The days of organizing your project on a smudged whiteboard in the corner of the office are long behind some of us. Project management tools give you a way to keep your team aware of the latest information, wherever they happen to be. They enable new ways of collaboration and can make the drudge work of planning and assigning tasks easy and even fun.
There are many tools competing for your attention and choosing one can be difficult. Some of them we look at have a wide reach and are used by the world’s biggest companies. Making organization easy saves you time and can make your business more competitive.
It isn’t hard to get started with these tools. Almost everything we look at has a free trial, which you can usually take advantage of without the need for a credit card. They usually have plenty of guidance to help you out too, in the form of videos, guides and direct support.
Our ever expanding selection of project management reviews already contains over a dozen articles, with more on the way soon. Here’s a summary of what we’ve picked as the best and how we choose our favourites.
How We Rate
There is a huge amount of software in this category with new players cropping up all the time. It is a competitive area, with lots of effort going into these platforms. That’s great for you, as you have lots of quality services to choose from. It’s tougher for us as we have to look through them all and see which are better than others.
We use several criteria to rate project management software. Here’s a guide to how we separate the best from the rest. There are several different approaches taken by these tools and not every one will suit every user, so have a read through what’s available and give one a try if it seems like a good fit.
The range of features a platform offers is important and is a big factor in determining whether a platform is right for you. There are several features common to most project management software, but it is also nice to see original ideas that separate a tool from the others.
Storage space is considered, which will be more or less important to you depending on how you use a platform. If you want to store charts and images you need a decent amount of space. If you want to use large audio or video files then it will be a major consideration. There are tools that offer unlimited space but even then there may be limits on individual file size.
If you need to supplement your platform of choice with extra storage, our best cloud storage article has some options.
Customization options are good to see and can make your software feel like a home from home in your browser. The ability to add your own logo, set your color scheme, or even the whole background is nice to have.
Task management is at the core of all project management software. Most tools offer subtasks, though some consider their absence a feature in itself. Dependency management is also an excellent feature, letting you see how everything fits together and look for roadblocks in your plan.
Extensions and integrations are also good to have, bringing both added features and the chance to work with data from other platforms.
Most project management software allows you to share data from elsewhere, but whilst some only allow you to do so with a handful of tools, some give you access to hundreds. Zapier support is particularly useful, as it allows you to integrate with over 1000 apps.
Extensions can also offer cool features, such as different visualizations, as well as more unusual things like automatic translation or image recognition. Airtable’s “blocks” are a good example of this. Read more about them in our Airtable review.
Most project management software runs in the browser, but it is useful to have dedicated applications, both for desktop and mobile platforms. Mobile applications are especially useful if you want to keep tabs on things when on the move.
Extras, like wiki creation and note taking, are also a plus. If you need a dedicated note taking application, have a look at our best note taking apps article.
The more business focused tools can be used to track time spent on projects. Some allow you to estimate project costs and then compare them with the reality, so you can refine your approach on a project to project basis.
Being able to generate invoices and bill your clients automatically is useful and can save you a ton of time.
Many tools offer a return on investment calculator, allowing you to see how much you can save by using them. These can be a good way to check if a product is right for you and can be critical for generating momentum when you want your business to invest in a new software platform.
Read our online accounting articles for more advice on how software can help you in this area.
Good software should be easy to use and if it’s not, should give you the tools to learn how to use it. A readable user interface, clearly marked controls and navigation that lets you move around easily are all positives.
Naturally, if we find forms that don’t work as they should, things that we can’t understand or pages that take too long to load, we’ll factor that in too. A UI that leaves you wondering what to do, or worried about things going wrong if you click something can leave your team afraid to try new things and damage productivity.
We consider the help and support you get when starting out with a service and the quality of any introductory materials. We prefer interfaces that are self explanatory, but videos and walkthroughs are useful to have.
The best software makes using it a pleasure and allows everybody to take advantages of its powerful features. The essence of a tool is to give back more than you put in.
For an example of software that does well in this category, read our Podio review.
We all have to watch the pennies and we consider the price when deciding whether a service is worth using. It isn’t just cheapest is better — we also factor in value as well as having different tiers for different kinds of user.
Having a long free trial (preferably that doesn’t involve card details before deciding to sign up), will also score marks here, as will accepting more than just a credit card for payment.
Most businesses will think about the cost when signing up and some tools go out of their way to demonstrate their value, providing return on investment calculation tools to quantify the impact they have.
We also like to see clear pricing systems and are always on the lookout for hidden costs and sales teams that get too pushy.
Service and Support
Service and support are easily overlooked, but when you get stuck they can mean the difference between a minor hiccup or a major roadblock in your project plans. We consider the ways you can get in touch, the more the better. Response times are factored in, as are quality of the responses we get.
We also look at the available help material. A good, well written knowledgebase, that accurately reflects the current state of the platform is good to have. Video help is good and we like to see both text and video available as different people have different preferences.
A strong community can be a real asset to a platform allowing users to discuss their problems and help each other out.
Security and Privacy
We’re big on security and privacy here at Cloudwards and they are both major concerns when using online services. With business data particularly, you want to be sure it is kept out of the wrong hands. You also need to be sure your business is safe from cybercrime.
If planning your business online, you need to be sure confidential information stays that way. As well as government snooping, which you can read more about in our PRISM, Snowden and government surveillance article.
We look at several things to determine if a service is safe and secure. That includes the encryption used in transit and at rest. AES-128 or AES-256 encryption offer sufficient protection for data storage, but some services don’t encrypt uploaded attachments.
We also look at certifications, such as the SOC type II certificates, as well as compliance with the GDPR and both the EU-U.S. and Swiss-U.S. privacy shields.
The options it offers its users and whether they cost extra both matter. Two factor authentication is useful. Read our what is two factor authentication article if you want to learn more about it.
Many services offer various kinds of security monitoring and options to control how users logon, with custom password policies being a good example of this.
When testing each service we try to ensure the experience matches the rhetoric and are on the lookout for problems in these areas. If we spot any discrepancies we’ll let you know.
The Best Project Management Software
There is a lot of project management software out there and finding the best of the bunch is tough. We’ve looked at many different platforms and have a good idea of which ones go the extra mile. Let’s take a look at the best in class, beginning with our favourite, Monday.com.
Monday.com is one of the most intuitive platforms around and offers a fantastic combination of power and user friendliness. It isn’t quite as simple as Asana or Trello, but packs more of a punch in the way of features. We rate it highly here at Cloudwards and it came out top in our latest round up of the best project management software.
It lacks subtasks and dependency management so the actual structure of your projects will be relatively simple. It makes up for this with a range of templates and a highly customizable set of tools to tune your projects as you like.
It gives you 500GB of storage and integrates with a range of other platforms and you can use Zapier to share data with many other services.
As well as being good to use it has excellent security and fast support, responding to us in four minutes.
It is a great choice if you are on a budget too, with cheap entry level plans. Read our Monday.com review for more details.
Wrike is an all around top quality piece of software. With features galore, excellent security features and top notch support it ticks all the boxes you want.
It gives you plenty of customization options, both in terms of how your project is organized and how it looks. It also has a large selection of templates allowing you to set things up exactly how you need them.
Its security features are top drawer, including two factor authentication and password management. Managers can also create custom network access policies, enabling them to fine tune who can access their projects. There are also detailed logs of actions users take on projects.
With excellent, fast support rounding off the package we highly recommend it. You can read more about it in our Wrike review.
Asana is one of those tools that genuinely make organizing your projects fun. It is very easy to use, has a breezy, pleasant UI and isn’t light on features. Of all the tools your present writer has looked at, it is the current choice for personal projects.
If you want something easy to learn that lets you create simple, task list based projects easily, Asana is a great choice. There’s more to it than that and it can also be used for more involved work.
As its name suggests, TeamGantt is based around its gantt view. This makes is great for managing project dependencies and seeing how everything fits together. If you want to rearrange tasks easily, or are running a project where bottlenecks are a major concern, TeamGantt can help you.
It is easy to use and has a free plan, as well as cheap paid plans. It comes with videos, tutorials and classes galore to help you get set up and includes time tracking features, as well as subtasks and dependency management.
It’s lack of integrations is the only real downpoint, though you can use it with Basecamp, Trello and Slack. It will suit users looking to keep most of their planning on one platform best though.
As well as its free plan, it offers a trial of its paid tiers too. Take a look at our TeamGantt review for more.
A newcomer to our favorite project management rankings, Freedcamp impressed us with its clever features and all around quality.
It has automatic invoice generation and allows you to create your own wikis, so you can build a knowledgebase of your own, full of essential project details. There is also unlimited storage.
True to its name, its basic package is completely free and its various paid tiers are excellent value. Despite being inexpensive it is an excellent platform. It is well-designed with a user centric approach. It also has fast support and responded quickly to our inquiries.
It uses 256-bit encryption and Enterprise users can take advantage of two factor authentication for added security.
Educators and nonprofits can get special deals, making it a good choice for them. Read our Freedcamp review to learn what else we liked about it.
The ultimate aim for project management software is to help your projects run more smoothly and save you money. Many of them are business focused and allow you to manage the fine details of your project and get everything organized and quantified.
Even for smaller scale projects, the simple act of setting out what you need to do and creating a plan can be a powerful motivator and set you on the path to success.
The tools here all let you manage tasks and clarify what you need to be doing in order to move your project forward. They also allow people to come together and pool there thoughts on what needs to be done in an organized way.