What are project management tools?

Project management tools are software that bring order to your projects by tracking your tasks and issues, allocating the right amount of work to your teams, and helping you and your teams stay on schedule. In short, project management tools manage your projects effectively.

These tools are designed to assist project managers in quantifying their outcomes and ensuring they align project goals with the scheduled timeline. They allow teams to collaborate effectively, diligently monitor issues, weigh potential risks, and stay on top of major updates.

Almost everything that we do—from building a sand castle to revamping a website or constructing a skyscraper—is a project with a goal tied to it. A simple project doesn't need extensive tools for project management for us to map out its schedule; an everyday to-do list would do the trick. On the other hand, a complex project requires the help of project planning tools to break it down into smaller, doable chunks.

The top five project management tools for project teams in 2024

The top five project management tools for project teams

01. Gantt charts

A Gantt chart is a visualization of your project timeline and the dependencies amongst your various work items.

It is helpful in tracking your project schedule, checking for any deviations from the project plan, and identifying delays. Businesses can use Gantt charts to stay on track with their planned schedule and budget. And if things don't go as planned, they can also use these charts to spot critical tasks that will ensure the project gets completed on time.

Gantt charts are one of the most important tools used in project management. They provide a complete picture of the work breakdown structure and aid in allocating resources efficiently, be it time, money, or people. These charts also map the interdependencies of different work items, help in prioritizing the critical tasks, and reduce scope creep.

Gantt charts in Zoho Projects are an intuitive, easy-to-use tool that makes your planning and scheduling easier. The simple drag-and-drop interface to adjust your timeline, four types of dependencies, and critical path, baseline, chart scaling, and task management capabilities within the chart make this type of chart one of the indispensable project management tools. Plus, this feature is even available in our free plan! Check out more information about the Gantt chart features in our various pricing plans here.

Gantt charts

02. Work breakdown structure

Among the surplus number of tools for project management available on the market, the work breakdown structure (WBS) undoubtedly comes first. It offers a hierarchical breakdown of your project goal into actionable work items.

WBS follows a hierarchy where your end goal is split into stages that can be further divided into tasks or sub-tasks. This helps in planning every single aspect of your project without leaving anything to chance. The breakdown gives clarity on the time and resources needed and helps in setting the planned constraints for a project.

WBS also aids in the execution phase of your project. Work is executed in parts that makeup a whole. Managing these parts is easier in terms of tracking your work and in case of setbacks.

Create a WBS in Zoho Projects with its hierarchy of milestones, task lists, tasks, and sub-tasks. With customizable settings, multiple views, templates, reminders and recurrence, it takes no time at all to set up your project.

Work breakdown structure

03. Project baseline

A project baseline is a graphical way of representing your project values by comparing the baseline, which is the standard you set for your project, against your actual performance. Project baselines are tools of project management that encompass the scope baseline, cost baseline, and schedule baseline. Your baseline also acts as a project tracking tool that helps in tracking your real-time progress. It can also help avoid scope creep by keeping the unplanned work in check.

Unplanned work is a major factor that can affect your project's cost, time, and scope. It causes a domino effect. Firstly, there's a risk that the project has gone out of scope by including this extra work. Even if not, the time and cost of the project will have increased. If you do not wish to compromise on those constraints, the quality of your project will have to take a back seat.

Measure your performance by comparing real-time progress with the baseline set in Zoho Projects' Gantt chart. Easy to set and analyze, the baseline in Zoho Projects works in conjunction with Slack to track the time lost.

Project baseline

04. Team-building activities

Team-building activities are a way to improve morale and boost productivity. From group surfing lessons to team pot lucks, there's a wide range of fun activities you can use as part of corporate team building.

The connection between team building and PM tools may not be obvious. But the relationships between the teams, as well as with the stakeholders, are as important to a project as the planning or execution. And this is an easy way to strengthen these relationships.

Team-building activities may include healthy competitions conducted in a controlled environment; these work as a positive disruption to everyday workplace culture. They can also encourage creativity, highlight your team members' various talents, and motivate people to work together to find the best solutions.

Team-building activities

05. Communications management plan

A project communication plan ensures there's a regular, relevant flow of information between the project members, clients, and other stakeholders. While many project planning tools aim to keep everyone in the loop, this particular tool helps maintain relationships and includes details regarding who communicates what, to whom, and how often. There's the obvious benefit of keeping your stakeholders in the loop, since satisfying their needs is an integral part of a project's success. A communication plan will help tackle any risks that may arise and improve collaboration among the members of your team.

Nail down your communication plan with the extensive collaboration features in Zoho Projects. From the Discuss module with its built-in chat, virtual calls, and meeting capabilities to the social Feed to discuss ideas, feedback, and media, Zoho Projects has you covered with all means of communication.

Communications management plan

Watch a quick overview

Are you on the lookout for the best project management software to help manage your projects? Review the options here, take your pick, and get started!

Watch a quick overview of Zoho Projects

Key features of the best project management tools

The key features of tools used in project management, apart from basic task management, are:

01. Project estimation

To ensure your project succeeds, it's important to not only track the real-time progress but also to estimate the project constraints based on your current performance. This could be in the form of budget forecasts, EVM, or baselines.

02. Budgeting

Manage your costs to stay within the planned budget. Track expenses, track actual costs to invoice clients and pay employees, compare planned and actual costs, forecast the budget, and analyze your budget health.

03. Resource allocation

Make sure the right people work on the right tasks. Avoid overworking or under working your employees by using the workload report. These project management tools also help in assigning work based on the employee workload and availability.

04. Collaboration

Keep all the project stakeholders on the same page. Effortless collaboration is an essential aspect of an online project management tool. Virtual collaboration tools like chat, web meetings, and forums are some great features to have.

05. Quality management

Always put out your best work by constantly reviewing the quality of your project. Issue tracking and resolution capabilities serve pivotal functions in a Project tracking software. Automation to escalate and deal with bugs is a bonus.

06. Project administration

Onboarding your workforce, clients, and organizational structure to a project management tool is important. From industry-specific templates to various third-party integrations, there are several ways project management tools can help you with project administration.

07. Risk management

People also use online project management software to deal with uncertainties in the estimated duration of each task. Arrange tasks to meet various deadlines, and juggle multiple projects simultaneously as part of an overall objective.

Risk management

Benefits of using project management tools

  • Work out the right timing

    Among different tools of project management, Gantt chart software is one that helps best in accommodating delays. Task dependencies and their effect on the time taken to complete a task can be captured and managed with Zoho Projects' Gantt chart software.

  • Evade slippery scopes

    WBS is one of the project planning tools that helps in ideation and is heavily relied upon during planning. It provides an outline to establish your cost, schedule, and work hours. It also helps in identifying risks.

  • Keep your cost boxed

    Cost baseline is the comparison between your initial estimate and your actual project spending. It works closely with schedule and scope baselines, since these factors are interconnected and can easily cause the cost of a project to deviate from its plan.

  • Collaborate to open locked doors

    Promote effective team communication. The best project management tools for teams encourage people to ask questions, ensure balanced workloads, raise questions about ideas that may not work, and achieve success in work.

  • Close the gap that stops you from listening

    Streamlining cross-functional communication with proper project planning tools ensures that all the stakeholders are aware of how to get hold of relevant information. The PM tools ensure that important decisions aren't delayed and all project activities proceed smoothly.

How to choose the best project management tool

Let's face it: there's a wide range of project management tools available with numerous features, catering to businesses with different requirements. The whole process of choosing the right project management app can be confusing, to say the least. But we're here to help you with that. Here's a list of questions to ask yourself before you make the big decision:

What are your needs?

Every business has pain points that need to be addressed, and yours is sure to have its own share. Jot down all these points in the form of a list, which could look something like this:

  • One too many emails that go unopened
  • Missed deadlines
  • Inconsistent meetings
  • Disproportionate workload
  • Time wasted on unnecessary tasks
  • Silos existing within teams

If this looks familiar, your quest to find the best project management tool has gotten some headway. Feel free to add to the list; consult with your teams as well, since they'll be using the tool on a daily basis.

What are the other project management tools out there?

Conduct your own research. A few things that you could do:

  • Compare products on review sites.
  • Ask other team members and their managers for input.
  • Consult with professionals in the industry.
  • Ask your own team if they've used project tools in the past or if they recommend any.

Does the tool work for you and your teams? What about your budget?

At this point, you should've shortlisted two or three tools for project management that are worth the investment. Test them out by yourself, and then with a pilot team. Gather feedback by asking users if:

  • The tool is user-friendly
  • The customer support is helpful
  • The learning curve is shallow or steep
  • There are features they like or dislike

Next, see if it fits well within your budget. Even if it does, you don't want to put your money into planning tools that reap little to no benefits. You can also request a free demo to better understand the product. See if these project management tools are solutions to your pain points listed earlier. Weigh pros and cons, and pick a winner.

Why is Zoho Projects the best project management platform?

If creating projects and making them success stories is your wish, then fulfilling that for you is ours. Take a look at why Zoho Projects is the best project management platform for you:

  • End-to-end service

    From project initiation to closure, Zoho Projects has your back. With features like milestones to mark every progress made in the project, tasks and sub-tasks that break up your project into simpler pieces, and Gantt charts that help visualize and monitor your project, you are well on your way to achieving your project goals.

  • Bug tracking

    No one likes seeing bugs where they shouldn't be, especially if they're causing a ruckus. Our project management app comes with an issue tracker that automates tracking, from the time you create it until it is no longer a threat.

  • Task automation

    Simplify task tracking, management, and completion with Workflow Rules that execute your rules with triggers, Webhooks that send out notifications to third-party websites, Macro Rules that bulk update your work items with predefined criteria, and Blueprints that automate all your workflows.

  • Have your finger on the pulse of your project

    Reports like timesheet and resource allocation, portfolio dashboards, Gantt Charts and widgets give you timely updates on critical tasks, issues, work distribution, budget estimation and more. You can easily export them in XLS or PDF formats for your clients to see.

  • Ready, get set, integrate

    Connect seamlessly with our in-house suites that guide you with budgeting, ticketing, invoices, emailing, collaboration, and more. You can also integrate with third-party apps that you already use, so nothing disrupts your workflow.

  • Collaborate to create and celebrate

    Get ideas going on the fly with our collaboration modules like group chat and calls, Forums, and Feed.

Project Management App

Encompassing all the project management tools mentioned above, Zoho Projects stands as the project management app that's tailor-made for you. Whether it is deconstructing your project into smaller chunks of work items based on hierarchy, sharply visualizing project timelines, doubling down as a project tracking tool, or sketching up communication plans for the teams, Zoho Projects has got your back through and through. Did we pique your interest? Go on, get your hands on the Zoho Projects app, right away!