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Top project management tools and techniques

Looking to give your project management skills a boost? Here are our top tools and techniques to help manage projects effectively and increase team performance and productivity.

Project management tools shown in presentation

Keeping up with the fast pace of emerging technologies can often seem like an uphill struggle for a project manager. However, using the latest project management tools and techniques can help to increase your team’s performance and productivity, and allow you to manage your projects more effectively. This is why 77% of high-performing teams use project management software.

With an overwhelming choice of project management methods to choose from, we have created a list of the top techniques in the business to help you assess which is the best for your next project.  

From agile project management methodologies to more classic examples, we will discuss each technique in detail, so you’re able to decide what will work best for your team and help the business to grow. We will also include important information about the best project management tools at your disposal.

10 top project management techniques

Finding the right project management tools and techniques to suit your needs can be a bit of a minefield. With dozens of methodologies to choose from, we have narrowed the list down to our top 10. 

Classic project management methodologies

In comparison to the other methodologies we cover in this article, classic project management techniques are more traditional methods that rely on a sequential approach. Its basic principles are to plan, prioritise, and execute a project in a clearly defined way, with an emphasis on linear processes and upfront planning.

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1. Critical Chain 

This method focuses on resources rather than on the actual method itself, ensuring that the proposed project is achievable and able to be completed on time. 

Critical Chain project management relies on eliminating any potential project delays and disruptions, whether that’s caused by internal obstacles or inaccurately predicting workload requirements. It helps to complete activities in the shortest time and ensure the project deadline is hit.

The technique focuses on prioritisation, dependencies analysis, and time optimisation.

When should I use this method?

The Critical Chain method is perfect for complex projects that have limited resources. It’s used to monitor those resources effectively while ensuring the project still gets completed on time.

2. Critical Path

The Critical Path method represents a sequence of project activities and is calculated by determining the length of the project and its key milestones using sequential steps. 

It’s all about setting feasible deadlines and ensuring that each activity gets completed on schedule using the shortest path. It’s therefore important to choose the path with the least amount of milestones and takes less time.

When should I use this method?

It’s particularly useful for complex projects where strict deadlines are going to be pivotal in terms of delivery and there is no room for delays. This method is often used in areas such as construction and defence.

3. Waterfall 

One of the oldest and most popular project management tools and techniques, the Waterfall method is arguably the easiest to adopt. It requires you to manage a project using a sequential approach, executing the defined requirements at the start step-by-step until completion. With this method, there is a big emphasis on planning and organisation.

As the name suggests, one phase doesn’t start until the previous one has finished. In contrast to many other methods, this technique requires team members to work individually.

When should I use this method?

Simple, short projects with clear guidelines that you can configure a strict work structure to. The requirements need to be well understood, so each step can be completed following the approval of the previous phase.

Agile project management methodologies

Agile project management offers an iterative approach to managing and delivering a project, encouraging you to adjust as you go rather than following a linear path. 

One of the aims is to release benefits throughout the whole process, rather than just at the end. Agile project management methods rely on teams adapting to changes to improve performance quality and reduce wasted time. 

4. Agile

As the name suggests, Agile project management is all about being able to move quickly and respond to changes effectively. It’s an adaptive and iterative approach to project management, which has flexibility and collaboration at its core. 

This project management technique bases itself on the notion that improvements can be made during a project’s whole process, doing so efficiently and timely. 

When should I use this method?

Often used in software development, this method suits teams with capable communication skills that thrive in a collaborative working environment. Ideal for projects that are fast-paced and require an agile approach.

5. Scrum 

The Scrum method ensures you focus on the main priorities effectively and consider the immediate requirements of the client. It targets individuals and interactions over processes and tools and relies heavily on customer collaboration and teamwork.

Scrum methodology involves a team that is led by a Scrum Master, who is responsible for managing the project and their team, as well as navigating any obstacles. This then allows the Scrum Team to focus on their goals and collaborate in a way that delivers excellent results.

When should I use this method?

This project management technique is perfect for collaborative teams that need to be agile when working on complex projects. A good choice for anyone who needs to produce an end product, such as a web page, marketing campaign, or software programme.

6. Extreme Programming

Extreme Programming brings together many components of the various agile project management techniques in order to tackle software development projects. The focus is on user requirements and the coding aspects of a project, aiming to improve team productivity and software quality.

It delivers frequent releases in short development cycles, so you can regularly update clients and get constant feedback.

When should I use this method?

A preferred method for clients where their system’s functionality changes often and you’re likely to experience constantly changing requirements when delivering the project. Also helpful when clients aren’t sure what they want their system to do.

7. Kanban

The Kanban method is a visual way of moving a project quickly through the delivery process. Kanban boards are used to visually show the workflow from one stage to another, plus the actual work that will be required. Kanban is a popular technique because it’s highly customisable and aims to locate potential bottlenecks.

It’s regarded as one of the best project management tools and techniques that allows you to efficiently manage every step of the project’s process, breaking down tasks into digestible stages. The goal is to manage work in an efficient manner without incurring high costs. There are also typically no strict deadlines in place.

When should I use this method?

Kanban is ideal for collaborative teams that have lots of incoming requests that vary in both priority and size. It also allows you to get a good birds-eye view of the whole project.

8. Adaptive 

Our final agile project management recommendation is the Adaptive method. This methodology combines elements of agile and change management techniques, offering an iterative approach that is client-focused and adaptive. 

It’s a good option if you anticipate unexpected changes during project delivery, as it allows a team to utilise fallback systems.  

With this technique, action must be immediately taken when there is a setback and changes must be implemented quickly. The client tends to take on a very hands-on approach throughout the process.

When should I use this method?

The Adaptive method is a good choice when project goals are recognised, but the solutions and final outcome of the project are not. Suitable for clients that want to be heavily involved in the process, where you’ll need to react to their requirements swiftly.

Change project management methodologies

The final instalment in our project management methods list is change project management. These techniques rely on a set of tools that manage team and project changes successfully. They help to prevent disorder during a project’s delivery by using defined and structured approaches throughout the process.

9. Event

When implementing a project management plan, Event methodology enables your team to prioritise identifying events, tasks, and milestones that will impact project schedules. You’re able to plan for both expected and unexpected events that may affect project planning, which bears a lot of resemblance to risk management planning.

With the Event method, you’re able to plan for every deadline and schedule associated with a project, while managing potential risk.

When should I use this method?

This is the perfect technique for planning, organising, and maintaining a successful project, helping to identify events that could possibly impact the planning stages.

10. Extreme

Used in highly complex projects, Extreme is primarily a people-driven approach, rather than process-driven, which takes a more optimistic approach to alter a project’s plan. It helps you to manage any obstacles that might change the way a project is carried out.

Rather than solely focusing on delivering the originally proposed outcome, it works to deliver a desired outcome that gives people the freedom to change a project strategy if a better way of doing things is discovered during the process. Put simply, it accommodates changing needs.

When should I use this method?

Appropriate for complex projects that may involve unpredictable factors and cause uncertainty at various stages of the process. A popular choice in creative industries, such as marketing, advertising, and design.

Best project management tools

Now you know about some of the techniques to use, exploring which project management tool will suit your needs is important.

1. Jira

Best suited to agile project management techniques, Jira allows teams to customise project workflow, track progress and hours, and issue tasks. 

Helpful reports provide overviews of project progress and it’s regarded as the best project management tool for software development teams. Try our Agile Project Management with Jira for Beginners course to learn all about it.

Pros 

  • Plenty of market-leading features
  • Ability to customise your experience
  • Easily communicate ideas with your team.

Cons

  • Integrating with other systems can be complex
  • Limited file size uploads of 10MB
  • The layout isn’t the most user-friendly.

2. Trello

Trello is a visual, easy-to-use project management tool that allows you to organise work easily. You can simply create boards and collaborate on projects, and its basic layout means that people of all capabilities can use it. Other functionalities include reporting and time tracking. 

Pros 

  • Simple to use
  • Easy task management and scheduling
  • Power-ups are available for additional functionality benefits.

Cons

  • Not as comprehensive as other tools
  • No reporting features
  • Unable to manage complicated projects properly.

3. ClickUp

When browsing top project management tools and techniques, ClickUp consistently ranks as one of the best. This cloud-based platform offers plenty of import options, a user-friendly interface, and an excellent selection of advanced features. ClickUp is available via web browser, mobile, or desktop application.

Pros 

  • Simplifies task management
  • Offers high levels of customisation
  • Easy integration with other project management tools.

Cons

  • Limited time tracking options
  • Dashboard views could be clearer
  • The browser version can be a little slow.

4. Asana

Asana is a popular dynamic project management tool that’s been used all over the world. It outperforms other companies in many areas, including functionality and its Kanban-style user interface. It has plenty of features to make your life easier. Despite being easy to use, it doesn’t sacrifice anything with regard to performance. 

Pros 

  • Heavily focused on collaboration
  • Easy-to-use
  • Efficient task management software.

Cons

  • No time tracking features
  • Can be a bit feature-heavy
  • Not ideal for small teams.

5. actiTIME

actiTIME combines intuitive timesheet software with rich project management functionality. You can create custom work scopes, assign tasks, and set deadlines. This project management tool also facilitates reports that provide insights into resource allocation, productivity levels, and more.

Pros 

  • An easy-to-use mobile app makes it accessible from anywhere
  • Multiple time tracking options
  • Simple to navigate and good for project management beginners.

Cons

  • Prone to some bugs 
  • Falls short on features when compared to other tools
  • Prices are a little high.

Project management tools and techniques: next steps

You’ll hopefully feel much more knowledgeable about the various project management tools and techniques available to you, no matter your project management style

By using our recommendations for your next project management plan, you’ll feel better prepared and confident that your team can deliver any given project successfully.

If you’d like to receive more advice and guidance about project management methods and the techniques and tools involved, then our informative project management courses are here to help. 

At FutureLearn, we are on hand to help drive your business forward and support you in your next project management journey. Check out the courses below for more details.

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