Professional project managers have to be a mix of traffic cop, problem solver, juggler and translator.
Not only do they have to know where everything is, who’s doing what, what’s late, and what’s on time at any given moment, they also have to communicate all of that to a team of very busy people. How do they do it? Are they superheroes?
Actually, some might be. Managing not just people’s varying work styles, but also the technology and flow of information that seems to change by the day – from compatibility and version control, to accessibility and hardware – project managers are knee-deep in it all, requiring them to adapt and adopt as fast as anyone in today’s workforce.
Super or not, they all have some help. Whether you’re a project management by trade or just looking to get your life and work in order, these five project management tools definitely deserve a place in your utility belt.
As project management tools go, the Web-based Trello comes with one of the lowest learning curves out there. Its notecard-style layout is clean and intuitive, and its simple interface makes it easy to use for anyone new to project management tools. Sharing and collaborating is easy, too. But Trello’s best feature may be its flexibility. Its simplicity allows it to function as a task manager, a to-do list, a bulletin board, or just about anything you need it to be. And just because it’s great for beginners doesn’t mean it’s a lightweight. There’s plenty of functionality here for veteran project managers. Basic use is free. Available for iOS, Android, Windows 8 tablet, and the Web.
With an attractive interface and plenty of power under the hood, Flow is a great tool for novices and pros alike. Its functionality is a bit beefier than Trello’s, but it’s still easy to use. Flow has a terrific dashboard that allows users to see everything all in one place. It also has a unique ability to break work up into different levels, labeled as “workspaces, groups, lists, tasks, and subtasks.” There’s a lot to like here, but Flow really shines when it comes to collaboration and communication. Its social-media-style commenting and alerts system will be instantly familiar to just about anyone. Starts at $19/month. Available for iOS, Android, Mac, and the Web.
While not as visually appealing as Trello or Flow, Asana has plenty of punch. Keeping multiple stakeholders informed and on-task is easy, thanks to its robust task management system. And since it comes with its own inbox, your email account won’t get overloaded with status updates and comments from collaborators. Asana is heavily focused on tasks and milestones, so if there’s a dog-eared copy of The Checklist Manifesto on your bedside table, Asana might be the tool for you. Basic use is free. Available for iOS, Android, and the Web.
The one that started it all. Basecamp has been around for 15 years, and it’s seen plenty of imitators come and go. And while it’s not as feature-rich or visually snazzy as some others on this list, Basecamp still has a lot to offer. There are the usual to-do lists, goals, and discussions. Document sharing is extremely easy here, and Basecamp’s calendar tool makes visualizing your progress a breeze. For fans of simple, effective project management tools without a lot of window dressing, Basecamp will be a sure thing. Starts at $20/month. Available for iOS, Android, and the Web.
If pure firepower is your thing, then you’ll probably love Clarizen. In addition to all the features listed on the project management tools above, Clarizen offers the ability to manage budgets, track expenses, and handle complex scheduling tasks. It also integrates with common business tools like SalesForce, Microsoft Outlook, Jira, and Google Apps. There’s even an Excel add-in for the data wonks out there. If you need a tool to manage your personal to-do list, Clarizen is definitely overkill. But if you need to keep tabs on everything, then it’s probably just what you’ve been looking for. $29.95/month. Available for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and the Web.