Project Management Apps: Which Is Best For Your Team?

41ca9_290_DeployToolsIn past jobs, I always found managing team team projects by email a challenge.

Members not on key email chains are left in the dark, and important messages get buried in overstuffed inboxes.

At one workplace, we instituted a team task management system that I won’t name, but it was so awful, I actually thought it was worse than email: Like email, it offered no transparency, so you could only see who you’d sent a task to, but not whether they still had it or whether it had moved on, so you had no idea who was working on it, how close the task or project was to completion or what steps remained.

A slew of some new and some not-so-new tools aims to make team management easier and take it mostly off email, but the variety is overwhelming.

I tried out several, including Apptivo, AtTask, Droptask, Huddle, Podio, Smartsheet, Wrike and Zoho Projects.  To compare apples to apples, I eliminated some systems that were more complex and offered much more capability than just the ability to manage team projects without email (for instance, Wrike, Podio and Huddle). I also discarded some others whose interfaces I simply didn’t find immediately user-friendly enough.

Eventually, I narrowed the field to three popular and quite disparate ones at different price points that all offered iPhone, iPad and Android apps: Asana, which was founded in 2011 by former Facebook cofounder Dustin Moscovitz and engineer Justin Rosenstein, Basecamp, which was developed in 2004 but relaunched with a new version in 2012 and Trello, which uses kanban, a scheduling system developed at Toyota, and was launched as its own company this year.

Each team management app enables you to create projects and tasks, assign them to team members and upload attachments. They also all have their own calendar view and display tasks on other calendars such as Google Google, Outlook and iCal.

Another facet I liked about all of them is that they connect to third-party Gantt chart apps that give a visual representation of project timelines. I highly recommend Gantt charts for project management, whether you work on a team or solo. They are visual representations of how long each project will likely take and what your start and finish dates are. It is immensely helpful not only in projecting future timelines but also determining when you have too much work on your plate.

Among these three, preference is a matter of taste and budget.

Asana Dashboard

Asana Dashboard


How It Works: Create lists of tasks and subtasks that can be used for project management, goal-setting, brainstorming and meeting agendas. Customizable views such as by due date or project. Conversations within tasks and subtasks. Tasks can also be made visible only to assignees/followers.

User-Friendliness: Spartan, text- and list-heavy; an engineering aesthetic requiring a learning curve; assignee photo attached to task; many how-to videos.

Pricing: Free for unlimited numbers of teams up to 15 members each; prices start at $50 a month for 15 members and go up to $800/month for 100 members.

Unique Features: Integrations with Dropbox, Evernote, WordPress, Harvest, HipChat, Google Drive and more; numerous keyboard shortcuts; “hearts” enable team members to vote on ideas.

Basecamp screenshot

Basecamp screenshot

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