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The ultimate guide to project management tools

To-do list image example

Have you ever wondered what project management tools are and how to use them? Then you are exactly right here.

In this article we will talk about why you use a project management tool, what features are included in such project management tools and finally give you an overview that will help you choose the right project management tool that suits the way you work and your type of project. Ready? Let's go.

The incredible evolution of project management tools from the Stone Age to today

Okay, to get things straight, you don't need a powerful computer or an expensive solution to do project management. Monuments of ancient civilizations will always remind us of what is possible without a computer, or let's say a pencil in your hand.

For example, building a temple would require you to order the right amount of stones at the right time, place them in the right place, and have sufficient resources to assemble the stones before the deadline. Depending on the overall work environment, you need a tool with the right features like scheduling, resource management, notes or others to handle the complexity.

As project management evolved over time from more classic waterfall or V-cycle project management to more recent agile development, project management methodologies and tools have been improved and adapted. Traditionally, the management of the project is left to a dedicated person - the project manager - who is responsible for following the project's progress and who spends a lot of time communicating and gathering information to update the project status. Nowadays, not only the project manager is often kept up to date, but the entire project management team communicates and exchanges information on a daily basis. There are several clear advantages to reach project success. Team members are notified of changes, risks, or delays not only during the project management meeting, but continuously over time. For large projects, the project management tool supports the project manager and the team by showing the right information at the right time. Team members can submit changes without getting past the project manager. It all adds up to a better, continuous workflow where team members are less interrupted by calls and emails and therefore more productive.

Most important features that exists for project management tools

Here are the most important skills defined by successful project managers you should acquire:

  • Collaboration: Working alone on a small project is perfect. But when it comes to large projects, it's much easier to use a collaborative tool to increase team members' productivity.
  • Gantt Chart: Visualizing tasks over time is often a must when planning a project. You can also view dependencies between tasks and allocated resources, which results in an easy-to-understand image of what's happening over time.
  • Kanban: Nowadays, many projects use Kanban methodology. It is very clear and easy to understand. The status of tasks is shown in different columns, giving you a good overview of what is overtime, what should be done and what is planned.
  • Charts and KPI (Key Performance Indicators):What could be nicer than displaying the number of overdue tasks in a pie chart? Charts and KPIs help you easily communicate project progress and spot problems and risks before it's too late.
  • To-Do List: The good old to-do list or task list is one of the oldest and most widely used project management tools. It helps you visualize different aspects of a task side by side. Well-made to-do lists can be personalized and are beautiful thanks to their graphic elements such as icons and color gradients or shading.
  • Notepad:It is useful to take notes. There are always moments in projects when you have to remember decisions and strategies made earlier in the project. A tool to have all your notes in one place can be a big help as you don't have to go through tons of emails and every team member has access.
  • WBS (Work Breakdown Structure): Breaking down a project into simpler, more manageable parts until it's easy to do is part of most projects. There are few tools on the market to help with this task. Representing a project as a work breakdown structure is another way to reduce complexity and avoid oversights.
  • Backlog: When you become agile, you need a backlog. Backlogs are useful for listing and prioritizing features.
  • Resource Leveling: Not Enough Resources? If you're having resource allocation and workload issues over time, you need a resource leveling tool. It helps you balance workdays between not working and overworking, avoiding your team members leaving with burn-outs and your machines being overbooked.
  • Holidays: Yes, not only people need holidays, machines also need maintenance. With an integrated vacation planner, you'll never again have competition between your project goals and your team members' honeymoon in Paris. Your machines stand still during maintenance and produce no quality problems.
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