Good task management software is a great tool to plan a project from the high-level concept ideas to the small tasks needed to complete the project.
In fact, the most basic and yet the most important element of a project management software is its task management features.
We have covered in this article what makes a task management tool great and what features needed to make planning and tracking projects easier and more accurate.
Task management software should enable the project manager to plan projects and estimate the likely finish date as close as possible to the actual date.
Task Management software features:
Let’s go over what is needed in a task management application to make it the right tool for managing tasks and projects.
Creating task is the obvious most basic element. But a lot more is needed than just creating tasks.
Each task should have its own page or control panel for managing and viewing everything related to a task. This way it is possible to view and changes all elements of a task, like who the task is assigned to, if there are dependencies and if any files are attached to the task which is important to the implementation of the task.
After tasks, subtasks are absolutely required for breaking down large tasks into smaller and more manageable subtasks and keep doing this until all resulting tasks are small and well understood.
This is called work breakdown structure and heavily used in industrial, manufacturing and large defense projects.
Work breakdown structure creates what is called waterfall effect which makes it much easier to view and understand the project’s complexity.
Milestones are another must-have feature for any good task management application. Milestones are events in times. For example, a software project could have a milestone as the end of final code integration. This signifies when all modules are integrated.
Start date, end date, and duration will establish how long the task will take to finish. This is called Planned time. Notice the planned time is what we estimate how long a task will take, the actual time is the time it takes for the team to finish it in practice.
It is impossible to do plan tasks correctly without the introduction of dependencies in task management.
If a task should start only when another task is finished, there is no way to manage this process without dependency.
Some project management applications fake what dependency means. They let a task which is dependent on other tasks start, regardless of the status of those tasks.
So these applications (Like Asana, Basecamp or many others) lets you start task B even when Task B is dependent on task A which is still not finished.
Task management software should enforce the dependency rules. In the above case when the user tries to start Task B, he/she get a warning that since task A still open, the work on task B can’t get started.
Gantt charts make it possible to view tasks, subtasks, and milestones graphically on one page. Gantt also perfectly shows the relationship of tasks to each other.
This is a great aid for reviewing and tracking the status of all tasks in the project in one uniform graphical view.
The ability to add Comments inside the task and subtask control panel enables the team to collaborate and discuss issues present in the project related to a given task.
Without comments, it is very hard to collaborate on issues and lack of commenting capability makes the application useless.
The multi assignment is another feature needed when multiple people need to work together on a given task. Imagin if moving a piano to top floor of a building is assigned just to one person.
Assigning this task to two or more people makes a lot more sense than just one person.
It is also important to be able to show if the person working on a task is assigned to this task fulltime or only parttime.
This makes task’s due date estimation accurate and the correct resource loading is calculated in the project itself and across all projects in the user’s portfolio.
Some tasks have higher priority over other tasks and are more urgent. A good task manager provides the ability to show the importance of each task in the hierarchy of all tasks in the project.
It is a common practice to rank tasks from 1 to 5 with 5 the highest priority.
Task status helps to show where in the development cycle a given task stands. Is the work on a task has stated? Is the task completed? Or what percentage of the task duration remains to be done to complete the task.
Task follow is another good feature for collaboration. It lets anyone interested in the outcome of a task to follow it and get email or desktop notifications.
Often times there are documents associated with a task, like the UI design, Specification or budget associated with that task.
It is important to be able to attach a file to a task and keep all versions of the file in the system. This way all documents related to a task are held with the task itself.
Over the past two years, we have written many articles about task management software. A partial list of most important articles could be found below:
>> Regardless what you do or where you work, you need to manage tasks, be it yours or others. A good guide could be found here:
>> As we mentioned above, Gantt charts are a great visual aid for planning and tracking tasks. This article covers everything you need to know about Gantt Charts:
>> To learn more about Gantt Chart tools and how you can use them, read this guide on Gantt charts:
>> If you are a manager and want to learn how to use Gantt charts for managing tasks, read this article.
>> As a manager one of your primary jobs is to work with your team to estimate how long each task will take. Learn here on how to do it properly.
>> A great tool for tracking task status is the burndown chart. This article shows you how it is done.
>> Tasks may take days, weeks or even months. But some tasks take only a few hours. Your task management software should allow tasks which take only hours.
We plan to cover the topic of task management software extensively in the future articles. Keep checking Collaboration Corner for the latest topics on project and task management issues.
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