No matter what kind of services your small business provides, an effective project management program is crucial. It’s important if you are a legal, engineering or architecture firm, and it’s maybe even more important if your business is technology development.

Software project management is the oversight of an IT project from the beginning of the system definition through the successful implementation of the software. It tracks tasks, hours and expenses through each phase of the project and ensures that the final product is delivered on time and within budget.

A software project has defined phases that are not necessarily the same phases found in other types of projects. It generally starts with a requirements and analysis phase that defines exactly what the system you’re building will do. From this, it moves into a design phase where the overall structure of the finished product is specified. Then it starts in on a build phase of the actual coding and several testing phases where the system is refined until it works exactly as the client wants it.

Different IT businesses use different terminology, and the boundaries between the phases aren’t necessarily rigid. For example, in some rapid development techniques, there’s an iterative process where you might loop through the design-build-test cycle many times.

No matter how you structure the different steps, there are overall project management techniques that apply. They’re the things that apply to any project, software or otherwise. To accomplish these effectively, you need project management software. The most popular project management software is effective for software development projects and for other projects as well.

No matter what type of projects you’re running, you have to define all the tasks, assign resources to them and track resource hours and budget against those tasks. You need a tool that not only gets the detail right but also helps you look at the big picture. Only then can you identify dependencies and critical paths and assign resources appropriately to keep the project on schedule.

What Is Project Management?

Software project management is similar to other types of project management in more ways than it’s different. To define project management, one could say that it’s the use of knowledge, skill, techniques, and (usually) software to see a major undertaking from beginning to end. Its goal is to successfully deliver something of value.

To accomplish this, a project manager has to oversee a set of project management steps to bring the project to fruition. Some of these are high-level “thinking cap” steps such as conceptualizing the process and the final product or envisioning the project team that can make the dream a reality. Many tasks, however, involve a tremendous amount of detail and daily oversight. That’s where a project management system makes a difference.

A big part of project management is budget and task tracking. Someone has to identify and set up all the tasks for a project. They also have to assign fee and expense budgets. They have to stay on top of expenses to ensure they’re not exceeding budget. There has to be control over who can do this work and who’s allowed to look at it.

Managers must assign people to all of the tasks. They have to track and approve worker hours, possibly on multiple tasks across many projects. They have to know at a glance who’s working on what and whether each task is on track to meet time and budget.

All of this detail has to be accurate, yet it’s even more important that managers don’t lose track of the big picture. The software system that’s managing hours and budget must also report information in a way that allows managers to correctly make critical decisions. There needs to be reports such as Gantt charts that point out dependencies and progress against milestones. Managers need to see when it’s time to reallocate resources to complete critical path tasks and keep the entire project on track.

Software Project Management Examples

If you’re looking for project management tools examples, you don’t have to look far. Even the most casual search will show you dozens of names, all claiming to be the best project management software. Some of the popular ones are Trello, Asana, Zoho, and Teamwork Projects. Microsoft has its own tool called Microsoft Projects.

Many of these software vendors offer project management software free, albeit with less than the full function of their paid versions. It’s even possible to build a software project management tool from Excel templates and macros.

When you choose a project management system, it’s best to select one that ties project management and project financials together. It’s also important to look at how well your candidate tool works with the systems and processes you already have in place.

BigTime is not a free project management tool, but we do offer a free trial. There’s no need to spend your time and effort installing a product that may not cover all the functionality you need or integrate with your accounting system and other systems. A trial period with BigTime will show you what a full-function, integratable project management tool can do.

Why Is Software Project Management Important?

It’s not an overstatement to say that effective software project management is the difference between project failure and success. Consider what is the project management process. Think about the most important factors that go into a successful project.

Communication is paramount. There must be alignment across the project teams and with all the stakeholders about what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen and what it will cost. All aspects of the project need to be transparent so that all parties have the project knowledge they require. A flexible reporting system is a must.

All the procedures and communication structures have to be in place when the project commences. However, a project manager really earns their compensation when the project is underway. It’s a rare project that goes from start to finish exactly as it was laid out. The importance of project management in organizations becomes all the more evident when things change.

If the project is a software project, the team has to be especially flexible and especially well-managed. Think of all the unexpected events that can occur in a software project. The business can change, causing stakeholder requirements to change. Requests to change the scope of the project are common. The software project manager has to be prepared for and react to stress factors both within and outside of the project team.

It’s a rare individual who can manage all the aspects of a software project on the fly. Perhaps such a person doesn’t even exist. As a result, it’s not hard to see the importance of project management tools in ensuring the successful management and completion of a project.

Software Project Management Course

Some of the aspects of project management are intuitive, and a person with the right aptitude can pick them up as they go. However, considering the objective and importance of project management, most people who want to succeed as project managers will benefit from an IT project management course.

This kind of training is available in a number of formats. Examples are sit-down classroom training, self-paced online learning and webinars. Some programs lead to a professional certification, a worthwhile credential to boost the credibility of anyone marketing themselves as a project manager.

A software project management course outline will give the student some idea of what they can expect to learn. Typically they’ll cover the tools and techniques commonly used by project managers. You’ll learn to create budgets, prioritize tasks and use project management tools. You’ll study how to deal with risk and create risk management plans.

The best courses will put an emphasis on people management. There will be training on team dynamics, managing stakeholder expectations and raising and escalating issues. The right software project management course will equip a manager with the ability to initiate, plan, run, and successfully complete projects.

Importance of Software Project Management

Why is project planning so important in the present scenario? It’s because the projects you manage today, as well as those you plan for the future, won’t be productive unless they’re properly planned and carried out. When you consider the importance of software project management in the organization, it’s easy to see how a project management system can be the key factor in how well a project team does.

A lot can happen during the course of a software project. Priorities can change. Team members might come and go. You may even have to bring in a new manager in the middle of the project cycle. That’s why there must be an accepted and widely understood process for project management at your company.

It’s a lot easier to follow a standard software project management method when it’s supported with a project management tool. It’s even more helpful to have a system such as BigTime. With it, you get the tracking functions, flexible reporting, and strong integration with your current systems and processes. These are the supporting tools managers need to complete every project on time and within budget.