Until a few years ago, working on a project with colleagues required endless update meetings and round-robin email chains. Thankfully those days are now behind us. The arrival of cloud computing has seen a variety of project management tools being launched. These platforms are ideal for remote-working teams to collaborate, providing real-time updates on individual activity and task-wide overviews.
If your business involves regular travel, or you have colleagues scattered across different states or countries, project management tools could be a game-changer. But how do they work, and which ones should you consider investing in?
Never miss a deadline
At its heart, every project management tool features a dashboard. This provides an overview of any project, often in graphical form like charts. It might use colored tabs to indicate progress milestones or track the completion of tasks assigned to specific individuals. Whenever an action is advanced or finished, the software is updated. Administrators decide who gets to see what, so a junior contributor isn’t able to view high-level budget negotiations, and senior staff don’t become distracted by trivial administrative updates.
By adding information to an interactive calendar capable of sending out reminders, deadlines can be met, and collaboration is encouraged. Outstanding tasks for each team member can be viewed and edited by anyone else. Importantly too, managers are able to avoid under- or over-burdening staff, individuals get to check what their colleagues are working on, and progress is easily measured. Project management tools help to eliminate data silos, as well as black holes where everyone assumes someone else is responsible for a particular job.
Project management tools are even useful for recording expenses and timesheets, which are as simple or complex as a particular project requires. Since they can also be shared with clients, freelancers and external stakeholders, there’s less need to constantly send out update emails or request ongoing meetings.
So which platforms should I consider?
If you’re sold on the idea of collaborative working software, there are numerous platforms to choose from. We’ve chosen some of our favorites below, based on their flexibility and ease of use:
Trello is arguably the market leader in this field, and its intuitive at-a-glance interface is highly regarded. It replicates traditional paper notes in an online environment by attaching color-coded task lists to interactive cards on a client-specific board. Cards can store relevant files, placing all the information pertaining to that topic or project at a user’s fingertips.
Designed to remove the tyranny of multiple email threads, Basecamp’s central message board is the heart of any project. Managers assign and monitor work in the to-do section, which also permits file attachments. It comes with 24/7 support, though out-of-hours notifications may be turned off if required. The substantial monthly fee is charged per company, rather than per user.
Arguably more of a personal assistant than its rivals, Evernote still has some compelling advantages. Notes and lists are fully searchable, and a smartphone app enables business cards or handwritten notes to be scanned and uploaded into project folders. Web clippings and video clips can also be stored, while Evernote works on BlackBerries and even Kindles.
With blue-chip clients including Volvo and Sony, Citrix’s Podio is one of the more flexible options on our list. It combines communications functions like instant messaging with Dropbox and Google Drive compatibility. The basic app can be augmented with in-app purchases; customization also enables advanced users to keep on top of complex projects.
Its founders claim 77% of Fortune 100 companies use Slack, illustrating the popularity of this flexible platform. Its rich messaging interface is simple and powerful in equal measure, while the search function includes date and user fields – it’ll even search uploaded files. Users can set up email notifications if DMs or updates occur while they’re offline.
By organizing projects into flowcharts, Casual guides users through each stage of a particular task. Popular among creatives who appreciate its visual interface, Casual enables users to track their own assignments as well as others’. It integrates with Google Drive and Dropbox, and previous projects may be cloned to generate tried and tested roadmaps through new tasks.
Asana is another program which uses templates to simplify new projects. From to-do lists to workflows, projects can be broken into sub-tasks, with a commenting feature included. Individual users can request email updates on progress affecting their workload, and managers can host launches or meetings. Asana users highly recommend its adoption for task-driven projects.
Despite being available on ten different platforms, Todoist lacks the profile of other programs outlined above. Even so, this beginner-friendly tool markets itself as a personal life organizer as much as a tool for collaborative projects. Reminders can be set for projects arranged in order of priority, though users report difficulty when trying to assign jobs to more than one person.
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