In high-impact workplaces, your projects require more than just documents and chats.
With the advent of methodologies like Agile, your team needs a complex system that organizes and tracks hundreds of items. And if your company operates in a remote workspace, that system needs to live online on a trustworthy server.
There are dozens of effective project management (PM) tools out there, with elaborate task administration, in-depth scheduling, and even automation tools available. They encourage easy team collaboration and let you gauge project progress at a glance.
An ever-growing spread of options means it’s hard to choose what tool is both reliable and appropriate for your team. Here’s a guide to how these platforms work, what makes the industry’s top PM tools great, and how to choose the best option.
What are project management tools?
PM tools are software that help leaders and teams execute and track work. They let you plot project timelines, tag assignees, and view task dependencies in the same place, which means these systems are much more complex than the average whiteboard. They’ll support even your largest projects from brainstorming to execution.
The best PM software also adopts specific methodologies like Agile PM, making it easy for teams to track sprints and rank the priority of work. Other tools offer more general or customizable features that let teams choose the best planning strategy for their work style.
And at the core of any project is team collaboration, so many tools have chat capabilities and internal knowledge databases to streamline teamwork.
Task management is an important part of every project, no matter how big or small, because it’s what tracks progress and organizes deliverables. PM tools host everything your team needs to complete everything on time and communicate throughout the process.
The best project management software
Asana is a comprehensive PM solution with personalized options for marketing, sales, and product teams, to name a few. The timeline project planning tool is Asana’s strong point, letting teams add dependencies so interconnected tasks move together when due dates shift.
Asana also has plenty of bells and whistles beyond its planner, like straightforward work requests, progress tracking, and project views. It’s a solid option for teams looking for a functional tool with some helpful extras.
Trello is an ideal option for small teams because it facilitates quick task sharing. Trello uses Kanban-style boards that show work in the queue, in-progress tasks, and complete actions. The boards use task cards with descriptions and comments, improving communication and centralizing the information your team members need to perform work.
Trello also offers plug-ins to help you further centralize tasks instead of jumping between third-party apps. You can link Slack, Microsoft Teams, and dozens more tools. It’s the perfect choice for a team that wants everything in one place and benefits from easy-to-use task boards and workflow automation.
Boost productivity with ClickUp, another effective option for teams that want to centralize their workflow. You can create boards with custom tasks and categories, and the app’s drag-and-drop task cards are comprehensive, with space for meeting notes, easy assignment and status tags, and the ability to attach further documentation.
ClickUp also offers over 50 triggers, conditions, and actions that automate routine tasks, potentially saving hours of time. And for teams that think outside of the box, ClickUp’s whiteboard tool offers the freedom to draw out plans.
With clients like Canva, Hulu, and Universal Music Group, Monday.com is the ultimate tool for workplaces that want to customize every facet of their real-time flow. It has bespoke dashboards, central team databases, and a wealth of PM tools and techniques you can access without ever leaving the platform.
Monday.com also offers specialized end-to-end development and customer relationship management (CRM) options for teams performing these processes, making it easier to manage multiple departments at once. And Monday.com’s help center has a two-hour response time for inquiries.
5. Zoho Projects
Zoho Projects’ cloud-based project tool offers everything from Gantt charts to to-do lists, along with the key features you’ll commonly find on other platforms like automations and integrations.
This tool is also an excellent option for teams looking to switch from other platforms because it offers easy migrations from those like Basecamp, Wrike, and Jira. It’s a comprehensive tool for every industry, and it even outlines solutions for different niches to help you get started.
Notion’s project workspace centers around docs, wikis, and knowledge bases, with quick sharing and easy editing for everyone on your team. But along with those features, it has traditional project tools like Kanban boards, calendars, and sprint planners to organize every aspect of your project.
The platform offers templates — both Notion-developed and community-based — for everything from task lists to meeting notes that you can modify to meet your needs. Notion also offers AI support, saving you time by auto-generating document drafts or synthesizing 1:1 meeting notes.
Wrike is a reliable tool for teams that favor simplicity. The platform guides you through the project-planning process with easy-to-create custom workflows, interactive Gantt charts for task timelines, and one-click reporting.
It also boasts a cross-departmental tool, meaning that companies’ IT, marketing, and administrative teams can collaborate on projects and break down silos. Wrike even offers ready-made project templates for specific departments.
Unlike platforms with limitless add-ons and features, Wrike streamlines work, making it an excellent choice for those who want to work smarter without tackling a significant learning curve.
ProofHub takes the term “all-in-one” seriously. Not only does the platform include a user-friendly, customizable project-planning tool, but it also offers a time-tracking tool, reports, and templates. Its reporting feature monitors resource use and task completion rates in sleek, easy-to-read visuals. And the platform’s templates give teams a starting point to develop custom tools.
ProofHub is an attractive option for teams that want highly visual, user-friendly tools without potentially distracting add-ons. Companies like Netflix, Google, and NASA already use it to streamline their work, which shows just how effective it is.
Basecamp offers in-platform messaging, team-wide task boards for optimal visibility, and a “campfire” feature where group members can chat about projects. Not many other platforms offer this kind of team collaboration, so Basecamp is a great option for teams that need to communicate constantly.
Basecamp’s company vision is to offer PM software with simplicity in mind. It’s right for teams that work closely and prefer clean management structures over complex ones.
Choosing the best project management software for your team: 4 tips
The reality is that most prominent PM tools have more pros than cons. They all do a stand-out job of supporting teams, but the secret to choosing the right tool from dozens of viable options is pinpointing exactly what features your team needs and how you prefer to work.
Here are a few key considerations to keep in mind before committing to a PM tool:
1. Identify your needs
Some software supports specific methodologies, like Agile, Scrum, or Kanban, better than others. Filter your search by tools that offer features for your team’s methodology and preferences. If you need to communicate internally about project details, Basecamp is a better option than something like Notion. But if you just need clear documentation to share with your team, Notion is superior.
Another essential consideration is access to add-ons and advanced features. Determine whether your team prefers straightforward tools or wants access to plug-ins and integrations, and choose a platform that offers those options.
2. Think ahead
A PM tool may work well for your team now, but keep future growth in mind. If you plan to scale up, ensure the tool can accommodate more users and data. Check out the pricing for more advanced plans to anticipate costs. Some might have unlimited users, and others have expensive paid plans for enterprise, so pay attention to what you’ll need.
As you look to the future, also consider projects you’ll take on and whether the tool you sign up for supports them. You might be developing a brand today, but in five years you’ll be creating new software, and you’ll need a platform with tools that can handle development projects.
3. Test the tools
Many PM applications offer a free version or a trial period. Take it, and don’t be afraid to cancel if it’s not quite right for you. This way, your team can explore the features, see how intuitive the tool is, and discover whether you’ll hit any limits before buying in.
After you’ve tested some different options with your team, gather feedback. Some features may just be tricky to use or imply a learning curve. But if a platform lacks the features you truly need, it’s time to look elsewhere.
Use online project management from anywhere
Your workplace’s best project is yet to come, and success starts with choosing the right tools. Even companies with longstanding, functional processes can start using automations and collaboration tools to streamline work. It’s worth it to explore new ways to be productive.
Do some research about each software and communicate with the rest of your team about what you think fits. Then, start exploring the PM tools transforming businesses until you find the one that transforms yours.