Effective project management is the single most impactful thing your business can implement to ensure project success. It’s the unkept secret that leads to projects finishing on time, within budget, and exceeding the expectations of its shareholders.
Great project management relies on both effective project managers to lead the team and a strong project management software solution to deliver results. Communication, planning, and tracking are three key areas that the software you choose can impact on the tasks you complete.
The best project management software for your team is entirely dependent on its unique shape, abilities, and workflow. How these factors work together and how you’re willing to shape your software to suit will guide your future projects more than most other factors.
Each of the project management software solutions we’ve analysed here offers unique insights and perspectives that could prove invaluable to your teams. Tools common to each of the solutions presented here should include a suite of charts, graphs, and visualisation aids that work to improve understanding and communication.
At its core, project management software should aim to deliver the right people and resources to the right tasks at precisely the right time. In addition to core functionality, some of the open-source project management solutions we have analysed here includes a rich array of tools to support custom notifications, budget tracking, and advanced task scheduling amongst other features and functions.
Whether you find additional tools an essential part of the software suite or an unnecessary extra feature—our goal here is to find the right project management software to function for your team.
Using our guide, take a dive into finding out the ins and outs of project management software and carefully analyse the top seven candidates we’ve picked out to import the right solution into your organisation.
To accurately assess how much value project management software can deliver to your teams, we first need to look at precisely what it can deliver for your business. Far from a comprehensive list, these features represent what project management software is best suited to doing to deliver value to your organisation.
The simplest way to ensure consistent and non-overlapping progress on a project is to ensure every team member knows exactly what role they have to fill. It’s perhaps the single most important and often the most overlooked factor of project success.
Clearly defining the roles of every team member ensures everyone has their own area to focus on. Most importantly, defining clear roles guards against forgetting some small details or overlapping large tasks. When project management is clearly defined, everyone knows who to ask for direction and resources.
High-quality project management software ensures that everyone is pulling towards the same goal at once—even when there are many moving pieces in play.
Every team member has a unique area of knowledge and expertise. As a project grows in size and complexity, it can be difficult for all stakeholders to keep and touch with these areas of responsibility and keep up to date across the entire project.
Effective project management software should aim to make this level of collaboration completely straightforward. Insights delivered by timelines, GANT and burndown charts, sprint boards, and related tools ensure that the progress and status of a project can be seen at a glance.
With a clearly defined model of their role and how it fits into the project, the final thing team members need to succeed is a roadmap to reach their destination.
Effective project management software allows you to define this roadmap and the goals that go into it. These goals should serve to motivate your team and provide direction and momentum in achieving them. By aligning team members and optimising your tasks to provide clear deliverables—you can ensure everyone is moving in a direction that will impact on these goals.
One of the most critical assets that project management software can provide is the tools and resources to manage project finances. Something that’s too easily placed at the back of the priority list for teams, project management software can help bring finance to the forefront of thinking and planning.
Assisting project managers in tracking the budget spent against tasks completed—a high-quality project management solution can reduce the opportunities for runaway finances and budget overrun late in the project.
One of the greatest difficulties in project management is that no two projects are ever identical. A software project will vary greatly according to its scale, domain, and the knowledge and experience of the engineers constructing it.
The project management lifecycle attempt to identify key stages in the process and help teams identify where they are and what needs to be done to further advance the project.
Often labelled as analysis or research, this is the phase where you will assemble your project team and identify your goals and timescale.
During this phase, you may lean on tools such as the project roadmap, an early version of the planning schedule, and a record of deliverables you’ll want to be created by the end of the project. The level of detail required and the amount of input needed at this stage will depend primarily on the scale of the project and the number of people involved.
When a project is beginning to take shape, and you have a rough outline of what you want to achieve and when you want it completed—it’s time to put down tangible plans to move toward these goals.
This is the most critical phase towards defining the success of a project. The ability for a project to meet its goals and expectations on time and within budget will largely be defined by how accurate and effective your planning turns out to be.
The outcome of this phase should be an account of how the team will spend its time to meet key milestones and an alignment between shareholders on accurate costing and a complete timeline for the project.
While a great deal about the success of a project will be defined in the planning phase, the vast majority of time spent on a project is spent in the execution phase.
This phase is where your team will work towards implementing deliverables, building the project, and moving towards a minimal viable product (MVP), or a complete service. During this period, the bulk of project management work involves assigning tasks, time and workload management, and shifting plans when necessary to ensure the project stays on track.
When important milestones have been met, and the execution phase of a project draws to a close—reporting is a critical final step that could otherwise be easily overlooked.
It’s this phase that helps to correct issues and errors that have cropped up from each of the earlier phases within the project. Accurate reporting helps to increase the visibility of these issues and ensure they’re ones that have been addressed and prevented for future tasks and projects.
The project management solution that works best for you is dependant largely on the size and shape of your organisation and the teams that support it.
A fully distributed team working across multiple countries and continents may appreciate a more robust solution that provides up-to-date notifications and a clear record of deadlines and reporting. A team working on more experimental research and development tasks that are less well-defined may prefer more robust time-tracking solutions and more flexible options.
Regardless of the size of a team, the benefits of project management software can pay large dividends. Simply tracking tasks against time spent and deadlines approaching is a powerful motivator and a way to review what’s working well and what’s holding things back in a team dynamic.
The larger a team gets, the more effective processes and tools are in keeping projects on track and all team members aligned.
Here, for you to review, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of effective free and open source project management software packages. Each one combines many of the features listed above and some include several more to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of projects being undertaken within your organisation.
An open-sourced project management software solution that allows you to add unlimited users and storage—Redmine is widely known as one of the most flexible web-based project management tools out there.
Built on the Ruby on Rails framework, Redmine features an exceptionally strong user and developer community and often features as one of the single most popular open-source project management software packages. It’s a solution that can be configured to a large number of use cases—from taking care of a single project with just a few discrete tasks to managing multiple ongoing projects and teams at once from a single dashboard.
Redmine is ideally suited for small to mid-sized organisations and businesses looking for a budget-conscious way to manage their projects.
Atlassian’s project management software, Jira, is one of the software industry’s most universally used and most widely appreciated tools. Its widespread adoption, amongst many of the industry’s largest and most productive businesses, speaks to how powerful the software suite can be for the organisations it serves.
Optimised for agile software development, JIRA is built with Kanban task management in mind to help project managers keep on top of the workflow while the wider team progresses with project tasks.
Jira is designed to be flexible in the way it’s deployed. The philosophy of the software is centred around conforming to the way your team works and not forcing your team to adapt to yet another project management software solution. Jira enables you to choose from a pre-configured workflow or create a customised way of working to support your requirements.
Scalable from free plans for small businesses, Jira can suit almost any use case for an organisation and enable you to put project management at the forefront of your thinking.
ProjectLibre is an open-source project management software solution designed to compete with enterprise packages. Inherently scalable and indispensable amongst firms that deploy it, ProjectLibre is well-suited to businesses in a wide range of technology sectors.
Recently, the software hit a milestone of over 5 million downloads worldwide. Since its release in 2012, the project has gone from strength to strength and delivered great value and efficiency to the organisations it serves.
Future cloud-based versions are set to build on the success of the desktop software by opening it up to a multi-project, multi-user version accessible by browser.
Taiga is an open-source project management platform ideally suited to agile projects. Taiga’s vendor also offers premium plans that feature more users, project support, and cloud storage to help streamline projects.
Taiga’s project management software prides itself on being easy to use and featuring a modern UI. The shallow learning curve and modernised approach of the software makes it an ideal solution for cross-functional teams or organisations that are accustomed to existing commercial solutions.
Positioning itself in direct competition with highly popular enterprise offerings—Taiga remains highly customisable in both design and workflow.
OpenProject is open-sourced web-based project management software designed around agile project management. Featuring a free community version and premium version of the platform, OpenProject is well-suited to fit into organisations with varying requirements for enterprise support and setup.
Community versions of the software come with powerful project management features and enough tools and reporting options to undertake large scale commercial projects. Ideally suited for agile project management teams, OpenProject is more than capable of servicing small to mid-sized organisations in a wide range of industries.
TaskJuggler is a flexible and powerful open source project management package designed to handle projects even at vast scale with minimal effort.
Modern and powerful enough to be compared amongst any of the most popular commercial solutions, it offers powerful task and budget management systems. The customisations available to construct and fit with existing workflows enables the solution to be deployed to suit software, hardware, and physical infrastructure projects.
Perhaps the most versatile project management software on the list, TaskJuggler is well-placed to come into almost any-sized firm and improve processes and workflows in a very short time frame.
Freedcamp offers a uniquely powerful, modern, and attractive project management software suite that’s free to use at scale.
Featuring a comprehensive suite of features, tools, and integrations—Freedcamp offers free-tier pricing for an unlimited number of users for an unlimited period of time. With more extensive features available under various levels of paid plans, it’s a project management software solution capable of scaling with your organisation and its consistently evolving requirements.
Few project management suites are as comprehensive or complete as Freedcamp. Offering extensive issue tracking, documentation, invoicing, reporting, and notifications just to start—it’s a software package capable of handling many supporting tasks within your business.
Each of the project management software solutions discussed here has something to offer your future projects. Whether an open-source solution meets the ethos and requirements of your firm or an enterprise package can offer a great deal on complex requirements; effective project management software is the next major step you can take to level up your organisation.
Offering accountability, tracking, reporting, and ready-made ideas for improvement—project management software is the single most impactful and efficient thing you can do today to advance your business in a positive direction.
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