Planning and scheduling software can make your project management more efficient.
If your business has scaled up in recent years, it might be time for you to ditch the manual project management and move on to the utilization of scheduling software. It’s 2023, and the technological landscape has something special in store for practically every aspect of production management. Each form of production planning software has a different use and a unique set of benefits.
In the realm of production scheduling software, there are so many factors worthy of consideration. Whether you aren’t sure yet if you want to hop onto the automation train, or if you know you’re interested in using a new project scheduling software but don’t know what elements and features to look for, this is for you.
Why Bother with Project Management Software?
The answer to this question is actually a lot less complex than you might think. Time is money. The time that you spend on easily automated tasks, like production planning and scheduling, can be much better used elsewhere.
Often, the most complex projects are the ones that make the most money. This comes with many moving parts and a significant amount of advanced planning. With project scheduling tools, you can simplify this complicated resource management into bite-sized, manageable pieces. Not only will it be far easier, but it will also be more efficient! When you use a scheduling tool, you aren’t just saving time, you’re also eliminating the bulk of human error that accompanies doing these things manually. Sounds like a win-win, right?
Once you realize how much your business can benefit from scheduling software, the next question on your mind is probably how to determine which is right for you. To help you trim the fat and understand what makes a quality production scheduling software, let’s go over what you should look for on your journey of project scheduling software discovery.
Features to Look for in Production Scheduling Software
The first thing you might notice when evaluating this software is that there are a large number of options. While searching, here are the key features that you’ll find in the best production scheduling software.
An underrated but crucial element, a customizable interface makes visual planning far easier. You’ll come to find that the scheduling process flows much faster when you can visually notice what has been completed, what needs to be completed, and who is assigned to which tasks. This comes in many forms, from color coding to distinguishing projects from one another within the same system.
Integration With Other Tools
Integrating with other tools and systems is crucial for saving time and effort when planning and scheduling software. Double-entry and redundant data input are simply unacceptable, which is why seamless connections with commonly used business applications are necessary. Information should flow seamlessly across different platforms, enabling real-time data synchronization and reducing manual work. It’s imperative to be able to access all project data from a centralized location, streamlining workflows and allowing for more accurate and up-to-date information and task management.
Flexible Scheduling Options
A common roadblock in project management is finding a scheduling solution. Things get complicated very quickly once you introduce all aspects of a hefty project, so finding a scheduling tool that works with you instead of against you is pivotal to your success. In particular, try to find these qualities:
- Task Management: Allows users to define relationships between tasks, ensuring that activities are sequenced appropriately and that progress flows smoothly.
- Resource Allocation: These features help assign team members to specific tasks, considering their availability and skill sets, and aiding with team collaboration.
- Calendar Views: In addition to Gantt Charts (a.k.a. timeline charts), a calendar view option within your scheduling tool is a great way to further identify conflicts, manage tasks, and determine resource availability efficiently.
Real-Time Updates and Notifications
Project planning goes much more smoothly when everyone involved can stay updated and informed of project milestones as they occur. When you can track projects in real-time, everyone on the team knows exactly when it’s their turn to step in and do their portion of the work. This eliminates days of back-and-forth emailing about the project status because it can all be seen at the click of a button. This also helps marketing teams to know when certain elements of production have been completed, and when those elements may be falling behind.
Reporting Tools and Analytics Capabilities
Tracking analytics is essential to advanced planning because knowing what has happened in the past is key to knowing what resource planning is to be done in the future. Keeping track of and regularly reporting these updates will greatly help management to identify bottlenecks and make competent data management decisions. These reports provide a comprehensive overview of the project’s status, allowing for better monitoring and evaluation. Plus, analytics tools can analyze historical data, identify patterns, and provide predictive insights to optimize future project planning.
Mobile Compatibility and Accessibility
Another underrated feature, it’s definitely a good idea to look at project scheduling tools that have a user interface that is compatible with mobile devices. If something important happens within any of your production processes, you’ll be able to know about it even if you’re on the go. Adjustments in your resource management might be needed at any given time of day, and with this kind of accessibility, that will no longer be an issue.
Security and Data Protection Measures
The project scheduling software you choose should provide robust security features to safeguard sensitive project information from unauthorized access and protect against data breaches. Things like encryption protocols, secure data storage, and access controls are examples of security measures that ensure confidentiality and compliance with regulations. By implementing these stringent security measures, organizations can have peace of mind knowing that their project data is protected, which is always an important consideration during the project management process.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
You might be tempted, especially in your initial searching phases, to consider a project scheduling software solution that advertises itself as “one size fits all,” or generally all-encompassing. Contrary to what you might think, this is not what you should desire out of your production planning and scheduling software.
Instead of finding a scheduling software that works for all businesses, focus on finding one that is perfect for your business. Though the features we listed earlier are all beneficial, the fact is that you might need additional features that aren’t offered on every project management platform. Or, in turn, you might not need some of the complex project scheduling features that we stated. There might be some you could go without! Keep this in mind in your search, and it will definitely help you narrow down what you need for your particular production planning.
What Project Scheduling Software Is Most Popular?
Now that you understand the features that make certain types of project scheduling software beneficial, let’s get a bit more specific and go over the most popular and well-known production scheduling software applications. These, as you’ll see, are all very different. Even so, they’re united by their ability to make the production planning process easier for businesses.
Airtable is a popular choice for many reasons, but most of all, it’s known for its clear and efficient layout. If your team is familiar with spreadsheets, then this is the perfect option for an easily understandable production schedule. The application takes the best parts of Excel and develops them into something aesthetically pleasing, utilizing color-coding and even the inclusion of task images.
Known for its spreadsheets, Airtable is also versatile in its forms of workflow planning. Your project data can also take the form of calendars, charts, or kanban boards, giving your production planning and scheduling team a multitude of options.
The best part about Airtable is that while it has a massive amount of functionality, this production management software won’t break the bank. With options as inexpensive as $10/month, it’s a no-brainer to at least try your hand at this multifaceted tool.
Launching in 2011, Asana is both an oldie and a goodie (I know, 2011 wasn’t that long ago, but technology grows fast!), remaining very popular in the production management space to this day. It’s easy to see why, too, because this application allows for some of the most aesthetically pleasing production planning on this list.
If your production process needs to be viewed easily by project managers without room for misunderstanding or difficulty, Asana’s use of planning calendars, Gantt charts, and task dependencies make it simple.
The only drawback of Asana is that it does have its limitations and specialties. If you’re looking for something all-encompassing that eliminates your need for multiple systems, this probably isn’t the tool for you. Asana specializes in execution and team collaboration, but lacks any and all financial management or reporting features. Still, with an available free version and competitive pricing at $10.99/month, it is excellent at the things it’s best known for.
Kantata contains multiple resources that span across all phases of your project plan. Very corporate, this tool is one of the best production scheduling software for those with large creative and marketing teams.
It covers the basics of resource management, like task assignments, workflow planning and scheduling, and critical path analysis. In addition to these tools, Kantata also covers the minute details that sometimes go overlooked. It can do it all, whether that be invoicing clients, budget management, or understanding current market trends.
Unique, innovative, and highly intuitive, Monday.com certainly deserves its spot on this list. It can schedule projects with ease through its proprietary board system, but all of your planning and scheduling can also be monitored through its timeline feature.
Visually driven, with just a few clicks the vast majority of your manufacturing production planning can be completed and viewed with ease. Project managers can see how certain task prioritization falls within the schedule, reorganize tasks by dragging and dropping, and easily reassign them when needed.
On top of its excellent array of features, it’s also fairly affordable. They have a free plan that consists of two seat, Basic at $8 a seat per month, Standard at $10 a seat per month, Pro at $16 a seat per month, and Enterprise. Using a software that can scale with your company is a huge advantage.
ClickUp is definitely a go-to for companies that want a sleek, modern interface when handling their resource management. This software has color-coded Gantt charts as its main hub, but it is also very easily switched to calendar view. Speaking of calendars, one of ClickUp’s most notable advantages in production scheduling is that it has the capacity for thousands of integrations, including Google Calendar. This makes communication and collaboration that much more efficient.
Task management is simple with ClickUp, and collaboration is its focus. If your project scheduling process is very teamwork-oriented, this is the perfect way to save time with progress tracking and editing features that can be accomplished by multiple people, across multiple projects, all at once.
ClickUp is definitely a production scheduling software that has a lot of pricing options. There is a free version, but there are also tiered prices ranging from $5 to $12 per member a month, depending on your business’ needs. This could make things complex, as lower tiers might have many paywalls or advertisements for upgrades, but it also means you can have control of what your production scheduling budget should be.
Production Scheduling Doesn’t Have To Be Hard
This is a lot of information, some you may have already known and some you may be hearing for the first time. The key is to not become overwhelmed by the amount of project scheduling software out there, and to understand that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation.
You know your business best, and that means you understand the current pain points within your resource planning and maintenance management systems. Instead of concentrating on finding something well-known, concentrate on finding a software that meets those pain points with undeniable solutions.
You may go through a period of trial and error, and that’s alright. That just means you gain a little more knowledge about your internal functions and flaws along the way. Eventually, with enough learning and adapting, you’ll find the ideal project scheduling software for your business. Besides, anything beats the old paper and pen!
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