Key Features a Good Engineering Project Software Should Have

Author: Eugenija Steponkute
Published: 19/12/2022
engineering project management

This article is written for project managers and small business owners. If you are looking for new engineering project software to aid your businesses, you have come to the right place. We will be covering key functionality a good tool needs to have. Use this article as your guide when navigating a huge software market. 

While engineering and manufacturing businesses are only taking the first steps towards digitisation of the back office - the market is ready. Having caught a whiff of demand, it has started expanding rapidly and shows no signs of stopping. A huge number of options makes the task of choosing the right tool even more complicated for still novice software shoppers. But we are here to aid them.

In this blog, we want to define key features an engineering project management tool should have to be considered good. Although they may sound rather basic, do not dismiss them - anything that’s more complex is built upon these pillars. In fact, you can gain a lot at a very competitive price if you stick to the bare essentials. Ultimately, your decision should be shaped by your business needs, but we will discuss it in greater detail as we move along…

What Features Should a Project Management Software Have?

Different sources will offer you different must-have functionality. Here’s our list of core features for engineering project software:


  1. Time tracking

  2. Attendance system

  3. Document storage

  4. Expense submissions and approvals

  5. Pay & bill

  6. Reporting

Granted, most software vendors will offer bigger packages than just these six items. There is nothing wrong with that, and you might as well be needing the additional functionality they offer. However, no matter how long the feature list is, you shouldn’t get tempted by it if at least one of the essentials is missing. Most of the additional features are built upon or are supporting the cornerstone ones.  Therefore without them, the effectiveness of the rest is questionable. 

On-site Work Management

Most of the progress-driving work is executed through physical labour. While the back office leads and dictates the direction of the on-site processes, it is not involved in them. Therefore lacks visibility of them in the day-to-day environment, potentially missing opportunities and subjecting the business to losses. The following features of a project software address that.

Time Tracking and Attendance

Let’s put it straight - you are not on the site daily and therefore can’t vouch for how your employees are using their time. Sure, you are seeing the results, but are your workers truly utilising the time they claim to achieve them? Is there room to improve performance and cut costs by using your workforce in smarter ways? Even if you choose to micromanage with frequent surprise audits, the answers will remain unachievable. Tracking time is your best bet. And we don’t mean paper timesheets that can be easily tampered with. Instead, we advise using a timesheet solution. 

First of all, individual timesheets can only be accessed by the designated worker by using their unique login information. Even if they share this info with their coworkers to try and cover their absence, the moment the colleague logs out of their system will be recorded. This makes it easy to catch malpractice. Secondly, some software entails geo locators, making digital timesheets reflect whether the employee was actually on the site when they clocked in. And finally, you can reject the timesheets you know aren’t filled correctly. Instead of spending hours fixing them yourselves, the worker at fault will need to resubmit the amended version for your secondary review. 

Expense Tracking

Whether it’s restocking coffee or paying for gas when travelling between the locations, work-related expenses happen. However, most businesses don’t have a good process for either submitting, tracking or reviewing them. This can accumulate big additional costs that can easily push you over the project budget. Hence why a good engineering project software comes with a feature that helps you tailor a better expenses-related process. 

The problem with expenses is that the process is easy in theory. In practice, however, it comes with a lot of complications. Lost receipts, different currencies, taxes, incorrect mileage calculations and many others. But good engineering project software can make it just as easy as it theoretically is by offering a designated expense management module. Some of the best solutions will allow your workers to upload receipts on the go or to bulk-upload when they accumulate too many. At Timesheet Portal, we also added an automatic currency converter and mileage calculator to smoothen the process. In other words - this feature will help you stop bleeding money. Even if you were never aware of how much you actually lose due to this process’s inefficiency. 

Back Office Benefits

The perfect project software solution for the engineering sector smoothens the operations of the back office too. Unlike the on-site workers, the office-based team is subjected to heaps of admin work that is tedious and not at all progress-driving. The right solution will raise efficiency in both areas. Next, we will discuss specific back office-aimed features you want to adopt. 

Accessible Document Storage

Every company has its fair share of admin work, but the engineering and manufacturing sector are especially prone to its accumulation. From machinery compliance to employee onboarding, you need to have it neatly stored too for the purpose of audits. Not to mention, the paper trail never stops growing. Timesheets, invoices, expenses and other types of documentation flood in daily in huge volumes. Managing and storing it is about as difficult as navigating through it. And we all know how impossible it is to find that one piece of documentation you urgently need. A good engineering project software puts end to that. 

If you’re not relying on paper anymore and instead utilise cloud storage - you’re on the right path. However, instead of having to upload documents manually, a designated platform will automatically store them for you. What’s more, it will be easily accessible to anyone you give permission to, meaning they can pull the documentation they need out without having to go through the motions of acquiring it. Most document storage platforms within the software also come with a search bar and filters, making it easy to locate the file you need. Integrating different solutions with one another will also centralise documentation pulled from each in an accessible location. 

Simplified Pay and Bill

Finally, probably one of the most jarring back office operations in manufacturing is pay and bill. It entails employee compensation, supplies, expenses, independent contractors and basically anything to do with the finances. With so many moving parts, not only is it difficult to stay on top of it all but can also be particularly challenging when dealing with constrained budgets. From keeping track of everything to planning the next moves accordingly, you are most likely spending a lot of time on these operations. The time that would be much more useful applied elsewhere. 

We’ve already touched upon time tracking. Thing is, often companies offer different pay for different shifts/tasks and therefore the same employee may be getting paid at several different rates. A good timesheet tool can save you time making these tedious calculations yourself. All you need to do is optimise your platform and it will do the heavy lifting for you. What’s more, you can also transfer these receipts right into your accounting software via an integration. The same applies to the previously mentioned expenses. Finally, good project software will also automate invoice generation and distribution, which is another drain on your time. In other words, when you find the right solution, your biggest worry will be to decide where you’re going to apply the time you’ve claimed back. 

Navigating the Solution Market

SaaS technology is the fastest-growing market and while it’s already huge, its expansion isn’t slowing down. This makes the search for the right project software overwhelming as the offers differ greatly. Each vendor seems to be promising long lists of features that justify the price and indeed look tempting. However, this is not a temptation to fall into. 

Less is More

This is something software companies that charge for extensive feature packages don’t want you to know: digital tools don’t need to have a huge list of functionality. As long as the core features are in, the rest is fluff. And often this fluff is used to disguise the fact the cornerstone you’re after isn’t as well functioning as you need it to be. Our brain is wired to associate more with better, but choosing a good engineering project software product it’s harmful to both your operations and your budget.

The key features we described are what should be at the foundation of the tool; treat the rest as nice-to-haves. While some may be highly beneficial to a handful of businesses, they are not fit for all. Ultimately, you yourself need to evaluate what each feature apart of the core one can bring to your company, how will it be utilised and whether it will become a part of your permanent strategy. That said, most solutions that offer bare basics shouldn’t be discarded. If anything, they are your best bet. Not only do they offer the toolbox of exactly what you need, but they also come at a much cheaper price. Since at Timesheet Portal we cater to all kinds of industries, we offer key functionality AND add-ons: but we allow you to choose which are to be included in your tool.


We understand that choosing the right project software is not an easy task. Especially when you aren’t too acquitted with the process and the market is filled with vendors promising triple what the last one did. It’s easy to lose sight of what you need when you are bombarded with extensive feature offers and bargain-worthy deals. This is why it’s important you remember what the basics are and never let them out of your sight. No matter how long the features list is, they all are ultimately built on the cornerstone ones we’ve described. 

If this is the first time you’re buying project management software, we recommend you don’t go beyond the basic functionality. Not only is it more budget-friendly, but also completely sufficient to target key goals you may have. Most solutions will also allow you to upgrade as you explore and get a better idea of what additional features you need. Timesheet Portal is one of them. We want you to be successful and to grow alongside you - this is why our software is designed to help you scale, at your own pace. 

But enough talking. See for yourself.

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Timesheet Portal online software provided by Anfold Software Ltd, a registered company in the UK.