How to Choose a Project Management System

Whether you're a team of one or work with others, keeping work organized is critical to making progress.  Implementing a project management system is a great way to do just that.  You may have been thinking about checking some out but are wondering how to choose the right project management system for your business.

The challenge is that there are so many amazing tools out there right now.

While you want to make sure you’re choosing one that will increase your productivity, improve communication with your team, and make running your business more efficient, not all project management tools are created equal.

So, how do you choose one then?

In this post, we’ll look at four questions every small business owner should ask before committing to a project management tool.

What is a Project Management Tool?

A project management tool is an app or software whose purpose is to help you plan, organize, and manage projects and systems while streamlining communication with your team.  Whether you have a staff or are a team of one, a project management tool can help you save time and make business management easier.

Do You Really Need a Project Management System?

The real question is — Do you NEED to use a project management tool?

If you have a team, then yes.  A project management system is a must.  We'll cover how to determine those needs in the next section.

However, if you're a solopreneur, the answer to that is, “It depends.”  I know, I know.  Don't cringe!

While you should absolutely be establishing systems, there are simpler ways to record those systems.  For example, you could create your processes in a Word Doc and organize them in a folder on your computer.  Or you could organize your systems in Google Drive.

If it's just you, the question you must ask yourself is this, “Do I have the time to spend learning a new tool, setting up my processes in that tool and managing that tool?”  If you're already overwhelmed with all you have to do, then the answer may be no.  However, if you know that you'll soon be ready to start building a team OR if you work with clients, then continue reading!

How to Choose a Project Management System: 4 Questions to Ask

1. Does it Meet Your Team’s Needs?

It’s easy to get sucked into buying the biggest, most feature-rich project management software — whether you need all those features or not.

However, keep in mind that tools that have tons of features are priced accordingly. If you’re not using all those features, you’re just throwing money out the window.  And I can't stand wasting money!

Start by thinking about how you and/or your team currently manage projects. For example, you may want to consider the following:

  • What does your workflow typically look like?
  • How do you collaborate?
  • What features do you need to help streamline your current processes?

Most business owners expect their project management software to include time tracking and task management. However, some other features you may (or may not) need include:

  • Project management boards
  • Team project management and collaboration tools (ability to share documents, chat, assign tasks, etc.)
  • Ability to include “observers” or outside collaborators (e.g., clients)
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Progress tracking
  • Gantt charts to help you visualize projects
  • Portfolio management

As your very first step, write down the features you’re looking for in your project management software. This way you can make sure you’re only testing out tools that meet your specific needs!

2. Does it Meet YOUR Needs?

It’s important that your project management software offers the structure and features that work for both you and your team.

It’s important that your project management software offers the structure and features that work for both you and your team.Click To Tweet

If you end up with a tool that isn’t a natural fit for your own work style, it will be much harder to stick with it and use it to its full potential.

For instance, I’m a highly visual person, so any tool I use has to have a strong visual element. This is why I like It offers multiple types of board and project views, the ability to organize our projects and content in a simple but eye-catching way, create forms, track time, communicate with team members, and much more.  It's easy to see where we are at in any project simply through the use of color.  That's important to me.

So, know what's important to you.  Because the purpose of having a project management system is to use it!

3. Does it Fit Your Budget?

The cost of project management software varies, wildly.

For instance, with a  tool like Asana, you can get started with basic project management for free; whereas a much more advanced tool like Workfront won't even tell you the cost.  “Request pricing” equals “expensive” in my experience.

Keep in mind that when you pay for tools, the cost can add up quickly, especially when you start to build your team beyond more than just a few people.

As a small business owner, you need the biggest bang for your buck, so here are a few of the least expensive – yet still extremely effective – project management tools out there:

  • Ora. When I was a solo entrepreneur, I used this project management software tool and I loved it.  It's also one of the least expensive. For 10 users, you can manage unlimited projects and tasks, absolutely free. For larger teams and more functionality, paid plans start at just $5.99 per user per month if paid annually.
  • Trello. Trello is a favorite among small business owners. They offer a free plan with up to 10 team boards, and their paid plans start at $5 per user per month if paid annually.
  • Teamweek. Teamweek is a highly-visual project management tool that offers a free 14-day trial, a free plan for up to five users, and a paid plan for just $8 per user per month if paid annually.

4. Can You Try It Out Before You Buy It?

Some tools look great on paper, but in practice may be clunky, confusing, or may not meet your needs at all.

If you’ve used project management software before, you may already have a good idea of the features and functionalities you need. But if you’re new to the world of project management, I definitely recommend test-driving a tool before committing to it.

And I’m not just talking about a demo or limited-feature trial. Make sure that whatever tool you try lets you run through a complete project, start to finish, so you can be assured it fully meets your needs before you buy.

Final Thoughts on How to Choose a Project Management System

I hope this post gave you some clarity on how to choose a project management system that's right for you.  And that this was helpful.

Using a tool to manage your projects isn't the only way to boost your productivity though.  There are many tools to help you manage your time so you're more productive.  For example, a simple daily planner can help you get organized, stay focused, and make better progress.

Are you ready to start testing out project management systems? If so, which ones are you going to try? Let me know in the comments below!

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