Type in a web search related to PM software and the responses are overwhelming.

It is easy to get confused as to what is a PM software.  Essentially, almost any software can be considered a tool for Project Management, but we must be clear as to what is the focus of that software.  What is the purpose, the value and the results that you want to achieve in relation to that software.  So first you must look at your project, your company culture, the team and of course your personal internal knowledge, skills and experience.

It is rare to have one software meet all your needs for managing a project.

One of the first things to clarify, is when people use Microsoft Project software they often call that file the Project Plan.  This is not a best practice.  Microsoft Project is a great software for producing schedules, it can also be leveraged to produce multiple types of reports that can manage resources, earned value management and other scheduling associated aspects.  If you leveraged Projecet Server, then you can also get into another level of enterprise project management. However, it is recommended that the best software for developing a project plan is a word processor type of software, such as Microsoft Word.  From that type of software, you develop a master plan and subsidiary plans.  Most of the time, the project plan becomes a folder on your computer desktop, from which you have multiple types of softwares that are used for each subsidiary plan that you develop.  For example:

Type of Plan - Type of Software
  • Master Project plan - Microsoft Word or Google Docs or Open Office
  • Scope/WBS - Microsoft Visio or Power Point or Libreoffice Draw
  • Time/Schedule - Microsoft Project or Project Libre or Open Workbench or Basecamp
  • Cost/Budget - Microsoft Excel
  • HR/Organizational Design - Microsoft Visio or Power Point or Libreoffice Draw
  • Procurement/Security/PDF  - Adobe PDF or CutePDF or Foxit or Nitro
  • Risks - Mindmap or Mindjet 
  • Communication/Collaboration/Contacts - GoogleDocs or Dropbox or Chats or MSN or Facebook
Note:  one of the most important softwares that I recommend you incorporate is the last one, it is often overlooked but when it comes down to it, the biggest reason projects fail is related to communication and collaboration.  Projects involve people - people are generally poor at communication (don't let anyone tell you different) and communication/collaboration is the platform of everything we do on a project.

The key thing to remember is that software will not manage your project.  First you must have a methodology and a system, then you can look at how software will save on: time, money, resources, quality, efficiency, effectiveness, analytic capability, safety, claims, admin, stress, anxiety, intellectual property, lessons learned, templates, etc.

When properly used, software WILL bring benefits to how you manage projects.  Be careful in that you do not have to bring in an entire ERP system even for very large projects.  This is also a common error in that software turns projects into admin nightmares and the Project Manager becomes more of an administrator then a manager.  We often see this in larger, more traditional based companies that follow very rigid internal systems and do not have a business model that asks for the ability to be agile, dynamic or adaptable.  I have managed 100 million dollar projects with the softwares listed above - the key was the project systems that were in place.

Remember, strong PMs leverage software to enable project systems, processes, guidelines, policies and other PM tools.

A good link is below, touches on the theme of this post and also gives more examples of tools that you could utilize: