6.2 Selecting Software

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  1. Describe the factors to consider when assessing software requirements for a project.
  2. Define a cloud service and web-based software.
  3. Describe the functions of a cloud service.
  4. Describe the types of software tools available as cloud services.

Assessing Software Requirements

Software needs can vary widely from project to project, since communication becomes increasingly complex as the size of the project increases. Smaller projects involving a smaller team typically have fewer moving parts, and are simpler to manage, while larger projects usually have greater complexity.

Where the team is located geographically, how the team chooses to work together and the team’s preferred communication style can also influence the software tools and requirements. Software that is available for multiple platforms and languages can simplify project management and communication significantly.

The duration of the project can also be a factor. It is important to consider the communications needs for the entire lifespan of the project, as well as the requirements for storage and  archiving the iterative project planning content and materials once the project is complete. Project managers should consider what reporting is needed on an ongoing basis, and how complicated it can be to obtain the information needed for reporting to the client and/or senior management.

How will costs be managed or controlled? Depending on the project, the requirements for budgeting, approvals of expenditures, and tracking or reporting of expenses. As a project manager, you need to consider both your organization’s policies and procedures and those of the client. Privacy and access to confidential information, and data security and storage should all be considered. Although a smaller organization might not have policies defined and established as extensively as a larger one, that doesn’t mean these issues are any less important. A capable project manager should ensure that requirements are defined and client expectations are set.

The final outcome of the project also influences the software needs, and ultimately the tools selected. Factors such as ongoing management reporting, review of benchmarks and quality, and overall project outcomes should be considered.

Cloud Services

Cloud services is a blanket term that describes a range of web-based software that uses the internet as its communication framework. Cloud services are a crucial element of a communication plan for enabling convenient access to numerous web-based software to create documents, spreadsheets, diagrams, and reports that users can simultaneously collaborate on. Cloud services and web-based software have several advantages and benefits such as providing a working platform that is free of software and hardware maintenance hassles, saves money, is reliable and convenient, and provides user-friendly online content and information management1.

Many projects can be managed using the features available in web-based software that is available using an internet connection and accessing the cloud service from a mobile device, tablet, or computer.

Sharing Team Documents

More complex projects involve more people who are often separated geographically and who contribute to the same documents. To manage those tasks and relationships, using cloud-based data storage locations and web-based communication tools is justified.  If more than one person on a team will be contributing to a document, the document must be accessible to them. To manage documents that are created by a team, it is necessary to control the edits so that work is not lost or confused.

Version Control and File Storage

Previously, files such as word processing documents and spreadsheets would be stored on an individual’s computer or local network and copies sent to participants. These people would then make changes and return the revised version to the person who is responsible for the final version of the document. Today, cloud services provide users access to the original copy of a document in a single location. In addition, cloud services provide access to multiple older versions of a file as a contingency against overwriting, accidental deleting, etc.

Feedback and Comments

Feedback in the form of adding comments and markup is one of the features that is particularly useful for keeping track of the changes made to a web-based document by several users. If a team member wishes to explain a change, it is very important that they do not insert their explanation as text into the document. Such explanations might not be deleted and would end up in the final version of the document with potentially damaging results. Instead, team members can use a form of electronic sticky note to make comments. The document owner must go through the document and accept or reject each change and delete all the comments before the document is released as a finished product.


Image by Elle Cartier

Specialized Project Management Tools

A wide range of cloud-based project management tools are available today. These tools have a range of functionality to address task sharing and allocation, deadline management, critical path, file sharing, reporting, and so on. These tools function within a web browser or app and are typically available on a fee per user or per project basis. Like other cloud-based software and services, these allow for real-time project management and collaboration. Users typically have flexibility to view information in a variety of formats, or to sort and filter tasks and activities in a way that is most useful for them.


As will be discussed in further detail in Chapter 8.5, there are many web-based services and mobile apps to help with project management and scheduling. Some of these options include Trello, Miro, and Slack. These services help to organize and plan your project in a digital workspace.

Additional Software Tools

Word Processing

Even the most basic project will generate numerous documents using web-based word processing  software. A communications plan can specify standards for these documents that make it easier to create, edit, combine, store, and retrieve the documents. Document standards include the following:

  • Specifying the file format
  • Using consistent styles
  • Using templates for commonly used forms.

Word processing web-based software programs display a document on a computer’s screen and allow the user to enter and edit text. When the file is saved to a cloud-based storage device, the text and all the various formatting such as font and font size are converted to a code for efficient storage and for access across multiple devices and platforms. The code varies from one word processing web-based software to another.

Templates and Forms

If a particular type of document will be used repeatedly, it might be worth the time to create an example document—a template—that is formatted using the appropriate styles with blanks or placeholder text where the user can insert the information that describes a particular situation. The template may be customized and used repeatedly for all the documents of that type, or the organization can design its own. Similarly, a variety of tools exist to create web-based forms and surveys that can be used to collect data about various aspects of a project.

Using templates and forms can save time when creating documents and also help ensure that no pertinent details are overlooked when gathering information. Cloud services make building forms and sharing and updating templates easier than ever before.


Spreadsheets are a display of data in row and column format, in which financial or numerical data can be manipulated. The intersection of the rows and columns are cells into which numbers, text, dates, formulas, and other information can be entered. Formulas can utilize data entered into the spreadsheet for convenient data manipulation. If the value in a cell to which the formula refers is changed, all the formulas that use that cell’s value are immediately recalculated. A useful tool that is built into most spreadsheet software is the ability to insert charts and graphs. The software will automatically generate a chart or graph based on the entire spreadsheet or a selection of information. Spreadsheets are widely used to manage data for many aspects of projects.


  • A variety of factors should be considered when selecting software for the project management team
  • Cloud services provide a range of online software products that allow team members to share, collaborate, and control aspects of the project.
  • Specialized software functionality can address many aspects of communication for the project team. Files can be stored at a location that is accessible by all the team members. Features like track changes and compare documents can help manage edits.

[1] Prantosh Kumar Paul and Mrinal K. Ghose, “Cloud Computing: Possibilities, Challenges and Opportunities with Special Reference to its Emerging Need in the Academic and Working Area of Information Science,” Procedia Engineering 38 (2012): 2222-2227.



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