What do the ancient pyramids of Egypt, the building of the Titanic, and the first Apollo Space Mission all have in common? Answer: they were all extremely complex projects that required an entire team of dedicated people and a well thought out plan to complete successfully.
As a project manager, you work on complex projects every day. And while your current endeavor might not be rocket science, it still demands an attention to detail and the ability to properly manage both people and resources.
Fortunately, there are tools out there that can help make your project management efforts much easier and more successful.
In this article, we'll take a look at project management software: what it is, why it's important, the eight best apps in this category, and how to choose the right one for your organization. Sound interesting? Then let's get started!
What is Project Management Software?
According to Techopedia, project management software is, "software used for project planning, scheduling, resource allocation and change management." Simple enough, right? But let's get more granular:
- Project Planning: Project management software will help you plan and schedule your entire project, ensuring you and your team stay on track. This aspect of the tool is especially helpful for large projects which will take years to complete.
- Resource Allocation: A quality project management app will also give you the tools to appropriately allocate resources like employee time and company funds. For example, most apps give you the option to assign tasks to specific team members.
- Change Management: As a project manager, you know that no project ever goes exactly according to plan. Project management software will help you manage changes effectively and help to ensure each project meets with success.
Why is Project Management Software Important?
Now that we've covered what project management software is, we can discuss why it's important. There are three main benefits to working with this kind of tool. They are: direction, collaboration, and productivity.
If you want your next project to be a success, you have to know what success looks like. In other words, you need direction. You need to develop a plan that will help you get from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible.
Project management software allows project managers to evaluate the scope of a project, break down complex undertakings into manageable steps, and plan every aspect of a project — from task assignment to budgeting.
Most projects worked on in a company setting aren't one man (or woman) shows. They require a whole team of people to complete, each with different skill sets and experience levels. Project management software allows team members to better collaborate by offering document sharing, checklist, and communication tools.
These features are especially useful to distributed teams. If you work closely with remote employees or staff members in satellite offices, you'll definitely appreciate the collaboration tools that comes with most project management apps.
Last but not least, project management software makes teams more productive. When your employees have direction and understand what's expected of them; when they have quality communication, document sharing, and checklist tools at their disposal, they'll be able to complete their work in a much more efficient manner.
This kind of tool also helps managers better delegate tasks and resources so that the entire team runs like a well-oiled machine. No employee is ever over worked and no available resource is wasted.
An Objective Project Management Software Comparison
The following list contains a mixture of free project management software and paid for solutions. Each tool offers exciting features. You'll just need to choose which app best fits your company and go from there.
Trello is a highly visual, completely intuitive project management software. It's based on the Kanban methodology and projects, called boards, can be organized into workflows by creating column like lists and filling them with cards. Each card can be made to represent a task and given due dates and assigned to specific team members.
Trello also makes team collaboration easy by including a chat area where employees can converse about the project and share attachments.
To top it all off, this project management app integrates with many other popular tools such as Slack, Evernote, and Dropbox. Get started today for free or upgrade to the Business Class plan for just $9.99 a month.
Asana can be thought of as a super powerful todo list — powerful enough to accommodate large teams and complex projects. It places a heavy focus on company goals and achieving them on time and on budget.
Once inside the app, Asana users have the ability to view their projects in multiple ways. There's the task list view which (unsurprisingly) lists tasks in the standard to-do list style. There's also the boards view which is essentially a kanban board similar to what Trello offers, and the timeline view which gives a visual representation of how each piece of a project fits together.
One unique aspect of Asana is its industry templates. If you're new to project management, you'll love this feature! Basically, Asana has created a bunch of different project templates for various departments including marketing, HR, and design. Users can use these templates as a proven foundation when building their own workflows.
Just like Trello, Asana offers basic functionality for free. Its Premium plans starts at $9.99 a month, though, if you need to upgrade.
3. Zoho Projects
Zoho is a complete business software suite that's become quite popular over the last view years. One of the company's offerings is Projects, a project management software that makes planning, tracking, and collaborating on projects a breeze.
First off, this app has just about every project management app feature you could ever dream of. It's really powerful! Milestones? Check. Time tracking? Check. Kanban boards, Gantt charts, and live chat capability? Check, check, and check!
No matter what kind of project you happen to be working on, you can plan and manage it effectively inside Projects. But all that functionality is going to cost you if you ever want to graduate past the Free Forever plan.
The Standard plan costs $18 for 6 users per month
Wrike is another popular online project management software. This tool offers the convenience of a todo list and the power and flexibility of a spreadsheet. That way you can easily see what needs to get done and when as well as more detailed information like task directions, team member assignments, and live chat.
To use Wrike, first start a new project and create specific tasks that needs to be completed. Then click on each task and add important details like who is in charge of completing it, directions for them to follow, and any attachments they might need.
Users can also email each other (not just use an internal chat feature) directly inside this project management app too which could definitely come in handy.
Get started with Wrike today for free. Or upgrade to a more advanced plan for as little as $9.80 a month per user.
What makes Monday, formerly known as Dapulse, different is its focus on workflows. The folks behind this project management app understand that projects rarely go as planned. So instead of simply giving users a standard tasks list to check off, they included a workflow stages feature.
Once a task is created, a colored "stages" column can be added to represent various stages in the completion of said task. For example, a green mark would mean the task is complete, orange would represent that the task is still being worked on, and red would mean that the person assigned to the task has hit a roadblock.
This system makes it very easy to see, at a quick glance, how far along certain projects are.
Monday also includes useful features like a timeline view, priority level tracker, and internal chat capability. After a free trial, Monday can be accessed for $39 a month for up to five users.
If you constantly work on tight deadlines, Mavenlink may be the perfect project management software for you. The app's Gantt chart feature allows users to estimate time frames for each stage in a project and add dependencies so that they always know which tasks need to be completed first. Deadlines can then be updated based on this information.
Other features include resource management tools, project templates, internal communications, AI powered reports, and much more.
Mavenlink does offer a free plan but it seems that most of the exciting features are only available via upgraded packages which start at $19 a month for five users.
Do you love the organization possibilities of standard spreadsheets but wish they packed a bit more punch? Take a look at Smartsheet, a project management app that combines everything you love about spreadsheets with comments, task assignment, project status, and budgeting features.
The great thing about Smartsheet is its flexibility. You can add extra rows, columns, and checkboxes to your super spreadsheet at any time. You can also view projects via a Gantt chart, set conditional reminders, and add attachments.
Smartsheet is the ideal project management software for spreadsheet enthusiasts and can be accessed for $14 a month after a 30-day free trial.
Last but not least we have Podio, a project management tool that's really multiple apps in one. Users choose the apps they want to use and combine them into a single intuitive dashboard. It's a unique approach that allows users to build smarter workflows.
Podio includes all the standard project management features you need like deadlines, task creation, commenting and chat, file attachments, and templates. The monthly cost to access these features ranges from $0 to $24 a month.
How to Choose Project Management Software
We just mentioned eight different project management software solutions. Each has unique features and benefits. Which one is right for your team? That's what we'll cover in this section.
To discover which project management app is right for your company, follow this simple three-step process:
- Know What Features You Need: Start by deciding which features your team actually needs, which would be nice to have, and which are irrelevant. Then narrow down your list of potential apps by eliminating any that don't have the capabilities you desire.
- Evaluate Your Company's Budget: Next, look at your budget. How much software can you realistically afford? While each of the tools in our list have free versions, some of the features you need or want might only be available in higher priced plans.
- Experiment and Get Feedback: Once you've narrowed your options down by features and price, it's time to start experimenting with the remaining tools on your list. Sign up for a free plan or trial. Which apps do you and your team enjoy using?
After going through each of these three steps, you should have a good idea of which project management software is right for you.
Manage Your Projects More Successfully
Project management software will help you and your team complete projects on time and on budget, collaborate effectively, and reach peak productivity levels. We encourage you to try some of the apps listed above and begin experimenting with them. Then choose the tool that suits your organization best. Good luck!
Want to really improve productivity and collaboration on your next project? Pair any of the above mentioned project management software solutions with CloudApp, a powerful visual communication tool. CloudApp's screen and webcam recording, GIF creation, and image annotation features will allow you to clearly communicate with your team and help ensure each of your projects is completed on time and on budget. Give it a try today for FREE.