When it comes to managing projects, engineers, business consultants, accountants, entrepreneurs, architects, and IT service providers all have one thing in common. They must track and control the three constraints that keep all projects within budget and on-task — and those are time, scope, and costs. When either of these three elements spiral out of control, the other two will suffer.

The best way to track multiple tasks while staying within the scope of a contract and keeping costs down so your project profitability won't suffer is to use project management software. But, not all project management apps address the specific needs of these types of professionals, who are typically classified as consultants who run their own business and manage their own staff.

There are different types of project management software for consultants. Some are web-based or enterprise-wide, so you can access your projects from any location, while others are desktop project management apps that are used while in the office. Also, you will have different types of software project management that are task-specific.

These include scheduling, collaboration, document management, employee time tracking, or project issue management. No matter which project management tools you decide to use, make sure they have features that help you accomplish most of the following:

  • Project planning
  • Activity/task monitoring
  • Manpower/procurement scheduling
  • Project control (Gantt charts, etc.)

Your project management app should be useful throughout the lifecycle of all your projects or client caseloads. But most of all, the best project management app will add a sense of standardization to your projects so that you build a framework of specific tasks that are always followed, with the flexibility to include unique processes that are particular to certain clients or projects.

From project initiation to project completion, good project management software will keep you focused on the project's main purpose, the goals of your client, any compliance or government requirements, and project risks or sensitive areas that should be given extra attention.

Project Management Tools

When making a choice between which app is best for your consulting or professional services business, it may boil down to which project management tools are most useful for tracking your clients, case loads, and contracted projects.

Start by analyzing any current project management tools and techniques that you are using. These processes may be manual and paper-based, but you should still find a suitable set of software project management tools that fit nicely with the way you currently do business.

Also, list the business software that you currently use to help track project activities and finances. This may include Quicken, Excel spreadsheets, Gantt charts or scrum boards, a database to keep all your client and vendor information such as addresses, phone numbers, and billing information.

What are project management tools?

The best project management software will integrate your most important project management tools and techniques that you have been using, then centralize them in one application that shares information across multiple phases.

For instance, your client's contact information is entered once and given a unique project number. Then, all your following activities, expenditures, man hours, and other project tasks will be seamlessly linked to this client. This makes it easy to run reports that compare what was previously two disparate pieces of data, but can now be visualized in a way that demonstrates how one project function can affect another, such as your forecast profits or your equipment and manpower scheduling.

But, not all project management tools include financial integration, such as invoicing and bill payment like BigTime. This company offers a full-featured project management system developed specifically for the way consultants and professional service providers operate. And, you can bundle employee time tracking, project management, and project invoicing and expenses to create the right project management tools to meet your needs.

Best Project Management Software

It doesn't matter if you're a start-up consultant, or you've operated your professional services business for years, it makes sense to compare features, so you can select the best project management software for your business and one that will suit the way your clients operate. While you may want to consider your budget in choosing the right platform to partner with, you should also consider how robust the planning and scheduling features are when making a project management software comparison.

The top project management software will be easy to use and allow you to see all your project deadlines in one place. Too often, consultants think the best project management software is the one that the big corporate players are using. This is a mistake, as these programs can be cumbersome to use, difficult to learn, and really have too much fluff that is simply not necessary.

The best software will not only make your business run more smoothly, but the software itself should perform efficiently. This means you should be able to easily break larger project tasks into smaller subtasks, then assign a due date that will keep you and your team on track.

While some of your consulting workflows may be complex, your project management software should be just the opposite - straightforward and easy to use.

Project Management Tools Examples

The goal of any good project management app is to give you the tools you need to identify the actions that are required to complete a project. But, a project management tools list will go further than a simple to-do list - that's only the beginning.

Here are some project management tools examples that should work seamlessly together to help you chart a strategic path or create a tactical plan to get from the beginning to the end of your projects. Consider the following project management tools list:

  • Expense tracking
  • Time tracking
  • kanban boards
  • Payment processing
  • Gantt charts
  • Billing and invoicing
  • Collaboration calendars
  • Review & Approval Workflows
  • Project reports

These project management tools not only add more functionality to the software, they also work to integrate information from one tool to another. And, that's the end goal of having the right tools bundled in one project management app, so you don't have to invest in multiple apps to track your project activities, customer payments, and the costs of doing business.

Imagine being able to manage your manpower resources, schedule project activities, and create invoices all from one centralized software for managing projects. This is the benefit of bundled apps like BigTime.

Top 10 Project Management Tools

It is a good idea to compare a variety of project management software for professional service providers, like accountants, engineers, lawyers, consultants, IT experts, and other service-oriented business owners. Start with the free project management tools that are offered by open source project management software developers. These apps will give you a good idea of the minimum you should expect.

Then proceed on to compare the top 10 project management tools that fit different types of project management systems, such as enterprise-level, stand-alone, and web-based systems. Here is a comparison of 3 of the best apps for managing projects and what you should look for:

Microsoft Project Management Tools — You will typically need the other Microsoft apps to get the most out of Microsoft Project, and still some of the more advanced features will require a license that is available at a higher price or with a paid subscription. Also, Microsoft Project has a long and difficult learning curve. But, for corporate enterprises already paying for the full Microsoft Suites, it may be a good choice.

BigTime Project Management — BigTime is a bundled project management software developed specifically for service professionals such as management and financial consultants, architects and engineers, etc. It is designed to fit the way they do business with time and expense tracking, billing & invoicing, and a drag-and-drop reporting engine to easily get business KPI analytics.

Asana Project Management — This app is less for individual consultants and professionals that run their own business and is more appropriate for project teams, such as a marketing and advertising team that is launching a new product campaign for a client. It helps the users to communicate with each other while tracking project budget and milestones over the life of the project.

BigTime is one of the few project management apps that was developed specifically to address the needs of service professionals and how they interact with their clients on a project by project basis.

Best Project Management Tools For Small Teams

Small business owners like those who provide professional services to their clients can get more from the best project management tools for small teams, like BigTime. These types of project management apps are easier to download, roll-out, learn, and use from day one.

When smaller companies invest in large, cumbersome apps that are the current buzz, they will often sit unused or the users never get their full money's worth because it takes too much time to learn all the ins-and-outs of the software.

The best project management app, like BigTime, is not free, but it does offer a free trial. This gives you time to test drive the app and see how easy it is to learn and use. The developers make the interface simple and easy to navigate but still included many sophisticated features without the hassle of a huge learning curve.

BigTime has proven to be one of the best project management apps for busy professionals. And best of all, you can bundle different features such as invoicing, time tracking, and human resources to create the project management program that specifically fits the way you do business.

Visit BigTime online to discover how we can help streamline your project management and billing efforts to make your life easier so you can spend more time providing services to your clients.