Managing Complex Tasks And Projects: What Is Project Management Software?

Different definitions of what is project management software are provided in specialised textbooks, but experts agree that common characteristics of project management software include functionality to schedule, plan, and allocate resources to manage complex tasks within large projects. Initially, project management solutions provided only basic functionality dealing with scheduling and documentation handling, gradually evolving into complex systems that are able to assist customers in planning their activities, estimating and controlling costs related to projects, allocating available resources, and collaborating efficiently with each other. Resource scheduling is a core module incorporated into project management software, allowing users to effectively allocate human resources to tasks. Managing interdependent tasks and project is another essential functionality of more advanced project management systems.

Useful project management software would feature analytical capabilities and tools to analyse historical development of projects, measure slippages if any, assess workload of personnel and estimate costs, and compare actual and planned performance of employees within a particular project. Therefore, project management solutions are required to deal with databases containing records on performance, schedules, plans, and projects. Until recently, such databases or files accessed by the project management software were hosted on servers within organisations that use a particular project management product.

In the last few years, however, a growing number of software vendors have started offering software-as-aservice (SaaS) solutions, where only the end-user interface is running on customer’s computers, while databases, files, and software itself run and are hosted on third party servers. Such cloud-based solutions offer cost-reducing advantages, while security concerns prevent many enterprises from adopting such products. Web-based project management solutions are similar to cloud applications but they can run also in intranet environment, which offers obvious advantages in scenarios where there is limited or unreliable Internet access, or corporate policies do not envisage use of third party servers.

Collaboration functionality of project management systems came to life after developers and software vendors realised that the future lies with complex software solutions, designed to replace multiple business applications dealing independently with different aspects of related business processes but unable to communicate and interact. A modern project management system would provide multi-user environment where employees are enabled to work on a single project simultaneously, while concurrently accessing the same file in a database. Software project management systems should boast of this functionality, for example.

Useful project management software would feature analytical capabilities and tools to analyse historical development of projects, measure slippages if any, assess workload of personnel and estimate costs, and compare actual and planned performance of employees within a particular project. Therefore, project management solutions are required to deal with databases containing records on performance, schedules, plans, and projects. Until recently, such databases or files accessed by the project management software were hosted on servers within organisations that use a particular project management product.

In fact, modern project management platforms targeting corporate customers tend to provide functionality and modules that were previously offered only in the framework of sophisticated, therefore expensive customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Nowadays, most general business software platforms combine tools designed to manage multifaceted tasks and processes, making it hard to define the boundaries of what is project management software; for such systems evolved into complex solutions, enabling enterprises to software project management within a single application.

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