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Project management software helps project managers (PMs) and teams collaborate and meet goals on time while managing resources and cost. Functions may include task distribution, time tracking, budgeting, resource planning, team collaboration, and many more. People also refer to project management software as Task Management Software, Project Manager Software or Project Portfolio Management (PPM).
Project managing software has grown increasingly complex over the past decade. This often leads to large projects—particularly information technology undertakings—finishing past due, over-budget, and with a lower than predicted return on investment. Business professionals often rely on a project management system to help them oversee multiple endeavors. Similarly, companies today can more easily mitigate risk by identifying failing aspects of a project using time tracking and project tracking software that forecasts completion dates for each phase of the project.
In this guide, we’ll provide a comprehensive project management system comparison based on common features. We’ll also discuss how this project software can help your business gain a competitive edge. To receive a free shortlist of the best project management software for your business, complete the form at the top of the page or in the right sidebar.
Based on our evaluations of more than 24 titles, the best project management software are:
monday.com bills itself as a “work OS” (operating system) that can meet most of your business’s software needs. monday’s suite of work software includes the following:
With all those options, you can use monday.com as a single project management system for your whole business. You won’t need to worry about your marketing team’s project management app integrating with your dev team’s management tool of choice. Whether you want a Kanban board for your dev team, automated recurring tasks for your sales department, or advanced resource management for your project managers, monday.com can do it all.
Trello offers a kanban-inspired project management tool. Your virtual board has cards for each task and columns to track project progress. It’s a highly visual way to plan and track projects.
This simple setup makes Trello one of the simplest project management tools out there. Unlike other PM software that requires complex onboarding, Trello lets you get started in no time at all. Just name your new board and start adding tasks. Likewise, team members should have no problem picking up Trello. Its drag-and-drop interface and visual layout make Trello about as complex as a game of Microsoft Solitaire. In other words, it’s the ideal project management solution for teams that want to hit the ground running.
Jira is a project management app that focuses on agile project management. It uses Scrum and Kanban boards to break down complex projects. Plus, it includes plenty of dev-focused tools.
These tools make Jira a uniquely great PM tool for software development teams. It has features for bug tracking, version tracking, and other common development needs. Plus, Jira software includes all kinds of security and privacy settings. Tools like customized permissions, IP allowlisting, and data residency keep your code safe and compliant with any relevant regulations.
Airtable is a spreadsheet-based project management app. Its customizable tables let you add nearly endless data to projects and tasks. Then you can use Airtable’s many viewing options to visualize your data as needed.
In fact, Airtable’s visual project management software lets you visualize your project data in everything from a spreadsheet to a Gantt chart―whatever makes sense for your projects and your workflow. Airtable also lets your remember members focus on just the data they need with personalized views. Plus, Airtable has great reporting tools. You can learn more about your data with simple default reports or design the specific reports you want. In other words, Airtable makes it easy to view data from any angle you like.
Asana’s project management app helps you manage specific projects as well as your team’s processes and workflow. It places a big emphasis on teamwork projects and collaboration between people.
We mostly love how Asana makes it easy to manage complex projects with its task management tools. Start by creating tasks and subtasks. Then you can group those tasks, show dependencies between them, create milestones for tasks, and more. Even the most complex projects can get broken down into small parts. That way, you can easily understand where a task is at any given time―and by extension, the project as a whole.
Project management software covers a range of platforms, each with a slightly different mix of functionality. A good project management software will have features that allow the team to build a project plan, track tasks through the different stages of the project, and collaborate on tasks to ensure on-time completion. Not every project management system will include all of these features, but many solutions are designed to help a small team or enterprise corporation equally. When you prioritize the features you need from your project software, you’re better equipped to find the right project management app for the projects you manage. If you’re looking for specific types of project management tools, visit our other project management categories for product overviews, reviews, and to get recommendations:
Scheduling a project involves constructing a project timeline, delegating tasks, and outlining the known checkpoints within the project. Project management software includes several different types of scheduling features that give teams alternative ways to visualize their projects. While some project management software will use a traditional calendar view, more complex solutions like Gantt charts and horizontal project timelines can help teams break large or complicated projects into manageable tasks. Scheduling features in a project management tool will help your team go from mind map to a project plan quickly by giving insight into both time and resource management.
Forecasting features in PM tools use data from previous projects to understand the time and resource management considerations that the team will need to complete the project. This project manager software feature helps project managers calculate the ROI of a project before major resources have been invested. Forecasting takes into account the time spent on each task and the resources required to complete each task relative to the organization’s budget constraints and revenue goals. A forecasting tool can also predict potential risks and limitations within a given project.
Similar to forecasting, resource management features in project managing software help project managers visualize where their business invests time, energy, and materials, so the business can assess or change their plan when unforeseen challenges arise. It can be time-consuming to enter and set up a detailed inventory of company and human resources, but doing so allows project managers to anticipate bottlenecks and allocate resources.
Although software that budgets for projects, and businesses in general, comes in standalone versions, certain PM software vendors include budgeting functions as well as expense tracking. These help companies run multiple projects at the same time while staying within budget constraints. While budgeting software is somewhat self-explanatory, expense and project tracking software can provide PMs with the added benefit of knowing how team members accrue expenses throughout the lifespan of the project. Similar to time tracking, expense tracking provides valuable data that can be used to forecast future project costs and build budgets into upcoming project plans.
As the name implies, time tracking software tracks the amount of time each project contributor spends on their assigned tasks. Besides simply measuring productivity, time tracking software also builds an archive of valuable data that can help businesses forecast completion dates for similar tasks or projects in the future. Time tracking is especially helpful when managing a remote team, contract workers, or part-time employees. In combination with collaboration features like messaging and alerts that enhance the project planning and execution experience, time tracking can keep the entire team on schedule. The image below shows the time tracking interface of Wrike.
Task management refers to the assignment of different responsibilities to various members of the project team. Being able to quickly determine who’s contributed to what part of the project lets managers better identify bottlenecks and stay on top of the project’s progress. Task management software is often used by solopreneurs and small teams, while project management software can manage hundreds of tasks that roll up to a larger project or set of projects.
Also Read: Choose the Right Task Management Software: Types and Considerations
While the concept of task management is simple, the software can actually be fairly robust. In the case of large, complex projects or multiple projects that span different departments, tasks are very often interconnected or dependent on others. Certain project management programs geared towards these types of undertakings will feature the ability to assign tasks and dependencies to tasks, which helps managers determine where a breakdown in productivity is occurring and assign the necessary resources to fix the problem. These features have increasingly added automation to speed the transition of tasks among team members and across the project workflow.
Some PM tools rely on the Kanban or project board method to visualize the working state of projects that require separate concurrent tasks. In a Kanban board project timeline, you organize each task on a digital card, and move those cards across vertical lanes that represent work states.
The project managing software Kanbanize lets users visualize task completion status by assigning tasks to cards that users can move between several progress lanes.
Task dependencies are often represented through Gantt charts that show the estimated amount of time a task will take to complete. These project planning software charts also show the next tasks the team should perform, documents who will be in charge of each of the tasks, and can facilitate work hand-offs or approvals. Gantt charts are a useful visual representation of the full project plan in a compact space, and they can often be expanded or condensed to show more or less context where needed.
Zoho Projects offers a flexible Gantt chart feature that shows priorities, task assignments, and more in a single interface. Zoho Projects can also help your team automate the tasks between dependencies to speed project completions.
Other common features of task management include notes, tags, and linking between tasks to show dependencies. Adding notes to a task helps keep track of individual changes to the project or provide references for the strategy associated with each task. Adding tags to tasks makes them easier to filter and find through unlimited projects in the management tool’s native search functionality. Linking tasks reminds stakeholders of other dependent tasks, gives further context to a single task, or provides context on interdependent tasks in multiple projects.
Permission settings allow a PM to decide who can view, edit, or change tasks and functions within the project. To manage a project effectively, a PM must judiciously mete out permissions and access across the software. Granular permission settings, in project manager software, help project managers avoid having to track down the sources of unauthorized changes to tasks or entire phases of the project. Permission settings are especially important for teams that administrate multiple projects across many departments in the same project software. Look for pre-set or role-based permission settings to manage unlimited users efficiently from a single dashboard.
Task and workflow automation helps speed projects to completion. The software is programmed to respond to a defined event with an immediate response, which saves time across many areas. For example, project assets may be sent for approval upon completion or alert notifications will be sent if budgets exceed a pre-set threshold. Automation features may also automatically schedule recurring tasks for completion, which reduces the amount of manual work the project manager is required to do on any given day.
Analysis and reporting functions let project managers visualize project data in ways that uncover time, resource, and work inefficiencies. This type of data can be critical to making mid-project pivots, especially if it’s presented in a dashboard that can provide a quick visual reference. If a task needs additional resources or a department is moving slower than others, in-depth analysis features will help PMs rectify or leverage the situation.
While email remains a mainstay of the collaboration-focused work environment, project management and cloud computing software has enabled teams to share documents in ways that improve productivity and increase efficient use of time. Many project managing software will allow users to upload documents and attach them to projects or tasks, making it easy to locate that project’s resources. The depth of such functionality varies from the simplicity of a collaboration system such as Google Drive to full-fledged wikis that house all of a project’s relevant materials. Some systems rely on message boards that team members can use to discuss ongoing issues or communicate updates. Comprehensive sharing solutions often feature audit trails and version control that record the history of each task and project. Audit trails let project managers view task progress and investigate challenges that team members may be experiencing.
Messaging and meeting functions that are built into the tool or integrated with the system strengthen communications between team members. These features come in stand-alone versions, but can also be found in comprehensive or all-in-one project management solutions. Messaging software let teammates comment on documents, send messages directly to one another, and provide context in full-group documents.
Basecamp has built collaboration at the center of each project, where stakeholders can build message threads in the context of documents and project assets. Basecamp is especially useful for teams with document or asset-based projects, as the team has full visibility into the asset and any messages.
Ready to start your project management software comparison? Our Technology Advisors are here to help you find the perfect tool for your company’s projects. Call for a free 5-minute consultation, or complete the form at the bottom of this page for fast, free recommendations based on your needs.