28 Best Project Management Software of 2021
Start your search here for the best project management software. Our software reviews are written by experts who have spent 357 hours researching and analyzing every little detail about the top project management tools on the market. Compare project management features, facts and figures to find the right fit for your business.
What is Project Management Software?
Project management software helps teams plan, schedule and allocate resources more effectively, as well as helping to keep track of different stages of progress. These tools can be either general-purpose or specialized for specific types of projects.
Many businesses opt to use project management software to simplify these operations and improve team productivity. Yet, with so many project management software options on the market, finding the right one can take a lot of time and research.
We have compiled a comprehensive guide that introduces the various possibilities of project management software. No matter what you are looking for, our aim at Results.com is to help you find the right tools for your business.
What are the Advantages of Project Management Software?
All project management software come with essential features that help teams stay on top of their projects and work towards a common goal. They fall under four main categories: project planning, communication and collaboration, resource allocation and planning, and Agile project management.
It is essential that projects have sensible goals and deadlines to start out on the right foot. As a first step, project managers need to set clear goals and deadlines and team members need to know how their individual contributions move the project forward. Project planning tools such as Kanban and Gantt charts help teams visualize a project’s status and allow project managers to distribute work to team members.
Communication & Collaboration
The quick and accurate circulation of information is critical to a project’s progress. A majority of project management software are equipped with communication tools such as instant messaging and announcements to facilitate this process. In-built messaging and discussion forums ensure that employees can give and receive feedback, whereas features such as note-taking and file-sharing allow project materials to be stored and shared.
Resource Allocation & Planning
Resource planning tools range from project budgeting to resource capacity and resource scheduling. Inefficient usage of resources leads to a decline in profit margins. Yet with resource planning tools, project managers can gauge how much resources a project needs and if these resources are being used appropriately.
Agile Project Management
Agile project management is a subset of project management. Particularly favored by the IT industry, Agile project management enables development teams to work in a fast-paced environment where they can respond quickly to changes. Elements of Agile methodology include Scrum, agile reporting, and issue-tracking.
Different Types of Software
The team must first agree on several key decisions before finalizing on a project management option. Though most project management software are similar in nature, they still have some differences. The team should decide if they prefer a general or specialized tool, traditional or agile methods, cloud, or on-premise hosting. These factors help to narrow down the choices and aid in determining which project management solution is most appropriate.
General or Specialized
General project management tools that offer a more comprehensive set of features tend to be more complex and require more training, but can also replace the use of other tools. This can improve workflows by allowing all work to be done from within one application.
Other software have more niche specializations. For example, Slack is primarily a communication tool with some project management features. Confluence is primarily used for documentation, while Airtable blurs the lines between spreadsheets and project management software. Trello is well and truly a project management tool, yet it is specifically based on Kanban boards.
In this case, the best project management tool is dependent on the needs of the team.
Traditional or Agile
Most project management software combine these two approaches, so teams do not need to have a hard time deciding between the two. They offer both traditional project planning methods such as Gantt charts and Agile approaches such as Kanban and Scrum. Offering both methods allows teams to choose on a project basis, however, those with a strong Agile focus would benefit from picking a purely Agile project management software.
Cloud or On-Premise Hosting
Most project management software tends to be hosted on the cloud, on-premise, or a hybrid of both. Cloud-based tools facilitate real-time collaboration and can be used anywhere without installation. The data is stored on the software provider's server and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. On the other hand, on-premise hosting allows for more technical control and reduces the risk of data breaches.
Pricing for Project Management Software
Many project management tools provide a basic version of the software free of charge. For individuals and smaller teams with less complex projects, this is sometimes sufficient. For teams that need additional functions, there are paid plans available. Teams should take some time to determine their needs before making a decision. This way, they can utilize all of the features and gain maximal value out of their chosen project management tool.
The pricing and capabilities of the tool depend on the plan chosen, but as a general rule:
- Features: Higher priced plans often come with more functions
- Number of users: Price varies by per user per month or in packages that include a certain number of users
- Number of projects: Lower tier plans often have a limited number of projects
- Support: Higher-tier paid plans typically have better and faster support, sometimes with a dedicated customer success manager
- Cloud version or own hosting (on-premise): Providers with both variants usually have different pricing structures for this
To help companies calculate cost estimates, some software providers integrate calculators on their websites. Compared to monthly subscriptions, companies who sign up for annual plans often receive a discount of at least 10-20%.
Many project management tools offer an enterprise plan for larger teams, which include a more extensive feature set and customization options. Pricing for enterprise plans are usually provided upon request, with no set price available on the website. In most cases, there is also a free trial period that allows the company to find out if a tool meets all of their requirements before committing to it fully.
Which Project Management Software is right for my team?
In addition to considering factors such as the number of users and budget, it is important for teams to take into account other important features that impact their overall decision-making. Some of them include:
Security and Data Protection
Data privacy is increasingly becoming a top priority for most companies. With privacy laws such as the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield and the Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield, companies are legally required to protect not only their own data, but also the data of their clients.
In order to reduce the risk of unauthorized access, many software companies employ industry-standard security measures and obtain security certifications such as ISO/IEC 27001. These measures range from setting up strong encryption protocols to using servers hosted in locations with 24/7 surveillance. To accommodate European customers, some companies also operate additional data centers within the EU to ensure that they are GDPR-compliant.
For companies who want added security, hosting on-premise is also an option. This gives companies full control over their information and there is less concern about data falling into the wrong hands. This option is associated with a larger technical effort and higher costs.
Integrations and Apps
With so many tools on the marketplace, being able to connect and integrate some of them is an added bonus. Be it an invoicing tool or an email marketing program, users can enhance their working experience by integrating third-party software with their project management application.
Functions that are missing in a project management option can also be compensated for with integrations, such as time-tracking or budgeting. For example, many companies opt for Slack as an instant collaboration tool in addition to using a project management software. Integration platforms like Zapier also provide a greater variety of integrations.
A good project management application interface incorporates both functionality and aesthetic appeal. It should run smoothly and utilize language that is concise and clear. Colors should be used appropriately and draw the user’s attention to specific features or components. Most project management companies also opt for clearly labeled buttons and icons that are easy to find.
With these factors combined, teams will spend less time learning how to use their new project management application and more time focusing on their work.
A good mobile app is intuitive, user-friendly, and offers a good range of features that keep teams productive and engaged no matter where they go. They usually include core functionalities such as project planning, task management, time-tracking, and file-sharing. For instance, a project manager can obtain an overview of a project’s status on his phone before meeting with a client. He can then share new information with his team via an announcement on the way back.
Changes made within a mobile app should also sync across all devices, especially if the application is cloud-hosted. Most project management mobile apps are available on iOS and Android.
Help and Support
Many project management tools are designed to be as intuitive as possible, but technical help and support is sometimes necessary. This is typically present in the form of a knowledge database, support forums, and direct support.
Users will be able to find knowledge databases in most, if not all, project management software. Knowledge databases provide self-help resources via written and video tutorials. The FAQ section is also commonly found within the knowledge database.
Support forums are community-centered boards where users can pose questions and receive answers from other users. Users can use the search function to find potential solutions to their issue at hand before contacting direct support.
If the above channels are insufficient, most project management companies also offer direct support. Direct support includes any combination of live chat, phone support, emails, opening a ticket, social media, and sometimes even a dedicated account manager.
Find the Right Project Management Tool in 5 Steps
Choosing a tool as fundamental as project management software needs to be carefully selected. The right software ensures project success and facilitates communication and collaboration between teams. These steps enable teams to choose the right tool:
Clarify what is required from the project management tool. The team should have a large role in contributing to this process, as they are the ones who will work with the tool on a daily basis.
Creating a list of requirements is a good start in narrowing down the options. Having comparisons of the different project management tools with detailed evaluations can also help. The focus should be on how the tool would function within existing workflows, as well as security, interface and support.
Create a shortlist of three to five software options that seem promising, and test out the tool to get a realistic feel for how it functions within the team. Be sure to get the input from multiple team members, particularly those who will most frequently be using the tool.
Make a Choice
Gather information from the team about what they liked the best about the tool or where it fell short. The tool needs to work within existing work structures across the company so the team’s input is valuable. Other aspects such as the final pricing plan, the method of payment, and the required number of users should also be decided before choosing the software.
Introducing the Tool
A new tool entails new processes. Clear communication of the benefits during the team’s onboarding will ensure acceptance in the teams right from the start.