Project management is about planning the availability of resources at the right point on a timeline to get a task completed. No matter what type of project you are running, it is likely that each deliverable will require input from several people. Some tasks will be group efforts, others will require the attention of an individual. However, in any project, a series of concurrent tasks need to be moved forward through development stages. They also need to be timed so that project timelines converge in order to feed in resources to a composite task.
The complexities of each project vary widely depending on the industry and the project goal. However, planning and task expediting are the key responsibilities of any project manager. Project management tools should support those duties and communicate the plan through task allocations and deadlines to the whole team.
If you can’t stick around for the whole article, here is our list of the 10 best project management tools:
- Wrike Award-winning project management and team collaboration platform based in the Cloud.
- Asana A project planning, task allocation and messaging system that is available online.
- Trello Web-based project management system that uses columns for responsibilities with task tags that get dragged and dropped onto successive columns as the project progresses.
- Basecamp Forum-style collaboration platform that is available on the web.
- Monday Online, customizable, open-source project management platform that enables the inclusion of external human resources.
- Jira Bug tracking and project management system that is available as a hosted service or as on-premises software.
- Superdesk A production workflow system aimed at publishers. On-premises software.
- ProofHub Project planning and task allocation system that includes chat, email, and forum channels for team collaboration.
- MeisterTask Cloud-based Kanban card-based project task tracking platform.
- ClickUp Online project management system with the adaptable layout to suit different team mindsets. Available in both free and paid versions.
Most of the prominent project management tools on the market at the moment are delivered from the Cloud. The Software-as-a-Service model is very suitable for the project management needs of today because it delivers the flexibility that contemporary teams need. Today, projects may include team members that are geographically dispersed or are constantly off-site. Liberating the project management platform from the office suits the modern, scattered project team.
The ability to access the project management platform from any device and not just a desktop computer is another advantage of platforms that are delivered from the Cloud.
No matter what the size of your project team, you will find a very wide selection of tools to choose from. The very large number of options available means that prices are kept very reasonable by the tough competition in the sector. However, when you are in the process of procuring a project management tool, all of those choices in the market also means that researching alternative products could take you a very long time. We produced this comparison report to cut down the time it takes you to select the ideal project support software.
The best project management tools
You can learn more about each of these project management tools in the following sections.
The Wrike project management platform is an online service, which means you don’t have to run your own servers or worry about keeping the software up to date. The main view of the Wrike dashboard is one of its main strengths because it presents three panes that show all of the information that a participant needs at a glance.
The three panes in the Dashboard present a timeline for each team member showing tasks to do, tasks in progress, and completed tasks. This useful layout means that team members don’t have to waste time combing through layers of a project management system to check on what they are expected to do.
The manager’s interface makes it easy to nominate task dependencies and allocate extra resources to tasks that turned out to be more complex than originally imagined. Tasks can be reallocated, split, and merged.
The interface includes communication channels for collaboration that include group and one-on-one chats and an announcement system.
The Wrike platform is available in six editions and the lowest level plan is free. This is aimed at teams of five or less. The two cheapest paid plans, called Professional and Business have more project planning features than the Free edition. The plans above Business are Wrike for Marketers, which has specialist marketing features; Wrike for Professional Services, which include templates for identity customization and the Enterprise package, which has all the bells and whistles and is aimed at large businesses. All of the paid plans are available on a free trial.
Asana is an online project support tool that offers both project-wide views and work schedules for individual team members. Managers can set up several projects and assign tasks within each. The project-wide view can be a little overwhelming and team members are better off focusing on their own restricted view of the project, which is available in the My Tasks screen.
The team member’s task view shows a list of open tasks in the main panel of the screen. This list expands to half of the central panel when the user selects a project. The right-hand half of the screen then holds the task instructions.
The assigning manager and the team members working on the task can communicate through a message board facility that is built into the task details pane. Anyone involved in a task is able to create new sub-tasks and allocate them to others.
The Asana interface has a lot of functionality, which might be more than most team members need. The ability for every team member to examine the task details of other members is a little unnecessary and makes the interface complicated. However, experienced users can choose to limit their activities on the page to just the My Tasks section in order to simplify the processing of information from the project management platform.
Asana is available in four editions. The free version is called Basic. This is suitable for small teams and individuals. It has enough functionality to enable a manager to allocate tasks to team members and communicate with them. The paid plans called Premium and Business have more project planning features and allow for customizations. Both of these plans are available on a free trial. The top plan, called Enterprise is actually an open definition, which can be customized through discussions with a sales representative.
Trello is one of a group of project management tools that uses a Kanban-style layout. Kanban is a card system used by Japanese manufacturers to represent a request for supplies from each workstation. Kanban project management systems don’t work on that “pull” system, but got the name because they use “cards” for task units.
Each card is placed in a list and lists are arranged on a “board,” which is a screen. The list titles can be customized and relate to an individual or a workstation. Tasks are allocated to a team member by placing a card in that person’s list. When individuals complete all work on the card, they move it on to the next list in the pipeline.
Trello is an online service and is available in three editions: Free, Business Class, and Enterprise. The Free version has no limit on the number of personal boards but team boards are limited to 10. The Business Class edition has no limit on the number of team boards that can be set up and has a lot more workflow automation features. The Enterprise edition integrates with network permissions systems. The paid versions of Trello are charged for on a subscription basis with fees levied per user per month. Subscriptions have to be paid in advance and an annual payment gets a big discount on the monthly rate.
Web-based Basecamp has been available since 2004, which makes it one of the oldest project management tools on this list. The environment is like a tree-structured forum with each node on the tree operating as a work allocation space for a team member.
Task workers and managers can communicate through a chat form embedded in each task notification. One problem with Basecamp is that anyone in the organization that has a membership is able to see the tasks allocated to others and read all of the messages attached to it, so there is no privacy possible in the system.
The system is available in a Personal version and a Business edition. There is nothing stopping businesses from using the Personal Basecamp other than the limitation on the package that allows only three live projects at a time. However, there is no limit on the size of the project and the free version allows up to 20 users on an account, so it should be sufficient for a small business. The Business edition has no limit on projects or users and includes 500 GB of cloud storage space. You can get the Business edition on a 30-day free trial.
Monday.com is a well-designed Kanban-based online project management tool. The look and feel of the interface are eye-catching and a pleasure to use. Each team member gets invited into the group via email. The system is a graphical representation of project workflows. The environment has a number of views that can be adapted.
As a card-based system, the Dashboard is driven by the ability to drag and drop cards representing tasks from one container to another signifying progress. The management reports that the system derives from all team job statuses are instantly available and very attractively presented.
The pricing structure works on a grid. You nominate the number of team members and then select an edition of the platform that you want to subscribe to. You can’t specify a precise number of team members – the selection criteria increases in leaps: 2, 5, 10, 15, and up to 200 and over.
The editions are Basic, Standard, Pro, and Enterprise. The utilities in each edition increase with the price. Not only do higher packages include more modules, but they also include more storage space and a long log file retention period. You can test the system with a free trial.
Jira is used for a range of purposes. The software was originally developed as a software bug detector that is used by development teams. The tool tracks testing and schedules rewrites and retesting until all bugs are resolved. The software was later expanded to include general project management functions. It supports agile project management in software development projects.
The platform is accessed from the Cloud and is charged for on a subscription basis, charged for per user per month. The system is available in three editions: Free, Standard, and Premium. The Free plan is limited to access for 10 users. The two paid plans will accommodate up to 5,000 users, although each user is charged for.
The Free version has fewer modules included in it. However, the Kanban cards and agile project management guidance are both included. Surprisingly, the free plan even includes cloud storage space. In all, the Free edition is pretty comprehensive. The two paid plans add on more storage space, audit logs, and access controls. All plans require users to log in. However, with the free edition, there is no control over which sections of the project can be seen by specific users, which means that all users have access to all data and are able to perform all actions. Jira is available on a 7-day free trial.
Superdesk aims at publishing businesses and that includes content for websites. This software centers on a home board for each user that contains a customizable number of lists. As with Kanban systems, each list contains entries that represent tasks. Rather than dragging each task between lists, the user nominates the next recipient of the task in a scheduling sidebar.
A broader view is available that unifies all boards, showing all tasks that are currently live. The only problem with this facility is that anyone can access the details of other team members’ tasks, which could enable a disgruntled employee to wreak havoc with the project by accessing linked documents.
You need to host the software on your own server. There is a Self-starter edition, which is free. Superdesk is open-source and so anyone can get the code for free and adapt it if they want. The Pro and Enterprise editions of Superdesk have technicians to install the software on your server for you or customize the system to suit your specific needs.
ProofHub is another Kanban-style online project management platform. It is possible to run several separate teams through the interface and different projects as well. Deadlines can be set and moved and it is possible to place alert thresholds on approaching deadlines. You can create workflows that dictate which team members are involved in each stage of the task’s journey rather than having to create workstations with a set list of members.
The interface is customizable, enabling you to put your business’s logo and themes on the front-end. The communication channels built into the tool are extensive. These include a proofing system for communication between writers and editors of documents, forums, private groups, one-to-one messaging, and announcements. It is also possible to interact with the system through email.
A nice feature for businesses that bill for all work is an automatic timesheet generator that can flow through to the billing system. This tracks the time spent on each project by each team member. Other project management features include a Gantt chart page and project progress reports.
The platform is paid for by subscription with charges being levied per organization, not per user. The Essential edition allows the creation of 40 live projects and includes 15 GB of storage space. The Ultimate Control plan includes white labeling and advanced activity logs. It has no limit on the number of live projects that an account can run and it includes 100 GB of storage space.
This online project management platform from a German software house, Meister Labs has more than two million users around the world. It is a sister-product to MindMeister, which supports brainstorming. The idea behind MeisterTask is that it can flow ideas through into agile project plans and task implementation. However, MeisterTask can also be used as a standalone project planning tool.
This is another Kanban-style app and it has a big emphasis on collaboration for project planning as well as task execution. As with other Kanban system, tasks are represented as cards that need to be dragged between lists to show progress.
The service is priced on a subscription per user per month. There are four editions and the lowest is Free. The three paid versions are Pro, Business, and Enterprise. The Free version is limited to three live projects and has a limit of 20 MB per file attachment. However, it would be possible to get around that limitation by using an online document store, such as Google Docs and linking to attachments. The three paid versions have progressively more task automation and supervision features.
The Kanban-style is a very popular layout for a project management tool, but not everyone likes that format. ClickUp addresses the personal taste of teams by offering different views on the project database. One of those views gives a Kanban layout, but there are other formats available and it is possible to allow different teams to have different view styles and still enable the exchange of data between them.
Each individual gets a personal task list and can also access the team’s task register. Project management tools in this online platform include Gantt charts, a spreadsheet application, time tracking, and a calendar with reminders.
ClickUp includes its own document editor that enables you to create a Wiki for the team and for each project. It also includes a brainstorming environment. ClickUp integrates a number of communication channels, but it can also be integrated with well-known team chat systems, such as Slack.
This service is charged for by subscription per user per month. There are two paid editions, called Unlimited and Business. There is also a Free version. Despite the fact that the lower of the two paid versions is called Unlimited, there aren’t any project or user-count limits on the free version.
Choosing a Project Management Tool
The project management software market is very crowded at the moment. There is, perhaps, a little too much choice and many of the alternative systems are strikingly similar. The Software-as-a-Service delivery model is very popular and a lot of the available tools go for the same Kanban layout.
It can be expected that the market will thin out over the next few years with a number of tools either merging or going out of business. For example, Atlassian, which developed Jira, bought Trello, so those two products may well merge some time soon.
Do you have a favorite project management tool? Do you use any of the tools recommended in this report? Leave a message in the Comments section below and share your experience with the community.