The best project management software for small business can help you plan your projects more effectively and improve communication throughout your organization. If used correctly, it could end up boosting your profits, too.
In addition to helping you lay out tasks and set deadlines, the tools can help you with time tracking, cost estimation and analyzing when your projects are going well. They can also help alert you when things need to be improved.
There are many options, so you may be wondering where to get started. Let’s see what’s out there and evaluate what the tools can do for you and your team.
Best Project Management Software for Small Business 2020
What Makes a Project Management Tool Good for Small Business?
There are several things to think about when picking a suitable platform. Let’s run through some of them. We’re focusing on businesses with around 10 to 50 staff members, so platforms that offer good value to that many users will rate highly. We assume businesses have cash to spend, so we won’t be too harsh on more expensive platforms, provided they offer value.
Communication becomes more important as a business grows. Many project management tools work great with a manager looking after a team, but once you move beyond a small team, it’s important that a platform’s communication and task assignment systems are able to keep track of many people doing different things.
Tools that let you create multiple projects and make connections between them will also be useful. As project teams get larger information doesn’t flow as easily. The right software can help with that.
We also want to make sure people only see what they need. You don’t necessarily want to share marketing plans with your developers, for example. Being able to compartmentalize and control what individuals and groups can see and do will be useful.
Fortunately, complexity is what software is good at, so bringing harmony to chaos is far from impossible.
Many platforms have features to help you track time and manage costs. Businesses that invest time and money into project management software will want to know they’re getting value. Return on investment calculators and estimation tools can help you quantify your costs and refine your approach.
Security is also a major consideration for businesses. In addition to keeping your data confidential, you may need to use software that’s compliant with specific legislation, particularly if you handle customer data.
Service and support are also useful if you have a large team of people who may not be technically proficient. Being able to get help quickly is an advantage. Starting with a new tool can be costly, especially if there are many people involved, so tools that help you with that are welcome.
Our favorite platform in this category is Wrike, which delivers on all counts, so let’s look at it first.
Wrike is one of the best platforms out there and has a more professional vibe to it than some of its competitors. It includes subtasks and dependency management, which lets you spot roadblocks and see how changes or delays to tasks will affect your schedule.
That’s especially important when your team gets beyond the size where you can figure things out in a quick team meeting. You can keep track of how things fit together and identify problems and scheduling conflicts automatically.
Wrike has an excellent selection of views. In addition to its list, boards, Gantt chart and calendar, there are timelogs, analytics and reports. You can add tasks, assign them to people and add information, such as deadlines. The different views let you capture that information in multiple ways.
Wrike lets you produce various reports. They’re easy to generate and a good way to consolidate information regarding your team’s activities. You can get lists of unassigned tasks, overdue tasks and see who’s assigned to what.
There are templates to help you get started. Businesses will appreciate the product launch template, but there are many more. There’s a kanban template, too. If kanban is all you need, though, read our Trello review and our Trello beginner’s guide.
Wrike’s interface is crowded and takes more time to interpret than the easiest project management tools, but once you’re used to it, the many options it presents make it a powerful tool.
Wrike’s two-factor authentication and tight user controls make it a top choice for those concerned about security. You can also make strong passwords mandatory for your team.
If you get stuck, Wrike has top-quality support. It got back to us in just 30 minutes over the Thanksgiving holiday when we last tested it. It also has a strong knowledgebase, so you can solve problems yourself, too.
Wrike has desktop versions for macOS and Windows, as well as mobile apps for Android and iOS.
It’s an excellent platform with lots to offer businesses. It’s an advanced tool that’s full of features, but it’s not too difficult for your team to figure out. Read more about it in our Wrike review.
- Excellent feature set
- Strong security
- Fast, reliable support
- Takes time to figure out
- Navigation can be tricky
- Expensive top plans
monday.com is our overall favorite project management tool. It tops our list of the best project management software. In our monday.com review, we talked about its outstanding interface. Its design will help your team get to grips with it and minimize the time you need to spend getting help and support.
It doesn’t have subtasks or dependencies, but keeps things simple instead, allowing you to assign tasks to individuals and see who’s doing what using its selection of views. There’s a board view, timeline, calendar and map view, giving you many ways to use it. Our how to use a kanban board article will help you understand one of them.
monday.com makes up for its lack of dependencies by allowing you to customize the content of items in great detail. You can choose the fields associated with each one and add as many as you like. That makes it possible to set monday.com up to represent all kinds of data.
It includes 50GB of storage space on its cheapest plan, but that becomes unlimited at the Pro level. There’s a 500MB file size limit for individual files, so if you’re working with large videos or .iso files, take a look at our best cloud storage for large files article.
You can share data with many platforms via monday.com’s integrations. In addition to Trello, Slack and Dropbox, you can use Zapier to exchange data with a huge range of apps.
monday.com is inexpensive. Its cheapest plan costs around $5 per user per month and is billed in chunks of five users, which works well if you have a few dozen team members.
It’s strong on security, with TLS v1.2 used to protect data in transit and AES 256-bit used for data at rest. Read our description of encryption for more about those.
monday.com’s audit logs will be useful to managers who want to know who has done what. Its domain-restricted sign-ups and password controls will help keep your staff safe, as will the two-factor authentication you get on every plan.
Overall, monday.com is an excellent choice for small businesses, powerful and easy to work with.
- Excellent interface
- Easy to use
- No subtasks or dependencies
- No free plan
- Limited cosmetic options
LeanKit is a kanban-based tool, but it’s more sophisticated than similar tools, such as Trello, and has several advanced features. It’s based around boards that you add cards to. Cards then move from left to right as they change status.
What’s good about LeanKit’s version of kanban is that you can divide it into sections for different teams. It looks confusing, but in practice, you can focus on your section while still being able to check what others are up to. That’s great if your workplace is divided into multiple teams and you want to keep people aware of what other groups are doing.
Its cards contain different kinds of information, such as a start and finish date. You can assign them to people, prioritize them and give them a category.
You can create parent-child relationships between cards, effectively giving you dependency management. That’s an unusual feature in a kanban-based tool, so it’s nice to see.
LeanKit isn’t the most attractive tool, but it works well. It gets a lot of useful information on screen, and once you learn to read it, presents you with more detail than similar tools.
LeanKit has a good selection of templates, including its excellent introductory template, which works as a tour of its tools and features. It’s easily missed, though, so look for it and give it a whirl when you use LeanKit for the first time.
LeanKit has a strong selection of integrations, and there’s plenty there for developers. You can use it with GitHub and Jira, for example.
You can also keep track of what your team has been doing with its activity log, and its chart generator includes metrics that can help you track your team’s performance.
There are many useful security features, such as password control, account locking and single sign-on. It complies with the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield and encrypts data stored on the platform, except for attachments.
LeanKit has excellent support, including a useful free e-book that’s worth checking out. There’s also a learning center that’s full of tips and guidance. It has phone support and a contact form. When we asked it a tough question there, we got a response in a few hours.
With a starting price of $19 per user per month, LeanKit isn’t the cheapest pick, but it has plenty to offer small businesses and is well worth looking at.
- Excellent way to track multiple teams
- Strong range of templates
- Helpful guidance & support
- Doesn’t look great
- Typos and minor errors
Mavenlink, which you can read about in our Mavenlink review, is geared toward business. It has features that help you with managing your budget, billing clients and tracking expenses. You can create invoices for services such as PayPal, for example.
You can create tasks, assign them to people and break them into subtasks. Each task can be given an hourly rate. You can then track the time you’ve spent on each one and have Mavenlink work out your costs as you go.
In addition to notifying people about their tasks, its activity view lets you see a list of all changes made, making it easy to keep track of what has happened.
There’s also a Gantt view and a time and expenses view where you can see what everything is costing you. Mavenlink includes dependencies, but we struggled to set them up. Take a look at our TeamGantt review for a tool that handles them better.
Mavenlink complies with the General Data Protection Regulation, as well as the EU-U.S. and Swiss-U.S. privacy shields. It also has SOC Type 2 certificates. It allows you to customize your security options and password security, too. Check out our best password managers article for more help with those.
Mavenlink has lots of guidance material aimed at business owners who want to make money. When it comes to using the platform, it has a detailed knowledgebase, but we found a few minor issues using its help system.
Mavenlink is focused on the financial side of project management and includes lots of features to make it easier. That said, it has a few minor bugs and can be tricky to use. Overall, though, it’s a strong choice for anyone looking to make budget management a key part of their workflow.
If you want help looking after your finances, take a look at the best accounting software for assistance.
- Strong financial features
- Help & guidance for business use
- Excellent at planning & time tracking
- Minor usability errors
- Not cheap
- Takes time to figure out
Easy Projects is a high-quality platform, generally free of bugs and minor issues. There are plenty of business-friendly features, such as time and cost tracking. There’s an “audit trail” to let you keep tabs on everything that has been done by your team.
It’s activity center combines a task list with a Gantt chart. There’s also a kanban board and a powerful report generator that lets you present project data visually. You can create billing reports for customers and identify scheduling issues.
You get a lot of control over roles and notifications and all sorts of options are available to you, allowing you to tune Easy Projects to your needs.
Easy Projects has a useful sample project which, like LeanKit’s, takes you through its features and shows you how to use it if you try the activities on the included tasks.
Easy Projects Storage
Easy Projects offers 50GB-500GB of storage depending on your plan. Several integrations are available, including Gmail, Evernote and Zapier.
It isn’t the most attractive platform, which seems to be a theme with more business-focused tools, but it offers many features without overwhelming users with complexity.
It gives you plenty of security options. You can control your passwords and block inactive users. It offers SAML single sign-on and you can choose where your data is hosted, which may be useful if you have legal requirements to think about with respect to storage.
It has SOC 1, SOC 2 and HIPAA certifications and takes continuous, geo-redundant backups. That means if a data center is compromised, your data won’t be lost.
We found a few downsides to Easy Projects, but they might not be too problematic for business users. The compulsory training program might be useful and the frequent sales contacts won’t be so bothersome to your procurement department, which is likely used to such things.
Plans start at $24 per user per month. It isn’t cheap, but you get a lot with it. If you’re unsure, check out its return on investment calculator to get an idea what it can do for you. It claims to pay for itself in three months.
It has mobile apps for Android and iOS. Read more about it in our Easy Projects review.
- Easy to use
- Strong security controls
- Good all around quality
- Heavy on the sales
- Visually unappealing
- Patchy support
There are a few other quality platforms out there that didn’t quite make our top five. We’ll run through those briefly now.
Smartsheet is a powerful tool that looks like a spreadsheet at first glance, but it includes many ways to view your data, such as a calendar, timeline and kanban board.
It has strong security, including AES 256-bit encryption, and promises to keep your data as private as it legally can. Read our article on Snowden and government surveillance to learn how hard that is.
Smartsheet’s Business plan costs $25 per user per month, but there’s a 30-day free trial if you want to check it out. Read more about it in our Smartsheet review.
Asana is another of our favorite platforms. It’s a great choice for smaller teams, with its celebrations being an excellent way to reward getting work done. It isn’t a bad choice for small businesses, either.
It’s easy to get to grips with and its playful exterior masks a powerful, quality tool. It has a free plan, and its paid platforms start at an inexpensive $9.99 per user per month.
Last but not least is Airtable. It’s a good all-around platform, but its “blocks” deserve a special mention. Many platforms have extensions and integrations, but Airtable includes some powerful, specialized extras that could be transformative if they match your business needs.
For example it can automatically translate text, as well as extract text from images. If your workflows involve those things, or anything else its blocks cover, it could have a positive affect on your bottom line.
Airtable is well worth checking out because of its high potential for automating work. Take a closer look in our Airtable review.
All the software we’ve looked at brings something to the table and can be an asset in a project manager’s toolset. Planning on the cloud can improve communication and give everyone an easy way to see what’s happening. It can allow managers to stay aware of what’s going on, too, and improve their ability to solve problems and react to issues.
All the tools on this list have a free trial available, so you can investigate what they can do without having to shell out upfront.
If you’ve tried using any of the platforms discussed to help your business, please tell us how it went in the comments. Thank you for reading.