Project Management Tools & Guide

This guide provides information for popular project management tools and techniques. Mainly, the article reviews many different types of online and offline, waterfall and agile, free and best PM software. And shares useful comparison, tips, and advice.

The assumptions – you have some basic knowledge of project managements methodologies and processes. Or you have some project management tasks even if you are not a project manager title. And need tools to do your job more efficiently.

Let’s face it – in the modern extremely fast business world the number of projects is growing. It is inevitable. The companies need to offer new products and services, to adapt, to change. And demands for manage all new changes will grow. So no matter if you have a small business or large enterprise you will need project management systems.

Of course, all involved experts/PM or not/ needs tools in order to be efficient.

Project Management Tools by types

Requirement Management tools

One of the most important parts of Project Management is gathering and managing stakeholder requirements. Clear, detailed and confirmed requirement list is a key for successful projects no matter if you use waterfall, agile or iterative approach. More about business analyst techniques here.

I know you can put requirements on paper and share it with stakeholders. And this can work for small projects. But it will be difficult to communicate, prioritize, manage reqs if you have large projects with many involved departments for a long period of time.

I mean just imagine if sales department reads requirement doc version 5 and security department reads document version 6. Because of someone did not read your mail. It will be a mess.

You need requirement management tools. And shared folder is a good idea but it is not enough. People will not read your document often and management of reqs will be very difficult in a word doc. So some requirement software support will be handy.

IBM Rational RequisitePro

requisitepro requirement management softwareThis is one of the best project management tool when it comes to requirement management.

For example, it perfectly linked the requirement and their sources. And one business meeting it is easy to display who owns the requirements and the reqs priority, estimations, linkage and etc.

RequisitePro offers many features as:

  • Powerful requirements engine
  • Requirements traceability
  • Change analysis and notification
  • Detailed reporting
  • Integration with many software
  • Web access
  • Impact analysis

Frankly speaking, ReqPro is used mostly in waterfall project management but it can be integrated with the agile software. For example, ReqPro requirement matrix can be linked to external user stories.

Although this is great requirement management tools, you need to bear in mind that ReqPro is not the cheapest option and it requires good hardware platform.

More information on IBM RequisitePro support page.

Jira Software

jira agile requirement management softwareJira Software is one of the most popular project management software around the world.

It is shining in agile methodology and offers great tools.

Jira’s Initiatives, EPICS, User stories features are flexible and powerful and greatly improve the process of business analysis.

This software is really helpful when it comes to link user stories into tasks, it supports time management and it is really great in release management.

I will mention this software in some of other project management software types because it is really good.

Also, you can buy selected modules in the beginning and upgrade later. This can make your initial cost much cheaper.

Official page of Jira Project Management Software.

Blueprint

blueprint- best of project management toolsBlueprint is another great requirement management solution.

It is 100% cloud based web software which requires no installation.

Of course, it has all standard requirement tools but it has also some really cool features as:

  • Extremely detailed traceability – it traces user stories back to the business needs and non-functional requirements/business rules to acceptance criteria.
  • Excellent visualization capabilities
  • Many useful tools for reusing requirements
  • Integration with the most popular agile project management software and support for Application Lifecycle Management.
  • Status, Trend, Insight reports plus integration with BI tools.

This software is very affordable even for small companies.

More information on the official site of Blueprint.

InteGREAT

integreat requirement and project management tools software
InteGREAT is an extremely powerful requirements management tools. This software can really accelerate business analysis and is really useful for engaging stakeholders. In InteGREAT everything is done in the name of efficiency. Once implemented – the difference in speed become really obvious.

It offers wide range of useful services as:

  • Requirements definitions and requirement traceability
  • Document automation
  • Use cases and test cases generation
  • Generate diagrams and simulations
  • Build decision model logic

InteGREAT provides integration with Microsoft Team Foundation Server and with Visual Studio Online. which is really cool.

More information on the InteGREAT official site.

CA Agile Central – ex Rally

CA Agile Central rallyNo doubt – one of the best and most popular and affordable agile management tools.

From business analysis view it offers excellent features as:

  • Requirement management – scale from single team idea to multi-teams collaboration, decompose high-level features into functional and non-functional requirements, estimate, code and test requirements using Rally’s rich media composers.
  • Plan and track requirements throughout the software lifecycle.
  • Product Management – options for prioritizing features, define minimum valuable products, align with strategic goals, create roadmaps.
  • Portfolio Management – prioritize portfolio demand according to value, track value from concept to cash.

Official site with more information for Rally software.

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Diagraming tools

I think diagraming is an important part of project management job. We all know that one picture means 1000 words so having project management tools to create diagrams seems important.

I really don’t think that one PM should be UML guru but having a set of diagrams can be a key to successful understanding between stakeholders.

Frankly speaking, from business perspective most important diagrams to draw and create are:

  • Activity diagrams – these diagrams represent processes step-by-step, involved actors, happy scenario and exceptions, decisions, and etc. Think about ATM money withdrawal process. We have steps, we have decisions, actors, errors.
  • Status diagrams – if you have an entity with more than two statuses – draw such diagrams. It can save the day. This diagram represents statuses and the links between them. For example, if we have an account it is important to define statuses (create, approve, block and expired) and link between them (can you block non-approved account?).
  • Sequence diagram – here a techie needs to provide some form of support. Because this diagram represents requests and responds between systems. But in any case, it is Project Manager task to request such diagrams. In many cases, techies define diagrams on board or paper and PM/business analyst makes it in the software.
  • System architecture – we will speak for it on a separate section. Definitely an important diagram, but it is a system architect or technical expert task.

There are more UML diagrams but there are not so applicable for PM.

In any case, you will need to create files and here is the point where diagramming project management tools come.

Microsoft Visio

microsoft visio best diagramming toolI will start with Microsoft Visio. It is a really cool diagramming software.

Yes, I know that internet community does not like Microsoft. Or making jokes to Bill Gates.

But this software is not a joke. It is very intuitive, it has so many options that I will make a page only for it.

I use Microsoft Visio in my daily job and I create and draw diagrams extremely fast.

Microsoft Visio has so many cool options that I will speak a little bit for its downside. It is expensive, licenses are kind of a problem for support in big companies, it has not 3D options /yet/ and I feel that it is difficult to use external pictures.

Other than that – one of the best project management tools.

More about MS Visio on the official site.

Aris Express

aris express online diagramming tool and software
One of my favorites diagraming software.

You can download it for free and pay for a full version later. So you have lesser licensing problems.

Its full version cheaper than Microsoft Visio.

But this is not its best advantages. Aris Express makes very beautiful process diagrams and flowchart.  And it makes them very fast. And it is very intuitive.

Aris Express supports all diagrams that matter for one project manager as:

  • Business process and process landscape
  • Organizational chart
  • Data models
  • System landscape and IT infrastructure
  • Whiteboards
  • General diagrams

More information on the official Aris Express site.

Draw.io

draw.io project management toolsFree online diagramming tool.

It is a perfect solution if you want to draw diagrams fast and to share it with other stakeholders.

The tool is simple, intuitive and user-friendly.

One of the best draw.io feature is that users are able to share pictures via Google Drive and to use Google security perimeter.

Another useful feature is the tool support a wide range of languages.

It is an excellent diagramming software for freelancers and small business.

You can start using this online software at draw.io.

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Mock-up and prototype software

It seems that the diagramming software and mock-up software are similar and sometimes some tools try to cover them both.

But in fact, these tools covered different areas. Diagramming represents an abstract internal picture of product, project, integration. While mock-up tools show an external look-and-feel visualization of the end product.

So here is an example of some very useful mock-up project management tools:

Lumzy.com

lumzy mocku-up and prototypes for project managers

Lumzy is excellent free online mock-up tool.

It has a very intuitive user interface and you can start using this software in a minute.

Obviously, you can create mock-up screens for your prototype with buttons, input and dropdown fields, checkboxes, radio button, etc.

But lumzy.com has additional powerful options. You can attach an action to the buttons as go to other pages, show message, open URL in order to provide a real look-and-user experience.

I really cool feature is that you can save your project and to share it online with your stakeholders.

You can start using this tool at lumzy.com.

Axure

axure mock-up and prototype softwareWell if you need a really powerful project management software in order to turn simple idea scheme into polished prototype Axure is a great option.

Axure offers highly functional prototyping options with dynamic content, animations, conditional logics, drag and drop, and calculations.

It also offers great options for creating really bright prototypes with a magnificent design.

Of course, Axure has great options for sharing prototypes across the stakeholders via HTML.

Yes, this software is paid but it definitely worth the price. If you need perfection, you can buy it with no hesitation.

More on the official site of the Axure.

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Planning Project Management tools

OK, planning and managing triple constraint (schedule, time, cost) is the core part of project management.

Very simplified you need to break down the requirements into tasks via work-breakdown structure, to clear task dependencies, to estimate time for each task, and to calculate task cost.

And to monitoring and report progress.And to monitoring and report progress. To take preventive actions. And many others. I will not go into project management methodologies details here. If you like you can read our page for project management roles and responsibilities.

Well, I really prefer to have everything for the planning and triple constraint calculation together in one software. I mean it is very inconvenient for PM to calculate the cost in other software for example. Project management is not accounting thou.

To do all the core PM tasks, you will need top project management tools.

Wrike

wrike the best project management softwareMaybe the best project management software. I mean really. It goes far beyond planning and monitoring schedule, time, and cost.

Wrike has incredible task management options with tracking time, manage priorities, define dependencies, and etc.

Powerful collaboration features that provide current status, dashboard with a glance of most important project data, alerts, communication options and etc.

Of course, you have all needed planning tools and diagrams as Gantt charts, Baseline charts, Performance charts, etc. With powerful task features and these charts planning and tracking schedule, time and cost are much easier.

Wrike has integrations with much other popular software – Dropbox, Gmail, Android Apps, Google Drive, and etc.

And you have a mobile version for iOS and Android.

So if you need a great project management tool – you can bet on Wrike.

For more information –  check Wrike official site.

Microsoft Project

microsoft project schedule management toolsWhen it comes to classic waterfall projects Microsoft Project is my personal leader.

I mean you can have it all at one place – planning tasks, schedule management, time estimations, and cost.

The Gantt chart view of Microsoft project is a pure benchmark standard for scheduling management tools. It has everything for your planning tasks, leads, lags, assigned resources, automatic recalculation.

Speaking of assigned resources, Microsoft Project offers resource leveling, location, over-allocation. And not only to one project but to set of projects (even all projects in your company). Which is pretty cool for HR purposes.

What really shines for me in Microsoft Project is that it offers many different views of your data, high management needs a summarized report – no prob you have milestone plan, summarized timelines, and many others. Some techie needs to know when is planned to join the project – use the calendar options.

And yes you can calculate and monitor cost expenses with many useful features.

Downside – cost is higher, licensing, installation. Also, you need time to learn all these useful features. But if you want one of the best project management tools, there is a price to be paid.

Here you can find useful info for outcoming Microsoft Project 2016.

Jira Software

jira schedule project management tool
I will mention Jira again. Because it is one of the best agile project management software. The tool is excellent for planning purposes.

And yes, you can have a schedule, time and cost management in it.

Jira has so many cool features for online agile project management and planning so it is impossible to write them all – tasks, issues, change log, road map, builds, schemes, charts, gadgets, and etc, etc, etc.

What I really love in Jira is the connection between requirements (EPICS and user stories) and time and release planning. It very easy to track progress – it is really easy to track what is done, what is the status, and when something will finish.

Also, task management is very good – you can assign tasks to people or other people to the assigned tasks to you. In fact, task management is so good that you can use Jira as a ticketing system.

Collaboration via Jira is excellent, reports are very detailed, there are so many customizable plugins around and many others which are turning Jira in one best project management tool for agile planning.

Jira is an online software which is very nice.

More information for Jira on the official site.

Zoho Projects

zoho project schedule management tools softwareZoho Project is one of the most popular project management tools.

And it comes with a reason. Zoho is both simple intuitive software but it comes with many useful features as:

  • Gantt charts
  • Project Management plan
  • Collaboration software
  • Wiki software
  • Dropbox integration
  • Document management
  • Timesheet tool
  • Reporting tool and etc

Zoho has excellent security with 24/7/365 monitoring and a free version. In fact, it has a couple of affordable pricing versions and even the enterprise edition is reasonable (even cheap).

More information can be found on Zoho web site.

VisionFlow

visionflow project management tools softwareYet another useful online tool for project planning if you need online project management software.

VisionFlow offers excellent features as:

  • Flexible Gantt chart
  • Online access from everywhere and easy collaboration
  • Resource, time and cost monitoring
  • Support different methodologies including agile
  • Task planning
  • Many calendar options

The VisionFlow system is very stable and it has great support and training team.

The price is very reasonable and affordable for its quality.

Also, the company offers not only online project management tools but other modules of software as CRM, IT Service Management, Issue tracking software, and etc.

More information you can find on VisionFlow official web site.

Asana

asana planning project management softwareAsana is an excellent tasks and project management tool.

It provides web and mobile access.

Asana software is SaaS (software-as-a-service) and its ultimate goal is to improve team collaboration. Users to manage projects and tasks online and this significantly decreases the number of e-mails.

There is very clear structure – workspaces contain projects, and projects contain tasks. In each task, you can add attributes as estimations, notes, comments, tags, and attachments. So you can follow a project or tasks (or have followers) and when the something is chance all involved receive notification within their system inboxes.

Of course, Asana has all other standard features for planning, scheduling, task management, calendars, and etc which turn it into one of the top project management tools. It has an affordable price also.

More information about Asana software can be found on its official website.

Genius Projects

geniusproject portfolio management toolGenius Project is one of the best portfolio and project management tools on the market.

You can buy it as cloud software or on premise. Also, you can buy it or rent it. Which gives a range of options.

It has all of the important features of one project manager – scheduling, task management, document management, tracking cost and time, and etc.

What makes this software really cool is its portfolio features as

  • Alignment to strategic goals
  • KPI Definition
  • Project comparison and ranking
  • Cost planning
  • Project Hierarchy
  • What-if Analysis
  • Portfolio Analysis

Genius Project offers also very detailed portfolio dashboard and consolidated view – excellent options for high managers.

More information you can find at Genius Project official site.

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Communication and document sharing software

Some experts claim that Project Management is 90% communication. Well, maybe this percentage is too high but communication is extremely important for each and every project manager.

Document sharing is also important topic – you can not just input this large PDF file with XML requests in your project management tool, right. You can input link to where the file is saved.

I will not go into deep details but let me share some experience.

So first thing first – communication tools:

Calls and video communications software

These are one the most used project management tools and probably you will need to use it every single day. Spend some time, get their trials, get involved with them. You can save a lot of headaches.

  • Skype -obviously number 1 software for informal communication. Informal – don’t forget this. Also not a bad option for conversation. Not that good in video conferences with too many participants (at least free versions). Link to Skype official site.
  • Webex – a great tool for online meetings, video conferences, webinars, and other major events. Official Webex site.
  • GoToMeeting – yet another excellent tools for online video communications. It has many cool features, excellent video quality, and it is very reliable software. GoToMeeting official site.

A tip – record most important meetings.

Other communication tools are e-mail of course. Spend some time, learn your mailing software well, keep your e-mails (each mail), respond to any e-mail sent to you.

Documentation management software

Yet another endless topic for a separate page.

Well, depend on your goals you can use different software for document sharing. Bear in mind that you can use this software as a backup for your work. Here are some notable mentions:

Here are some notable mentions:

  • Google Drive – it is a good and fast way to share information. You can share docs in your enterprise using Google security or you can share with external stakeholders. Nice, fast, having an own software to open document online. It is a good fast solution. Google Drive official site.
  • OwnCloud – free open source online document management tools. If you want to customized your document management system it is excellent solutions. But you need to assign someone to get involved with it for a couple of weeks. OwnCloud official site.
  • Dropbox – obviously an excellent solution for document management. If I need to compare Dropbox with Google drive I think that Dropbox is better in security while Google Drive is more efficient with adding existing users. In any case, they are both great solutions. Dropbox official site.
  • Microsoft SharePoint – This is the big gun in the document sharing world. Excellent software with many, many features. But requires investment in time and money. Microsoft Share point site.

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Ticketing systems

Ticketing systems are important project management tools. In PM world, they are used for issue and bug tracking. Usually

It seems like task management but with more details. You have the ticket creation process in which at least following attributes need to be filled in:

  • ID and name of the ticket
  • Date
  • Description
  • Priority
  • Assignee of the ticket

After those people who have access to the ticket start working with it – as providing feedback, update ticket, change status, etc.

Each interaction within the ticket is saved and it visible.

When the ticket is closed people with access still can open it and read it (and even update it).

Some of the best ticketing software are:

  • RedMine – free, open source ticketing system. It is a very intuitive system which can be implemented really fast. It can work perfectly with internal and external users. Access is separated by roles and projects which provide security and flexibility. RedMine official site.
  • Jira Service Desk – You can use Jira Service desk not only as HelpDesk but as ticketing system also.
  • FreshDesk – This is excellent cloud base ticketing system. It has all necessary features for HelpDesk – alerts, issue managements, e-mail integration, etc. Fresh desk official site.

So these are examples of useful project management tools and software. One major area which I skip is Risk Management software but I will write a full article about it soon.
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Important: If you need you can read a review with more information about project management skills .

Also, I do not think that this is the full list of best or most affordable PM software. If you have any suggestions, please write a comment or send me mail via contact form.

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About the Author Marin Valchev

Marin Valchev, PMP is an IT Project Manager with more than 10 years of experience. He implements cutting-edge technology in a wide-range of Financial and TELCO companies in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Marin shares his knowledge of software, analysis, project management and other business areas.

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