According to our recent Project Management survey, over 57% of Project Managers spend 5+ hours per week on activities that have no direct benefit on the progress of their projects. In large collaborative Horizon Europe projects, these numbers are even higher. Tedious activities, like data consolidation, formatting, gathering information, creating overviews, onboarding, delegating tasks, sharing information, managing document versions, etc. can quickly use up time that would be better spent pushing the project forward. In this article, we explain how a project management software can support you with this workload, as well as describe the most popular solutions on the market.
One of the biggest time management issues is using and constantly consulting too many tools. Project managers often use a wide variety of software to communicate and complete their tasks: Google Docs, Dropbox, Microsoft Office products (Excel and Word), and many more. While these tools have the advantage of being free and readily available, their biggest drawback is that they’re unable to handle sensitive data and can’t be integrated in a meaningful way.
This means that as projects grow, information is spread out across a number of different unintegrated platforms, leading to confusion. As confusion sets in, the result is often the beginning of an unending email cycle of people asking for updates, sending new versions, and general miscommunication about which is the correct versioning, documents, spreadsheets, passwords, etc.
Instead of moving the project forward and concentrating on their actual tasks, project managers and team members spend a good portion of their time managing systems and getting data from each other. This lost time often results in delays and budget overages. According to Wellingtone’s report, only 29% of organizations mostly or always complete projects on time, 43% within budget, and 40% of organizations say they deliver the full benefits of projects.
Collaborating as a large consortium or multiple consortia can be quite challenging. In order to streamline communication and work productively with such large numbers of people, EU managers have started using a dedicated project management solution. For Horizon Europe projects with large and geographically diverse project teams, project management software can be the key to success by giving remote teams an easy and accurate way to organize projects, partners, and tasks. According to Capterra reports, organizations that integrate a single project management software benefit from 60% improved timeline estimation, 55% more effective use of project resources, 49% enhanced team communication, 48% improved budget estimation, and much more.
Today’s intuitive and full-featured project management tools provide features that give you and your teams the ability to create communication channels, hold discussions, set goals, generate reports, assign specific subtasks with due dates, and get analytics on project workflows. They allow you to do everything from tracking down deliverables and managing resources, to managing budgets and collaborating with team members.
Each project management tool offers its own style, structure, and features. With so many options on the market, it can be hard to know which solution is best for your project.
There are however, key "must-have" features a project management software needs in order to fully support multi-partner Horizon Europe projects:
- Project scheduling – being able to design a work plan, assign and update the status of tasks, and keep everyone in your team on the same page is an essential part of managing large collaborative projects. Features like Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and milestone tools will help you and your team understand where tasks fit into the project and how much time is needed to complete them.
- Budget scheduling – cost budgeting and controlling determine the resources needed to deliver your projects. These vital features give project managers the ability to allocate resources efficiently and get overviews of actual costs in order to keep their projects on track and within budget.
- Project participants management – since Horizon Europe projects perform within large consortia involving multiple stakeholders, project managers need tools to help them effectively organize and structure their teams and partners. Knowing the role and performance of each stakeholder is an important part of ensuring the success of your projects.
- Reporting – this important feature allows team members to update themselves on running projects. Reporting is even more important for project managers, as it’s a method of ensuring that projects are progressing and tasks are being carried out in a timely manner.
- File sharing – a central location for sharing and organizing project documents saves a great deal of time as it eliminates the need to search for files and the latest versions. A good project management tool will have transparent file sharing and give users the ability to work together on documents. Tailored solutions allow for information on multiple projects to be stored in one central location.
- Communication – the ability to communicate in real-time is the heart of successful project management. A fast and smooth flow of information can eliminate confusion, fostering mutual project understanding, as well as quick and easy problem solving.
- Data security – the protection of internal data is paramount for Horizon Europe projects, but not all project management software will give you the security your project needs. Choose only software solutions with the highest security standards as compliance with data protection is required for all EU-funded projects. When choosing which project management tool to use, this security should be one of your biggest criterias.
- Support – ask if someone will be there to help you out when things go wrong or you can’t find your way around the platform. Reliable support is essential for any software tailored to large and complex projects due to its wide range of functions and technical elements. Fast, friendly support can really make the difference in moving your project forward.
- Pricing – large projects with numerous users make affordable pricing a very important consideration when choosing a project management solution.
Keeping these important features in mind, let’s compare the top 5 most popular project management software solutions currently on the market.
Top 5 most popular project management software for Horizon Europe projects
EMDESK is an all-in-one cloud based project management solution for the entire lifecycle of projects of any scale and complexity. A user-friendly interface and the flexibility to customize projects to match their specific needs, combined with the highest security standards, have made EMDESK one of the leading solutions for supporting collaborative Horizon Europe projects.
- Project scheduling – EMDESK’s fully customizable and flexible project configurations allow you to design anything; from small projects with only a few partners, to multi-level projects with a large consortia. Create tasks and sub-tasks, structure activities, map dependencies, schedule milestones and deliverables, and assign single tasks or entire work packages to individuals, teams, or entire organizations. With EMDESK, you can co-work on project schedules and monitor progress in real-time using a wide array of exportable and fully customizable views like data table, Gantt chart, and Kanban boards. EMDESK also gives you the flexibility to create multiple project plan versions and switch between them as needed.
- Budget scheduling – Design your budget and plan resources together, in real-time, with all project members and partners. EMDESK’s powerful financial management features allow you to estimate each teams' budgets for specific periods with lump sum or rate-based costs. Use custom views, filters, and tags to get all the information you need to control costs and fine-tune your project results. EMDESK also allows you to customize resource management and organize finances in cost categories with different overhead and funding rates, as well as define funding rules based on selected criteria. This allows you to manage your projects’ finances with integrated co-funding administration.
- Project participants management – With EMDESK, you can easily structure your consortia to suit the size of your projects and map your workgroups from an organizational level, down to teams or individuals. EMDESK also allows you to administer project participants in line with the execution steps and planned timescales of your projects. So you can define each team’s financial profile with staffing, cost, and overhead rates, as well as monitor and analyze their performance from start to completion.
- Reporting – EMDESK offers effective instruments for monitoring your projects’ progress and consumption against timelines and budget forecasts. Allow your teams to gain valuable insights and focus on relevant activities with comprehensive progress and financial reports along with complete and accurate periodical updates. As your projects progress, all reports will change to reflect the latest information without any need for manual updates. EMDESK’s integrated online document editor allows multiple authors to work together on the same report (or any other project document) in a transparent manner.
- File sharing – Easily share project files between users and attach files to tasks or discussions in EMDESK. The platform also offers an integrated document manager so project teams can collect and organize files in folders all in one central location.
- Communication – To foster communication in large teams, you can pool and organize project collaborators in numerous groups within EMDESK. The software offers multiple ways of communication across the platform – from discussions that you can start directly on projects' items and @mentions to instant one-on-one video calls and online group meetings. EMDESK keeps users informed with regular and real-time notifications and/or sends emails to users or entire groups from your local client.
- Data control & security – Developed and hosted in Germany, EMDESK is designed from the ground up with top level security that guarantees GDPR compliance. To ensure the highest infrastructure security, EMDESK is hosted with the German Open Telekom Cloud (OTC) – one of the most secure and modern cloud data centers in the world. If needed, you can also request an on-premise solution from EMDESK and take full control of your data. Additionally, EMDESK offers advanced access rights management to keep different levels of sensitive project information confidential and secure within your projects teams. This allows you to grant specific access rights for each user or groups of users based on their needs and responsibilities.
- Support – EMDESK understands the importance of technical assistance and offers various support options. In order to provide optimal support EMDESK’s software provides an online manual that contains help articles and video tutorials. Live customer support agents can be reached via live chat, phone, and email. For specific questions, users can book a personal video call, as well as a personal product demo. EMDESK also offers a personal coaching session, so you can see if EMDESK is the right tool for your project. Additionally, you’ll get as a free onboarding training session to set your project teams up for success by configuring your workspace in EMDESK according to your project requirements.
- Pricing – EMDESK offers a free plan with unlimited users and all essential functionalities, providing an ideal solution for teams that have just started planning and managing projects. Organizations with teams working in multiple projects can benefit from EMDESK’s Team Plan (€12 user/month), and teams working on one project can sign up with EMDESK’s Project Plan (€71,40 month). Since EMDESK is designed for a high volume of users – the more users you have, the less you pay per user. For example, a project with 20 users would reduce the price to €10 user/month, with 50 users to €8 user/month, and with 100 users to €6,5 user/month. If your organization has 200+ users you’ll be provided with an individually tailored offer. In addition, all of the plans offer free unlimited guest users. EMDESK offers a 30-day free trial so you can test if it's the right solution for you. The costs of EMDESK are also eligible for reimbursement in most of the EU-funding programmes (as Other Direct Costs or overhead fees).