Project managers are as efficient as the project scheduling tools they use. You may be a great communicator and have all the soft skills in the world, but without the right tool for project planning and scheduling, things can, and will get out of line quickly.
The truth is, project scheduling is a complex process. This complexity only gets multiplied as you take on more projects and bring in more people. Keeping it all in a spreadsheet is no longer possible, unless you want to spend forever updating every small change.
The right end-to-end project scheduling tool can make all the difference – it will help you keep track of all the different moving parts.
However, given the increase in demand and growth of the project management profession, there are hundreds of scheduling tools on the market today. It can be difficult to know where to start your search. In fact, not all of them will hit the nail on the head for you. That’s why we picked seven best-in-class tools worth the investment.
What is project scheduling?
Project scheduling is the process of defining and controlling the timing of activities and the resulting deliverables. More specifically, it identifies time frames for completing tasks within a project or program. Project scheduling provides a communication tool for both managers and team members. It also serves as a planning tool because it helps to determine how much work can be accomplished within specified time constraints by specifying resource requirements, starting times, finishing times, and other schedule elements.
Project schedules can be used as control tools because they provide a means of monitoring progress towards defined goals within prescribed periods of time. They are performance measurement tools in which actual results are compared with planned results over time in order to identify variances between forecasts and reality that need corrective action.
Finally, project schedules can help identify risks associated with activities by analyzing their effects on the overall project schedule; this allows managers to plan ahead so that problems do not arise unexpectedly later on in their projects’ life cycles (e..g., when they come up against unexpected problems such as delays caused by weather conditions).
A good project schedule includes:
- Start and end date
To cut a long story short, project scheduling tools help you create schedules, monitor progress, identify risks and bottlenecks, allocate resources, communicate with team members, and report on project status. Really, there’s so much you can accomplish choosing the right app for project scheduling.
The benefits of using tools for project scheduling
Project managers need software tools if they want to stay organized and reduce stress levels in their work life. Any project manager knows that the more complex the project is, the more difficult it is to organize – that’s where a project scheduling tool can make a difference!
The repetitive nature of managing a project can get tiring as well, but with a project scheduling tool, you can create templates so you don’t have to re-enter information each time. A project scheduling tool, for example, can save you time by making it easier to repeat tasks and processes.
When you’re trying to manage a project, there are multiple tasks that can be handled in the same way over and over again. Templates help ensure that those processes stay consistent so that you don’t have to keep track of each task or set up new ones every time.
With a scheduling tool, it’s also very easy to ensure that everyone on your team is on the same page when it comes to tasks and deadlines. You’ll always have an up-to-date view of what’s happening with the project, so you won’t have to worry about miscommunications causing conflicts or delays. No more going back and forth over emails—just check your dashboard for all the information you need!
Now, the question remains, what are the best project scheduling tools and how do you pick one? We’ve whittled the list down to seven top ones.
Best project scheduling tools
The best project scheduling tools make it easy to manage multiple resources and projects at once, so you can see how your work fits into the bigger picture. They also make it easy for managers to stay in control of their teams’ work schedules, even when their teams are scattered around the world.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular options available today, and see how they stack up against each other.
1) Runn – The best project scheduling tool for IT Services
Because of its price, functionality, and ease of use, Runn wins the first spot on our list. Hands down, this project scheduling tool offers more bounce for the ounce.
The idea behind Runn is simple: take care of your people, and they will look after your projects.
Runn started out as a resource scheduling solution not so long ago to make sure the talent is not wasted, but has now become a decent platform for project scheduling.
You can create projects, split them into phases, set milestones, and assign resources. What’s more, Runn allows you to track the budget in real time. All of this for free unless you want to manage more than 10 resources. Let’s look closer at Runn’s key features:
Monitor the pipeline of your projects, drill down to their high-level plans, and look at resource bookings.
Match people to projects based on their availability, make intelligent resource allocation decisions, track capacity.
In addition, you get a set of pre-built reports you can navigate to understand the state of your projects, resources, and business in general.
What sets Runn from other project scheduling tools?
Tentative projects. You can plan different scenarios and carry out a what-if analysis. Runn makes a project intake process easier, as you can see the impact of every new project on your capacity and workload.
2) Hive – project scheduling to manage projects faster
Hive is a robust project management tool used by thousands of teams around the world to plan and execute projects and campaigns. The building blocks of Hive are Action Cards, which can be assigned to individuals or teams and grouped into projects. Each project can be viewed in multiple views, including Kanban, Gantt, calendar view, portfolio view, summary view, and table view.
With these flexible project views, each team member can schedule their projects in the way that works best for them. Hive also has over 1,000 integrations with tools like Jira, Zoom, Gmail, Slack and Salesforce, which makes connecting with other team members and acquiring relevant information seamless.
When scheduling projects, teams can also make use of Hive’s Resourcing functionality, which allows individuals to plot out tasks and time associated with them. This is helpful when you’re working on coordinating efforts across a project or campaign. Another great aspect of Hive for project scheduling is the Time Management feature. With Hive’s Time Management capabilities, individuals and teams can track time spent on tasks and view their timesheets with a few clicks.
Hive offers a 14 day free trial, and packages at $12 per user per month.
3) Forecast – project scheduling for agencies
Forecast is a project scheduling tool designed for companies that sell people’s time. It brings together project, task, and resource management, as well as collaboration tools to create a simple and powerful workflow tool. Rumors have it that agencies love it for being one place for all project operations.
Similar to Hive, it presents you with options to create different views of one project schedule – Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and even Sprint boards. Unlike other tools above, Forecast has a great scoping feature you can use to break your project down into milestones and tasks.
What sets it apart is auto-scheduling you can use to allocate people to projects automatically based on their availability and past activities. We’ve written an article about it here: How Many Projects Is Too Many?
The only downside of Forecast is its pricing, it’s on the expensive side. So if project scheduling is the only thing that you want to solve, Forecast might be a bit of an overstretch, and project scheduling tools mentioned above can hit the nail on the head for you.
4) Microsoft Project – Project scheduling for complex projects
Microsoft Project needs no introduction. It is one of the most widely used project management software in the world. It’s been around since 1992 and has evolved significantly over the years, but it’s still primarily used for Gantt chart-based scheduling. It has a number of features that make it an attractive option for many companies:
It’s easy to use and learn – The interface is intuitive, so you don’t have to spend time learning how to use it before getting started with your projects.
It integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Office – This makes it easy to create new documents or edit existing ones while working on your schedule.
It offers several different ways to view your schedule – You can view your schedule in a variety of different formats depending on what works best for you, including Gantt charts and calendars.
There are many third-party integrations available – This means that you can easily connect Microsoft Project with other project management solutions like Asana or Trello if you want.
5) Wrike – project scheduling for different industries
Wrike is another tool for project scheduling. Similar to other project management tools, Wrike enables you to manage multiple projects from one single platform. You can easily update project timelines with a simple drag-and-drop action, collaborate among teams in real-time, and provide detailed reporting on nearly any aspect of your work.
The creators of Wrike believe it’s a great tool for visualizing every project step, so much so that you can create tasks and link them using dependencies, and then track their progress against deadlines and milestones. Even better, you can use it for tracking progress across multiple projects.
It’s very easy to change dates and deadlines, as well as drag and drop tasks in Wrike. The dynamic timeline will automatically adjust everything around your changes. All the adjustments will be shared with your team, so everyone will stay up-to-date.
6) Smartsheet – Spreadsheet-like project scheduling & planning
While we’re not fans of spreadsheets here, we can’t deny the obvious. Smartsheet has been in the game for a long time, making it easier to schedule projects for businesses of any size. You’ll like a familiar spreadsheet interface, prebuilt templates, and their mobile app.
Smartsheet will help you create a project schedule, using any methodology or technique you like. Unlike other tools, it has a critical path feature for project managers preferring a rather traditional approach to managing projects. You can toggle it on to quickly identify which tasks impact project completion and make adjustments to accommodate changes.
7) Asana – A favorite project scheduling software among product teams
If you’re a product team, you’ll most like enjoy creating a project schedule in Asana. It’s a great project scheduling tool for:
- Keeping everyone on the same page by sharing tasks and project plans with your team
- Making sure everyone has the information they need to do their job well
- Organizing your priorities so you can focus on what matters most
According to the vendor, more than 119,000 paying customers and millions of free organizations across 190 countries rely on Asana to manage everything from company objectives to digital transformation to product launches and marketing campaigns.
It can be a great tool if you’ve outgrown Trello and would like to get a better grip on your project’s progress. Also, Asana’s customers speak highly of the platform, because it’s easy to onboard new team members.
The one thing Asana hasn’t implemented yet is time tracking, so it wouldn’t be the best choice for service businesses that want to improve their billing accuracy. However, on the bright side, it integrates with hundreds of different tools – you name it.
How to choose the right project scheduling tool
Choosing the right project scheduling tool can be difficult – there’s certainly an abundance of those. Here are some important steps that can help you choose the right tool for your team and organization.
Determine your needs
Before you decide which project scheduling software is right for your business, it’s important to understand the features that would be most useful. When making this decision, consider the following:
- What is the purpose of the tool?
- What kinds of projects will you be using it for? Are they small-scale or large-scale? Do they have unique needs in terms of scheduling and reporting?
- How many projects will you be using it for at a time? Do you have a lot on your plate right now or just one big project coming up soon?
- How many users are going to be accessing this software and what kind of support do they need (e.g., online training)?
Ask about the vendor’s roadmap
Ask about the company’s roadmap. The project scheduling tool you choose should be actively developed and updated with new features on a regular basis. Find out how often the company updates their roadmap, and ask whether they have any upcoming feature releases that could help your team work better or achieve more.
If they’re not forthcoming with this information, that’s usually a bad sign—it can mean either that their product isn’t evolving as quickly as it should be or that they’re not interested in keeping up with market trends (or both).
Review security features
- What security features are important to you?
- How do you protect your data?
- How can you keep your team safe?
- What kind of security measures are in place with this tool?
- What kind of data is stored by the tool, and how long is it kept for?
- Are there any additional steps that need to be taken to ensure user privacy and protection (such as an extra layer of password protection)?
Ask about customization
Customization is a major factor to consider when choosing a project scheduling tool. Most organizations want to be able to customize the software to fit their unique needs, and some tools are more customizable than others.
Customization can be done by IT staff or by end users in order to meet the needs of different departments within an organization. Some companies have detailed customizations that require coding expertise, while others use drag-and-drop interfaces that allow anyone with basic computer skills to edit the software on their own.
There are also companies with extensive customization capabilities, allowing you to create workflows unique only to your company’s way of doing things.
Find out how much support you’ll have
One of the most important questions to ask is how much support you’ll have. Ask yourself: Do I want or need a tool that will allow me to do everything myself, or do I need one where I can turn over the day-to-day management tasks to someone else? What kind of support do I need?
The answer depends on your business and its goals. If you’re a small business owner who runs every aspect of your operation yourself, this doesn’t change when it comes to project planning and scheduling. But if your team is large enough that no one person could possibly manage it all, then having a tool that automatically dispatches tasks across many workers becomes crucial.
It also means making sure there’s enough customization built into your software so that each worker has access only to what he needs for his role—for example, a marketing director may not need access to financial data from sales reports unless he’s preparing budgets for upcoming projects.
Consider switching to a cloud-based system
Switching to a cloud-based system is a smart move. Cloud-based project scheduling tools are easier to use and more secure, so you don’t have to worry about your data getting hacked. They’re also easier to access, so you can work from anywhere.
Cloud-based project scheduling tools often cost less than on-premise systems and can be customized in ways that on-premise systems cannot be.
Different project scheduling tools will work depending on the size of your organization and the type of projects you work on.
The size of your organization will also determine what kind of project scheduling tool you need.
- If you work for a smaller company, then you may want to go with something that’s simpler and more straightforward. A simple solution might give you all the functionality you need without making things too complicated and overwhelming.
- If you work for a larger company, however, it’s probably best to invest in something more complex so that it can keep up with the level of projects your team is working on at once (and how many people are involved in them). The more complex solution will likely include features like templates and automated reporting so that everyone involved in each project can see where things stand at any given time.
By taking these factors into consideration and doing your research, you’ll find the perfect tool to help you manage all of your projects. Once you’ve chosen one that works, remember to keep it updated and regularly review the schedule for any changes. This will ensure that all members of the team have access when needed and can contribute without delay!