For decades, project management software has been straightforward—buyers knew very well what to expect from this type of software as most products potentially offered the same or almost similar features.
Traditional project management was (and still is) based on principles defined by organizations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI). According to PMI, each project has five stages: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closing, and therefore, project management software should provide features for all of them.
New technologies like cloud computing have allowed more vendors to enter the project management software market, by making software development more affordable. While these vendors offered more options for buyers to choose from, their products were mostly basic as they did not have big budgets for product development. Some of them focused on specific project management needs such as resource management or workflow management, while others preferred to focus on task management.
How is project management software evolving?
Today, project management software comes in many different variations, many of them not always covering the entire project lifecycle and its five stages mentioned above. For instance, “light” versions of this software focus more on task management, which is useful for repetitive work and to monitor unrelated operations.
Furthermore, some vendors offer a “blank slate” product that allows users to create everything (plans, workflows, tasks, and so on) from scratch, thus giving them a lot of freedom and flexibility. At the same time, unchecked flexibility can be an issue and basic features are often not enough for project managers.
Don’t take my word for it—here’s what G2 reviewers have to say:
“Dislikes include the ease of making the project over-complex.”
“you can do just about anything—but that's almost a problem. It's not really set up—out of the box—for any functions. ”
On the brighter side, there is a middle ground between the traditional project management approach and basic project management. The bad news? There are innumerable options available, giving buyers a hard time comparing them on an apples-to-apples basis.
As described below, these types of software provide a mix of features usually included in separate solutions such as team collaboration and billing. The main benefit of combining these features is that companies can have a single source of the truth, which increases visibility across all departments. The most important drawback of these types of software is the level of support for nontraditional functionality, which varies significantly from one product to another. For instance, project collaboration usually includes features for chat and discussions but doesn’t always support document and content management.
Let’s take a look at the scope of each new category to see why they matter and how they’re different from the project management software we know.
Work management for the entire company and remote teams
A growing number of vendors are offering software for work management, which aims to involve all employees as well as external users in product management. Traditional project management was used mostly by project managers—other employees relied on spreadsheets, email, or employee intranet software, to contribute to projects or monitor their progress. Furthermore, 68% of businesses work with freelancers and contractors for project management. External users need access to the same software used internally by the organization but they generally have limited access to the data and tasks they’re helping with.
Another way to look at work management is as an integrated set of tools for multiple purposes, delivered on the same platform. Some vendors use the term Work Operating System (OS) which aims to eliminate whitespaces between business applications.
The term Work OS reminds us of IBM’s Workplace OS project, described as "one of the most significant operating systems software investments of all time" and "one of the largest operating system failures in modern times" in the "Workplace Microkernel and OS: A Case Study". As opposed to Workplace OS, which was supposed to be the ultimate operating system, work management has a more realistic scope, and more chances to succeed.
We have added a new Work Management Software category to highlight the differences between this and traditional project management. Since this type of software is becoming popular by the day, the category already has a grid for buyers to look into, even though it was added only a few months ago, in April 2020.
Project collaboration for fast-paced work environments
In many cases, project management software is used to define and track tasks and workflows that rarely change. While this approach is useful for repetitive tasks that employees perform all the time, it does not help creative professionals in fast-paced environments such as the software and IT industry.
Project collaboration is becoming increasingly important for project management, as internal and external users are getting more involved in managing products and services. As a result, project management vendors have started adding features for chat and communications, document and content sharing, calendars, and events, as well as shared workspaces and project views. These features are usually not included in traditional project management software, which is why it is important to differentiate between them and those that focus on collaboration.
The main challenge with many project management products is that they provide a mix of features that make them difficult to categorize. As mentioned above, traditional project management includes standard features, but new products focus on subsets of functionality, or on additional features like collaboration. An increasing number of project management vendors are also specializing in industry-specific products such as agency management or construction project management.
At G2, we will continue to adapt to market changes, which will be reflected in the category taxonomy. We’re also constantly working on more content and research to familiarize buyers with the market and its evolution.
Gabriel’s background includes more than 15 years of experience in all aspects of business software selection and implementation. His research work has involved detailed functional analyses of software vendors from various areas such as ERP, CRM, and HCM.
Gheorghiu holds a Bachelor of Arts in business administration from the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest (Romania), and a master's degree in territorial project management from Université Paris XII Val de Marne (France).