Best Workflow Management Software in 2021: Free & Paid Options

If you want to manage projects and workflow at the same time, it can be tricky to find a program that can do both equally well. In this article, we go over the best workflow management software that can handle projects, too.

Fergus O'Sullivan
By Fergus O'Sullivan (Editor-at-Large, Writer)
— Last Updated: 2021-10-25T22:17:37+00:00

If you’re looking to manage repetitive, day-to-day tasks, a workflow management tool is the ticket for you. The best workflow management software can help you manage recurring tasks and issues — and hopefully even manage some of the more humdrum details automatically, freeing time for things that matter.

Rather than focus on dedicated tools, we’re going to shine a spotlight on a few of our best project management software picks that handle workflow management particularly well. By using a tool that can manage projects and workflow, you’ll save a lot of time and effort best spent on what makes you money.

Key Takeaways:

  • Workflow management is a key component of many modern project management solutions; we’ve picked several of our favorites to help you automate humdrum tasks.
  • Our favorites are monday.com and Asana because they offer a full project management suite as well as excellent, easy-to-use automation tools.
  • If you want something simpler, though, the best entry to workflow management is probably Trello. Its Butler will help you get started and even give you recommendations for processes to automate.
  • If you want to automate anything not covered by our picks, you can try no-code solutions like Zapier, IFTTT or Integromat. They’re easy to use and work with all kinds of apps, from professional services to social media like Facebook and Instagram.

Our top pick is monday.com, which has earned the prize in several of our rankings, including the best project management for small business, thanks to its ease of use, feature set and ability to automate workflow. To learn more about this great tool, or find out who else made the cut, stick around as we go over our favorite workflow management software.

  • Workflow management software lets you set specific systems to handle repetitive tasks, while also allowing you to determine how tasks are handled. If used properly, it can boost productivity spectacularly.

  • It does. It’s called Google Workflows and works with most of Google’s Workspace apps. It can set up all kinds of automations.

Top Workflow Management Software

What Makes the Best Workflow Management Tool?

To make our picks for the best workflow management software, we delved through our project management reviews to find software that could manage day-to-day tasks with elegance. This is the list we came up with:

  1. monday.com — Great all-round tool with solid automation capabilities
  2. Asana — Workflow automation as well as a great free plan
  3. Wrike — Old-school exterior, but state-of-the-art inside
  4. Trello — Butler is the textbook example of an automation powerhouse
  5. Jira — Geared toward workflow management, especially for devs

As you can see, automation is the name of the game when it comes to workflow management, and all our picks can be programmed to handle at least part of their workload automatically. Before you panic, though, “programmed” in this case means using a drag-and-drop system or another form of codeless programming to make little formulas that will fire when you say. 

workflow management software trello butler
Trello’s Butler is a pretty good example of no-code workflow automation.

This way of setting automations is great, as it doesn’t require advanced knowledge to get started, but still enables you to create formulas that can save hours of work.

Project Management vs Workflow Management

You may be wondering what the difference is between project management and workflow management. While they are different things, the line between them is thin and often blurry.

In short, project management is the bird’s eye view of numerous tasks that a project manager — or whoever runs projects at your company — moves along, tracking who does what when. It’s a simple concept, but it can get complicated in practice thanks to the many moving parts, which we talk about at length in our article on Gantt charts

Workflow management is more about how tasks move through a project and how a task goes from being created to being finished, hence its other name: business process management. It’s a lot more abstract than task or project management, but more vital in a way as it betrays how you and your team think about getting work done.

What Workflow Management Software Does

No software can do the work of creating a workflow philosophy for you. What it can do — and this is the practical side of workflow management — is help you set basic workflows so you don’t have to. 

Simply put, you decide how tasks are supposed to be handled, then you use workflow automation to speed up those processes. For example, if a manager needs to be alerted every time a team member finishes a certain task, you can set an automation that will do so when a card is moved from one column to the next, no input from a human required.

The above example is just scratching the surface, too. Once you get comfortable with automation software and creating custom workflows, you’ll see all kinds of interesting possibilities to automate recurring tasks and repetitive processes.

Other Automation Tools

There’s a good chance the above sounds a lot like something you’ve heard before, especially if you’ve been reading Cloudwards regularly. This is because there are several standalone pieces of software that can automate processes as well, not just ones related to project management. 

No-code programs like Zapier and Integromat can automate just about anything, from Facebook posts to backup processes. They’re a great resource for anybody looking to shave time off the daily grind. Even if you end up not liking our picks — or they’re missing a specific ability — we recommend checking them out to see what they can do.

The 5 Top Workflow Management Tools

Now that we know a little better what we’re up against, let’s take a look at our picks in detail. We’ve put together five project managers that incorporate some kind of workflow software as well as team collaboration options.

1. monday.com

monday-review-slider-2
monday.com comes with one of the best interfaces out there.

More details about monday.com:

  • Pricing: Free, or $10 per user per month for the Standard plan
  • Website: monday.com

Pros:

  • Good automation tools
  • Plays nice with other tools
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Free plan is a joke
  • Basic plan isn’t much better

Our top pick is monday.com, mainly because it marries a comprehensive set of project management features with a decent workflow management system. Though monday.com’s workflow tools may not win a competition on their own, it’s the combination that steals the show and earns it the top position here.

As you can read in our monday.com review, we rate it highly on all fronts. It offers great usability thanks to its colorful interface and clear layout, and it provides almost everything a small-to-medium business needs. At its base is a list view, where you can input tasks, then you can use boards and charts to view and manipulate them.

monday.com Custom Workflows

All these views work together well enough, but monday.com’s automations let you tweak them to make them work a little better. Though they’re not quite at the level of Zapier or IFTTT, they’re tailored toward monday.com functions and thus let you automate repetitive tasks. It works well, overall.

workflow management software monday automation
Setting up an automation is easy with monday.com.

There is a downside to this otherwise great project management tool, though — its price. monday.com’s pricing feels haphazard, with features scattered across plans, and the free and Basic plans feel especially redundant. That said, with some know-how, most project managers should be able to get a lot out of the Standard plan, so we recommend giving it a try.

Individual
  • : Maximum users: 2, Kanban Board, & list
Standard
  • : Minimum users: 3, Price per user, Expanded features
Enterprise
  • : Enterprise-level features.

2. Asana

asana colors
Asana may look a bit cartoonish, but underneath is a powerful engine.

More details about Asana:

  • Pricing: Free, or $10.99 per user per month for the Premium plan
  • Website: asana.com

Pros:

  • Versatile
  • Great advanced functions
  • Solid automation options

Cons:

  • Pricey

Our second pick for best workflow management software is Asana, a great program no matter how you look at it. We go over all it can do in our Asana review but, in short, it has everything you need to run a business, regardless of size. It also has nice automation tools built in, saving you even more hassle.

As we explain in our Asana vs monday.com article, both share the same basic functionality and the choice between them largely comes down to taste for SMBs. However, larger companies (more than 100 people or so) will likely find Asana is the better pick thanks to its many advanced features, like workload management and milestone planning.

Asana as a Workflow Management Solution

When it comes to automation, Asana has great options built in, including the ability to integrate with plenty of third-party apps (a handy Slack-Asana integration, for example). Setting these up is easy, too, so no worries there. As it has been around a long time, Asana has a lot of Zapier Zaps ready to go, as well (read our Zapier guide for more on that).

workflow management software asana automation
Asana’s automations, called rules, are simple but effective.

However, as with monday.com, pricing is a downside to Asana. Though Asana’s pricing scales better than monday.com’s does, there’s no two ways about it: Asana is pricey. This is balanced by its free plan being generous, offering plenty of functionality for up to 15 people, but the upgrade may sting.

Free
  • : Up to 15 users
Premium
  • : Price is per user. unlimited users, expanded features
Business
  • : Price is per user. unlimited users, even more features
Enterprise
  • : Custom pricing, advanced security features

3. Wrike

wrike colors
Wrike won’t win any beauty contests, but it gets the job done, and done well.

More details about Wrike:

  • Pricing: Free, or $9.80 per user per month on the Professional plan
  • Website: wrike.com

Pros:

  • Old-school functionality
  • Great features
  • Solid automations

Cons:

  • Not too pretty
  • Brief tutorials

In third place, we find Wrike, a solid, old-school project management tool with decent workflow management systems. It’s a lot more basic than monday.com (read our monday.com vs Wrike article for more on that), but we still feel it earns its place, as it’s a robust piece of workflow automation software that requires little to no effort to understand.

Reports and Business Processes

Another reason Wrike is a good pick is its great features, particularly its excellent reporting functions. Combined with its Automation Engine — which is where you can set up new, complex workflows — you can get amazing results out of Wrike. We go over all it can do in our Wrike review.

Despite it being less robust than Asana’s automations (read our Asana vs Wrike article for more on how the two stack up against each other), Wrike’s Automation Engine is worth checking out. It’s easy to use and plays well with Wrike’s many other functions as well as supporting third-party integrations.

workflow management softwar
The Automation Engine offers all kinds of interesting options within the Wrike ecosystem.

As for Wrike’s pricing, it is a tiny bit under what the rest of the market charges. We feel it’s a fair price, but with the rise of price busters like Bloo (read our Bloo review), it’s starting to feel high. Wrike also offers a good free plan for up to five team members, so if you’re running a small team it definitely warrants a look.

Free
  • : Maximum of 5 users. Basic features.
Professional
  • : Price is per user. Plans for 5, 10 and 15 users.
Business
  • : Price is per user. No monthly option. Plans for 5 to 200 users.
Enterprise
  • : Plans for 5 to an unlimited number of users.

4. Trello

trello-review-slider-2
Trello makes kanban boards and workflow management go hand in hand.

More details about Trello:

  • Pricing: Free, or $10 per user per month for the Business Class plan
  • Website: trello.com

Pros:

  • Great kanban board
  • Easy to use
  • Lots of automation options

Cons:

  • Butler doesn’t always work as well
  • Upgrade is pricey

In fourth place, we find Trello, a popular project management tool with kanban boards and automation at its core. It’s also one of the best free project management solutions, thanks to it allowing unlimited users while only fractionally limiting its features. It offers a bit of everything and we recommend it. In fact, we use it ourselves.

Trello Task Management

Trello is a kanban board first and foremost — it’s our favorite kanban-based project management tool — with a few other features and views bolted on. Most interesting of these is Butler, which is a tool that not only allows you to create your own automated workflows but also uses artificial intelligence to suggest routine business processes you could be streamlining.

However, as we mention in our Trello review, Butler is hit and miss in its suggestions, so we wouldn’t count on it too much. Still, setting your own workflow processes is easy enough and Trello gives you plenty of options. That said, the large amount of things you can automate can be confusing at first, so expect a small learning curve.

workflow management software trello butler
Plenty of automation options in Trello’s Butler.

When it comes to free workflow management software, Trello may be our top pick, it’s that good. However, it loses ground to other contenders when you take its paid plans into account. As we discuss in our article on Trello pricing, we’re not that impressed with what the upgrades offer, so you may want to think twice before shelling out cash.

Free
  • : 10 boards, Unlimited users, 1 power-up
Trello Gold
  • : Unlimited personal boards, 1 user, 3 power-ups
Business Class
  • : Unlimited boards, Unlimited users, Unlimited power-ups, Added views
Enterprise
  • : Enhanced security options

5. Jira

wrike-jira-main.png
Jira is a good, but specialized piece of workflow management software.

More details about Jira:

Pros:

  • Great scrum software
  • Easy to use
  • Cheap

Cons:

  • Only good for scrum
  • Lots of jargon

We end our list with Jira, probably the best scrum software and the only one of our picks with a workflow process built into it from the get-go. In fact, whenever you set up a project, you need to fill in the workflow you want to use — either pre-made or created by you — to run the project. 

Jira’s Seamless Workflows

This means your projects run smoothly from the start, but also that getting started with Jira can be challenging unless you’re comfortable with scrum and the Agile methodology. A lot of jargon comes with that, which we complain about at length in our Jira review.

workflow management software jira marketplace
Besides built-in workflow management, there’s plenty of third-party integrations.

Conquer these issues, though, and Jira allows you to manage workflows without much effort. On top of that, Jira’s pricing is downright cheap and there’s a great free plan that allows up to 10 users to enjoy pretty much all its features. If you’re a software development team or otherwise use Agile, Jira is worth a look.

Free
  • : Max. 10 users
Standard
  • : Annual price is for 10 users; with more than 10, annual pricing changes based on the number of users. Monthly pricing changes with teams over 100.
Premium
  • : Annual price is for 10 users; with more than 10, annual pricing changes based on the number of users. Monthly pricing changes with teams over 100.

Final Thoughts

Finding workflow management software that works well for you is easy given how many excellent project management tools have workflow software built in. Plus, the many automations you can set up with third-party software make setting up complex workflows simple.

Our favorite workflow management tool is monday.com, though Asana and Wrike come hot on its heels. Trello is a little more specific use case since it’s centered around its kanban board, but it has great options for setting up new automations. Jira is a lot more specialized than any other entry we have, but it’s a perfect fit for the right kind of company or team.

What do you think is the best workflow management tool? Do you agree with our picks or did we leave out your favorite? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.