Project tracking software used by business customers usually is incorporated into more complex project management systems that allow not only for project tracking but for planning, scheduling, and allocating resources to projects and sets of projects (programs) run by enterprises. Software applications featuring only project tracking functionality are virtually useless without built-in functionality to plan, estimate, manage and control projects, and numerous simple project tracking software product are available for home users. In contrast, business users should rely on sophisticated software solutions, designed to cover multiple processes and procedures involved in project management.
Project scheduling is an essential element in the overall process of project management and one would be unable to track a project’s progress without scheduling a series of events and tasks first. Business software applications have to deal with the task of complex resource scheduling, where interdependent elements of a project are involved or a larger corporate program comprises multiple interdependent projects. Project tracking applications aimed at home users rarely have to deal with such complex project scheduling, though.
Ability to track project progress is considered as the main functionality of project tracking software modules. Top executives, middle-level managers and home users rely on historical information on projects’ progress to plan future actions and gauge actual project performance against planned performance. Thus, project managers are allowed to better utilize available resources and receive early warnings when a project is at risk, through the means of project tracking.
At present, most project tracking modules intended for business users are functioning as modules incorporated into integrated project management systems. Integrated systems for project management are distinguished by their ability to cover variety of business processes and procedures, borrowing functionality from customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. While project planning software is usually not as sophisticated (and expensive) as ERP systems, it often features advanced functionality typically embedded into CRM software. Such an approach toward project tracking software development reflects a more general trend to create software solutions that fit varied business needs.
One of the many challenges contemporary project tracking software is facing is the growing need for sophisticated tools to manage and track a set of projects (called also project portfolio, and often referred to as Program) that are not only interdependent but are considered to be natural elements of a broader strategic plan. In addition, project tracking applications have to deal with costs related to a project as well as numerous variable factors, namely different resources.
Furthermore, project tracking applications should provide business analytics capabilities allowing managers to analyze data on time spent on projects, allocated resources and resource availability, etc. Advanced project tracking solutions are also required to support various file formats and communication protocols, allowing users to easily import and export data from and to the system. A decent system would also be able to deal with and track large number of individual or interdependent projects, which in turn suggests that only licensed software solutions, can fit the needs of enterprise users.
It is debatable if ready to use or custom software applications provide better functionality, but an enterprise should conduct thorough analysis of its particular needs, requirements, and existing software before deciding to implement any project tracking solution. Most project tracking software is developed to be compatible with all major business applications; nevertheless implementation of this type of software requires careful analysis on possible software incompatibilities.