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by Robert Izquierdo | Published on May 18, 2022
Image source: Getty Images
Every project involves four essential project management basics:
Tracking and managing these four elements is the template for achieving the desired outcome of a project management plan. For instance, meeting the project scope but failing to do so on time grants competitors an opportunity, like being first to market with a similar solution. And project management tracking becomes progressively more difficult as the size and complexity of the project grows, increasing the risk of failure.
That’s where project management software saves the day. This specialized group of project management tools alleviates the challenges in tracking and managing the four key project elements.
Some may ask why tracking project progress is even necessary. After all, it can seem like administrative overhead. And it might be for a simple project that takes just a few days and involves one or two people.
For larger projects that can take weeks or longer, and are comprised of several people, project tracking becomes critical. It increases the likelihood of a successful outcome by delivering these benefits:
Project management is fortunate to have a wide array of software tools that make project tracking a breeze. Gone are the days when a spreadsheet is your only option.
Here’s a summary of some excellent and well-known software tools to track your project. Let’s dive into how each can help.
Podio is a strong option to meet your project tracking needs. It contains all the core functionality involved in the project management steps, such as time tracking and budget reports.

Podio’s main dashboard is simple, allowing for easy navigation. Image source: Author
Source: Podio software.
In addition, if the software lacks a feature you require, its customization capabilities mean you can add it.
With elements like team dashboards, chat features, and a shared team calendar, Podio supports communication and collaboration across project members.
It even offers a free basic version of the software, giving you the opportunity to try Podio before upgrading to a tier with more features.
As a project progress tracker, monday.com is a solid choice. Its functionality covers all phases of the project life cycle. It has many of the same features as Podio, such as budget reports, time tracking, and shared team calendars, and it combines these into a nice user interface (UI).

monday.com offers nice visualizations of your projects like this timeline system. Image source: Author
As a result, monday.com is a complete project management tracking tool, although it lacks the free option provided by Podio.
Like Podio and monday.com, Wrike possesses the essential functionality needed to successfully execute projects. Wrike offers a free version with limited features akin to Podio.

Wrike’s task management system consolidates all work in one spot. Image source: Author
Source: Wrike software.
In addition, Wrike gives users flexibility in how they want to track projects, with traditional task lists, a Kanban board, or other tracking methods which are built right in.
It does include a drawback: you’ve got to be online to use its desktop version.
When it comes to using Airtable for project management, it definitely has everything you’ll need. Airtable’s chief strength is its beautifully-designed UI. Its task tracking employs a gallery feature to make the process visually appealing.

Airtable provides a wide breadth of templates to simplify kick-starting your project. S Image source: Author
ource: Airtable software.
While the software covers what’s needed for managing and tracking any type of project, its built-in tools and templates are particularly fitting for the needs of marketing and ad agency teams.
Jira is ideal for teams working on a software development project. That’s where its roots lie and where it continues to show strength even though it could be used for other types of projects since Jira supports the work breakdown structure framework.
So it’s no surprise many companies building software products use Jira. Why it’s particularly apt for such projects is that it’s designed to complement the workflows of an Agile software development methodology.

The Jira setup screen gives a sense for the types of teams and projects its intended for. Image source: Author
For instance, work is intended to be broken down into sprints and assigned story points. As a result, it’s pretty robust for its intended use. I’ve used it at different companies to great effect.
But if you’re not working on a software project or using Agile methodologies, avoid Jira. You’ll quickly become frustrated by its lack of features for broader project management applications, like no budget management, and its reporting designed around Agile software topics like its burndown report.
Fully-featured Scoro delivers all the important project management tracking features found in rivals like Podio.
Capabilities such as time and budget tracking become more robust thanks to Scoro’s strong reporting. This comes through immediately upon logging in and viewing its default dashboard, which is packed with information.

Scoro’s dashboard provides a thorough view of a project. Image source: Author
Source: Scoro software.
Scoro is a great tool, but consequently, it comes with a high price tag.
This is one of the oldest project management software products on the market, and as such, Microsoft Project is worth a mention. It’s essentially an interactive Gantt chart, a type of bar chart that illustrates a project schedule. This is its strength and weakness.
If you’re looking for software that provides a project tracking template in the Gantt format, this is not a bad option, particularly if your company is already using the Microsoft Office suite since Project integrates with the rest of Microsoft’s products.

Microsoft Project offers the familiar menu and taskbar options seen in Microsoft’s other software. S Image source: Author
ource: Microsoft software.
Project once lacked features available from other software tools on this list, but it’s undergone updates. It’s now a more robust project management tool, offering options such as integrations with other apps to extend Project’s capabilities.
A stronger alternative to Microsoft Project is TeamGantt. As its name suggests, the software delivers interactive Gantt charts as its core project tracking experience, but with an easier-to-navigate UI than Microsoft Project.
It also offers collaboration and communication components to facilitate teamwork, time, and resource management features, and a simplified reporting toolset, making it very user friendly.

TeamGantt’s take on the traditional Gantt chart delivers a clean, user-friendly interface. Image source: Author
Source: TeamGantt software.
So while other project tracking software can be a project in itself to use, TeamGantt avoids this pitfall.
That said, it lacks budget management features and is expensive, although it does provide a free version with limited capabilities.
As you can see, the software options to track and manage projects is pretty varied.
In fact, it can become overwhelming, so let’s touch on how to make the project tracking tool work for you, and not the other way around.
Project tracking software is only valuable if it helps you accomplish your goals. If you require the software to track expenses, it’s got to be able to do that or it’s adding a burden rather than helping.
So outline your needs first by listing the key features you must have versus those you can live without, then find the software that meets all of your key needs.
Projects are fluid and ever changing. Priorities shift, task completions get delayed, unexpected challenges arise.
But if making updates to your project plan to reflect these changes is onerous, then your project tracking software is not doing its job. Therefore, pick software that allows you to make quick, easy changes.
The one essential element to any project’s success is communication.
Project tracking software should make this easy with reports that can be downloaded and shared, a dashboard or other means for team members to quickly see the status of their tasks and the project overall, and alerts to help those on the project know when a deadline is missed, changes to a task occurred, or a key milestone is approaching.
That way, you don’t have to constantly live in the software to know what’s going on.
No one wants cumbersome project tracking software. So if you’re spending twenty minutes trying to figure out how to run a report, that tool needs to go. But you don’t want to discover this when you’re in the thick of your project.
That’s why it’s worth the time to test drive project tracking software through free trials or free basic versions, despite the lack of features. Hands-on experience is the only way to truly know if the software is going to help or hinder.
You’ll get a sense for whether or not the tool fits your needs, and can then commit to paid versions, confident that the project tracking software will help you achieve a successful outcome.
Robert Izquierdo is a software expert writing for The Ascent and The Motley Fool.
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