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Opting for free project management software is attractive, particularly when your organization is stretched thin. Without these key features, an inexpensive project management solution might prove to be more of a headache than a help. Our SelectHub analyst team dug through the free offerings in the project management market and discovered these top features to be sure and look for:
Pre-Built Project Templates
Efficient project management software should provide several pre-built project templates with multi-level work breakdown structures and Gantt charts. These templates let users create projects quickly. Pre-built templates remove the hassle of creating new models from scratch and can be customized according to user requirements. Most project management tools also provide templates for industries like IT and engineering, marketing, professional services, events, HR, construction and services.
Task Creation and Kanban View of Tasks
One of the essential building blocks for a successful project management solution is the ability to create tasks and subtasks for completion within a defined timeframe to meet project deadlines. Users can copy, move, reorder, set recurrence and priority of tasks and subtasks. Most project management apps allow tasks to align with Kanban views for simplified access. Tasks can be listed on individual cards, and users can move these cards to different columns as they progress through different phases of project completion.
Creation of User Groups
Project management tools should facilitate the creation of user groups based on multiple criteria like requirements, clients, users and other project needs. This functionality lets administrators segregate multiple projects and user groups while simplifying information sharing to a project team. Users can also add, edit, reorder or delete a group based on its relevance.
An efficient project management system should support custom workflows to streamline processes, enable information access and minimize risks. Individual workflows for different projects can also help delineate responsibilities to suitable individuals, automate processes and set up an audit trail for a project lifecycle.
Customized reporting is quintessential to any growing business. A free tool should support report building and customization to fit your needs. Custom reports offer a deeper understanding of one’s business performance and staff capabilities. Depending on whether a business requires a basic or advanced data report, users can accurately capture information based on specific parameters. Customization should be a simple process where users can choose the information they want to capture without any technical assistance.
Project management software should come bundled with pre-built dashboards that display a summary of projects in the pipeline, resources allocated to them and activities carried out to complete them. Dashboards provide managers with a condensed version of all information about various projects, with easy access.
Charts and Visualizations
Any project management suite worth its merit should support visualizations like Gantt charts, pie charts, control charts, flow diagrams or line charts for the graphical representation of project highlights. Visualizations of task dates help prepare a summary of various tasks and events associated with a project.
Budget and Forecasting
For any business, setting realistic budgets is of the utmost importance. A robust project management solution helps prepare budgets based on resource plans while calculating appropriate billing rates for a scheduled number of hours. According to the Harvard Business Review, IT projects exceed their estimated cost by 27% on average, and one in six projects result in a cost overrun of as much as 200%. A project management tool helps businesses slash their unnecessary expenditures and overall cost overruns. PM tools provide accurate data that helps businesses make informed financial decisions, and forecasting features offer detailed business insights that enable intelligent decision making.
Businesses always need to assess risks associated with projects and minimize them effectively. A successful project management tool helps businesses prepare a comprehensive risk management plan and organize risks that could hamper a project lifecycle. Managers can identify risks related to a project’s pace, execution and resources and minimize them before problems arise.
The market is flooded with free options with a broad palette of features and attractive bells and whistles. However, the above list of features will come in handy to steer your business toward the right solution.