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Choosing A Project Management Tool: 5 Essential Criteria

Milena Alexova
Milena Alexova
May 20, 2021

Are you going through the struggle of selecting a project management tool? We know how real this struggle is! Finding the right fit for your company is not easy. There are thousands of project management tools on the market and every single one of them claims to be the best.

Look no further. We have done extensive research, gathering the most important evaluation criteria to consider before selecting a project management tool.

Map out your needs and goals

Successfully selecting the right tool begins with knowing what your team’s needs are. Besides this, it’s important to define what you want to achieve with your team in the foreseeable future. It might be useful to have a get-together to ask the following questions.

Which challenges are we currently facing?

Looking for a project management tool is the solution. So first you need to ask yourself the question: what is the problem I’m trying to solve? What is my main goal? Which roadblocks along the way am I currently facing?

Write everything down. You perceive information differently when you see it written down. You may be surprised by what you find when you start going through the list point by point. Some roadblocks are obvious. Others may take some digging to uncover, but the extra effort will pay off in the end.

Which features do we actually need?

We are not just talking about the nice-to-haves. We are trying to focus on what it is that you really need.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing “everything is important”. So be mindful of this. We already recommended you to write down the challenges you face in the previous point. Now you can use this list for reference. You will find that every challenge might lead to a specific feature that you should be looking for.

Two women plan their project on a white board.

What is the best fit for our team?

Once you have evaluated the main challenges and features, you can determine what fits best with your team. If your team is fully remote for example, simultaneous user access is important and the program should remain reliable while multiple people work in it.

Team size is another important factor to consider. Some tools are enterprise solutions. Others such as Rodeo, are more focused on smaller teams, which is common in the creative industry.

Related: Best Project Management Software for Creative Agencies

You could opt for multiple specialized tools that integrate with each other. That makes things complicated though, and who wants complicated? Thus, ideally, you will end up with an all-in-one solution that doesn't need any integrations at all.

Last but not least, consider your team’s methodology. You can learn more about different project management methodologies and which would be the best for your business in this blog.

Also read: The Ultimate Guide to Managing Projects Effectively

Define the must-have features

After making the initial first steps, it’s time to delve deeper. Most project management tools on the market have multiple features, so how do you choose the right one for your team?

As you evaluate your options, it is important to consider the must-have features and then build on top with features that are a nice bonus. 

Some common features are:

  • Time tracking/Timesheets
  • Task management
  • Budgeting
  • Planning
  • Estimates
  • Invoicing
  • Dashboards
  • Reports
  • CRM
  • People management
  • Expense tracking
  • Ability to share externally
  • Ability to upload/attach files
  • Customizable

Whiteboard with a weekly timeline and sticky notes.

Keep convenience in mind

When it comes to thoroughly evaluating a project management tool, it’s not just the composition of features that needs consideration. You might be excited about finding a tool with more than 10 features, only to find out that it’s not practical at all. 


You need a tool with a level of intuitiveness that matches your work processes. Moreover, a level of user-friendliness that matches your team. 

Some tools are very straightforward, with an interface and features that are self-explanatory. You will also come across some tools that are a bit more complex, with elaborate features.

Maybe you have tech-savvy team members that are highly proficient with the software. If this is not the case, however, you will be better off selecting a tool that is intuitive and very easy to use. 

Practical functionality

Besides user-friendliness, there are other technical components that should be considered too. Check which security measures are in place to ensure safe use of the tool for example. 

Furthermore, do you expect you will need support during business hours only? Or would you prefer a tool that offers support 24/7? 

These practical things are easily overlooked during the selection process but will prove to be crucial in the long run.

Thus, some other selection criteria worth considering include:

  • Integration capabilities
  • Data privacy
  • Support Center
  • Hosting model: cloud-based vs. server-based

Find the most competitive price point

Congratulations! By now, you should have a better idea of what to look for in a tool and how to decide which one is best for you. 

Another extremely useful evaluation criterion to help you sift through the results is the price. Depending on the size of your company, this can be a big factor. 

Subscriptions: flat fee or a fee per user

Most tools offer a few different subscription types. Some will require you to pay a flat fee while others require a fee per user. This usually depends on the hosting model, which was mentioned in the previous point. 

If the project management tool offers cloud-based services, the pricing model is based on the number of users per month. For server-based tools, a flat fee is the most common pricing model. 

A fee per user profile

A select few tools take it even further, considering the different types of employees that a company might have. Project managers will probably use all or most of the features a tool has, while other team members might only need to see their tasks and track their time.

For this reason, some tools allow you to pay a fee per user based on the user profile. There is a price for users with access to all features, with a cheaper price for users who need fewer features. It doesn’t get more cost-efficient than that!

Payment per month or year

Another thing to review is whether you would like to pay per month or year. As you might be aware, software companies tend to offer a bulk discount when you subscribe for a year. However, you will be making a much longer commitment.

Sign up for a free demo/trial

Test, test, test!

The best way to discover if something works or not is to test it. This doesn’t only apply to marketing in general, but also in the case of choosing a project management tool.

Let’s say that you have narrowed down your selection significantly, you will be ready to put some of them to the test. Fortunately, most project management tools offer a demo or a trial for a limited amount of time. Usually, this is offered for free and without needing a credit card, as Rodeo does.

This way, you can explore the tool while talking to support for the duration of your free trial. Any questions you might have about the features or further customizations can be answered as you are guided through the trial period.