Project management software vs. project management tools

By Amber Felton on Feb 12

Effective project management is essential for organizations to achieve their goals efficiently. However, with the variety of tools and software available, the difference between project management software and project management tools can often be murky. Understanding the differences between the two is important for selecting the right solution to meet specific project needs.

This article aims to clarify the differences between project management software and project management tools and will help you make informed decisions when selecting the most suitable solution for your projects.

Defining the landscape

First, let's explore the different features between project management software and project management tools.

Project management software

Project management software is a comprehensive platform designed to facilitate the planning, execution, monitoring, and completion of projects. It serves as a centralized hub where project managers and team members can collaborate, track progress, and manage resources efficiently.

Project management software

Key features of project management software include:

  • Complex Planning: Project management software allows users to create detailed project plans, including task dependencies, timelines, and milestones. It enables project managers to develop comprehensive project roadmaps to guide teams throughout the project lifecycle.
  • Resource Allocation: Project management software enables users to allocate resources, such as personnel, equipment, and materials, to specific tasks or projects. This helps with optimal utilization of resources and minimizes bottlenecks.
  • Budget Tracking: Project management software offers robust budget tracking capabilities, allowing users to set budgets, track expenses, and monitor costs in real time. This helps project managers identify potential cost overruns early and take proactive measures to mitigate them.

Project management tools

Project management tools focus on specific functionalities or aspects of project management. While they may lack the comprehensive features of project management software, they excel in providing specialized solutions for project needs.

Project management tool

Common project management tools include:

  • Task Management: Task management tools streamline the creation, assignment, and tracking of tasks within projects. They allow users to prioritize tasks, set deadlines, and monitor task progress effectively.
  • Communication: Communication tools enable seamless communication among team members, stakeholders, and clients through features such as messaging, file sharing, and discussion forums.
  • Collaboration: Collaboration tools promote teamwork and collaboration by enabling real-time collaboration on documents, shared calendars, and project boards. They improve transparency and enhance team productivity.

Project management software vs. tools

There are several types of project management software available, each offering unique advantages.

Here are just a few examples of what this entails for project management software:

  • Cloud-based project management software: Cloud-based solutions, such as Asana and ClickUp, offer the flexibility of accessing project data and collaborating with team members from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • On-premises project management software: On-premises software is installed and maintained on local servers within an organization's infrastructure. While it offers greater control over data security and customization, it requires substantial upfront investment and ongoing maintenance.
  • Open-source project management software: Open-source platforms like OpenProject and Redmine provide flexibility and customization options for organizations with specific project management needs. They allow users to modify and extend the software according to their requirements, often at a lower cost compared to proprietary solutions.
  • Industry-specific project management software: Certain industries have unique project management requirements that generic software may not fully address. Industry-specific solutions, such as construction project management software like Procore and PlanGrid or healthcare project management software like Medtrics or CareCloud, are tailored to meet the specialized needs of sectors.
Project management software vs tool

On the other hand, common types of project management tools include:

  • Task management tools: Task management tools, such as Todoist, Wrike, and Microsoft To-Do, facilitate the creation, assignment, and tracking of tasks within projects. They help teams prioritize tasks, set deadlines, and monitor progress efficiently.
  • Communication tools: Communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom enable seamless communication and collaboration among team members, stakeholders, and clients. They offer features such as messaging, video conferencing, and file sharing to facilitate effective communication.
  • Collaboration tools: Collaboration tools like Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, and Dropbox Paper promote teamwork and collaboration by providing shared spaces for document collaboration, project planning, and knowledge sharing.

Key differences between project management software and tools

Project management software and project management tools have different scopes, functionalities, and applications. Let's explore these differences now.

Scope and functionality

Project management software offers comprehensive tools for planning, scheduling, resource allocation, budget tracking, collaboration, and reporting. Microsoft Project and Primavera P6 are renowned for their capabilities in managing complex projects.

Project management scope

Project management tools provide targeted solutions for specific project needs. They excel in task management, communication, collaboration, and other specialized areas. For example, Trello and Asana offer intuitive task boards and workflow automation features, making them ideal for agile project management.

While project management software provides a comprehensive solution for managing projects of varying sizes and complexities, project management tools offer flexibility and scalability by allowing users to choose specific functionalities that align with their project requirements.

Target audience

Project management software is typically used by large teams and organizations managing complex projects with multiple stakeholders, extensive resources, and stringent timelines. These software solutions offer features for collaboration, resource allocation, and budget tracking, making them well-suited for enterprise-level projects.

Project management audience

Large teams benefit from the centralized communication, real-time visibility, and comprehensive reporting capabilities provided by project management software. Additionally, organizations with strict compliance requirements or industry-specific regulations may prefer software solutions that offer advanced security features and customization options.

On the other hand, project management tools are often favored by smaller teams, startups, and individual freelancers who require agile and flexible solutions to manage their projects.

These tools offer simplicity, ease of use, and affordability, catering to the specific needs of smaller-scale or solo projects. Freelancers and small teams appreciate the intuitive interfaces, customizable workflows, and task-focused functionalities offered by project management tools, allowing them to stay organized, collaborate effectively, and deliver projects on time and within budget.

Plus, project management tools are often cloud-based, enabling remote teams and freelancers to work collaboratively from anywhere, using any device with internet access.

Implementation and cost

Project management software often requires a more complex implementation process due to its comprehensive nature and integration with existing systems. Organizations may need to invest time and resources in configuring the software to align with their specific workflows, training employees on its usage, and migrating data from legacy systems. On-premises software may require IT infrastructure setup and maintenance, further adding to the implementation complexity. Cloud-based solutions typically offer simpler deployment processes, with users able to access the software via web browsers without the need for extensive setup.

Project management cost

In terms of cost, project management software often follows a subscription-based pricing model, where users pay a recurring fee based on factors such as the number of users, features included, and level of support. This subscription model allows organizations to scale their usage according to their needs and budget, with the flexibility to add or remove users as required. Some software providers offer tiered pricing plans with varying levels of functionality to cater to different user segments.

On the other hand, project management tools often offer more straightforward setup processes, with users able to sign up and start using the tool immediately with minimal configuration. These tools typically follow a subscription-based or freemium pricing model, where users can access basic features for free or upgrade to premium plans for additional functionalities and support. Freemium models allow individuals and small teams to start using the tool at no cost, with the option to upgrade as their needs grow.

Integrations and customization

Project management software often offers extensive integration capabilities, allowing users to connect with a wide range of third-party tools and systems, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, accounting platforms, and productivity suites. These integrations enable seamless data exchange and workflow automation, enhancing collaboration and productivity across different departments and functions within an organization.

Project management integrations

Additionally, project management software typically offers robust customization options, allowing users to tailor the software to their specific requirements by configuring workflows, creating custom fields, and designing personalized dashboards. This level of customization makes sure that the software aligns with the organization's unique processes and workflows, maximizing its effectiveness and adoption.

Project management tools may offer fewer integration options compared to software solutions, focusing on core functionalities rather than extensive integrations with third-party tools. However, many project management tools provide integrations with popular productivity and collaboration tools such as Google Workspace, Microsoft Office 365, and Slack, enabling users to streamline their workflows and centralize project-related communication and data.

While project management tools may offer limited customization options compared to software solutions, they often provide flexibility through customizable templates, task lists, and project boards, allowing users to adapt the tool to their specific project needs and preferences.

Choosing the right option

When selecting between project management software and tools, you'll need to consider factors such as project size, team dynamics, budget, and specific project needs.

Project management software is the preferred choice for large-scale projects with complex requirements and extensive resources. It offers features for planning, scheduling, resource allocation, and budget tracking to guide efficient project execution and collaboration.

Breeze project management software

Project management tools are ideal for smaller-scale projects, startups, and individual freelancers with limited budgets and simpler project requirements. These tools offer flexibility, simplicity, and affordability, allowing users to focus on specific functionalities such as task management, communication, or collaboration.

However, there is also an alternative: hybrid solutions. Hybrid solutions combining project management software and tools can be effective. For instance, an organization may use software for managing large-scale projects, while using project management tools for smaller projects or specific tasks. This approach maximizes efficiency and adaptability across different project contexts.

Ready to take the next step? Breeze is a project management tool that offers intuitive features that will empower your team to manage projects from start to finish and organize tasks accordingly. Get started today.