By Jeremy Marsan
If you’re looking for project management software there’s a lot of options out there. Project management software can have four basic benefits for small businesses: 1) It can help estimate how much time and money a project will require to complete 2) It can help with the management of project, specifically with having responsibilities clearly outlined and divided among people. 3) It can prevent mis-communications by having the latest information shared among everyone involved. 4) It can provide a clear view of the current status of a project. (more on the benefits here). However, not all project management software products are equally good at achieving each of these benefits. Which benefits will be most important to your business? Ask yourself, these four questions before picking a project management software:
- How many team members work on your projects? It’s important to choose project management software that can handle a team of your size. Some software has features and a layout designed for large teams, whereas others work better for just a few people.
For a larger team you need a good way to divide up project information. With lots of people working together there’s bound to be a lot of detail on your projects. You’ll want a quick way to view personal to-do’s and deadlines so you don’t have to sort through mounds of details to find what you should be working on. Basecamp does a great job of this by giving you personal dashboards and quick search and sorting methods.
For a smaller team these tools won’t be as necessary. You might prefer a simpler, more visual program like Trello, which is the equivalent to an electronic whiteboard.
- Do you need to share lots of files? Most programs give you a basic ability to upload files and attach them to particular tasks. Some programs, like Basecamp, get far more advanced, letting you open files within your browser, view old versions of files compared against new versions and search through all files by keyword. Basecamp lets you view high res photos side by side within your browser, which is very useful for graphic-intensive projects.
- Do you want a better way of discussing project details? Then you’ll want project management software with discussion tools. RedBooth has a number of advanced discussions tools, including video conferences and web chat that lets you embed photos and videos within the conversation.
Most teams use email to communicate before they adopt project management software. Email, however, can be difficult for group conversations. CCing can get messy, and messages quickly get buried in your inbox. Discussion tools within project management software, however, absolves these issues by placing all conversation in one, easy to find, manageable place.
- How many projects do you work on at once? Some programs limit how many active projects you can have going on at once. To add more you need to upgrade and pay a higher fee per month, so it’s important to check before signing onto a contract.
Cost aside, some programs are simply better at handling a high number of projects than others. The whiteboard style of Trello, for example, can get cluttered with more than 7 or 8 projects. Other programs, however, do a great job of handling many projects. Insightly, for example, lets you search projects by name, fllter by responsible user, category or project status (open or closed) or use an alphabetical tool to quickly jump to projects. If you have more than 10 or 15 projects at a time, this can be great for managing them.
Now that you know which features and functionality are most important for your small business, you’re ready to compare products. Here is a comparison table of four of the most popular small business project management solutions.
Jeremy Marsan is a staff writer for Fit Small Business, a educational website for small business owners. He specializes in writing about health care and CRM software.