most prominent features—enabling managers to keep track of their resources, personnel, and completion times. However, it’s rather expensive and not well-suited for smaller organizations. But as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for
  • ProofHub. If you have a small or new business, then this is the tool for you. It offers a good range of sub-components such as workflow, task management, chat, and calendar, but with an eye towards simplicity.

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Do You Want to Know More About Project Management?

Are you the kind of professional who likes working with projects? If the prospect of project team leadership appeals to you, then you should consider learning more about project management, either to flesh out your current skill set or to move into a new career. 

Simplilearn offers a PMP Certification Training course that covers new trends, emerging practices, and core competencies required of any project management professional. The course places a greater emphasis on strategic and business knowledge and includes a new section on the role of the project manager in both large and small companies.

Whether you choose the self-paced learning, Blended Learning, or corporate training solution, you will enjoy 35 contact hours/PDUs of instruction, eight industry-based case studies, six hands-on projects, and much more. Your earned certification shows prospective employers that you have the skills they need, strengthening your application for that desired position. 

According to Glassdoor, a project director in the US earns an average annual salary of $116,636, and a project management officer averages $66,136. Project management is a vital part of today’s business landscape, and there’s currently a talent gap. So if you’re looking for a great-paying career in a field that’s full of opportunity, visit Simplilearn and get started today!

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Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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