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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Project Management Software for Your Startup

When you are managing a project, there are multiple different areas that you need to consider. If you’re a startup, then making sure that you manage your projects effectively is going to be crucial for your growth as a business.

Within project management, there are numerous different metrics that have to be measured. Action then needs to be taken to steer the project in an efficient direction based on the information that is available.

There are two different types of project management systems, firstly, you have dedicated project management software and then you have what is called a “general software application”.

All project management systems will be suitable for some businesses, but not suitable for others. In this guide, we will help you to select the best system to suit your needs.

You can learn more about project management and different systems here.

Different Types of Project Management Systems

General Software Applications

A general software application can be many different things because by definition they are a type of software that is multi-purpose and can be used for multiple different things.

Some examples of general software applications are-

As you may have noticed, all of these systems can be used for multiple different tasks, although they have are not designed specifically for project management. Despite this, they can be incredibly valuable for planning and organising your project. For this reason, Microsoft Excel, a spreadsheet application, is incredibly popular. This is also because the documents created, are easy to read and navigate, as well as having the ability to be protected with a password, which helps to keep your project slightly more secure.

Spreadsheets also have other, different functions that can be of use when managing your project. Separate spreadsheets can be created in the same file, for ease of reading and efficiency. This means you could have details of your budgeting information, your current marketing trends, a risk assessment and your potential roadblocks, all in one place.

Because of their ease of use and their relatively low cost, this type of software can be useful for project management.

Despite them being cost-effective, you risk using very generic tools for the job. You should only exclusively rely on this type of software when your project is simple and low-cost.

Dedicated Project Management Software

There are numerous different products and services that would be classed as “ dedicated project management software”, these systems can help you to track all of the different variables, whilst assisting you in running your project effectively. In fact, they can be used to help manage the following different aspects of a project-

  • Quality Control

  • The Allocation of Resources

  • Risk Management Strategies

  • Control of your Budget and Costs

  • Maintaining Schedules

  • Making Decisions

Different kinds of dedicated project management software are designed to be used in different ways. For example, you have certain software which would be called “collaborative”, this means that it is designed to have multiple different users making edits to the system at the same time. In contrast to this, you have “single-user” software, which is designed to be used by one person at a time.

Examples of Dedicated Project Management Systems

There are numerous different systems available. In this part, we will examine the software packages below, so you can learn a little bit more about them.

Trello

Trello is a project management software that was initially designed by Fog Creek Software in 2011. It was then set up as its own company and was sold to Atlassian during January 2018.

Trello sticks to a very visual setup and has a very simple working method, based on drag-and-drop technology and a very easy to use interface.

Despite this, Trello does not come with built-in Gannt Charts, reporting tools or tools for tracking time spent on tasks. These things can be added through plugins and other integrations, however, you will have to do this yourself.

“Powerups” that are available with Trello include but are not limited to, Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, Salesforce, Slack and Github.

In terms of cost, Trello has four different packages available:

Free Package: The Free Package allows you to do a lot of different things with Trello, however, you are limited to only uploading files smaller than 10MB. You can also, only have one integration per board and one powerup.

Gold Package: This package is priced at $5 per month. With this package, your file size limit increases to 250MB and you can add three different powerups to each board.

Trello Business Class: This package costs $9.99 per month, per user. With this package, you can have an unlimited number of powerups on any board that you choose, and various options for customisation.

There are also administrative features built into this package. These include being able to delete user accounts without wiping their contributed data, giving people “read-only” permissions and restrictions on who can create and view boards. This package also allows integration with Google Apps.

Trello Enterprise: This package uses a customised pricing format, meaning it will be dependent on the customer. This is usually meant for organisations who have over 100 members of staff.

Trello Enterprise is only different to Trello Business Class because you get a dedicated account manager, a contact telephone number and the option of making your billing process simpler.

Trello is currently used by different government agencies and businesses, worldwide. Some major examples are Google, Kickstarter, National Geographic and the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service.

Slack

Slack is a group of collaboration and tools, which works on a cloud-based system. It was created by Stuart Butterfield in 2013.

Users join their communities by using a link, sent by the administrator of that Slack account, providing the user with access.

Some of the features of Slack include ongoing chat rooms, privatised groups and private direct messaging.

This allows a company’s staff to communicate efficiently, without being over-encumbered by unnecessary internal emails. Everyone can speak to every other person in the chat room. This can then be broken down into the privatised groups, which can take the shape of different teams in their own project groups. Users can privately and directly message other users in their chat room.

Slack is integrated with a lot of third-party apps and can support integrations built by their own community. Some examples of the integrations are Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox, Box and Github.

Slack also provides API so that its users can create their own applications and can automate their internal processes.

Slack operates on a free and paid basis.

Free: You cannot make group calls and when your entire team is uploading, you have a storage limit of 5GB. Finally, free-users can only add ten external app integrations into their system.

Standard: The standard package removes a lot of the limitations that are exhibited by the free version of Slack. You can search your entire message history, unlimited external integrations, approved guests can enter your account and your file storage will increase to 10GB per person.

This costs $8 per user, per month.

Slack+: Slack+ has all of the features currently covered and increases the file storage limit to 20GB per person. There is also the promise of receiving a response to support enquiries within 4 hours.

This costs $15 per user, per month.

There is a further package with Slack, called the Enterprise Package, however, prices for this are not openly available. It simply allows for incredibly large businesses to have multiple Slack “spaces” which are all under the same roof.

Monday.com

Monday.com (Monday), is a collaboration tool that was created in 2012 by Roy Man and Eran Kampf.

Monday allows you to create numerous different boards for your projects and also allows you to fill these boards with rows (pulses). These pulses can be filled with a variety of information for tasks like time tracking, metrics and much more.

With regards to pricing, Monday doesn’t allow you to create an account for less than five people, then the number of users increases again by 5, every time you wish to add more. There are also varying packages available.

Basic: This package costs $29 per month, for up to 5 users. This plan includes 5GB of storage space, unlimited boards and support around the clock. However, the search system for this plan is simplistic and you can only filter by user, which can be problematic. Furthermore, users miss out on a lot of the more technical features of Monday.

Standard: This package costs $48 per month for up to five users. It includes all of the features of the basic package and includes additional features such as, advanced searching, third-party integrations, the ability to share boards with a guest, an API and a Timeline, which is similar to a Gantt Chart. The storage space also increases to 50GB.

Pro: This package costs $72 per month, for up to five users. With this plan, you get everything in the Standard package with the addition of private boards for each user, advanced stats for activity, Google Authentication and customisable user profiles. With this plan, storage is unlimited.

Enterprise: This package costs $144 per month for up to five users. This package includes everything from the Pro Package, with the addition of “VIP Support”, one-to-one training, two-step authentication, more in-depth security features and a log for auditing.

Asana

Asana is a web and mobile-based tool that is used to help teams to track their work and better organise themselves. It’s aimed for users who have to manage more than one project at a time. It includes task management, built-in notifications, a customer portal, basic reports, tools for collaboration and the ability to assign tasks.

Asana can host numerous different third-party apps for integration. Some of these include Dropbox, Slack, Box and Google Drive.

Asana itself has four different packages available.

Free: This package as its name suggests, doesn’t cost anything. It offers the most basic project management features such as project viewing, assigning to tasks, due dates, viewing your calendar and the reception of status reports.

Premium: This package costs $11.99 per month, with the option of a free, thirty-day trial. This plan has all of the same features as the Basic package, with the addition of timelines, advanced reports, customisable fields, privatised teams and projects, task dependents and the use of premium content in the Asana Academy.

Business: This package costs $23.99 per month. You can request a free trial if you would like to feel it out first. It contains all of the features of the Premium plan, with the addition of portfolios, locking of custom fields and resource management. You can also build an onboarding plan using the Asana customer service team.

Enterprise: The price for this package is not publicly available, if you want to learn more about this package, you will need to email Asana for a quote. The package offers all of the features of the Business package, with the addition of SAML, Customisable branding, the ability to export data, the ability to erase data, prioritised customer support and much more.

What Different Factors Should Affect your Decision?

The main thing that you should consider when using project management software, is your specific requirement. There are numerous different things that will factor into your requirement. We’ll be discussing them in this section.

Also, you should be aware that there are always, less well-known, good alternatives to the systems that we have covered in this guide. You should always be on the lookout for a better deal, or a system that is better suited to your startup.

Team Size

One of the first things that you should consider when looking at different software packages, is the size of your team. What I mean by this is, you should consider how effective a package will be for a company of your size.

For example, if you only have a few members of staff, you may not want to use Monday. This is because you will end up having to pay for user accounts that you wouldn’t immediately use, due to their billing policy.

Furthermore, if you have a smaller team size, you may not need to go for the most expensive packages to get your needed storage space. This is because your team will need to store fewer files than a larger business would have to.

Making sure that your team size is a factor in your decision, will make your project management more cost-effective and efficient. You don’t want to spend loads of money on something you don’t really need.

Alternatively, if you are a larger business, it is very likely that you should be targeting more comprehensive solutions.

Industry

The industry that you operate in will have a massive effect on the type of project management system that you need to use. This is because projects in different industries will have different kind of tasks, different levels of collaboration and a different number of workers within the project.

For example, if you are a business that will be designing and building mobile applications or other technical ventures, then you may need a more complex project management system, with a large amount of storage. This would mean that may need to invest in a more expensive system with more features and storage space.

A complex project with the wrong project management system will become even more complex. This can be very damaging to your startup.

On the other hand, if you are operating in a less technical market, that requires a little less complexity such as graphic design, you may be better off using a slightly less technical system. Otherwise, you could be paying for features that you don’t need.

Look at The Costs Involved

Obviously, some project management systems are more expensive than others. You need to make sure that you buy the right type of package based on your own needs. For example, if you only require a simplistic system, due to the nature of your project, you may be okay simply purchasing the cheapest subscription from one of the packages above. In fact, to pay for an advanced system in this situation, could be a waste of money as you may hardly use a lot of the features.

You should strongly consider the costs across different company products to ensure that you pay for the correct system, for the right cost.

In contrast to this, if your needs are quite complex, you should look at the more advanced packages offered by the various businesses. If you have the money to spend, you might as well go for the best option available. This is because you may incur more losses due to the inefficiencies created from using the wrong kind of system.

How Complex is Integration?

Even if a project management system has all of the bells and whistles that are on the market, it must be reasonably simple to implement. This is because even if you’ve paid big money for a great product, complications when implementing your system can lead to a few headaches. You could lose a lot of productivity, which would lead to decreased sales, which turn will damage the growth of your business.

What you should do, is work out an integration plan once you have selected what system you wish to use. This is the time for you to evaluate how quickly and simple the transition will be. You will need to get every member of your team trained on the software so that they understand what they need to do. Running a few in-house training sessions or using an online tutorial is highly recommended.

Outcome of a Test Run

The best way to figure out whether you have a system that you like is to try it out for yourself. As previously mentioned, quite a few different software packages offer free-trials, to see if you like their product. It is definitely recommended that you take advantage of as many of these as possible whilst making a choice.

Whilst testing out these systems, you can get a feel for how they operate and you can also get a feel for the things that you don’t like about them. You should also collect feedback from your team, to see how they feel about the different systems that you have trialled.

If you do this, you will be able to get a clearer picture of the different products that are out there.

Conclusion

In conclusion, when it comes to project management systems, bigger is not always better. You should always steer clear of unnecessary complexity and go for a system that will help to make your team more efficient, which of course, is the aim of a project management system.

Furthermore, if you are a startup, you need to make sure that you do not experience a lot of downtime due to a botched integration.

As a startup business, cash flow is crucial. Sure, the best packages may seem low-cost at first, but you need to make every penny count. If you can cut out additional costs by using a system with fewer tools, without compromising on your project’s quality, then you should definitely do so.

Also, you should always run tests, using free trials of different project management systems, once you have identified some that interest you.

If you are currently unsure of what software to use, check out the packages we have detailed in this guide, in a bit more depth. Then, type in something close to “great project management systems for a startup”. From this, you should have numerous alternatives available. Research these and measure them against the metrics that we spoke about in the final section.

If you do all of these things, finding your perfect software should be a cinch.

To read more of our posts about managing your startup, please  check out our blog.

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