According to the Project Management Institute, a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.” That would include creation of materials and systems for delivering instruction and facilitating learning and skills. To do this, organizations use software and other tools and practices to manage projects that meet their requirements for the unique product, service, or result, including delivery on time and within budget. That effort is project management. Success requires a system for keeping track of work assignments, deadlines, and project schedules, and that's where software comes in.
Project management software ranges from:
- General-purpose tools, to
- Tools that focus on task management within a project context, to
- Applications designed to support specific types of projects, including media creation.
There are hundreds of software choices for project management and task management. The challenge is to choose the tools that best match your desired project outcome, your organization, and the experience of your team.
Features and elements
Software for project management can offer a number of features to carry out different functions. The most important functions are in the broad category of “task management". These include identifying and managing tasks and subtasks and visual task management features such as kanban boards and Gantt charts. Other project management software features often include support for collaboration, email integration, and documentation. Most project management software now includes provision for mobile devices, including iPads and Android devices.
Two broad categories of software to support projects
Another way to organize your thinking about project management software is according to the size of the software product: large (think of big suites such as MS Office) or small (for example, the size of a calculator app). The large products may be referred to as "integrated solutions" whereas the small products are often called "best of breed."
Integrated solutions try to include all of the important features and elements. These are also referred to as program and portfolio management (PPM) software.
“Best-of-breed” solutions stick to one niche or a small subset of elements, where they can outperform an integrated system. These may also be called task management or work management software.
Selecting project management software
In general, small organizations tend to choose several best-of-breed solutions rather than a single PPM software. This saves money and also avoids having to deal with an application that offers far more than is needed and that may be complicated to implement and use. Large organizations also use best-of-breed solutions in addition to PPM software to facilitate project execution and to reduce the management effort required at some stages of a project.
You can search for suitable project management software by asking friends and colleagues for recommendations, and sometimes that is sufficient to get the job done. However, there are websites that provide professional reviews of many kinds of software, including for project management.