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Project management software

Project management softwareBusiness project management software can assist with the planning and scheduling of projects, helping you estimate timescales and deadlines and produce a realistic plan to deliver.

You could be developing a product, revamping your website or running a marketing campaign. Whatever the nature of your project, good business project management will help ensure it runs smoothly.

Do you need project management software?

With a steep learning curve, dedicated project management packages tend to offer more than is necessary for straightforward projects.

For example, a project to run a direct mail marketing campaign to your customers might be a simple undertaking. With only a few key tasks, it wouldn’t require project management software.

However, taking a whole new product to market might involve hundreds of inter-dependent tasks performed by lots of people, over a longer time period. Project management software would probably be useful for this project.

Project management software advantages

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Project management software comes into its own when you need to plan one or more projects involving several people. Most packages allow you to input tasks, create dependencies between them and build a plan to get the project finished.

Additionally, project management tools can demonstrate what could happen in different circumstances. Once you’ve input the tasks that make up your project, you can rearrange them or change dates and see how that affects the project overall.

For instance, you can check what impact late delivery of the page designs would have on a new website project.

Project management software can also improve how a team of people is organised and how they work together. It makes tracking objectives easier – if things aren't going to plan, you can input new details for the affected parts of the project and the overall timelines will update automatically.

Most project management tools will also produce Gantt charts, giving you a simple, visual representation of what needs doing to bring a project to its conclusion

It’s important you understand the limitations of project management tools. While they can help you plan and schedule projects, they can’t define processes for you, or manage the people involved.

Types of project management software

The type of business project management software you need will depend on the number of projects you have to manage and their complexity:

  • Low end project management software is good for small, individual projects. It will let you define milestones and produce Gantt charts and reports. Low-end packages cost up to £100. There is also an increasing range of free project management software available.
  • Mid range project management tools can handle complex projects with thousands of tasks. The most popular is Microsoft Project. It's the closest thing there is to industry standard project management software and costs around £600.
  • High end tools can manage multiple projects made up of thousands of tasks. They show you how changing one project will affect others and allow several project managers to work together. High end packages start at £1,000.

A growing number of online project management tools are available. These usually charge by the month and can be cost-effective, particularly if you need to manage a one-off project. Examples include Milestone Planner and super-popular Basecamp.

Remember that it can be difficult to get the most out of project management software unless you have previous experience using it. For this reason, it's often better to choose a simpler package and invest in training and resources to help you implement it properly.