What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Project Management Software?

Many Project Managers and organizations wonder if it’s worth adopting a online PM tool. Here’s a comprehensive list of the advantages and disadvantages of online Project Management Software in order to make that decision easier.

Advantages of Online Project Management Software

  • Centralized Data: The data is stored on the server, not on someone’s PC. This means any updates to the data by team members or the Project Manager can be seen immediately by the rest of the team.
  • Up-to-date status reporting: Since the data is centralized, and updates are instantaneous, then all the people involved in the project will benefit from an up-to-the-minute status reporting on the project, which is extremely important for the stakeholders.
  • Collaboration: Collaboration is the heart of what is now called “Project Management 2.0“. Team members (from different parts of the world in case of multi-national project/organization) will be able to communicate, and discuss certain tasks in real time under the supervision and the participation of the Project Manager, as well as some stakeholders, such as the client.
  • Email Notifications: Since an online Project Management Software is usually integrated with a mail server, it is easy to instantly notify team members/stakeholders/project managers about important events, such as changes to the project.
  • Compatibility with other PM Tools: Nowadays, most online Project Management tools are compatible with each other, so if the organization is not satisfied with the services of one company, then it is very easy to move to another one offering similar services. All that is there to do is to export the data from the first company’s tool and then import it into the second’s. There seems to be a certain standard that all these companies are following with the way data is being stored. (Note: Make sure that the export format is compatible with the second company prior to moving).
  • Access Control Lists: You only want a certain team member to have access only to a couple of tasks on the project, easily done. Intuitive access control lists allow the Project Manager to easily control who has access to what. Generally, access control lists work by individuals and by groups (for example: development team, design team, executives, etc…)
  • Ease of use: Almost all online PM tools on the market are very easy to use: there is almost no learning curve (contrary to the offline tools) for the Project Manger, the team members, and senior management (overseeing the overall progress of the project).
  • Backups: Backups are extremely important when it comes to project data. Most companies offer nightly backups as part of any plan, and they keep backups for the last 2 weeks. Additionally (again in most cases), the backup of the project data is redundant (e.g. the backup is duplicated on several servers).

Disadvantages of Online Project Management Software

  • Some basic Project Management functionality missing: Including Gantt charts, resource leveling, etc…
  • Unavailable when there is no Internet connection: Though it seems odd in this day and age to worry about this, there are still a lot of rural areas where Internet connection is simply not available, and when this is the case, it becomes impossible for the Project Manager to work on the project.
  • Security and privacy concerns: This is a very legitimate concern for all high profile companies; these companies are reluctant to have their project data (including the project plan and associated critical documents) on a 3rd party server, where the only guarantor of the security and the privacy is the 3rd party company itself.
  • No compatibility with offline PM Software: Online PM Software is unfortunately not compatible with its offline counterpart, for example, MS Project. Hence, moving data back and forth is not possible, and some Project Managers end up spending a lot of time updating the data in both software (online and offline).
  • Potential distraction: Team members receiving constant notifications about the project, or discussing some other functionalities (that they have nothing to do with) with other team members, are easily distracted. The Project Manager has to communicate and involve the concerned team members only for any task (e.g. a team member working on the development of the core of a software product needs not to be notified about the design progress of the project, and certainly needs not to discuss it).

Although Online Project Management Software is not quite mature yet in terms of functionality, security, and privacy, it is an avenue well worth exploring, as this where Project Management is heading: more and more collaboration. A company not benefiting from this emerging trend will soon find itself outdated and will have to reconsider its Project Management culture to be more aligned with today’s connected world, or perish.

Note: Both the advantages and the disadvantages are not listed in order of importance.

© 2010 Project Management Learning – Reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited without the written consent of Project Management Learning.

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