Project management is a multi-faceted undertaking. By definition, project management lies outside the scope of a business’ day-to-day operations. In fact, even small projects can be disruptive to normal business operations.
Project management has undergone a series of evolutions since the establishment of the Project Management Institute in 1969. As you might expect, the sea change in the industry has occurred in the digital age.
Project management, once a cacophony of charts, paperwork, notes, specs, and flow charts, has been tamed and is almost always controlled by modern software applications. That said, the project manager remains the person responsible for meeting the stated goals, defining the project requirements, and managing the constraints of cost, time and money.
If events in your business or personal life have compelled you to go on the hunt for project management software, you will be stunned at the sheer number of choices available. You may begin to feel that you need project management software for the purpose of making a selection!
Happily (for you), I have run the gauntlet and, I am prepared to offer for your consideration, some of my top software choices.
Allow Me to Take You through the Gauntlet
I’ll preface this by acknowledging that my experience may differ from your own. My methodology and personal preferences are in play. Logically, your preferences may not mirror my own.
My initial search for project management software on Google yielded 374 “probable” results. I’m not joking! (When I dig, I like to dig deep.) To narrow the search, I filtered for software packages that offered a free trial period or free limited use option. I don’t like the idea of buying a pig-in-a-poke. This brought the number of choices to a tidy 278. Still insurmountable! Then I realized that I would need something accessible from my smartphone, which prompted me to filter for Android and iPhone compatibility. This brought my options to less than 100 – 92 to be precise. Imagine my excitement!
However, even this remains a troubling number of choices. Recognizing that something which functioned well for a small to mid-size business would meet my needs, I applied that filter and reduced the pile to 82. While this was an improvement, naturally it wasn’t enough. Just as I was going to let go and try out any five, I realized that Google likes to order results by what they think is best for users. So I went back and saw which ones were in the top 100. I saw the field shrink to 55. Now we’ve arrived at a number that is “somewhat” manageable!
Here are five of the fifteen or so I’ve played with up to now…
Having used Basecamp in a former job, this was an easy choice. Basecamp is the big daddy of modern project collaboration, and no list of project management tools is complete without it. If you’re a simplicity fanatic, you need not look anywhere else. If you’re a feature freak, you’ll find Basecamp falls short in offering the minute level of collaboration and communication functions found in competing services. The free features are quite limited. It is functional and very simple to use but, in my personal view, a tad too much in functionality is sacrificed for simplicity.
This is a slick online platform that provides users great flexibility. I like the user-defined reports and appreciate the ability to handle budgeting and expense within the platform. Zilicus also allows the allocation of resources across multiple projects and supports problem resolution through multiple workflows. The Facebook-like collaboration feature reduces the learning curve for users.
TeamworkProjects mirrors Basecamp’s simplicity and has a similar look and feel. However, it does not sacrifice functionality in the process. It is feature rich but, some of these, particularly task management, can be slow is inhibited by the necessity of editing tasks one by one. On balance, it is a decent offering, and its complete integration with Google Drive will be a tipping point for many potential users.
Strikebaseis a quality product and worthy of its five-star reviews which I suspect are largely attributable to its robust collaboration feature. In terms of raw project management, it is abundantly adequate. The task management feature is very good, second only to collaboration. However, those expecting Gantt-style charts will be disappointed.
I reserved something that met all my expectations for the last. Nutcache allows you to track time spent on specific assignments and make sure budgets are respected in addition to deadlines. It was the only one with an integrated invoicing feature that accepted credit cards and integrated with PayPal. The ease of creating invoices, expense management and time tracking (online and mobile) makes sure small businesses using Nutcache can address most deficiencies within essential processes in their daily operations. The project management function is more than adequate as is the collaboration feature.
Choosing a project management tool is much like selecting a pair of shoes. Most look good, and they protect your feet. The final decision pivots on your intended purpose for the shoes: running, hiking, playing basketball or just going to the office. If you understand your expectations, the choice will be an easy one. I’ll do another post in the future with more of the tools I’m reviewing. Till then, good luck!