Whatever your business, there are always times when you need some tech assistance to keep you on track. Whether it’s a minor alteration to your business model or a major expansion, project management tools can help you stay organised, on time, on budget, and, hopefully, an optimal outcome.
It’s important to realise that while some business management tools can double up as project management tools, project management tools aren’t always useful for business management. Projects, by their nature, have a finite duration, and there is eventually an endpoint. This article is about project management tools and how they can help you through periods of adjustment and stress when trying to achieve a specific goal.
What are Project Management Tools?
If you’ve never used them before, project management tools are computer software that helps business and team managers or owners plan, track, and manage projects from beginning to end. Most project management software includes features and resources that help define objectives, track time, allocate resources, facilitate communication, and break down projects into discreet tasks.
Why Do You Need Project Management Tools?
You will have projects to manage, whether a sole operator or a growing company. And you might wonder why you would need project management tools. The truth is that even as a fledgeling solopreneur, you probably use some form of project management tool, even if it’s brainstorming and mind-mapping what you need to do on a piece of paper. That’s perhaps acceptable if you’re the only person involved, but as soon as anyone else gets involved, even if it’s a contractor outside the business, things get complex very quickly.
You might run your tourist tour operation by yourself. However, as soon as you add a secretary to deal with the paperwork or a bus/car cleaner to spruce up your ride after every session, you have many more things to manage. When you add in a new tour, you might need a new marketing campaign, which means new designs and ads. The items you need to juggle increase, and you only have so many hands.
That’s where project management comes in. You don’t need to keep everything in your head to ensure a smooth and optimal project outcome.
Top 8 Project Management Tools in 2022
The project management tool you choose will depend on your methodology and what you want to achieve.
Trello is a prevalent online platform that helps manage projects by creating boards, cards, and lists. You can use Trello to track tasks, assign tasks to team members, and keep track of deadlines.
A flexible system offers flexibility and structure to maintain a timeline and agility to work well under changing project parameters and continuous improvement.
- Easy to use by anyone with basic computer skills.
- Available for both mobile and desktop devices.
- A visual interface makes it easy to see what is happening in your projects.
- Allows you to track progress, assign tasks, and keep track of deadlines.
- Sharing projects with other team members for accessible communication and collaboration.
- Different views to track project progression from multiple perspectives
Basecamp is one of the oldest project management solutions, making it a veteran in the project management sphere. With more than ten years to hone and perfect the system, Basecamp has built a credible reputation for use with big projects and within large organisations.
There are some really cool features for dealing with clients. For example, you can easily save and track client feedback and approvals and get reports on how projects are progressing. Moreover, you can create group discussions when you want to collaborate with others.
There’s a free version that allows you to work on three projects with a maximum of 20 people, enabling you to really give the platform a good test. After that, there’s a single paid-for plan ($99/m), which includes all features and an unlimited number of users, making this an excellent deal for teams and larger companies. However, it is a little steep for individuals and small businesses with more than three projects to manage.
- Direct messaging within the platform
- Message boards, to-do lists, schedules
- Files and other document storage
- Simple and easy-to-use interface
- Easily tag team members
Zoho Projects is a project management tool that allows users to plan, organise, and collaborate on projects while using Gantt charts for detailed visuals of project progress and schedules. As part of Zoho, there are also many native and facilitated integrations. There are also options for document management, timekeeping, and tracking and fixing errors.
A range of external integrations are available, such as Slack, Google, Dropbox,
Pricing depends on the number of users, number of projects, and the number of features necessary. Higher-level plans offer unlimited projects and higher limits according to the chosen subscription plan.
A free plan is available, allowing you to explore the software’s features and functionality, allowing for two projects and up to 3 users. For paid plans, there is a 10-day free trial, and it is a very reasonable price at only $5 or $10 per user for Premium and Enterprise, respectively.
- Excellent value
- Generally easy to set up and navigate
- Multiple communication channels within the app
- Comprehensive configuration options
- Robust time-tracking tools
Wrike is a SaaS project management tool with a multi-pane user interface and assists teams with project management and collaboration.
What makes Wrike stand out is the vast array of features that will help any organisation or project team—boasting communication tools, visualisation tracking, employee availability tracking, and identifying projects deemed “at-risk” of failing. Yes, you can define parameters to help you keep an eye on them.
With customisable team sprint dashboards, collaborators can view new, in-progress, and completed projects all in one place. Teams can also schedule and share custom interactive reports to make quicker and more informed decisions.
A crucial demand for an ideal project management tool must be compatible with the people and devices that a company uses. Wrike is available in multiple languages and is compatible with iOS and Android – particularly useful for those on the go.
- Visual display tracking
- Easy task prioritisation
- Simple drag-and-drop editor
- Intuitive and user-friendly interface
- Integrations with various tools, including CRM apps, email marketing tools, etc.
Liquid Planner has a strong and broad set of features that have made it particularly useful to larger corporations and enterprise clients.
One of the unique features included is the ‘Smart Schedule’ that assists in prioritising tasks, assigning staff resources, and then estimating the hours needed for completion. A complete feature, which then allows the project to be tracked given the hours devoted to it by the assigned workforce.
Conversely, the Resource Management feature can show the hours put in by each worker, and track who is available to assign to the next project. This data then feeds into easy-to-read dashboards that can be integrated into financial metrics and trends.
Note that there is a free 14-day trial to take Liquid Planner out for a test drive before you commit, which is only fair since the payment plans are pretty steep and more appropriate for large enterprises.
- Automated, intelligent scheduling
- Evaluates best and worst-case scenarios for project and task outcomes
- Comprehensive management and insight tools for various resources
- Great time tracking included on Professional and Ultimate plans
For project management, Asana is another popular online platform that helps you manage projects by tracking tasks, deadlines, resources, and communication details. Asana is very similar to Trello, which probably explains its comparable popularity.
You can also use Asana to create custom reports and dashboards to monitor your progress throughout the project.
While there are paid plans for Asana, for the small company that is growing and expanding, the free plan has more than enough features and storage capacity.
- It allows you to create, edit, and track tasks efficiently.
- Assign tasks to team members or collaborators.
- Add comments to tasks for a complete understanding
- Set deadlines for tasks for on-time completion
- Share tasks with other team members.
- Track the progress of all your tasks at once.
- Offers >100 integrations (Gmail, Outlook, Google Drive, Zapier, OneLogin, and many more)
- A broad range of viewing options, including list view, board view, and calendar view.
- Offers >50 templates to choose from.
- Custom fields to keep track of critical metrics
- Get automatic updates in emails
- Provides a CSV importer to upload business data into the application
Monday.com initially started as a digital calendar that helps businesses manage professional commitments. It helps companies plan and manage their work week. However, in the past few years, the development of the Monday.com platform has enabled much more comprehensive project management, collaboration, and of course, keeping it on time and scheduled.
Monday.com is one of the few project management tools that incorporate time tracking and logging as well as other crucial tools. Obviously, time tracking is essential when you factor in the cost of working hours and the length of the project.
Monday.com has templates, workflows, and solutions for many business operations and projects, from creative and design projects to operations and marketing.
- Creating projects and associated tasks to help you stay organised.
- Adding notes and reminders to project tasks for reference further into the project
- Sharing calendars with other people in your project team or organisation.
- A calendar showing what tasks need completing each day and the deadlines for those tasks.
- A to-do list that lets you add items and track their progress.
- Create custom reports showing your project performance.
- Connect with other businesses in your industry to collaborate on projects.
- Colour-coded timelines and options to synchronise timelines with a calendar
- Provides a portal for external stakeholders and clients
Project Management Methodologies
There are many different methods of project management that support different kinds of projects, from software development to change management and even building projects. However, most will fall into the five most popular methods.
- Agile – agility and flexibility in the project framework
- Lean – literally means “no waste”, cutting away processes and excess baggage
- Waterfall – Strict structure from one step to the next
- Kanban – Part of Agile but generally classed as its method
- Six Sigma – Process and project quality control tools.
There are dozens of other hybrid and derivative and lesser-known methods, but these five are the most commonly utilised. Sometimes you will see Agile/Scrum or Lean Six Sigma, which means a particular way of doing things. Scrum is a derivative of the Agile methodology, and Lean Six Sigma combines the “no waste” and “quality control” tenets of the two methods.
Whichever methodology you choose for your projects, you must use project management tools that fit your methods.
How do you choose project management software?
Many project management tools are available, but they are not all created equal. While some might work perfectly for software development or change management, they might be terrible for HR or operational projects. Some excel in task management, some in collaboration, some in workflow management, and so on.
Some project management tools focus on supporting teams using a specific project management methodology, and others may cater to particular industries. Selecting the best project management software for your projects or business, in general, will depend on different factors, including these:
- Project methodologies
- Project type and complexity
- Business goals and strategies
- Needs of the teams, organisation or clients (remote, onsite, outside organisation, etc.)
- Company size
- Project scope
- Contributor roles
All of the Project management tools listed above have some form of the free version to get you started and let you try them out for your needs. Whether a free trial period or a free forever version with limited features, you get to try them out with your projects and your project management methods.
You might find that you need a platform that allows you to work with multiple methodologies (Agile for software development and Lean Six Sigma for operational change management). This is why you need to test them out with your most common and pressing projects.
If you have any project management tools that you believe deserve a spot in our top picks; I’d be very interested to hear about them in the comments.