Project Management Applications For Small Businesses

If you manage a small business or project, using email communications, Excel spreadsheets and company hard drives for managing and storing project information might be okay on a temporary basis, but as the number of your projects grow (and your number of collaborators grow with it) you’ll need to consider a more sophisticated system to incorporate in your business processes.

In fact, it has been proven that for small businesses having a collaborative tool providing multiple features including task assignment, time tracking, CRM, document management, mobile connectivity and third party invoicing can make a huge difference in company’s bottom line.

For large organizations, systems like Primavera, MS Project or SharePoint are the most popular software programs for project planning, reporting, document sharing, progress updating and tracking. They are used worldwide and have their own benefits and disadvantages.

On the other hand, for small businesses or small projects (such as creating new websites, new software programs, new mobile apps or even a minor manufacturing projects) Primavera and MS Project might not be the best solutions, the most important disadvantages being higher costs, heavy platform environment, learning curve, the need for sophisticated support team and unavoidable staff training.

Deciding which project management application or software to incorporate into your small business processes can be a daunting task as there is quite a wide selection to choose from and they are all continually evolving and advancing. To make matters more difficult, each software creator provides different packages to choose from, depending on the number of projects, the number of users (collaborators) and the storage space offered.

On the lower end, developers seem to categorize their packages based on one of these two choices:

  • Unlimited collaborators, but limited number of projects
  • Unlimited projects, but limited number of collaborators

But, they also offer unlimited projects/collaborators packages at much higher monthly rates.

Even if you select a low-end package to start with, as a growing business the high-end packages should be an important criteria for your selection because in a few years when your number of projects/users grow you would want to be able to keep the same platform, and avoid having to transfer all your files to a less costly solution.

Storage is also another differentiator for choosing your package. Depending on the type of projects your organization is managing, and the size of files your team members share on a daily basis, this could become a make-or-break factor in your selection.

The ability to use the software on your mobile smartphone or tablet is another factor to take into consideration, if that is indeed important to you or your organization. Some applications are just web-based, others use HTML5 code that fits and adapts to any screen size, and others provide their own iOS, Android or Windows Phone apps for the most popular devices such as iPhone or iPad.

Another factor to consider is whether you want (or need) to work with Gantt charts that are simpler versions of MS Project and Primavera. Some project management apps offer visual Gantt-based (rather than a task-assignment based) software.

To make your selection a little bit easier, outlined below are some project management apps we briefly examined for small businesses (in no particular order):

Basecamp
  • http://www.basecamphq.com
  • Web-based + Mobile apps
  • Lower End Package: 10 Projects, Unlimited Users, 3 GB Storage, $20 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage, $150 / month

Basecamp keeps all your project documents and communications in one place. You can control who sees what on the projects and who can communicate with whom. The user interface is quite user-friendly and provides quick access to the latest project progress, communications, To-Do lists, etc. Basecamp also provides iOS and Android apps for mobile phones and tablets.

Projecturf
  • http://www.projecturf.com
  • Web-based only
  • Lower End Package: 20 Projects, Unlimited Users, Unlimited Storage, $40 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, Unlimited Storage, $120 / month

Projecturf provides a user-friendly web environment giving instant access to various projects using tabs. It allows you to grant and change access permissions in every section, and even remove some section if they don’t apply to a project.

Project Bubble
  • http://www.projectbubble.com
  • Web-based only
  • Lower End Package: 10 Projects, Unlimited Users, 5 GB Storage, $24 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage, $99 / month

Project Bubble allows you to assign tasks and sub-tasks to team members, as well as define user permissions. It also allows you to enter the amount of hours you expect a given task should take (planned) and compare with the amount of hours is actually took (actual) to compare your actual costs with your planned budget. A timesheet feature is also offered for team members to help track the hours.

Mavenlink
  • http://www.mavenlink.com
  • Web-based + HTML5-based Mobile Apps
  • Lower End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 20 GB Storage, $25 / user / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage

Mavenlink is fully integrated with Google Docs, Tasks and Contacts. It allows you to centralize your project information, files and communications in a shared environment. Real-time messaging ensures your team members stay on the same page. You can also stay connected using your mobile smartphone as the software offers an HTML5 mobile version as well.

Apollo
  • http://www.apollohq.com
  • Web-based + Mobile Apps
  • Lower End Package: 18 Projects, Unlimited Users, 5 GB Storage, $23 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 75 GB Storage, $148 / month

Apollo helps you keep track of what’s happening on your project, tasks, and calendar using interactive timers. In the activity screen you can see who did what, and even communicate with other people. Files can also be kept within the platform. Mobile versions of the software for iOS and Android are also offered.

Asana
  • http://www.asana.com
  • Web-based + Mobile Apps
  • Lower End Package: 15 Members. $50 / month
  • Higher End Package: 100 Members, $800 / month

Asana allows you to create, assign, follow and comment on tasks. The notification by inbox or mobile app provides what matters to you. You can keep all conversations and historical information in one place for future reference.

Wrike
  • http://www.wrike.com
  • Web-based + Mobile Apps
  • Lower End Package: 5 Users, Unlimited Collaborators, Unlimited Projects, 5 GB Storage,  $49 / month
  • Higher End Package: : 50 Users, Unlimited Collaborators, Unlimited Projects,100 GB Storage, $199 / month

Wrike is another project management software providing task management, time tracking, document sharing, and real-time news-feed. It also provides Gantt-chart integration as well as Outlook and email integration to facilitate communications.

TeamGantt
  • http://www.teamgantt.com
  • Web-based only
  • Lower End Package: 5 Projects, 5 Users, 1 GB Storage, $10 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 20 GB Storage, $79 / month

If you like using simplified Gantt charts, then TeamGantt might be the solution for you. The software also incorporates simple task commenting (by team members) directly in the Gantt chart. You can still take advantage of sharing documents and many other resources, and even view multiple projects’ Gantt charts in one screen to help with your resource planning.

Trello

Trello is a Checklist-based system to keep you on top of your team members To-Do lists. You can also attach files, images, and due dates to each task. Tasks can be categorized and you can filter by keywords or person. The software is designed to automatically scale to fit any screen size, including phone and tablets.

Freedcamp

Freedcamp is fully customizable for user permissions, allowing you to select what co-workers and clients can see. You can also receive instant notifications by email or SMS about everything happening on your project. Freedcamp also provides the possibility of using project templates saving you the time for entering redundant information everytime you start a new project.

In a nutshell, if the essence of project management is the breaking down of multi-faceted projects into smaller tasks and milestones assigned to various collaborators, then project management applications and software should assist you in organizing and breaking those complex operations and individual tasks down into specific data available at your fingertips; thus, providing more efficiency into the process than contemporary paper documents and spreadsheets offer. Therefore, your decision to purchase a project management software for your small business should be a long-term strategy for your organization:

  • Make a list of features you need today (and maybe in the future)
  • Assign weights to each feature based on its importance to your business
  • Review each software platform (start on their website)
  • Use a simplified QFD chart to compare various programs and narrow down your choice to just a few
  • Test the waters by emailing/calling each software provider to evaluate their customer support and agility to respond to your requests in a timely manner.

A final note of caution: Not all these project management software programs will survive today’s competitive marketplace, and one can easily predict that only a few will remain in a few years. So make sure your selection is not just based on price and short-term advantages, but also looks further on the horizon.

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