Project management software supports the organization and management of any work done in the context of a project. It can include planning, scheduling, collaboration, time tracking, budgeting and billing tools that all need to work in coordination to ensure each project stays within its defined scope of resources and reaches a successful conclusion. Depending on the number of features that come with a form of software, project management software costs can vary significantly — which means that not every option available might be right or feasible for your organization. When you take the following into account, you will gain a much clearer understanding of which factors play the biggest role in project management software prices.
Why Project Management Software Pricing Varies Between Nonprofits and For-Profits
While project management operates under many of the same principles no matter the context, nonprofit and for-profit organizations handle their projects much differently, in large part because the projects they receive require different processes to reach completion. The following are important differences to consider between business and nonprofit project management:
- Diversity of Projects: Nonprofit projects can range from a marketing document due in several weeks to a large, funded, multi-year, multi-organizational project — and everything in between. Even if there is consistency in the type of work, the requirements often vary based on the amount of funding available.
- Prevalence of Part-Time Volunteer Contributors: On nonprofit teams, part-time volunteer contributors are much more common than at for-profit organizations. As such, many are being pulled in several different directions by other full- or part-time positions and personal responsibilities. Team members may also come from a variety of organizations that have different experiences and levels of familiarity with the type of work being done, as well as with the discipline of project management.
- Part-Time Project Leaders: Nonprofit professionals are known for taking on many different roles within the organization. For example, they may support fundraising, marketing and operations all in one day. Thus, it is common to find someone leading a project on a part-time basis while balancing other responsibilities.
Project management software costs must account for and support the volume of projects and unique team structures found at nonprofits, which can play a major role in the final pricing plans.
3 Things Your Project Management Software Selection Process May Be Missing
Keep these often forgotten factors in mind as you select your software, and get a better grasp of project management software pricing for your nonprofit group or organization.
The Needs of All Projects, Not Just Targeted Projects
Different projects require different tools to reach completion. Larger, more complex projects that include many people and organizations, and in which hours must be tracked and reported, would certainly benefit from project budgeting and time tracking features, along with more detailed project planning tools like Gantt and waterfall charts, for example. For smaller, less complex projects, scheduling and team collaboration tools should be sufficient.
As such, when selecting the project management software for your organization, you should consider its applicability across all types of projects you will be handling. If you pay for all the bells and whistles that are necessary for a larger project but unnecessary for a smaller one, you may be paying for more than what you need and overcomplicating the use of software for smaller projects. On the other hand, if you choose software targeted for a simple project that will not meet the needs of something more complicated, you may find yourself going through the comparison and pricing process all over again — or missing other critical productivity improvements for larger projects.
Team Communications Requirements
It can be easy for the project leader to focus on the benefits that a piece of software offers to him/herself. However, this person needs to take into account the impact that the software will have on all team members. To do this, the leader should look at communication requirements in three dimensions when comparing project management software costs:
- Communications Among Staff: All staff members must be on the same page with respect to who is communicating with whom externally. For these situations, you will need software that provides great visibility into all activities in which your staff members participate.
- Communications Between Staff and External Collaborators: Here, you need software that allows you to separate communications between various project teams and subgroups to ensure that only the right people see the right information — not too much and not too little.
- Communications Among External Collaborators: Communication is critical for external collaborators leading smaller subgroups or committees consisting of other external collaborators. Providing the appropriate tools for your team members will allow them to work with each other without project leaders involving themselves in every aspect.
Having the ability to move seamlessly through these levels of communication can be a significant factor in project management software prices.
Startup and Scaling Costs
Budgets are tight for nonprofits, so it’s vital to consider them when comparing project management software costs. However, it’s easy to focus too much on obvious costs like sticker prices or seat licenses for your target project. You may miss other significant factors, such as:
- The cost of adding seat licenses down the road for other people and other projects
- The invisible cost of burdening your external collaborators with learning and re-learning new software, remembering where to go to access their information or navigating complicated software
- The cost of switching to new software or upgrading current software
Along with the issue of budget, the productivity of staff and relationships with external collaborators should be taken into account when considering the risks of choosing the wrong project management software.