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Projects of any size can easily get complicated, with endless streams of email threads and client meetings that seem to pop out of nowhere. All the members of a team need to work in perfect synchronization in order to get big projects completed within deadline, everyone from the content coordinators to the graphic designers need to be kept informed and on track.
Therefore it’s no surprise that there are countless project management methodologies and an abundance of project management tools. But how do you choose the right one and where to find the top tools available on the market? This article will cover:
- Advantages of using project management software
- Cloud- versus self-hosted project management tools
- List of top project management tools
- Hubstaff Tasks
- Zoho Projects
- iMeet Central
- 5 PM Project Management
- Group Office
- eXo Platform
Advantages of project management software
When you begin to look into different project management solutions, you might start to question if it’s really necessary. Especially considering the price tag that comes with most tools, the learning curve, and team discipline required to stick with a tool.
However, the advantages of using a PM tool are far-reaching, and most companies won’t be able to function properly without one:
1. Team collaboration
Chances are you have a project that involves several people and maybe several departments. A project management solution can be used as a forum for asking and answering questions, bringing up project bugs, and suggesting changes.
Most of these types of tools let you attach files, reports, and other pertinent notes within a given project. This keeps everyone on the project organized and in constant communication with each other.
2. Ability to delegate tasks
Having a hard time properly handing off projects and getting team members to run with them? Online project management tools streamline how you assign tasks, making it easy to provide all the necessary info to complete a task.
Simply add all of your employees to a project management system and select which team members are responsible for which tasks. Everything is documented within a project, and it’s easy to double check if the team members or a manager are unsure what the assigned project roles are.
3. Documented project timelines
Whether you are running an internal project or leading one for an outside client, every project has a deadline.
Project management tools allow you to track projects against these due dates, which is a valuable way to see if you are on track to finish or need to readjust the projected date.
If you go over the due date with an external client, running a report to show this client why more time should be added to the project is easy. Or if a certain team member is holding up a project, finding the bottleneck is simple.
4. New team member/consultant onboarding
If you realize mid-project you need to hire more team members, online project management can help get these people up to speed on a project quickly.
This is especially useful for a freelancer who may be hired for a specific need within a project. These new team members can look through the project timeline, see what has been completed on the project, and read any notes to cut down on the training time.
5. Security access
Depending on your company, your team may consist of vendors, clients, internal employees, stakeholders, and freelancers.
You might want different users to have different access levels. For instance, you might not want to show an outside contractor any internal team communication.
Most of these project management tools allow you to set security access on a per-user basis. So, for example, you may want a vendor to just see information pertaining to sign design while the internal employees would see the overall new product launch.
6. Budget tracking
Besides tracking time, project management tools can keep track of budgets.
If the budget is off mid-project, showing management or a client why more money is needed to complete the project successfully is easier then doing so without any data or explanation as to what’s changed along the way.
You know the saying “It doesn’t always go as planned?”
Well, in business this is almost a rule.
You can lay out a plan to complete a project, but once it begins, it could take a new direction. With project management software, making changes along the way without slowing the project down is simple. Plus, every team member is on board with these changes since they are documented within the system.
8. Work environment
Since all team members and external clients can be added to a project within a project management tool, the work keeps moving, everyone is invested, and more projects meet deadlines and budgets on time.
This leads to repeat business, increased efficiency, and overall better communication. It’s the recipe for a happy team and client.
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Differences between cloud and self-hosted project management tools
Now that you know the benefits of a project management tool, you’ll need to decide if an online or downloadable project management software format is best for you.
To help make your decision, here are the key features of both. Each feature comes with pros and cons depending on how you or your company operates.
What is cloud-based project management?
Cloud-based project management systems are hosted by a third-party and housed off-site.
This is less maintenance for you, and you won’t have to worry about making room to manage this project management system on your servers.
On the other hand, you won’t have managerial control with things like system updates. Web-based project management apps update on their own, which can cause disruptions when the user interface or features change and teams have to adjust.
Some of the benefits of using a cloud-based project management system:
With cloud-based applications, the project management company makes sure your business’s sensitive information is secure. There is no need to invest in the latest spyware or assign an employee to monitor security issues.
For some companies that handle sensitive or classified data, this can be a negative. This is because their data can, in theory, by accessed by the project management software whose solution and servers they use.
So if you wish to go with a cloud-based project management solution, but have security concerns, be sure to check what encryption (if any) they use to ensure the privacy of your projects.
Online project management companies provide automatic updates for any known bugs and system upgrades. Usually these changes will be made behind the scenes at no inconvenience to you. On the other hand, if you do have an issue with the system, you’ll need to suggest a change, which may not be implemented.
If you are not super tech-savvy or do not have a dedicated IT department, cloud-based project management solutions are beneficial because they often provide online assistance.
Help is only a phone call or email away, ensuring you can get back to your tasks and projects instead of spending time trying to understand how something works in your project management system.
All cloud-based project management companies provide storage for your projects.
Usually, the initial packages are enough for most companies. If more storage is needed, these companies offer additional storage, usually for an additional fee.
With a cloud-based system, you can have multiple users. But usually these systems charge more if you exceed a certain number of employees. And if you do, you’ll have to bump to a higher monthly fee and package.
Most cloud-based project management systems charge a monthly subscription fee, but usually online project management tools lets you start on a free trial. After that, most apps offer a few plans to choose from based on the number of users and features you need.
What is self-hosted project management software?
Self-hosted project management tools are programs that you have bought, but have to host on your own servers. This can mean either having it in your local system, where all the people on the system can access it, or having it on your private cloud servers that your company has full control over.
Just like the name suggests, if you choose a self-managed project management system, you’re maintaining it on your own.
This can be a good thing because it’s on your server, allowing you more control. Plus, you won’t be subjected to possible system updates or system outages, and it will be fast. However, this is not ideal for small companies, as you likely won’t have a dedicated IT support to help on any issues.
Security on you
Since these are downloadable project management systems, security is provided by you or your company. You can control setup, bandwidth, and storage space, plus the level of security needed.
This is especially helpful if your company has strict data exposure and storage policies. However, you’ll need to monitor your project management system to make sure no sensitive information gets out. It’s a good idea to implement a security protocol when you choose self-hosted apps.
System upgrades on you
Self-hosted systems require you to make updates. This can be a pain. Plus, if something goes wrong during the update, it could interrupt workflow, stopping your company projects for days.
Storage based on servers
Since these self-hosted systems run on your servers, you determine the storage size you need for all your files. There is no limitation for what or how much you can store. This may be particularly helpful if you are in a creative field with a lot of large design files.
Usually you can have as many users as you want with a downloadable version. The only drawback may be if some of these users are outside contractors, vendors, or stakeholders. Chances are you do not want everyone having the same security clearance, so you would need to monitor this yourself.
Larger upfront cost
Usually if you go with a downloadable version, you will have a larger upfront cost since it will be a one-time fee.
This could be good if your company prefers budget items accounted for all at once. This could be bad if you are a smaller company that can’t afford the larger upfront cost. Plus, once you purchase it, you can’t return it or end a subscription like you could with a monthly fee plan.
The alternative to this is open source project management self-hosted solutions, but you can expect to spend on hiring someone to set it up and maintain it anyways.
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List of project management tools
Take a look at the top PM tools to see which one makes the most sense for your company and team. If you are looking for something specific to Mac, check out our guide on Mac project management tools.
1. Hubstaff Tasks
Hubstaff Tasks is an online project management tool with Agile methodologies and time-saving features such as Kanban boards and weekly sprints built-in. Teams are able to create tasks, add checklists, automate workflows, and much more, all with a few clicks.
Once you set your custom workflow, Hubstaff Tasks will move a task along by assigning a team member notifying them once you move it to the next phase.
Like many tools on this list, Hubstaff Tasks integrates with Hubstaff time tracking. This enables teams to see how much time is spent on specific tasks, track budgets, project estimates and much more. The difference is that Hubstaff Tasks and Hubstaff were built to work together so the solutions are seamless.
This project management app combines help desk, team chat and CRM all into one suite of project management tools. The other benefit of this software is in the different use cases. There’s a solution for marketing teams, product teams, and support teams.
Basecamp is an efficient and popular tool among many project managers because of its simple user interface and easy organization structures. Basecamp also has file managing features, intuitive navigation, and works great on mobile phones. Read here about how a digital agency uses Basecamp to rapidly grow their business.
Zoho has numerous business apps, including Zoho projects, a Gantt chart based board. Zoho Projects is designed for collaboration and you can get plenty of other functionality for the project management tool by integrating with any other Zoho products or 3rd party applications.
Freshbooks is a tool designed to make every business accounting process digital and much more efficient. It has an add-on function for project management that can be used for any industry. In general, the PM tool is favored by freelancers and agencies.
Are you looking for an online project management tool for you agency? Check out our guide on agency project management software.
6. iMeet Central
iMeet Central automatically assigns tasks to team members, supports web meetings and cloud collaboration. Your team can use it to share files and ideas, as well as connect with each other and clients.
With a variety of ways to keep track of what’s going on, Asana is great for teams of any size. Tasks, projects, conversations, dashboards, mobile apps, and everything else you could need for project management are available through Asana.
See our article on using Asana in project management for more information on Asana project management software.
Infinity is a completely flexible project management tool that lets you create your own system that’s perfect for your needs. With four different views, versatile custom attributes and a powerful structure using folders and subfolders, Infinity will help you organize projects of any size and type. Check out how Infinity compares to famous Trello here.
Smartsheet is often referred to as “advanced excel.” It combines data gathering and reporting with project management, automating workflows, calendars, and task cards. It’s especially powerful due to the countless integrations Smartsheet has.
10. 5pm Project Management
5pm Project Management lets you create folder structures and store projects, notes or files under them. It also has a timeline view, where you can drag and drop any of the files stored under the software, and assign them to team members. The main benefit of the 5pm is the fact that companies don’t need to install or maintain any local system to have a powerful file management system in place with a collaboration functionality.
Aceproject lets you create tasks, discuss them, and then assign to people. You can have a visual overview of all of the current tasks in either a dashboard or Gantt Chart. The tool also lets team members specify hours worked in timesheets.
Check out our guide on Agile methodologies here.
Formerly known as Teambox, this software has multiple email-related features, such as task creation and management via email, email notifications and reply, and role-based permission. Redbooth is a great work management tool for businesses regulated by the US Sarbanes-Oxley Act along with healthcare providers and manufacturers who adhere to HIPAA regulations. It’s a comprehensive collaboration solution for companies who need to access, share, and manage its content with bank-grade security.
Feng Office has a list of office management tools brought together into one central project management software. list It lets you store files, emails, calendar, contacts, and much more. You can then collaborate and assign all of these things to different users within your organization.
Huddle offers a secure workspace for your team. It allows you to share files, track actions and work securely. More than 100,000 organizations, including various government agencies, trust Huddle with their project management needs.
Wrike can help teams manage limitless projects, subprojects, tasks, and data. It will help coordinate team schedules from anywhere, as it is also mobile-responsive with a mobile app.
Top project management software
Agile features including sprints, task cards, and more
Goplan provides project status info with activity streams, discussions, and more. The tool lets users create to-do items and lets other team members see what’s happening with their teammates, how much is on their plate, and if any deadlines are approaching.
Egroupware has an online calendar, wiki, chat, task tracking system, and incident management tools. This makes Egroupware a great team communication platform, enabling teams to see what’s happening easily.
Clarizen offers core project management and resource management at the same time. Their tools are designed to help project managers, IT teams, and marketing teams. Clarizen has also won numerous awards for its project management services, including the 2013 SIAA CODiE for Best Project Management Software.
This project management software features intranet and extranet solutions, in addition to basic project collaboration tools. They also offer videos and live webinars on their website. Hyperoffice also offers a business email service, online calendar, online management software, task manager, file manager, custom online portal, and online contact management services.
LiquidPlanner offers predictive project management for fast-paced teams. Features include project scheduling, organization, and collaboration tools and task timers. LiquidPlanner has plenty of videos and other tutorials to showcase the product and help teams pick up the details of working with this project management tool.
Visma uses the extranet for customer communication and allows project managers to work with seamless workflows and automatic invoicing. The software can integrate with CRM systems and other useful software. They also have an extensive knowledge base to help manage your business, from sales to billing.
Glasscubes offers easy file, document, image, and business contact sharing between your team and clients. This software comes from the UK, with prestigious clients such as NHS and Saatchi & Saatchi.
Thymer supports simple and seamless team creation, with the ability to create a daily to-do list that can then get put into a “focus mode” for no distractions.
This project management software solution is famous for dynamic Gantt charts and multiple administrator global dashboards that allow for many assignments.
If you require a time tracking feature within your project management solution, check out our other article on free project management software with time tracking.
OnlyOffice, formerly known as Teamlab, was developed for team collaboration. It is a cloud business service that enables you to manage projects, customer relations, and documents in one place. Your team can use OnlyOffice to edit documents, use a simple CRM system to boost sales, coordinate on projects from anywhere in the world, and manage emails.
This is a free, open-source project management system that offers a secure, web-based infrastructure, role-based permission systems so you can give different team members different levels of access based on their job requirements, a calendar, and more. It has great Gantt charts and Microsoft project importing options.
Mavenlink is an integrated business and project management tool that has time tracking, expense tracking, invoicing features, budgeting tools, and more. It’s perfect for bigger enterprises, due to the advanced business intelligence and resources planning tools.
28. Group Office
Group Office helps teams keep track of customer-related notes and host all project-related information in one place. It’s more of a CRM tool than a project management solution, but it makes the list as it helps teams get synchronized on work that needs to be done.
Brightpod is perfect for content marketing and editorial teams. It allows you to view project progress at a glance and includes a calendar to view tasks, events, content publish dates, and more. It also makes it easy to track recurring tasks and project deadlines.
This tool centralizes all of your employee work into one central software. It provides regular project collaboration on top of tools such as intranet, enterprise social network, and a knowledge platform. It’s used by banks and organizations such as NATO, making us believe it’s one of the more secure options available on the market.
Planview lets teams organize their work in Gantt charts or Kanban boards, then collaborate on all tasks within the software. This tool is best for enterprise companies, as it offers different add-ons such as online meeting rooms, document management, real-time communication and much more.
Not sure if Kanban boards are for you? We have a guide on everything you need to know about Kanban project management.
If you are a start-up or just have a few employees, this is a simple project management tool for you. Team members reply to an email about what they have completed for the day. The next day, everyone gets a recap email of what has been done for on any given project. It’s super simple with only a small learning curve.
JIRA by Atlassian is an issue and project tracking tool for software teams. Teams can keep track of all of the bugs and issues that arise throughout the course of their software development projects, and help move these issues through the workflow. Check out our Jira project management guide to learn more about this tool.
We couldn’t make a project management list without mentioning Trello as it’s one of the more widely used project management software tools. Trello lets teams organize their tasks into an online Kanban board, where the team can then collaborate on task cards. Hubstaff has a guide on Trello project management if you want to learn more.
Need more than just project management?
Integrate your chosen PM tool with Hubstaff to track time and monitor your team’s productivity. You can gain a clear picture of what your remote teams are working on with optional randomized screenshots, activity levels, and downloadable reports that can be used to invoice clients or for business records. Some of Hubstaff’s other features, such as automatic payroll payments, will help your team save time even further.
Hubstaff comes with it’s own task management tool, or you can integrate it with most other project management tools listed in this post such as Hubstaff Tasks.