As a small business owner, staying on top of your day-to-day business operations while striving to reach your business goals requires tight project management skills. Ensuring accountability and visibility at all stages of your projects is vital, but how can you achieve this?
There’s a number of effective project management tools out there that can help small businesses with their daily operations without breaking the bank. Here are four of the top tools reviewed:
Basecamp is a project management and communication tool through which businesses can create project hubs, track tasks, and digitally collaborate wherever they are in the world. The tool features a simple top-down view where you can navigate your teams and projects with ease. Everything is centralised in one space, and combined with the search field at the top of the page, it’s very hard to lose something in Basecamp.
Basecamp customers can upload documents, photos, and files to each team or project workspace, and can swap instant messages with the Campfire chat feature.
To really get the most out of Basecamp, we recommend watching the many instructional videos they provide on their website. There’s really a staggering amount of functionality on offer, and Basecamp has something for every business.
Cost: While its price might seem steep ($99 per month), it’s actually fairly competitive when all things are considered. Other tools charge around $8-$12 per person per month, depending on the platform and tier. Basecamp however offers only one option, with all functionalities available, irrespective of how many employees you have.
If you’re still chatting with your team over Whatsapp or sending reams of one line emails to each other, then Slack should be on your radar. One of the best features of this tool is its conversation hashtag system.
Slack users can create chats specifically for certain projects or topics, keeping all conversations centralised and much easier to navigate. This prevents cross-project mixups, and it even includes a search function to find specific words or phrases in long conversations.
As with Basecamp, businesses can upload files and documents to each conversation for instant team access, although they are not ‘pinned’ like they are in that tool. It can be used as a desktop, web, or mobile app.
Cost: As far as pricing goes, it is on the higher end of the scale. Their Standard plan costs $8 per person per month or $80 per person per year, and their Plus plan costs $15 or $150, respectively. This is higher than the industry average of around $3 per person per month. Both paid plans come with increased, tiered abilities, such as team support and increased file storage. While it does offer a free option for businesses of any size, it comes with less functionalities than the paid service, such as no option for team audio or video calls, and a maximum file storage of 5GB.
Ultimately, Slack offers a good all-round service, but if your budget is tight, then it might be worth trialling the free plan first. If you need more functionality, then shop around before going straight to the paid plans.
Trello is an online collaboration tool that takes the kanban style of organisation as its foundation. It therefore follows a very visual means of tracking and ordering projects, a quality that would appeal to visual thinkers and creatives. The interface is fairly intuitive, featuring a simple drag-and-drop system for you to use and track progress.
Trello’s main downside is that it doesn’t feature basic project management functions such as reporting and time-tracking tools. There are integrations available to remedy this, but none are included within Trello, even on the paid plans.
Cost: Trello offers three paid plans and one free service. As with other project management tools, the free plan comes with some restrictions, such as a limit on file storage and only one integration per board.
The paid plans, Gold and Business Class, range from $45 per year up to $119.88 for respectively, with the Enterprise plan set at custom pricing. The Gold plan offers up to three integrations per board, and also lets users have customised emojis and stickers. This feels somewhat gimmicky, and don’t really contribute towards team productivity. Some might find it a nice touch, but it seems an unusual thing to include only in paid plans. Business Class and naturally offers higher file storage sizes, as well as unlimited integrations and members, while Enterprise offers the same, but with tech support and a dedicated Trello contact.
Overall, Trello is a good visual tool that, for those individuals and agencies who work and think in a visual way, will find highly useful. However, it’s not for everyone, so we recommend trying the free version first before committing entirely.
If it’s productivity you strive for, then Asana might be for you. This digital collaboration tool offers a wide variety of features that help facilitate team productivity and workflow management.
However, for those of you seeking monitoring and reporting functions, Asana offers little in that respect. There are no time tracking or chart options, and so it might not be the best choice for companies seeking an overview of multiple projects. It works best for teams who work closely on individual projects and workflows, for example small ecommerce brands or collaborative bloggers who run small, intimate operations.
Asana clients include big names such as Thomson Reuters and Deloitte, lending it some authority as a workflow management tool. Its flexibility makes it suitable for businesses of virtually any industry, and its list-based interface is intuitive and easy to get started with. It also features plenty of instructional videos for you to get started with.
Cost: Asana has paid plans and one free option. The latter allows up to members, and only comes with basic dashboards. It doesn’t offer the advanced search tools that the paid plans do, but despite that it still offers smaller businesses some useful workflow management capabilities.
The paid plans, Premium and Enterprise, cost $119.88 per person per year and custom pricing, respectively. The former also offers a discount for smaller teams, and comes with customized fields and greater search functionalities, amongst other useful features. As ever, if you find the free plan a useful and intuitive tool but your growing business could benefit from the greater capabilities that the paid plans offer, consider upgrading.
There’s a wide variety of project management tools out there that can help make the day-to-day running of your business much easier and simpler. The above can all be easily integrated with a range of content management systems and ecommerce stores, so there’s something to suit every need.
As a rule of thumb, always try the free version first. If you like the interface and think your small business can benefit from the paid versions, upgrade. If it makes growing your enterprise easier and managing your projects simpler, it’s a worthwhile investment.
About the author:
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to spreading the word about startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for the latest micro biz news and inspiring entrepreneurial stories. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.