Using a project management tool can be a substantial help in controlling project costs, allowing you to track progress accurately and ensuring the project delivers to its objectives. But it’s not very helpful if the tool becomes a black box with only one person in the business who understands how it works. Projects are all about collaboration, so businesses need a tool that helps the team to collaborate and makes essential information available to all.
The previous business model was that project software was set up, an administrator was tasked with collecting progress information, this was input and formal management reports were eventually provided. These were usually out of date by the time the business manager got to see them. Today’s businesses need a far more agile model. Collaboration tools for business are designed for an environment in which the team members input their progress as they go along and managers can use real-time dashboards to drill down and monitor costs, progress, resources and quality.
So let’s look at the best free project management tools for fulfilling these requirements.
This is a cloud-based tool that ticks both the collaboration and project management boxes. It can scale up or down to suit small businesses or larger organisations. Its great strength is its integration with other software tools – for example Google Calendar which can be used for scheduling tasks. Another good thing about ClickUp is that your project plan is stored “forever” if you wish and that there are no limits on the project size or the number of users.
Along with project management and collaboration features, this tool provides instant messaging, CRM database links and other useful functionality. It has an online shared project workspace, that includes a built-in planner. It allows external users to access the project, which can be useful if you want suppliers, contractors and others to input information. The free version is limited to 12 users, but you get 5Gb of free storage space online.
Freelancers and consultants might want to try Paymo. Like some of the larger packages, it offers Kanban boards for organising individual and team tasks. Paymo is only free for a single user, and only has one 1Gb of space online. That means collaboration isn’t a feature, so Paymo is really for small businesses or individuals.
When it comes to collaboration tools for business, Wrike has a very strong offering for small teams. The activity stream feature allows monitoring and management of tasks, while information is shared with the project team. It allows different views according to permissions granted, which improves security on confidential projects. Wrike also has strong cost tracking, time management and charting features. It’s free for up to five users and you can get 2 Gb of free storage.
Famous for its “Trello boards” and “Trello card” concepts, that can be used flexibly to organise the project, Trello’s free version has unlimited members, lists, boards, cards and checklists. If you’re a medium-sized or larger business, Trello’s freemium model is an easy way to move to a larger number of users, if an initial pilot is successful.