7 Must-Have Collaborative Project Management Features
Anyone who’s tried to manage a project through their email inbox knows that the task is far more complicated than originally imagined. With a flood of emails pouring in, lack of workflow capability and limited folder and filtering options, it’s safe to say that an email inbox is probably not the best place for your project’s pieces to come together.
Project management has been around since the dawn of time. It’s probably a safe bet that a caveman somewhere in the world was making sure that the wheel was progressing and analyzing results from the fire-starting A/B tests. Once computers shrank from the size of a house to something a little more manageable, project management software took on a life of its own.
In today’s post, we outline some of the key features that users desire from collaborative project management software applications. Tomorrow we’ll be introducing three of the most robust software options to fit anyone’s budget.
What Is Collaborative Project Management?
Moving into the twenty-first century, our offices have grown to become more open, with a lack of division between individuals, teams and even departments. With group meeting spaces, creative areas and company cultures that foster and encourage teamwork, it’s no wonder there has been a surge in software offerings within the collaborative project management segment. There’s nearly an endless amount of options available, serving everyone from the small business owner to the enterprise power-user.
Collaborative project management differs from traditional project management by way of a virtual open-air office. The software was built with the specific purpose of serving groups of people, rather than one individual project manager. Teams can now collaborate together on projects, with the ability to track progress, discuss aspects of the project and upload photos, documents and more — all from within the application. What’s more, with software giants recognizing the mobile revolution, most collaborative project management solutions offer mobile app counterparts, allowing users to access and perform tasks on the go.
Features to Look For
When implementing software of any kind, seek a solution that will make your life easier. Increasingly, vendors are including more integration and automation features, in addition to focusing more on the user interface and experience. Gone are the dull and lifeless applications; now re-imagined as fresh, simple and more intuitive solutions, with what appears to be an active focus on the customer.
These are just some of the features that users can benefit from when using collaborative project management software:
It may seem trivial to list task management for a project management tool; however, there’s more to it than what initially meets the eye. Depending on the product, users may have the option to add a priority level, assign the task to a person or group, add comments, send status updates and more.
Managing various tasks and to-do lists has never been easier than when using a collaborative project management application. Individuals’ dashboards often show outstanding to-do lists, current progress, messages and a calendar to collectively show all of the projects they’re currently working on — making it easy to stay on top of outstanding tasks.
For some project managers and teams, the project involves people outside of the company — which can get tricky when granting access to a project management tool. Some products, such as Basecamp, offer the functionality to invite external users or clients to access the specific project pertaining to them, rather than your entire program. This is especially helpful for those in creative services, marketing and business development.
Imagine a world in which you could collectively work on a project with your team, sending mock-ups, revisions, files and comments without a lengthy and convoluted email thread. That feeling, is exactly what having a collaborative project management tool is. Team members can chime in on a pitch idea, add a template and share final documents with others on their project all within the tool itself. It is important to note, when signing up for a tiered package, plans with more file storage space can get pricey — it’s recommended that you start in a lower plan, as you can usually upgrade at any time.
In any working environment, communication is one of the major keys to success. Without ensuring proper and open communication between team members, managers and clients, you’re opening the door to the threat of miscommunication, mishandling of the project and ultimately, a lot of wasted time and rework.
The teams behind collaborative project management applications understand that your email inbox is representative of Grand Central Station — which is why they’ve built tools within their applications to effectively communicate with teammates. While some offer an instant messenger type of chat, most allow users to comment, start new discussions and ping one another to grab attention. If you’re too attached to your email, most platforms do a good job at integrating to your inbox, with settings to allow for up-to-the-minute updates or a daily summary. When seeking a tool to fit your needs, be sure to look into the built-in communication tools to see how they can work for you.
While project management applications are one of the greatest things since sliced bread, the software simply can’t do it all. That being said, the software companies behind these products have included ways to help — through third-party apps and integrations.
Let’s say that you work for a marketing company and are planning to re-brand their website. Through some collaborative project management tools, you can not only monitor the projects status, you can track time spent and invoice the client through apps and integrations. Beyond tracking time and billing, users can find an assortment of tools to assist with file backups, customer service, the production of contracts, proposals and more!
On April 21, 2015, Google released its updated algorithm that targets companies that are not using mobile-optimized webpages in their SEO practices — this sparked a phenomenon called ‘mobilegeddon.’ While your project management applications may have nothing to do with search ranking or SEO practices, the fact that the internet is buzzing about mobilegeddon in addition to the importance Google is placing on mobile-friendly pages should speak volumes about the direction of mobile usage and traffic.
In relation to your project management solution, it’s important to take note of the functionality and access you’d have to your projects while on the go. With a growing number of employers offering workplace flexibility, people may spend their day working from home, the Starbucks down the street or somewhere in between. This capability is meant to untether employees from their cubicle while still allowing them to remain productive. Most solutions offer free downloadable apps, or counterparts from either the Apple or Android marketplaces.
It’s tough to move forward, adapt and grow when you don’t have the necessary feedback or data. Through the reporting functionality, users and managers can stay on top of their projects better, see what’s coming down the pipeline and learn from previous project workflows to increase efficiency down the line.
The reporting tools among the different apps do vary a bit. Be sure that the tools you’re adding to your shortlist offer the types of reports you’d benefit from, or better yet, allow you to custom build and run your own reports.
So There You Have It…
The seven most important features of collaborative project management software. Like the seven wonders of the world, each of these features are beautiful in their own way and bring value and a little bit of serenity to our chaotic world. Be sure to visit the blog tomorrow for our profiles of three powerful collaborative project management software platforms.
[Photo courtesy of Hubspot]