Top 10 Project Management Apps
It’s the year 2019, and you’re rethinking your project management workflow. You’ve got a few tools on your mind, but you’re trying to get a stock of everything that’s out there (or, your boss is, and you’re stuck doing the grunt work).
How do I know? Well, mostly because you’re here reading a 2500 word article about it rather than doing other things like having a life.
Rather than throw up a document with tons of features and pricing, we’re going to just attempt to give an objective overview of what each of these tools can and can’t do, so you can make a rational decision. And yes, we’re going to include our own tool and a completely unbiased review of it.
Ready to rumble? Let’s do it.
Trello has long been the gold standard of project management software, even after being acquired by Atlassian (and, well, never updating again). It doesn’t change, because it doesn’t have to - it’s long been the perfect tool for its target market, and as they say: if it ain't broke, don’t fix it. Arguably the original kanban board online, it remains the easiest.
You can create columns (or streams), and add cards into the columns. You can assign people into the cards, attach collateral, label, and move them between workstreams (or outright delete them).
There are no bells or whistles, it only does a few things, but it does those few things better than anyone else - which is why 20 million people use it today. It’s also free, with exceptionally flexible terms that won’t require an upgrade anytime soon (if ever). Trello is what it’s always been: a dirt simple tool for basic project management.
If you’re a solo operation or a small team, it’s probably perfect for you - but if your workflow is even remotely complicated, you’ll likely need one of the other options on the menu.
One of the fastest growing apps of the last few years, Airtable is a more non-traditional entrant into our pool. It’s essentially a spreadsheet tool - well, a spreadsheet on steroids flown through a black hole. It has all the power of Google Sheets with 10x more things - run automation, execute code, or even create kanban boards out of your spreadsheets.
The power of Airtable comes from its flexibility. In many ways, it allows you to essentially create your own project management tool - organize it in whatever management style you wish, and it’s powerful API and automation can let you hook into your other tools. You can even tie your project management into the rest of your organizational workflow - for instance, you could manage tickets on the same board that you keep your CRM, tying your product development to an actual customer database.
The issue is, Airtable does require adjusting to your needs, and you’re unlikely to get it to a perfect fit (compared to tools designed for project management). As such, it’s probably best as a sidekick - filling in where your main tool of choice leaves much to be desired.
It’s such a cool tool though. Go use it.
Speaking of young upstarts, Notion is the new kid on the block making a ton of waves. Like Airtable, it allows you to build your own project management setup, only with a bit more structure.
The basic foundation of Notion comes from the fact that you essentially get a blank canvas and dozens of widgets. The widgets range from everything from tables, to to-do lists, to kanban boards, to embeds from 3rd-party tools. You can create blank pages and add widgets into them - and here’s the kicker, you can add widgets inside widgets inside widgets and so on and so forth.
For example, you could create a page for a particular project, throw a kanban board as well as a calendar on it, and then include Github ticket embeds in the actual kanban. Neat, right?
Unfortunately, because it’s so flexible, Notion suffers from one major issue: it has no integrations. No self-respecting modern operation should have a standalone project management workflow without any kind of automation, and therein lies the main flaw with Notion - either you run your entire organization’s workstreams on it, or it starts to lose effectiveness.
Dun dun dun dun - well, it’s finally here.
Look, we’re not being facetious - we wouldn’t be in business if we couldn’t put up a fight with the other big guns listed on here. There are many use cases the rest of the list is better at - but depending on your situation, Breeze might be the perfect choice.
Ever used Trello and thought “huh, this would be just perfect if it only had….”. Well, you’re not alone - nearly everyone who uses Trello eventually has to begrudgingly migrate off of it because of a few missing pieces. Breeze aims to fill that gap - enabling you to have your cake and eat it too.
Breeze gives you the standard beautifully simple Kanban of Trello, with a few additions. For example, Breeze gives you a birds-eye view of project progress (and actually lets you manage projects in a managerial kind of way rather than the silly folder structure of Trello). It also lets you view your tasks in other views, like top-down lists. Finally, it’s also got the all-needed calendar, as well as team collaboration and reporting features.
Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Told you.
If Trello is a precision pistol with a silencer, Asana is a railgun.
Seriously - this thing is so jam packed with features you could use it for years without getting to half the nuts and bolts. And with good reason - Asana was designed with a single use case in mind: power massive enterprise.
To be completely frank, there’s almost no reason to use Asana if you aren’t a big company - there’s so much to it, it’s going to make you less efficient than more if you’re not using it in it’s entirety. And as a solo or young team operation, you will most certainly not be using more than 10 or 20% of what Asana punches through.
With that said, if you’re a large organization skyrocketing into larger, Asana is probably the perfect tool for you - it’s taken everything those old, bulky, SAP-type tools were meant to do and modernized them into a streamlined machine. Advanced milestones, 3d timelines, security and permissions, deep integrations - Asana has the works, with works on top of it.
"Whatever you do, you can do it in Asana" - that’s their slogan, and it’s probably not far from the truth.
Alright - we lied. Asana isn’t the only elephant in town. Wrike is a competitor for the big boys as well, designed for large enterprise operations. Wrike sets itself apart through one thing - communication. They try to solve the age-old problem of massive corporations communicating about as badly as an old Soviet couple.
Custom dashboards and ridiculously deep integrations - that’s what sets Wrike apart, and it’s clear why: they want to be the single source of truth for every single function in your organization. From marketing, to creative, to engineering, they enable massive teams of each to properly maintain dashboards ideal for their workflow in a centralized place.
Asana and Wrike have similar audiences, with slight differences - namely, Wrike focuses more heavily on reporting and cross-communication between functions. Custom dashboards, real-time alerts, real-time reporting, open calendars, syncing between functions - these are Wrike’s bread and butter.
So, if you want ridiculously punchy features to drive your project work at a big organization, Asana is probably better. If you want to keep all communication streamlined, Wrike should be your weapon of choice.
(If you’re not a mammoth organization, neither option is all that suitable for you.)
Teamweek is to Gantt charts what Trello is to Kanban boards. If you’re looking for a beautifully simple Gantt chart to manage your team’s tasks, this is the tool for you - again, no frills, no fuss, just the basics with some nice UI tied in.
Teamweek’s purpose is simple - birds-eye scheduling. If you’re looking for advanced task planning, different views, etc. this isn’t for you. If you’re looking to manage an entire organization’s projects, this isn’t for you. If you’re even looking to manage development work for a relatively large team, this probably isn’t for you.
If you’re looking for a ridiculously streamlined way of managing simple workstreams, there isn’t a better tool in the market. If all you need is a simple way to list and visualize your different teammates, the different tasks they need to work on, and when those tasks need to be completed, then this is the tool for you.
Teamweek counts massive companies like AirBnB, Netflix, and Microsoft as their customers, so it’s certainly a good tool even for larger companies - just remember what it’s designed for, and don’t try to make it do anything else.
The domino that started it all. Every item on this list was inspired by Basecamp, the company founded by Jason Fried, Carlos Segura, and Ernest Kim all the way back in 1999.
Although other tools like Asana and Trello slowly took the mantle away, Basecamp was the original kingpin of project management and set in stone a lot of the guidelines we follow as law nowadays. With that said, Basecamp is still a very good tool for a lot of use cases - with a few select limitations.
Basecamp is centred around collaboration much more so than planning. Tools such as it’s Campfire group chat and it’s 500 GB of built-in storage space are what set it apart - it’s more than just a project management tool, its a collaborative workspace, intended to also partially replace tools like Slack, Dropbox, etc.
The problem is, while all of this is well and good, it does take away from the project management side a bit - Basecamp does a poor job of birds-eye view planning and reporting, and most of its project management features are day-to-day (to-do lists, task managers, etc.).
If the workspace features fit your bill, Basecamp is the best option on the list - however, if you’re exclusively looking for project management features, other options on the list will give you a better bang for your buck.
Alright, bear with me here - what Breeze is to Trello, Monday is to Teamweek.
If you’ve used Teamweek or similar Gantt software and thought “if only it had a bit of extra juice”, Monday might be the tool for you. The foundation of Monday is a Gantt chart, but you can wrap that chart around a number of different templates. The templates offer everything from calendars, to maps, to resource allocation charts and more - and it’s all anchored around the Gantt chart.
Some templates include product sprint planning, sales pipelines, delivery/logistics managers, etc. They use a brilliant mix of Kanbans and calendars and sneaky UI tricks to essentially transform the humble Gantt chart into a productivity machine, letting you enable whatever workflow fits your team the best. They even have some collaboration features like Basecamp.
At the end of the day though, Monday is still based on the old spreadsheet/Gantt information organization style - it’s not well suited for scenarios where you need to manage multiple projects in parallel. A single project/work stream with defined rules and timeline, though? Monday excels.
Jira is usually not a common inclusion on this list - it’s the weapon of choice for product managers and programmers because it’s designed to manage engineering sprints & product cycles.
So, why are we mentioning it?
Well, ever since Atlassian swallowed up Trello, it’s impacts have been felt across the rest of its product line. JIRA once had a reputation for being insanely difficult to use, and exclusively geared around software projects. There was a time when just hearing the name JIRA made developers shuddered - and everyone else confused.
Today, however, it’s a different story. Atlassian has developed JIRA into a well-oiled, intuitive to use machine, and it’s actually not a bad option for non-software development projects as well. Especially when paired with other Atlassian tools like Confluence, it’s a great choice if you have a project with a lot of moving parts - JIRA is great at managing large, complex projects with lots of stakeholders and types of deliverables, as well as integrating with 3rd party tools.
At the end of the day though, JIRA will still remain the ideal choice for software projects, and if your use case is completely devoid of software work, something like Breeze or Monday is probably a better option.
So, that’s a nice massive big list of different platforms - so what do you actually choose? The problems with these lists is that they’re infinitely hard to make a decision on because they just blurt out a ton of different features at you. What should you actually choose?
Well, here’s a basic decision matrix.
Are you a very large software company, looking to align multiple stakeholding groups? Choose something like Wrike or Asana - they’re designed for massive organizations that simply can’t move with the quick and dirty tools. If you plan on managing software projects as well, consider JIRA - but give it a test run before you really commit to it.
Are you a solopreneur/freelancer/one-(wo)man-operation? Consider something like Trello, Breeze or Teamweek. Trello and Teamweek are dirt simple, and an easy way to get up and running and start planning right away. Breeze has a few more quirks that’ll let you stick around on it for a lot longer, but is still really easy to get set up on - you probably know what our suggestion is!
Do you just want a simple, yet robust project management tool that can scale with your organization? If you want to make the decision simple for yourself, go with Breeze or Monday. They’re the ideal middle-of-the-road tools - simple enough that small teams and solopreneurs can pick them up without much hassle and get moving, but powerful enough that even bigger companies use them to run a lot of their day to day operations.
At the end of the day, a good carpenter never blames his tools - but a good tool certainly helps. It ultimately does boil down to how you use the tool, and all of these platforms are very powerful and are likely good enough for what you need - it’s important to just pick something that feels intuitive, and doesn’t get in the way of work.
Because the last thing you want to deal with is a project management tool that impedes your work.