Project Management Software

Project Management Software: Gotta Have or Nice to Have?

It is hard to count the times I have been asked, “what is the best project management software?” with the implied belief that the right software will ensure project success. Project Management (PM) software is a very powerful tool helping to manage the team’s tasks, to manage changes, and to monitor the progress towards deliverables. The key idea here is tool.

A project manager should be able to determine what type of software tool they need, and/or the features within an existing tool, to support the work. Project managers can spend a lot of time reviewing software options, however, they should have some understanding about how the tool is going to be used. PM Software that is not needed for a specific project or task may be considered nice-to-have, but it won’t lead to success on its own.

The critical point here is that PMs need to use the software in a way that supports their work.

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Do You Even Need Project Management Software?

PM Software 1In Project Manager presentations and conferences there is often a reaction of disbelief when I state that you can actually complete projects without formal PM software. To prove the point, I share examples such as in Steve Voegl’s book, The Pentagon: A History, in which he shares the 1941 story of incredible planning and work behind the construction an internationally known landmark. The leaders used a combination of people skills and technical knowledge to guide the complicated work, not software.

Interestingly, international research firm Gartner’s Use Social Tools to Manage Projects Without Project Management research shows a trend away from PM software and towards social collaboration tools. Employees leverage the software they use daily, Slack for example, to “…facilitate the requirements of single place and collaboration, but do so in ways that employees have already adopted…”

It is important to note that it is the type of work and the team collaboration that drives the software choice. Again, no one software will guarantee project success. Software is meant to increase your efficiency. The type of work and the team collaboration should drive your software choice. Of course, there is no one program that will guarantee project success; however, it’s important to pick a system with features tailored for what you need!

What to Consider When Selecting Project Management Software

Rather than Google search “project management software” and hoping it works out, identify the key features you need based on: type of project management in use (Waterfall, Agile, Disciplined Agile), size of the team, the available software budget, the ramp up or training to use the software, type of project work (IT, software, creative, manufacturing, etc.), and team collaboration needs. Consider functionality such as:


Document Management

Mobile capabilities

Project Management

Portfolio Management

Time Tracking


Resource and Skill Matching

Resource Forecasting




Project, Task, Resource Views

Workflow Status

Progress / Status Tracking

Use software review sites to help narrow in on which software would address your needs.

The PM software should support your work. As Project Manager Ralph Kliem shares in his article “Project Management Software: Friend or Foe?”, it is not what software you use that will get you to success, it is how you use it to plan, organize, control, and lead a project that matters.

Training For PM Software

touch-screen-1023966_640One of the most widely used PM software is Microsoft Project. For many, that is the software they are required to use by their company. If you know Waterfall methodology, then Microsoft Project will have familiar terms and features. Given the levels of features it has, and the variety of ways different project managers and organizations use combinations of those features, it is very helpful to complete a Microsoft Project training so that you can design and create new project schedules; work with tasks, resources, and project information; and customize project views, tables and filters.

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PM Software: Make It Work For you

Successful project managers have a combination of skills that can be bolstered by software but not replaced by it. No software will build trust among the team, maintain your client relationship, or help you negotiate changes in budget, schedule, or deliverables. However, using PM software wisely and to fit the type of environment in which you are working, can increase your project’s success. PM software is used to track and create more efficiencies in your projects.

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Megan Bell
Megan Bell
Project Manager & Writer at Project Management Academy
Megan Bell