5 min read

Project Management for App Development (+ Best PM Tools)

Project Management for App Development (+ Best PM Tools)

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that developing an app can be complicated. Wrangling people, deadlines, and budgets in perfect harmony requires skill. (And, yes, a bit of luck). With app development project management, most conversations center on methodology—for good reason. Development methodologies can make or break your project. 

Common App Development Project Management Methodologies

There are several development methodologies used to manage software builds. Each can be useful. Some popular approaches include waterfall, agile, lean, and scrum development methodologies. 


Waterfall has a rigid structure of several phases that progress one after the next. It’s a straightforward approach. The waterfall method tends to be great for clearly defined projects, but it’s not as well-suited to long-term projects or ones with uncertain parameters. 


Agile differs from waterfall in that it’s more cross-functional from the get-go. Software built with an agile methodology will be released quickly but will undergo frequent improvement cycles. It’s best for small teams and projects where the end product isn’t fully defined. 


Lean refers to a bare-bones software development approach where reaching a minimally viable product (MVP) as quickly as possible is the goal. This approach leaves room for improvements based on user testing. The team is critical in this methodology, making it difficult to scale. 


Scrum is an agile framework that completes development phases and improvement cycles in sprints. It’s efficient and iterative, making it a popular choice for longer, sustained projects. There are a few dedicated oversight roles in a scrum approach, so bringing in new team members can be challenging. 

While the methodology is important to app development, project management is just as crucial to a build’s success. In this post, we share our perspective on why project management for app development matters and the project management essentials that we use to produce top-quality apps on time and on budget.

Why Project Management for App Development Matters

Having a thorough project management process that supports your software development methodology has three key benefits. 

  • Establish expectations — Effective app development project management ensures all stakeholders are on the same page and know what to expect. When everyone knows what will happen next, there won’t be any unwelcome surprises. 
  • Improve communication — Developing a mobile app is a complex process with many people involved, from the client to the designers and programmers. Good project management creates a streamlined communication process so nothing falls through the cracks.
  • Better manage resources — The nature of product development is one of iteration. As you learn new information about your target market or user testing results come in, change requests come into play. Good project management application development allows you to manage changes efficiently, keeping the budget and timeline as tightly controlled as possible. 

Learn more: How Much Does it Cost to Build an App | How Long Does it Take to Make an App

Foundations of Effective Project Management

Project management for app development is both an art and a science. We have learned over the years that each of the following elements is foundational for a successful project.

1. Consistency

One of the most critical aspects of project management is being consistent. Effective project management requires a disciplined approach. (In fact, we’ve found this is even more important than the development methodology used.) There will always be a multitude of issues that arise. Without a disciplined approach, a project can “go off the rails” quickly—either because people get excited and want to start on a step too soon, or because delays were not planned for and cause problems.

2. Clear and detailed communication

Another important aspect of effective project management is clear and detailed two-way communication. Everyone involved with a project has a wide range of skill sets, and everyone looks at things from a slightly different perspective. We all sometimes speak own language while working on software development projects, falling into jargon or simply assuming someone understands what we mean when they don’t. So every project must have a focus on communication. And documenting agreements ensures that miscommunication remains at bay.

3. Small, actionable components

Breaking down tasks into actionable parts is critical to get a complex project completed on time. There’s no better way to understand a project than to break it down into its smallest tasks. This activity helps to provide clarity to each member of the team so everyone knows exactly who is responsible for what and when each task is due. 

Project Management Tools for App Development

To successfully and efficiently execute a project, you need to make use of tools. Many activities happen simultaneously when an app is being built, and it’s essential for those activities to come together seamlessly. Tools help you with internal and external communication, issue and time tracking, documentation, resource allocation planning, and task management. After many years of testing various options, we’ve landed on the following collection of project management tools.

Communication Tools for Project Management for App Development

These tools are our go-to to keep all the project stakeholders in the loop, whether they’re in the office or across the globe. 

  • Gmail — Sure, there are other options, but Gmail gives us everything we want and need in an email service. We particularly love the “Snooze” feature. It helps us to prioritize our inbox and offers a line of sight for priority emails. The Snooze feature also helps us keep track of tasks that clients or team members are responsible for. 
  • Slack — This app makes it easy to communicate from your desktop or on the go. While Slack is great for internal communication, it can be a double-edged sword. Chat messaging can be an efficient alternative to email or calls for quick exchanges. Slack can also become a distraction, so we try to be mindful of how we use it. 

Task Management Tools for Application Development

Just one Google search will show you there are dozens of options for managing project tasks. These two tools happen to be our favorite because of how intuitive and customizable they are. 

  • Redmine — This open-source issue-tracking tool helps us get the job done. We use Redmine for issue and bug tracking, logging time, storing the project Wiki, and many other tasks. It’s the Swiss Army Knife of project management for app development tools.  
  • Basecamp — This web-based tool offers a central hub for project notes, documents, and collaboration. Our team uses Basecamp for both client and internal communication. We love it because it helps to keep project communication organized more efficiently so important information doesn’t get lost. 
  • Jira – The popular issue management platform from Atlassian has become the gold standard for agile app development teams. This is the tool of choice for our dedicated app development teams here at Designli.

Resource Management Tools for App Development Project Management

Managing budgets, people, and all the moving parts that go into an app can get messy quickly, so we lean on our favorite resource management tools to keep all our t’s crossed and i’s dotted.  

  • Spreadsheets — Sometimes, a good old-fashioned spreadsheet is all you need. We use spreadsheets for all sorts of tasks, including providing detailed estimates that break down projects by feature, development resources needed, and estimated time to complete each task. 
  • Float — We can’t say “yes” to a project without knowing our capacity for new work. That’s where Float comes in. It’s an excellent for resource allocation planning. We use this tool for scheduling our designers and developers on projects. It gives us an accurate picture of our availability for new projects as well.

How Dedicated Development Teams Can Help 

Hiring a dedicated development team might just be one of the best and most effective app development project management choices you can make. Building an in-house development team is often expensive and time-consuming. A dedicated development team, by contrast, can devote a set amount of hours exclusively to your project, with a complete roster of experienced specialists. From project managers and software engineers to quality assurance (QA) specialists and UX/UI designers, you’ll have the flexibility and talent you need to get your project done the right way. 

Project Management Creates a Foundation for a Successful App

No successful app gets built without effective project management. Project management ensures that the app is built precisely to specifications, handles any necessary changes efficiently along the way, and keeps the budget and timeline as tight as possible. Over the dozens of apps we’ve built and projects we’ve managed, we’ve honed a process that we have confidence in and our clients appreciate.

Considering creating an app? Reach out to learn more about how we help clients build successful apps. Get in touch.

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