It’s 2022, and if your small business isn’t looking for ways to improve processes and maximize resource input, you could be falling behind. There’s no need to panic, though. Sometimes all it takes is implementing a few tools that can make a world of organizational difference for your company.
Project management helps companies stay on track and reach concrete objectives. A 2019 study showed organizations that use proven project management (PM) practices “waste 28 times less money than their counterparts who do not have PM practices in place.” For companies looking to increase their return on investment and streamline internal processes, project management software is a gamechanger.
Before signing up for another software subscription, there are probably some questions you want answered, first and foremost among them being: “what is small business project management software?” In this article, we’ll explain the basics of PM software, compare the best project management software for small businesses, and key you in on the top project management features.
What is small business project management software?
Small business project management software is software designed to help manage project workflow. Typically, companies are juggling tons of projects at the same time, all in various stages of completion. Although each organization may take a different approach to the project lifecycle, a versatile project management system can adapt to any company’s needs.
Project management software is chiefly designed to:
- Help with the project workflow process, from ideation to completion.
- Integrate with other software systems, merging client relations, accounting, and more.
- Streamline your company operations.
Also read: Do I Need Accounting Software?
Small businesses in particular face a unique set of challenges when deciding which project management software to adopt. Many start their project management journey using bare-bones software that doesn’t provide full functionality. For instance, tools that focus exclusively on task management are useful for their price up to an extent. However, as your company grows, you’re likely to outgrow this simple software. It’s best to start with a project management tool you have room to grow into, to avoid stressful transitions later on.
Top project management software for SMBs: Comparison chart
The best project management software for small businesses
Now that we’ve discussed the basic functions of small business project management software, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: assessing the top six project management software on the market today. We’ll explain popular features, pricing, and pros and cons.
Wrike is a fully-functional, no-frills project management solution. If you’re looking to get the job done but don’t need a fancy modern interface, Wrike could be a good option for your business. Wrike’s reporting features are impressive considering the platform’s fairly basic setup. It’s also one of the few project management solutions that still offers a spreadsheet view.
- Free: $0 per user per month
- Professional: $9.80 per user per month when billed annually
- Business: $24.80 per user per month when billed annually
- Enterprise: Contact the Wrike sales team for more information.
- A simple platform makes it easy for users to get started.
- Up-to-date security protocols.
- Reporting features are excellent.
- The user interface tends to be a bit dated.
- The free plan is quite limited.
- Privacy is lacking.
A powerhouse in the project management field, monday.com can do it all. The platform has struck the perfect balance between features and usability, and it comes with a fair pricing plan to boot. Unfortunately, monday.com’s Basic plan has been stripped of most essential business features. The platform’s Standard plan, however, is one of the best values in the project management software market.
With monday.com, you can expect managing projects to be a breeze. The platform’s intuitive layout nudges you along from the start, and users report getting up to speed fairly quickly.
- Individual: $0 per user per month for up to 2 users
- Basic: $8 per user per month when billed annually
- Standard: $10 per user per month when billed annually
- Pro: $16 per user per month when billed annually
- Enterprise: Contact the monday.com team for more information on enterprise-grade features
- A colorful interface makes it easy to visualize project information.
- Monday.com is an affordable option for businesses first trying out project management software.
- The platform is versatile enough to work for nearly any business.
- The pricing configuration renders the Basic plan unusable for most organizations.
- More integrations and templates could improve the user experience.
- Time tracking features leave something to be desired.
Asana is widely considered one of the best overall project management tools. It’s used across industries and is recognized internationally. If your team is under 15 people, Asana boasts a comprehensive free plan that includes unlimited storage. You can always upgrade as your company grows, but paid plans can be on the pricey side.
Asana’s advanced features are some of the best on the market, however. With the paid Premium plan, you’ll have access to unlimited task creation and team members, task status-setting, and a guest login option. The platform’s timeline and dashboard views also allow users to gain increased project insight at a glance. Asana’s business and enterprise features are even more advanced, including sophisticated integrations with platforms like Salesforce and Adobe Creative Cloud.
- Basic: Free
- Premium: $10.99 per user per month when billed annually
- Business: $24.99 per user per month when billed annually
- Enterprise: You’ll need to contact Asana’s sales team directly to learn more about the cost of an Enterprise plan.
- Asana’s free plan is surprisingly comprehensive for a small team.
- Advanced features are comprehensive for businesses of any size.
- A fully functional free plan makes it easy to get started.
- Customer service is lacking.
- Price tends to jump significantly from one plan to the next.
- Although still sleek, Asana’s user interface isn’t the best on the market.
Trusted by over 20,000 teams worldwide, Teamwork is an effective way of prioritizing tasks and collaborating with your teammates. Out of the box, it needs a bit of customization, and you may need a bit of assistance when setting up integrations. Once you’ve gotten Teamwork’s settings adjusted to your liking, however, the platform will keep your team accountable through detailed progress tracking.
Users praise Teamwork for its collaboration capabilities, which are accessible from any device. Your business can take advantage of the ability to tag teammates, set up subtasks, link documents, and more. Teamwork’s end-to-end security and aesthetically pleasing user interface are also bonuses.
- Free Forever: $0 per month per user, with a maximum of 5 users
- Deliver: $10 per user per month when billed annually
- Grow: $18 per user per month when billed annually
- Scale: Contact Teamwork for more information
- Teamwork includes billing and invoicing options, which can be useful.
- As you can tell by the name, Teamwork was built for collaboration.
- The prioritization and timeline features are user favorites.
- Chart and graph offerings are limited.
- You can’t make changes in offline mode.
- The calendar view and Kanban automations could be improved for greater functionality.
Sophisticated spreadsheets are Airtable’s bread and butter. Although multiple views are available, including Kanban boards and calendar views, Airtable is primarily a spreadsheet platform that’s built for increased navigability and functionality. While this focus is great for some businesses, others may find Airtable lacking for more complex project planning.
With that being said, Airtable is an excellent option for businesses wary about getting team members up to speed on new software. It’s easy to use and everything is laid out intuitively. It’s a trade-off, as Airtable doesn’t have Asana’s advanced features or Wrike’s top-of-the-line reporting. But the platform offers a simple, refreshing new way of managing projects that’s worth checking out.
- Free: $0 per month
- Plus: $10 per user per month when billed annually
- Pro: $20 per user per month when billed annually
- Enterprise: Contact Airtable’s sales team to learn more about Enterprise pricing and features
- Premade templates work like a charm, with plenty of options to choose from.
- It’s easy to customize things, whether you need to link elsewhere or insert timestamps.
- There are lots of third-party integrations to choose from, including Slack and Stripe.
- More complex projects may not fit into Airtable’s characteristic spreadsheet format.
- Permission settings can get confusing if you’re running a more complex organization.
- Airtable’s pricing structure isn’t designed to accommodate growing businesses.
Notion isn’t always considered among the top project management tools, primarily because it works best for small businesses with only a handful of employees. If your business is small, however, Notion could fit your needs perfectly. It’s highly customizable and functions as a note-taking app, workflow management platform, and more. You can customize pages to suit your exact needs, through tables, headings, embedded files, and other options.
When it comes to reporting and tracking progress, however, Notion comes up short. It’s a great, affordable option for small teams, but not the best option for growing ones.
- Personal: Free for individuals
- Personal Pro: $4 per month when billed annually
- Team: $8 per user per month when billed annually
- Enterprise: Contact Notion’s sales team to learn more about Enterprise pricing
- Plenty of tutorials are available to get you up to speed and Notion’s tech support is responsive.
- Works seamlessly across web browsers and mobile applications.
- Your Notion workspace is as clutter-free as you want it to be.
- It takes time to get your Notion set up, especially if team collaboration is important to you.
- The search function is imperfect.
- Automation and API are still being tweaked.
Key project management software features
When choosing a project management tool, you don’t want to settle for a mediocre option. Not only can this cause issues down the line as your business grows, but it can also cause internal organizational problems in the short term. There are some features you simply can’t afford to skimp out on when selecting a project management solution.
Here are our key, must-have project management software features:
Workflow and visualization allow you and your team to see how a project is coming along in real-time. Charts provide you with an overview of each project, making it easy to track deadlines and milestones. Visualization is a much more practical way of keeping all of your teammates on the same page. With a good project management tool, any changes made to project tasks are updated in real-time. Look for standard visualizations like kanban boards, Gantt charts, waterfall charts, and spreadsheet-style workflows.
Project planning and scheduling
When each team member’s tasks are clearly laid out, it helps keep your project on track. It’s also much easier to avoid internal miscommunications. Task management tools are a dime a dozen, since they’re cheap and effectively accomplish simple task management requests. They’re also tempting due to their lower price threshold. But they offer limited long-term functionality. Comprehensive project management systems allow you to add due dates, priorities, and deadlines to tasks, making them an essential component of project planning.
The days of keeping your business data in Excel spreadsheets are gone. In this new era of project management, you have the ability to store all of your business materials in one convenient location. That includes client invoices, customer relationship management systems, calendar events, and upcoming tasks. When hosted in project management software, these documents are easier to share and use for future templates.
Even if your business is small, miscommunications can happen all too easily. The team collaboration aspect of project management software makes shared files and customer information easy to access for all. Some project management solutions even have built-in messaging platforms, although not all do. A shared team calendar is another way of keeping everyone on the same page.
The most robust project management software provides you with flexible analytics and reporting options. A KPI dashboard and detailed reports are essential in this regard. You can even set up multiple KPI reports to track different performance metrics, from financials to project performance. These reports help you find your most effective projects and most productive team members with ease, allowing you to extrapolate this success elsewhere in your organization. Different levels of report access help ensure security for any financial or otherwise sensitive data.
Choosing the right project management software
When choosing the right project management software for your business, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you’ll want to consider your budget and business needs and find the middle ground. You don’t want to be overpaying for features you’re not using.
Then, you should ask yourself additional questions: How many team members do you have? What collaborative features are necessary? How important is it to have a sleek, modern user interface? Overall, it comes down to the kind of functionality you and your team need.
By taking the time to thoroughly assess your needs and the pros and cons of today’s top project management software, you’re setting yourself up for organizational success. The easy part is installing your software of choice and watching your project ideas come to life before your eyes.