In today’s hyper-competitive market, organizations make use of disciplined project management to ensure that required results get delivered with consistency. Project managers are now, more than ever before, required and expected to remain on top of their game. So, what takes a Project Manager from good to great ? Conventionally, the mark of a smart Project Manager was the ability to lead the project from beginning until the end with optimum allocation of resources.

However, nowadays, owing to the globalization of operations, increasingly complex procedural requirements and rigorous performance checks; state-of-the-art project management tools are a Project Manager’s true strength. A smart Project Manager of 2016 uses these tools to maximize efficiency and drive the project home in a way that adds value to the organization.

So, what are these amazing instruments and gizmos? Let’s have a look below; where we’ve compiled a list of the most effective must-have tools for smart project managers:

1. Project Plan:

One should always begin with the end mind; smart PMs develop a thorough Project Plan outlining everything from project scope, allocation of responsibilities, Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), project budget and financial projections, etc. Here, the most crucial components for Project Managers are resource allocation and scheduling. Research indicates that the more the amount of effort that goes into planning a project; the fewer are the chances of running into errors. Moreover, the age of using Excel to plan a project is long gone. Projects are increasingly complex and several different factors and departments have to be used cohesively to deliver specific outcomes.

It is for due to this reason, that efficient PMs make use of project management software that help to determine which events depend on each other and how, what to expect in case factors change and more importantly they highlight the probabilities of error. 2016 has proven to be savior for Project Managers; with a plethora of project management software that allow for secure, streamlined and detailed planning, organizing, monitoring as well as control of projects. Some of the leading software in the industry include AceProject, Easy Projects and Bridge24.

2. Gantt Charts:

One of the simplest yet most widely used status tracking instrument is the good old Gantt Chart. Seemingly a simple software; Gantt Charts are absolutely essential for effective project management as is evident from it’s use by Project Managers worldwide. The reason for their vast usage lies in the fact that they list down all the activities of a project and indicate their interdependencies and, hence, serve to manage a project cohesively.

3. Milestone Tracking:

The attainment of project milestones is imperative in the overall success of a project. Milestone tracking allows project managers to identify responsibilities and timelines. Smart project managers invest in much more detailed milestone tracking applications that allow them to get an edge over the rest while bringing about the highest levels of outcome and efficiency for projects. Some of the most popular milestone tracking applications include Upvise Projects, Trello, Zoho Projects and Collabtive.

4. Cloud Based Storage:

A breath of fresh air and by far the most beneficial new innovation is cloud based storage. The advent of cloud-based storage applications has literally brought the worries of project managers to an end. These applications store critical company information in completely secure online platforms, in other words you can access this information from any location that has internet connectivity. Increasingly useful for increasingly complex projects; cloud-based storage enables project managers to share information, reports, progress updates and virtually anything with their team members regardless of their physical location. Okay, so if global access to information wasn’t enough; these applications back your data up so that you never have to fear losing it. One of the most widely used functionalities is our cherished file sync. The most trusted providers of cloud-based storage applications include Google Drive, Dropbox and Outlook.

5. Time Tracking and Invoicing:

Yet another project management application that is a must-have for smart project managers is a time tracking and invoicing application. Also cloud based; these applications offer a gigantic range of advantages to project managers. They enable remote tracking and management of time of a workforce situated in different physical locations. Once tracked, these applications allow for the generation of invoices as per the predefined rates. Moreover, they provide estimates that may be shared with prospective clients. These applications optimize the allocation of resources and drastically reduce chances of error. Several of these applications are available in the market; the most widely used include Minterapp, Zoho and Harvest.

6. Weekly Progress Reports:

The road to success for project managers comes from timely and accurate reporting to all stakeholders allowing them to be thoroughly synced with the progress of the project at hand. Moreover, it is a Project Manager’s key responsibility to keep the stakeholder’s informed about the progress of the project. And smart project managers make it a point to keep the stakeholders updated on a weekly basis. The weekly review meetings should include progress of the project, financial status as well as any changes that might have become necessary as the project moved on. In order to ensure that regular weekly meetings occur smart managers use resources like video or telephonic conferencing. These resources allow participants present at various locations to be present for these very crucial meetings.

7. Budget Tracking:

Today, the primary indicator of good performance for business owners as well as shareholders is optimum allocation of budget. This is imperative for Project Managers because by being custodians of the entire project; they are answerable for the efficient allocation of money. Hence, smart project managers ensure strick budget tracking to ensure it’s appropriate allocation. Moreover, efficient project managers conduct frequent budget checks enabling them to always stay on top of the outflow of money. This is also necessary as it is useful in identifying and consequently rectifying any leakages or abnormalities. Budget tracking can be done by formulating project matrices. These matrices can be derived using spreadsheets, project tracking software and Prince2.

So, there you have them; the seven tools that make smart project managers stand out from the also-okay and average crowd. If you have not been using these tools, and feel overwhelmed by work responsibilities, be smart by streamlining business processes.