Best project management software- A guide

What is the best project management software for your team and your projects? Is there a project management application that fits everybody’s requirements and needs?

The short answer is no! Depending on your industry, team size, project complexity and your team’s experience the requirements for project management software change.

What a small company needs is different than the needs of big corporations. Startups have a very different set of requirements than established companies when choosing a PM software.

So how do you choose the best online project management software for your team? In this article, I lay down the processes that you need to follow for selecting the right project management software for your business.

This is not a product review article, but a guide on how to choose the right software for your needs. There are hundreds of comparison sites which write articles like “The 10 best project management software for 2017” or “Top 25 project management software” etc.

Take the articles in these sites with a grain of salt. One project management solution does not fit everybody’s needs. In addition, most of these comparison sites are stealth paid advertisement websites and require payments for writing good reviews.

instead of giving the reader a list of the best project management software, which I think is a waste of time, I provide the reader a tool that enables him or her to choose the application that best fits their requirements.

Remember the project management software market is extremely dynamic and the landscape changes from week to week.

So the best solution today may not be the best solution in a week, a month or a year from now.

When you are in the market for project management software (or any other software for that matter) you need to answer the following twelve questions before you do anything else.

  1. What is the pain in managing my projects? Why do I need a project management app?
  2. Is the tool will be for personal or group projects?
  3. Do we have time to learn a complex application or we don’t have a minute to spare?
  4. What is the industry I am working on?
  5. What is the size of my team?
  6. Are we a startup or established company?
  7. Is this the first time we are using project management software, or we have used one before?
  8. Do we have a favorite project management methodology?
  9. Is our team local or distributed?
  10. What is our budget for PM software?
  11. Do we need our PM tool to be integrated with other applications we use?
  12. Is our team is growing or will remain the same size for the near future?

Depending on how you answer the above questions, the right project management software will be different for you than what your friend who works in the different industry and different circumstances will be using.

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Selecting the best Project management software

The best project management software for your business

Not all project management applications are equal or fit to handle your project’s specific needs. Not all software packages answer all your questions listed above.

Some applications are simple task managers. Others support only one project management methodology. There are four categories of project management software on the market today:

  1. Simple to do (check) list
  2. Visual PM tools which only support Agile or Kanban
  3. Collaborative project management tools
  4. Enterprise project management tools

In this article, we only target SaaS project management software and not the old desktop varieties.

The days of installing and updating software on your PC are over. Customers need applications that are available instantly, from anywhere and using any device.

What features do I need in a project management software?

A question often people ask when selecting project management software is what features are good to have in the PM application?

A better question is, what features you absolutely need to do your job right? The most common features in PM applications for areas listed below.

Obliviously not everybody needs all the feature listed here, but this is a comprehensive list and you can use it as a checklist for what you need now and what you may need in the future.

By comparing different packages you should be able to choose the best project management application for your projects.

1-Task management

  • Subtasks many levels deep (at least 6 levels)
  • Ability to add dependencies
  • Assigning on task to multiple people
  • Tools for showing the task’s progress from start to finish
  • recursive tasks
  • Ability to attach files to tasks
  • Ability to comment on tasks
  • Ability for attaching tags to tasks
  • Interactive Gantt chart which shows critical path

2-Support for project management methodologies

3-Team Communication tools

  • Messageboard
  • Instant chat
  • Internal messaging
  • notification

4-Collaboration tools for brainstorming

5-Time tracking and invoicing

6-Resource loading and balance

7-Workspace management for tracking multiple projects

8-Bug tracking & bug reporting

9-Workspace calendar

10-Risk management

11-project budgeting

12-Document management

13-Security, is your data safe and retrievable if you decide to leave the service?

Third party integration

Your team’s documents and data are in multiple applications. Isn’t nice to have all your project & team data be accessible from your project management software?

There are a few applications which are absolutely worth having them integrated with project management apps. This is a short list I have here:

  1. Google Calendar
  2. Google Drive
  3. Google Docs
  4. Gmail, Outlook or other email services
  5. Dropbox
  6. Box
  7. CRM software (Salesforce, SugarCRM etc)
  8. Finance/budget management software (Quicken, Mint etc.)
  9. Billing software
  10. Communication tools (Google Hangouts, Skype etc.)

Choosing the right project management software

So how you choose the best project management software for your team? After deciding what features you need in the PM app, you need to decide which category of project management application from the list above is right for you.

To help the reader to select the best project management software, I have listed which one of the above categories best fit typical teams based on team size, industry, teams experience and company’s maturity.

This list is based on my experience managing hundreds of small and large projects in different companies and industries. Notice that there is a lot of overlap in these options below since some projects can use more than one option from the above list.

Option 1- Simple to-do or checklists

  • Personal projects
  • Small teams who don’t have much experience with project management
  • Projects which are repeated every week or month or quarter. As an example, an accountant will do the same exact things for her clients preparing quarterly tax filings.
  • Startups who just started their first project and are experimenting
  • Simple project and take a few days to finish
  • Freelancers

Option 2- Visual PM tools using Kanban or boards

  • Personal projects
  • Small teams who don’t have much experience with project management
  • Projects which are repeated every week or month or quarter. As an example, an accountant will do the same exact things for her clients preparing quarterly tax filings.
  • Small marketing and advertising teams
  • Small HR teams
  • Freelancers
  • blogger scheduling their posts

Option 3- Collaborative project management

  • Startups with more than 5 employees in their projects
  • Teams with less than 500 members
  • Software development teams
  • Engineering teams
  • Medium to Large marketing teams
  • Medium to large sales teams
  • Medium to large PR firms
  • Educational institutions
  • consulting or staffing companies
  • Companies employing freelancers and contractors
  • Web development teams
  • Copywriting teams
  • distributed teams working from multiple locations

Option 4- Enterprise project management

  • Teams having PMO
  • Teams larger than 500 members
  • Teams with extensively experienced project manager
  • Projects in aerospace
  • Projects in government
  • projects in health and medical field
  • Projects in heavy constructions (roads, bridges & high rise buildings)
  • Defense industry
  • multinational corporations

The above lists are not exhaustive but should provide a solid guideline to use when you are selecting project management software.

It is important to try for a couple of weeks the application before deciding to open your wallet. Most project management vendors have a free trial option. It is a good way to evaluate the applications which you are considering to purchase.

As you might already know Binfire fits in the third category listed about. Give Binfire a try for free and see how it can help you manage your projects better, faster and safer.

David Robins


David Robins is the founder and CEO of Binfire. David studied at both Cornell and MIT, and was the Director of Software Engineering at Polaroid for 11 years.

  1. Great article, David, thank you for sharing. I think it's really important to choose the right software to meet your needs. In a small team of developers we use this tool called Deskun, works just fine for us.

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