Taking a vacation is often a catalytic event. It jump-starts your work processes so you get more done in less time — all so you can get out of town on that much-needed holiday. Of all the challenges I hear from entrepreneurs and business owners, “having more time to get the important stuff done” ranks at the top of a short list.
This list is dedicated to getting more done. Hopefully, you’ll complete tasks in less time, more effectively, and more efficiently with one or more of these 20 online project management tools. In the process, we hope you achieve greater profitability, too!
* * * * *
Microsoft Project is perhaps the best known project management software application on the market. While many argue that it is not for small businesses due to its complexity and learning curve, I can’t leave it off a big list of tools you might consider. They offer a 60-day fully functional free trial here.
Smartsheet is a market leader in online project management because they chose a familiar, comfortable format for their interface: a spreadsheet. Most business owners can get around in a spreadsheet, and therein lies the charm of Smartsheet. It is accessible and offers things spreadsheets don’t – file sharing, Gantt charts and row-level discussions. If you’ve used Excel or Open Office Calc or used the basics of Project, you can use this tool. It is also a top-rated app in the Google App Marketplace. Free 30-day trial. Plans start at $9.95/mo.
5pmWeb came to me via Twitter, so I give them a big thumbs-up for tracking social media around the industry. I mention that because it tells me they take customer service seriously. Their site quickly spells out what they offer: Task management, interactive time-line charts, a time tracker and mobile apps. I like that they have a cool e-mail integration that lets you manage the project (to some degree) from your inbox. 14-day free trial. Plans start at $18/month.
Huddle is one of the first collaborative tools that moved into social media. They created Huddle Spaces on LinkedIn and garnered many kudos for making document sharing and collaboration easy among a network of people not necessarily in the same company. They integrate with all the popular social media platforms and with the iPhone, iPad and Blackberry. There is a free level. Plans start at $8/mo.
Wrike quickly presents the benefits for different audiences instead of talking about features. They have a specific page highlighting how the tool works for small business owners. You can create tasks from e-mails and the e-mails are turned into nifty Gantt charts. Wrike has strong reporting capabilities that help you to see how each member of your team is delivering against various project tasks. 15-day free trial. Pricing is $9.95/user/month with an additional fee for viewers only.
Liquid Planner has all the bells and whistles of the others, but a huge differentiator is what they call Realistic Estimation. I didn’t find others talking about this and I want to quote Liquid Planner directly: “Traditional project management software relies on single-point estimates that hide the uncertainty that is inherent in today’s projects. That means that risk in your projects can be hidden until it’s too late. Liquid Planner solves this problem with ranged estimates and statistically correct calculation for realistic schedules you can trust.” That’s pretty cool. 30-day free trial. Plans start at $35/mo. with discount for annual prepay.
Zoho Project is a Web-based project management app, but also has a useful issue tracking component that allows teams to report and track bugs. Like many project tools, collaboration helps improve the communication within the team and keep everyone focused on the necessary items. Zoho offers real-time chat tools as well as time tracking. They have an “always free” account. Plans start at $99/year.
Insightly is an intriguing project management tool. It does more than PM work, but the part that caught my eye was the Address Book function. They add new contacts from your e-mail. They even hit the Web to find out more about contacts and organizations for their profiles within Insightly. But what’s really cool is this: They use advanced e-mail analytics to discover the hidden associations between your contacts by analyzing the From, To and CC fields in e-mails to build up a knowledge of who knows who. Now I think that would be huge in helping you (and me) get a project done by the right people. Free with Google Apps, but no additional pricing info available.
Manymoon is built on a social networking model. What immediately caught my attention was that I could tag a task and Manymoon would then suggest people in my network who could help me get it done. They call this “social productivity” and I have to say, it’s compelling. Manymoon integrates with Google Docs and Calendar. A bulletin feature lets you see what each team member is doing or has completed. No training required. Free plan. Monthly plans start at $19/mo.
AtTask is the closest to Microsoft Project of any Web-based project management solution I’ve found so far. It seems to have a bit more of a learning curve than others here, but also has more robust features. Every user can put their schedule into @task and the app uses this information to enhance the project timelines. Essentially, AtTask evaluates each team member’s schedule and the people doing the work, so that the project is evenly tasked and completion estimates are made. No pricing info available.
Basecamp is the 800-pound gorilla in the project management space. Some might argue they created the Web-based collaboration space to begin with. Their application is focused on project management; if you need more than that, you can bolt on other products for CRM and chat as well as integrations with many other Web-based providers. 30-day free trial with credit card required. Plans start at $24/mo.
Teambox is another socially savvy project management tool. They allow you to sign up and log in with your Facebook, Twitter and Github logins. Smart. They realize that not everyone wants to work in the cloud, so they have “lite” desktop apps for the Mac and PC (Firefox) platforms. You can choose to make your project public and put it out there for the community or your network to participate in. Free plan. Monthly pricing starts at $12/mo.
Central Desktop wins the “great case studies page” award. They have all the standard and premium features you want in your online project management tool (like you see in these other listings), but they win because they offer a focused SMB section. It is filled with short excerpts from case study after case study of consultants, virtual assistants, software developers, and many others who are using Central Desktop and love it. They offer a free plan. Pricing starts at $25/mo for a small team.
AgileZen offers a lean and mean project management approach. Mean isn’t really the right word: Focused is a better fit. This is one of the nicest visual project tools I’ve seen. Elegant. They want you to “see the big picture.” Their idea comes from lean manufacturing, called kanban in Japanese – a word that means visual card. In an AgileZen project, work is organized on a kanban board, which has a number of columns that represent the phases that work has to go through in order to be considered complete. If you’re looking for a refreshing way to approach your project management, AgileZen may be what you’re looking for. Free plan. Pricing starts at $9/mo.
WebCollaboration offers a very clean interface for project management. What I liked about this product was its powerful search options. You don’t always remember what a project was named or who was in it, but with a robust search tool, you can easily find it. It is one of the things I love about Google’s Gmail app — there’s no need for tons of filters and tags and categories. Just hit search. WebCollaboration took this feature right out of Google’s playbook, I’m guessing. Makes it easier on the user and that’s important. Free plan. Pricing starts at $19/mo.
Project Spaces keeps the boundaries extremely clear, so that even unsophisticated users can easily determine where they are. Not every collaboration and project management tool can say that. They have thought about the normal workflow process that people go through. For example, document versioning doesn’t work if you don’t know which team member is actively working on a document. ProjectSpaces offers check in/check out functionality so you know when others are working on the file. 30-day free trial. Pricing starts at $29/mo.
Comindwork is pretty confident that you need options in your project management, so they list 250-plus features on their feature page. Each feature has its own detailed page, too. They want you to know you have control with their application. Each project can have its own wiki and blog. You can see other team members’ status and “mood.” There is a forever free plan. Pricing starts at roughly $30/mo.
HyperOffice is another heavy-duty app. From my limited view, it appears to start from an intranet focus, which allow you to store and manage documents very easily. You can do everything from project management to business e-mail to using it as a Sharepoint or Exchange alternative. 30-day free trial. Plans start at $44.99 for 5 users.
DeskAway makes it instantly clear that they care about customer support. They use GetSatisfaction as one of their support tools, which is a popular service that makes it easier for the customer and the company to connect. They have a free plan. Pricing starts at $25/mo.
OfficeMedium points out in several places on their site that e-mail is often the biggest challenge in managing a project. It can be frustrating to keep up with the iteration of a document by e-mail. In OfficeMedium, with each project task, event and e-mail interaction, you are automatically creating an organized archive of what’s happened on the project. You can then search and filter these to find that certain employee or which files were used to complete that financial report in March. Your data, combined with built-in, intelligent tagging, trackingand organization features, becomes an invaluable resource. 30-day free trial. Plans cost $6/user/month and $1/month for each gigabyte of storage.
* * * * *
All information is believed to be correct as of the date of publishing. Always check the application website for up-to-date information, as offerings and prices can change.
Let us know in the comments if we missed any, and which online project management or collaboration tool you’re using. We hope this list helps you find the right application to boost your small business productivity and profitability.
Thanks for posting about AgileZen! We’re happy to hear your kind words about our tool. We hope your readers will try it out.
For project management you can also give Brightpod ( http://brightpod.com ) a try. A simple app with bunch of collaboration features for marketing teams. Helps you get the bigger picture when you are working on so many different things.
For those of you interested in a Windows project management software tool that can operate over an office network, you may like to try TaskMerlin. It’s full-featured and applies the GTD (Getting Things Done) method to team-based environments.
For really simple collaboration we like Google Spreadsheets. It’s pretty basic, but if you just need a list of activities with people’s names next to them it works well. We used it to coordinate our office move, for example.
We also started using Atlassain’s Jira to manage our customers’ projects through their lifecycle. It is intended to be a bug tracking program, but the dashboards are pretty flexible and we now use it for lots of customer project management.
For me and my clients, I use Mavenlink, which has full Google Apps integration, plus rolled out Invoicing, Time Tracking, and Expense Tracking last month. I also got an invite into their Beta Private Label, which looks really slick.
Something to look forward to is Microsoft Office 365 – communication and collaboration tools (including Office) for businesses of all sizes. The FAQ states it should be available in early 2011, but there is a beta to get a sneak peek. This link will give you more details: http://smb.ms/OutreachbqE37P
Microsoft SMB Outreach Team
What an awesome list! I love tools that make my life easier and my workflow more efficient.
Might want to check out Clarizen, 2010 CODiE Award winner for Best PM Solution and top of the chart for TopTenReviews best SaaS PM Solution.
To summarize in one sentence – Clarizen has the enterprise-level functionality you get from the higher end vendors in the marketplace yet with is a very inviting Web 2.0 user interface ensuring record team adoption ratios, which is where these higher end solutions fall short. Along with a very flexible pricing structure, no minimum users and free training webinars, small, medium and large businesses can get up and running rapidly and easily see the ROI.
Check out this recent announcement: Enabling Better Collaborative Project Management with Office 365 and Project Professional 2010 http://blogs.msdn.com/b/project/archive/2010/10/19/enabling-better-collaborative-project-management-with-office-365-and-project-professional-2010.aspx
Wow, thanks for all the awesome additions. I would encourage any reader to check out these additional tools. I often check out the comments at other blogs, and here of course, so take a look by clicking on the commenting person’s name (usually a link to their site).
Hi Jodi E — thanks for the note. I was trying to see what the big M had going on in this front and heard some rumblings, but I wasn’t focused on beta. Ping me direct when you take it fully live. Q4Sales at Gmail. Thanks.
Appreciate the DeskAway mention!
Also look at Clarizen, project management software.
Clarizen is suitable for businesses of any size that look for a project management system that does more than most options around. Most of your day-to-day workload can be managed using this program only. The learning curve is very short and well-known companies actually use Clarizen (UPS and Lenovo, among others). For all these reasons, Clarizen deserves to be tried out.
Thank you for mentioning 5pm!
From the same team we have a new product coming as well – smartQ
Another online project management tool worth taking a look at is Intervals. It’s focus is on time and task tracking within project management flow.
Many companies haven’t heard of a great way to increase productivity company-wide:
If you’re a small business and managing projects, it’s safe to assume you’re selling some service – and therefore manage customers and billing in some way as well. To help increase productivity and simplify all these processes, why not do this all under one application?
I’m sure this sounds like sales copy, but I’m trying to hammer something in; integrating a bunch of applications isn’t productive; it’s counter productive. You have to train staff extra, and jump between applications to do minute tasks.
If you look at software like WORKetc, which combines CRM, PM, and billing – it’s not that hard to see how the workflow would change for the better. A lot of tasks are made simpler, and some automated entirely. This allows you to prioritize more important things you’re doing.
It’s basically a project management tool that has a whole bunch of other business management features as well, to help make all of these processes more efficient and convenient.
I have been using Teamworkpm.net very successfully. It has integration with Google Calendar, email reminders, email-based comment and task management integration. But what I really like about this product is very flexible permissions options. You can customize what your team or each member of your customer group can see or edit. Much better than BaseCamp, which I also use.
The list grows! Thanks to everyone. I also forgot about http://www.clutterpad.com that I reviewed some time back. Good tool as well. I had them in a collaborative box, but they do PM, too.
We have recently launched our online time and project management software http://www.jsportal.com and are curious to hear what the PM community thinks.
Looking forward to your thoughts, comments and reviews.
Hey Guys, you forgot about us! 🙂
Copper has been a SAAS based product since 2002, and we have consistently and diligently refined Copper to be one of the web’s best collaboration tools for any creative team.
We offer a no credit-card 30 day trial, and we have the best support in the business. MS Project import, Basecamp Import, Dynamic Flash Gantt Timeline, Uploadable Docs, Client login, smart Timers and more.
If you’re looking for a quick and clean solution, come and check Copper out.
Thank you for including Teambox. We have just started a weekly training session and hope you do not mind us posting the link here.
BTW not sure what you meant by the light desktop versions, but we can be used with twitter clients and do have an iPad/Phone app coming soon.
Anyhoo here is the training link: https://teambox.com/l/teambox-training-webinars
Thanks again, SBT rocks!
And so the list grows! I have another great online project management tool to add it’s called Dooster. I recommend you guys check it out. http://www.dooster.net
There’s some great stuff on this list and in the comments. I use Google Docs quite heavily for real-time doc editing.
Our company also makes an app called Fellowstream, available online. It’s geared specifically for small businesses and teams where you need to know what everyone is working on. It’s a team-based todo list…check it out if you’re interested!
I know almost all of these applications, with the exception of insightly (which looks quite nice). The thing is they’re more of the same thing (just different skins). I have published an article about the ideal PM tool, it describes things that companies should look for in a project management tool.
I wish someone can add some intelligence to these tools, so that they do some decision making on their own…
TJ, great article. Very informative.
May I add our service, Glasnost21 to the list for people to consider?
Noting the comment above about ‘they’re more of the same thing’ we do not believe that applies to us.
In particular, Glasnost links together PM with modules for managing your Images (and we all have loads of them for a multitude of purposes) and for managing all the companies and contacts you deal with. These easy to use CRM features (including email marketing) combine to make Glasnost an especially useful tool for SMB’s
Just over a minute of your time spent watching the introductory video at http://www.glasnost21.com will explain how not everyone is doing ‘more of the same’.
Hey! You missed one.
When it comes to increasing productivity, it’s important to emphasize workflow and efficiency-increasing potential within business processes. Some software are great for one thing but don’t actually help when it comes to workflow.
When you’re managing a business through multiple separate applications, it makes it harder to increase productivity. Employees have to jump between these systems to look up basic information (such as going from their PM app to their CRM app to look up contact info) when you consolidate the right features, you can bring out an amazing workflow.
If you look at software like WORKetc, which combines CRM, PM, and billing, you can see how this workflow will simplify things within a business. Managing an entire business under one application means automating tons of key tasks and focusing on more important things. Basic perks such as turning timesheets into invoices with a single click come to mind. Or leads converting into projects, quotes, or invoices automatically.
WORKetc emphasizes collaboration as well, bringing it to a business wide level (from leads and support tickets to tasks and calendars). You can collaborate on everything.
Definitely interesting what happens to productivity when you simplify how the employees can manage their business.
I was wondering if you’d like to try out Apollo as well, http://www.apollohq.com
Apollo is a little different to the others: it does project and contact management, but has also a good calendar, timers, cases&deals, all in a VERY fast AJAX application — so, it all looks native while you use it.
Let us know if you’re interested in reviewing it!
+1 for 5pm (www.5pmweb.com). Love their Timeline.
Here’s another new one to throw in the mix, Odysen, http://www.odysen.com. Key features being integrated apps, clean interface, low price, and language options. Collaboration apps include projects, doc sharing, notes, calendar, news, websites, and others. Navigation is setup in an intuitive folder layout, making it easy adapting from a more traditional desktop format. Check it out with the free trial.
Thanks for the great list and this blog.
I am a Project Manager since 10 year and do Web-Development with Ruby on Rails during my freetime.
So I decided to combine both and developed: TRACKER.
TRACKER is using a similar approach as Liquid Planner by combining PERT estimations with EVM; http://www.project-tracking.org.
I have no financial interest, but I would like to find out how to
proceed. So if there is anybody out with ideas or wants to share his
opinion, please don’t hesitate to contact me or to post a comment here.
(if this post comes up twice, please accept my apologies)
Thanks for even more Project Management tools and apps. This is a great discussion thread. Please know that you can leave your app link in the comments or in your signature.
If you work for the company you’re mentioning, I appreciate that you disclose that (social media etiquette). I believe that honesty enhances your credibility and the likelihood that someone will click through to your page/site. Some of these tools are new to me, many are not, but just because I didn’t include them in the first go around doesn’t mean you won’t get included in a future one.
I wanted to introduce http://www.tasqade.com to you. It is a brand new webapp from Berlin, Germany. We tried to rethink project management. For us, it often meant out of dates Excel-Lists and many phone calls and meetings. Some of our colleagues tried MS Project, but soon quit because of the complexity. We thought: There must be something in between. An easy to use tool, that brings everyone on the same page and still is able to manage workflows.
The result is tasqade, an easy to use to-do list. But that is not enough. With some extra features that (so far) only the heavy-weight, unusable MS Projects of this world deliver, we manage to bring project management to normal employees like you and me. Just have a look, we invite everybody to test it for free.
Feedback is very welcome! We got good appraisals in German press. I’d be more than happy to know, what you and your readers think!
We use Ice3 Online Collaboration to deal with our client and project management requirements.
It is great for us that Ice3 is offered on a SaaS basis because Ice3 are constantly developing the product.
For example, we have recently been able to access the system using our smartphones – all without paying a penny more for this new facility.
We find that this is a genuinely customer-focused business model. They also have very friendly staff in technical support – which always helps!
I would recommend it.
I don’t mean to be a pain, but… well I can’t resist. I just wanted to let everybody know that honesty works. I work for Apollo (http://www.apollohq.com) , I say so, and I suggest it — humbly — in those cases where it seems to make sense to do so.
Impersonating users is not good practice, and it’s not hard to spot marketing speech.
I am not going to point out to specific posts — not here, nor elsewhere. But, I am going to plead everybody to keep it honest, because not doing so is… well, embarrassing for people who read you and for the moderator having to approve those comments.
Glasscubes is a nice and clear solution.
This is proving to be a valuable discussion and it is good to hear about the number of different products out there. I am sorry if my recommendation sounded like ‘marketing-speech’ Tony – please feel free to contact me personally to chat about it.
I am a genuine user, and am delighted with the product. I wholeheartedly agree that impersonating a user is a really bad thing.
But I also think that folks need to be able to say what they like about a product – as well as what they dislike. I can tell what I dislike about Ice3 is you want to add some balance?
I use Moonlite for project management. It runs as software as a service, you pay as you go. It is really simple and easy to use. You can add as many users and customers as you like.
It also has some basic time management with reporting, chat and e-mail notifications.
They also have a 30 day trial version here: http://moonlitepro.com
Great posting. If you are looking for a great project management tool, you may have a look on Teamplifier. Its a suitable alternative so far.
Great article with links to lots of great tools. My company, OneClick Commissions, was dragged by our users into integrating with Google Spreadsheets. We didn’t initially believe that there would be demand for this from the finance, sales ops and payroll employees that typically manage sales commissions but it seems as if more “serious” work is being done through Google Apps. Check out the following link: http://www.oneclickcommissions.com/sales-commission-google-appp.html
Very good overview of project management tools. I like to add our solution to the list: eTask-it http://www.etask.it
It’s a robust online professional services automation platform that focuses on repeatable high quality project delivery. Essentially if you have one single project to manage, don’t use us 🙂 but if you have many projects based on standard or customised templates, then you will find a lot of benefits from eTask-it, including the ability to govern accurately your projects and enrich your knowledge each time you deliver a project.
We are particularly relevant to companies that use frameworks like Prince2, ITIL, CMMI, Agile etc
Although it is not an online solution RationalPlan is an affordable alternative to MS Project. Even more the Server version can be used as a hosted solution and it will include web-based access.
Checkout Contrich. It is a web based collaboration tool for Content Writers, Reviewers, Quality Analysts and all those who are involved in developing a Web Application. With features like inline content editing, review and automatic page verification it can enhance the team productivity tremendously.
The homepage has a short video tutorial to get things started.
A good one for customer service is Dooster. My company decided to try a package and chose Dooster a few months ago. Because I know a bit more about project management software through Dooster I quite like looking at these sites and reading about other packages. Dooster is good for a small company with a tight budget that would really like to buy Basecamp. Because customer support are good I like using it now but wasn’t keen at first.
I would definitely checkout Workgroups 2011. It handles project management, online proofing and handles all your digital assets.
We use Dooster for our collaborative software and since getting things have been quite smooth. Before we had it key meetings seemed to take so much communication to set up. Now they’re simply routine and I think it’s the software that has helped us get to this stage.
Nice list, thanks.
I would only add KanbanTool – really good visual project management tool based on Kanban method.
Trello and Asana are in the top 3 most popular project management apps according to Google Trends.
Do have a look at ZilicusPM (http://www.zilicus.com) – an online project management software offered by my company.
The things you will distinctly notice about ZilicusPM
1. Very quick learning curve with minimum or no training required to use comprehensive project management features
2. Organogram and user roles takes away the headache of managing access/privileges
3. Project scheduling can be done very quickly (like spreadsheet entries) with Interactive Gantt chart (drag drop tasks, dependencies)
4. It instills transparency as well as accountability among project team members
I would certainly say, ZilicusPM is much more than simple to-do list. It helps companies reasonable sized (duration/resources/deliverable) projects manage effectively.
Hey guys, don’t forget to mention our project management software tool, Copper Project. Great features and a free 30 day trial!
Great resource for those looking to implement the right project management tools for their business.
Another project management application I wanted to introduce is Trakeze, http://www.trakeze.com/. It’s an innovative web-based application that includes easy-to-use project planning, Gantt charting, task management, requirements management, time tracking, CRM, and collaboration applications.
Full disclosure: I work for this company.
If you like, give TrackerSuite. It offers a highly configurable project management system that can map to workflows and user roles, and integrates tightly with email. For example, Microsoft Outlook users can create new project tasks and documents from email with a simple drag-and-drop function, as well as synchronize their Outlook tasks with their tasks in TrackerSuite. If you like, you can register on the website for access to a free online demonstration.
Thanks for the list. We are now working with Exepron for cloud based, critical chain project management. Would like to get your opinion. Also, have used 5pm Web in the past and agree that they have great support, especially perfect for smb’s.
We gave up on MS Project after bashing our heads against it for years. We then tried Basecamp but found it didn’t scale to the sort of complex work we do. Then we found HumanEdj – a Web app for large projects including people from different organizations. Very easy to use but provides the sort of features you get in heavyweight planning apps. You can take part in a project by email which is great if some people in the team don’t want to adopt new tools. Over time you can build up a library of plan templates which we are now making good use of – we’re even thinking of selling some of ours. There’s a free version online (www.rolemodellers.com).
Fylcloud is missing in this list of tools! It’s Basecamp, but with more storage space and no # of project limits. It was designed with accountants in mind and allows a CPA to share all kinds of Quickbooks files with clients, for example. Most tools aren’t very friendly when it comes to Quickbooks, so I think the tool is worth mentioning 🙂
Am not sure why TeamLab isn’t in this list. I have researched a bunch of tools and tried the free versions over a period of time. I found TeamLab to be probably the easiest to use and user adaption to be higher at least within our team. Also, it’s quite perfect in the way that it provides CRM and few other features all at an affordable cost. It’s PM features aren’t robust but simple and effective.
I’m taking a look at proofhub.com. It looks really good for individual designers/developers. I can create projects (both personal and professional) and invite clients to a website which has a great interface, some simple tasks and note management and works well. It’s quite slick. I will suggest you to try this software and add this to your list.
+1 for 5pm (www.5pmweb.com). The tool is easy to use and the support is great. The new iPhone app is also much better (old one was slow). And smartQ (www.getsmartQ.com) from the same team is great for ticket tracking – I wish those would be combined… but, then it may get too complex… I like to keep it simple.
Hey McCue, I’d recommend you to try Timely Projects