Whether you are a freelancer, small business, or you work with a small group of collaborators, these tools are going to fit right at home. They will ensure you have all the help you need to propel your business to success.
However, I want to make sure those tools help with minimum impact on existing workflows. Too many tools offer to help manage projects but they end up requiring a lot of management on their own. The best tools, for small teams, should be very helpful and with minimum burden to implement and use.
If you offer professional services, or you are working on multiple projects for clients, managing your workload, priorities and time is really critical.
There are literally hundreds of project management apps. However, you could group them in a few categories.
Review Asana vs Trello vs Sam9000
In the first category, ultra simple tools, you may use something as simple as Excel and be very happy and productive. You may also consider a tool like Trello or other simple task management apps.
In the second category, you get a lot more productivity and efficiency. You should get a tool really able to manage multiple projects at the same time, and multiple users (or not).
If you are alone or in a small efficient team, you may want to be very careful what you select in this category. You probably want a tool working for you, not you working for the app.
What do I mean by this?
Many software in the second and third category are way too overly complicated and involved. Maybe all you want is to be more productive than using Excel or Notepad, and not the extra burden of a full blown project management system with complicated workflows, customization and steep learning curve.
In this case, I recommend a software like Sam9000. It fits within the first and second category. It is very easy to use, with an interface based on multiple Kanban boards, but powerful enough for larger teams working on many projects at once. See a list of best task management to get an idea of what is available.
If you are in a larger organization, with IT department and various management levels, meetings and reports requirements, something like Wrike or Asana, might be more appropriate.
This may drive you to the third category where these software stands firmly, along with others like Basecamp, Liquidplanner and others we will not cover at all in this article.These solutions cost a lot more, you should take that into consideration.
Asana is a good productivity and collaboration suite. This is why we include it in this article. It lacks built-in time tracking and document management, both of which are essential for keeping long-term projects on deadline and invoicing. But, Asana excels at task management, with a highly flexible interface that makes it possible to work within teams of any size. The platform’s suite of tools includes task assignment, workload management, and plenty of app integrations.
Asana provides subtasks, lists and “smart” recurring tasks, and they have project templates for everything. It looks so simple but can be hacked into working for almost any business, no matter how weird or specific their needs. In addition, the Timeline view makes it very intuitive to declare dependencies between tasks.
That said, the blank slate nature of Asana can be a challenge at first. Managers will want to spend some time figuring out what dashboard widgets and menu items work for their team. You can take advantage of Asana’s free plan to try out the software with a small group to see what structure works best.
On the down side
Asana it a top notch solution. Fortune 500 and solopreneurs use it everyday. Its flexibility and customization makes it versatile and powerful. This may be at the cost of a steep learning curve. It has integrations with .. well, about every other App relevant to project based teams. This means you can probably use it along tools you already use. That being said, there is less cohesion in this approach compared to a solution like Sam9000.
Asana really works if you put in place a strong process, clear communication and discipline in your team. The tool will not magically make you organized. No tool can. But in its case, prepare yourself to manage an extra tool, instead of the tool easily helping you with little change to your flow.
Although there is a free version, if you plan to use Asana professionally you need to select the Premium plan at least. Although they provide a price per user, there are minimums. As a result it will cost you at a minimum $54.99 monthly (minimum is 5 seats, even if you are a single user, at $10.99, as of this writing).
SAM9000 is really built to help Project based teams. The software itself is more specifically APM : Agile Productivity Management. At the core it is a task management and project management system. However, it is taking a radically different approach than others.
Artificial intelligence powers Sam. It monitors your projects, it can automatically schedule tasks based on priorities the team selected. This system is also very useful when it comes to file emails to your projects. Sam automatically suggests the project the email should be attached to. Sam's approach to artificial intelligence is always to assist, not replace. So you always have a chance to overrule the AI. The App really acts as an Assistant Project Manager for you and your team.
Sam is also using the latest Cloud technology (PWA). Sam is touch enabled, on all devices, not just smart phones.
It works with a mouse on regular computers, but you can always use it with just your finger (with touch screen computers). It is very user friendly, interactive and intuitive.
Sam really takes seriously what you need to complete projects as much as your tasks. This is why it integrates Emails, Files, Tasks and Project Priorities, in one seamless package. Sam even includes a Memo, or knowledge base system to let you capture notes that will help you across projects. Although you use Memos less often, it is often a life savior.
Of course, you could use several Apps and tools to achieve the same result. But you would always have to chase for important information for any particular project, every time. Clearly, Sam tries to avoid this, and this is also why it presents itself, in a way, as a virtual assistant, sorting and filing information for you in the right places.
Sam is also a project management app, however, the software intentionally avoids the usual tropes. There is no complex setup and configuration. The idea is to bring a powerful task management and document management, in one package, for people probably using Excel or Notepad to track projects.
The emphasis is on a light touch app, always active, on your screen or smartphone. Using Sam feels like using a powerful mobile App on your desktop. In fact, the App is completely hardware agnostic. You can use it on your laptop, smartphone, tablet, all at the same time. This way, if you work remotely or you are on the move, it is very easy to update projects, take notes, and get notifications from clients or other team members. All functions are available on all devices, all the time and in real time.
Do not confuse this ease of use with being simplistic. On the contrary, Sam does many things and very well, to help you with tracking and completing multiple projects.
One of the key feature you will not see in others often, is Email Management, including attachments.
Emails, in Sam, are first class documents. You have an inbox inside Sam, and this is where you file them in the right project. A nice touch is the AI, Sam, really, is like an assistant in many respects. This is true for tasks even more, but for emails, it is surprisingly helpful.
When you receive an email and you click the button to assign it to a project, Sam will suggest the project it thinks it belongs to. It makes filing many emails daily very fast.
For many creatives, professionals, in marketing or product management, a ton of emails come in and are critical to complete jobs. You can attach tasks to emails, and all attachments are automatically filed in the project as well.
You can easily refer to them later, and if you are working in a team, everyone can see the history of relevant emails, even though they did not receive it initially.
Task and Project Management
The most important focus in Sam are Tasks though.
You create projects in folders, and tasks in projects. It is very easy. You can create everything in Sam from the desktop App, or on a tablet or on your smartphone, in real-time.
To do this, Sam uses several Kanban boards. Unlike other Kanban tools, the top level Kanban uses cards for projects. You can open each project card ; it reveals an entire new Kanban board for that project. This board within board approach makes it easy to see progress at each level. In addition, each team member has a Kanban for her/his tasks specifically.
You can assign task to yourself, by default, or delegate them to someone else in your team. Then, when the task is done, you will get a notification to approve or not.
There is a full workflow there, and it is very intuitive too. But what is the most remarkable with tasks is how Sam deals with priorities.
Of course you can look at tasks individually, and select when to do them, delay etc. But you should use the Stack to change priorities. The Stack is a system to organize project per priority. It is so simple and so powerful at the same time.
Since all tasks are within, strictly, a parent project, when you change the priority of any project, Sam will reschedule all backlog for all team members.
This is because, Sam is a AI scheduling assistant. It will automatically reorder tasks on your dashboard based on the current priorities. Of course, if you were already working on something, that task will remain active. But others, might move to another day, so the project with high priority moves along.
Priorities can change anytime, in a very fluid way. If your workload is project based and very fluid, you will not be able to live without this functionality.
File Sharing and Uploads and other features
There is so much more, like File sharing. You can easily share documents with your team, internally. But you can also share files with clients. You could use Dropbox for this. But with Sam, you can see the history of shared documents, versions, you can easily deactivate sharing, etc.. More importantly, shares use simple links, no need for your clients to sign up for a public file sharing services just to get a download, as it happens sometimes.
Also, you can send a link to clients to upload a file. Yes, this is very useful for big files they cannot send by email. Of course, they could also use Dropbox or others. But in Sam, when you give them an uplink there are two advantages. First, they do not need to signup, at all. And they do not need to use their own service. Second, the upload, goes directly in the right project you selected. You and your team have direct access to it, in the right place, automatically.
There are other features like Memos I mentioned, and timesheets, but let us say, Sam does a lot with a very simple and powerful interface anyone can use in minutes. No complex setup or configuration, even for email integration.
Simple pricing, $29 per month, for up to 10 users and 100GB of storage. You can add users and storage if you need to. There is a free trial with everything for 30 days. This is the best way to see if the software is right for you, and compare it to others.
Milanote is a tool for organizing creative projects into beautiful visual boards. By design, it feels a lot like working on the wall in a creative studio - visual, tactile and sometimes a bit messy - Milanote is a great fit for designers who work in teams remotely.
- Write notes & to-do lists, upload images & files and save things you find on the web
- Organize visually using the flexible drag and drop interface.
- Boards by default are a private place to think, but with a single click you can create a shared workspace for collaboration with your team
- Milanote is filled with hundreds of built-in templates to help you get started with a variety of different projects, from creating a mood board to writing that perfect creative brief.
- Free version available with no time limit.
- PRO version $9.99 per month (monthly and annual plans)
Trello by Athlassian, think of Trello board as a whiteboard with the name of your project as its title. A ‘card’ is an item on your lits and every entry is treated as a “card” that you can drag around and do a bunch of cool stuff with. These cards can be organized under any list like ‘to-do’, ‘doing’ and ‘done’.
Project management is designed for projects that have a concrete end date and a deliverable, whereas kanban boards are designed to help teams manage different kinds of work, and not necessarily finite projects.
Your team can create boards from the main dashboard or from the Boards tab, and each board can be named to suit the project. You can then add in ‘To Do’, ‘Doing’ and ‘Done’ tasks. These can be scheduled for certain dates and times.
You cal filter Cards with colored labels add labels, for example ‘Due in the next week’. It is pretty useful to add privacy filtering for some cards, to keep them for yourself, or make them visible to the Team instead.
I have a hard time with it because there’s not a good way to view all cards across all projects by due date or on a calendar, but if you don’t need to set up multiple projects and you like the drag-and-drop interface, it could be the tool for you.
Trello Power-Ups add extra functionality. You can add buttons to boards, show previews of attachments on Trello cards, and more. Certain power-ups add a calendar view, voting, Google Drive. Power-ups are useful and let you do more with Trello.
Also, time-reporting tools Toggl and Harvest both offer integration with Trello. Indeed you can connect, bring together many different apps and tools to Trello. That's OK, but it is very involved. Many teams will prefer a single package that offers all the features they need in one App. However, if you have the resources to do it, this do it yourself approach might be a good solution for you.
Trello is an easy to use, flexible and fun project management tool. It includes a handy drag and drop feature when working on your boards.
Setup is straightforward and only takes a matter of minutes. You do not need a ton of information to get started – you only need your name, email, and password and you are ready to go. This is similar and as easy as Sam9000. Users are immediately brought to their own dashboard. You can work on a previously untitled board or create a new one.
Trello is a lightweight management solution which is most suited to those who do not need the general tools which accompany most project management apps.
Trello used to be fairly inexpensive, especially for teams smaller than 15 people or so, but as I mentioned, the price has doubled since 2015. Now Trello's cost is more in line with other business productivity apps, including dedicated project management apps, which offer a bit more. Trello now costs $9.99 per user per month, as of this writing.