Project management software helps teams plan, implement, and manage projects from start to finish. Giving everyone a unique log in to view their tasks, upload files, and contribute to discussions makes it easy to stay on task, and gives managers a high-level view of how projects are progressing. We looked at a variety of project management software solutions and narrowed it down to the top six.
The best project management systems for 2020 are:
- Basecamp: Best overall for teams of 10 or more, it combines project management with group chat and cloud storage.
- Trello: Best for small teams & those who want simple task management that adapts quickly into your team’s existing workflow.
- Asana: Best for larger teams that require a high level of organization & task automation.
- monday.com: Best for visual learners who want multiple ways to view projects such as kanban, timeline, calendar, and map views.
- Wrike: Best for creative teams who produce videos or graphics as deliverables.
- ActiveCollab: Best for businesses that want built-in time tracking and invoicing tools for easy client billing.
How We Evaluated Project Management Software
Choosing the best project management system is a matter of weighing the price of the software with the features you need. All project management systems give you the ability to create projects, assign tasks to team members, and track their progress. More advanced programs provide Gantt charts to plan and monitor projects more effectively, and automation to assign dependent tasks automatically. Some also include invoicing, cloud storage, group chat, and more.
At the same time, managers want to avoid a steep learning curve so they can assure that employees use the program, and support is regularly available when needed. For this reason, we also looked carefully at ease-of-use and quality of customer service.
Best Overall Project Management Software for Small Businesses: Basecamp
The first challenge to project management is finding a program team members will actually use. Basecamp’s solution is to ditch the complicated features in favor of a slimmed-down, user-friendly experience. By combining project management with group chat and cloud storage, you also ensure team members will log in on a regular basis and come across their daily updates. Last but not least, while Basecamp lacks advanced features like Gantt charts, task automation, and time tracking, many of these can still be set up with third-party integrations.
No Gantt or Kanban views
Very affordable for teams of 10 or more
No dependencies or automation
Cloud storage supports files up to 10GB
- Free: Provides simplified tools for up to 20 users and three projects at a time
- Business: $99/month for unlimited users and projects
- Task Management: At its core, Basecamp is about assigning tasks to team members and giving them a simple interface to manage their to-do list and collaborate with others. In exchange for its simplicity, you won’t get customizable views like Kanban boards.
- Team Chat: Basecamp includes group chats and direct messaging, aiming to replace the need for external chat applications like Slack.
- Cloud Storage: Upload files or create documents directly on a task. Or, sort through all files on the company drive with 500GB of included storage. Basecamp includes advanced file sharing features like version history control and guest access.
- Reporting: See what’s overdue and due soon, what tasks are assigned, and what’s been completed today. It also offers reports on individual team member activity, including comments they’ve posted, and work they’ve added to a project. Basecamp does not natively provide Gantt charts, however, which many project managers use to get a broad view of their project’s timeline.
- Customer Support: Ticket support is available weekdays from 9 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. You’ll typically get a response in 10 to 30 minutes.
Best Simple Project Management Software: Trello
Not everyone is looking for a full productivity makeover. If you already have tools in place for group chat, file sharing, invoicing, etc., then why ask your employees to switch to something else? Trello takes on this philosophy, providing a simple Kanban task management system that integrates with over 200 business tools. At the same time, Trello’s project management can be surprisingly strong, allowing you to upload files and host discussions on tasks, as well as automate the flow of tasks across your team.
Super easy to use
No Gantt view
Newly introduced task automation
Gets messy with large projects (over 100 tasks)
Over 200 Integrations with other software
Harder to report on employee progress
- Free: Provides simplified tools for an unlimited number of users, but only up to 10 “boards” (or projects) at a time.
- Business Class: $9.99, per user, per month for unlimited users and unlimited boards. The Business Class adds many features like Power-Ups/integrations and user permissions.
- Enterprise: $20.83 per user, per month adds enhanced security tools and priority customer support. The Enterprise pricing also decreases proportionally if you add more than 300 users.
- Task Management: Trello’s task management is based around boards and cards. Each board represents a project, and each card represents a task. To move a task from one stage to another (e.g., from the “assigned” stage to “in progress”), simply click and drag it to another column.
- Power-ups: While the basis of Trello is simple, boards can be customized with power-ups and integrations. For example, a Dropbox plugin will show live previews of Dropbox attachments. A Twitter plugin lets you attach tweets to cards—such as support tickets—and reply or retweet directly from Trello. There are over 200 integrations covering a wide range of use-cases.
- Automation: Trello recently released task automation, so you can automatically create and assign a new card when a task is completed, or schedule tasks on a recurring basis.
- Customer Support: Ticket support is available weekdays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Eastern time. Trello guarantees responses within one business day for paying users. Phone support is available to Enterprise-level accounts.
Best Project Management Software For Large Teams: Asana
If Trello is streamlined project management software, then Asana is the full-blown version. It delivers tight control down to the subtask, as well as broad, sweeping views of your organization’s productivity. Asana was one of the first web-based project management tools to emerge and remains one of the smoothest, best-built user interfaces. However, Asana does get expensive with more advanced features, and customer support is less attentive than competitors.
Offers Gantt, Kanban, and calendar views
File attachments limited to 100MB
Divide employees into teams for more effective management
Customer support can take a while
Project portfolio management
Becomes expensive for advanced features like automation and proofing
- Free: Provides a simplified version of Asana for up to 15 users.
- Premium: $10.99 per user, per month and adds many features like Gantt/Timeline view, task dependencies, custom fields, and more.
- Business: $24.99 per user, per month adds even more features like automation rules, proofing, and approvals.
- Enterprise: (Contact for pricing) adds priority customer support, custom branding, and enhanced security.
- Task Management: Tasks can be viewed as a to-do list, calendar, Gantt chart, or Kanban board like Trello. While this can be overwhelming at first, the greater level of detail makes it easier to handle complex projects where the completion of one task is dependent on another.
- Team Management: Asana lets you divide employees into teams with their own dashboards, shared calendars, and conversations. Furthermore, Asana provides portfolio management that lets you see all of your projects at a glance; another reason why it’s great for larger teams.
- Proofing: For graphic designers and publishers, proofing allows you to send photos to clients or managers for their approval. They can add comments to a specific point on the photo, so feedback is contextualized more easily. Wrike also offers proofing and takes it a step further by allowing comments on videos.
- Automation: Automatically create a new project when a support request form is submitted, assign new tasks when a previous task is completed, or trigger a notification—these are just a few of many examples.
- Customer Support: Ticket support is available weekdays from 12 p.m.- 8 p.m Eastern time. During my evaluation, it took about one day to get my question answered.
Best Customizable Project Management Software: monday.com
Monday’s specialty is flexibility. Unlike Basecamp and Trello, which mainly focus on the completion of tasks, Monday lets you track many different variables: The project budget, the number of billable hours, and the address/location of the project. Monday.com also doesn’t hide too many features behind premium paywalls. The standard package gives you basically the full program, although limited to 50GB in storage, and with limited guest access (four guests billed as one user).
Projects can be set up and sorted any way you like
Limited guest access
Gantt, Kanban, calendar and unique mapping views
Limited file storage
Includes simple time tracking
Integrations not as robust as Asana
- Basic: $7.99 per user, per month, this provides a bare-bones version of monday.com.
- Standard: $9.99 per user, per month, this provides the core features of monday.com, including Gantt charts, calendars, and maps.
- Pro: $15.99 per user, per month and adds much stronger integrations and automation.
- Enterprise: (contact for pricing) adds security features, a 99.9% uptime SLA and HIPAA Compliance.
IMPORTANT: Unlike the other programs, Monday requires you to buy user licenses in increments of five. The lowest amount you can spend is $49 per month for five users on a Standard account. If you wanted to add a sixth user, you’d have to upgrade to 10 user accounts for $99 per month, and so on.
- Task Management: Projects are created using a spreadsheet-like tool. Each row is a new task, and each column is a new data point you can track such as assignee, budget, due date, location, or anything else you wish to add. Once created, you can visualize projects in many different ways, including a timeline/Gantt chart, Kanban board, calendar, and interactive map. Altogether, this makes monday.com the most visually flexible project management program.
- Time Tracking: Simply click a play button next to a task to begin recording time, and a pause button to stop. It’s a simple way to track time spent on a task, unlike ActiveCollab which offers more robust employee time tracking.
- Forms: Like Asana, you can integrate web forms into your project management. When somebody submits say, an order form, or support ticket, you can automatically send the details to monday.com and initiate a new project.
- Integrations: While monday.com supports some key integrations like Zendesk, Salesforce, Zoom, Slack, Shopify, and WooCommerce, it does not support nearly as many programs as Asana.
- Customer Support: monday.com has highly-rated email support available 24/7. During my evaluation, I got my question answered in less than 10 minutes.
Best Project Management Software for Marketing & Creative Agencies: Wrike
Wrike is very similar to Asana and monday.com, but picks up in one key area where the others lack: Wrike lets you upload big files (up to 4GB) and allows users to collaborate remotely on videos, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Microsoft Office files (.ppt, .doc, .xls), as well as PDFs and typical image files. Overall, Wrike is a feature-rich system that gives you tons of different options to view and manage your projects. However, with multiple add-ons like video proofing and publishing tools, Wrike will get expensive fast.
Editable Gantt chart is great for setting up projects
Becomes expensive with add-ons
Leave comments within videos
15GB per month for video uploads can be limiting
Highly-rated customer support
- Free: Provides a bare-bones version of Wrike for up to five users.
- Professional: $9.80 per user, per month adds Gantt charts and shared dashboards to provide a stronger, but still limited version of Wrike. Supports up to 15 users.
- Business: $24.80 per user, per month adds automation, form integration, time tracking, and more.
- Wrike Proof and Wrike Publish are add-ons that cost $15/user/month each. These add features like video proofing and digital asset management.
- Wrike for Marketers (contact for pricing) includes Proof and Publish packages, as well as the Adobe Creative Cloud extension, which allows you to use Wrike within Adobe programs.
- Task Management: View your tasks as a to-do list, calendar, Gantt chart, or Kanban board. Furthermore, Wrike’s Gantt view is editable, meaning you can simply drag tasks to change their due date, or edit their dependencies. Asana, monday.com, and ActiveCollab also offer this feature, although Wrike’s was particularly smooth and user-friendly.
- Video Proofing: Upload a video (or link to an unlisted YouTube video) and collaborators can add comments at specific places in the video. They can stop and add comments on a specific frame, and place their comment at a specific location on the screen. Images and Microsoft office files are also supported.
- Live Editor: Task and project descriptions feature a live editor. Like a Google Doc, this document can be edited in real-time by multiple collaborators.
- Automation: Wrike was one of the first programs in this guide to introduce workflow automation, whether it’s automatically creating a project from a web form, or assigning tasks based on predefined triggers.
- Customer Support: Wrike has highly-rated phone and email support available 24/5 (or 24/7 if you pay for premium support). This is the only program we reviewed that offers 24-hour phone support.
Best Project Management Software for Time Tracking & Invoicing: ActiveCollab
ActiveCollab packs many powerful project management features into a low price, including automation, editable Gantt charts, and task dependencies. On top of that, ActiveCollab includes time tracking and invoicing with online payments so you can bill clients immediately after a project is finished. While the price is much lower than its competitors, the interface is a little more difficult to use, with some users reporting lag times and occasional bugs.
Built-in time tracking, estimates, and invoicing
Interface is sometimes buggy or unintuitive
Offers Gantt, Kanban, and calendar views
Not many customization options
Accept online payments via PayPal, Stripe, and More
- $7 per user, per month for the full set of project management tools
- Add $4 per user, per month for time tracking, invoicing, and online payments
- Task Management: ActiveCollab offers surprisingly strong project management features for its price. Projects can be set up with an editable Gantt chart allowing you to specify when one task is dependent on the completion of another. Discussions and file attachments at the task level make it easy to collaborate with team members.
- Time Tracking: Use a timer to track time, or enter expenses manually. ActiveCollab is designed to track the full cost of a project along the way, so you can keep an eye on your profitability, and bill clients more easily.
- Invoicing: Using the time and expenses you tracked, simply convert your project to an invoice, which your client can pay online via PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.net, and Braintree.
- Estimates: Send your client an estimate via ActiveCollab. If approved, the estimate automatically gets converted to a project.
- Customer Support: Phone and email support are available 2 a.m. – 8 p.m. Eastern time.
The Bottom Line
Project management helps teams stay on track, and gives managers high-level and detailed views of projects. To work effectively for your business, it needs to handle all the specific tasks your business deals with, while also being easy to use, and something your team members can easily adopt in their daily routine.
This is why we recommend Basecamp for small businesses. It handles the core of project management very well while also being easy to use, and something employees will enjoy logging into every day thanks to its built-in group chat and cloud storage capabilities. They offer a free 30-day trial with no credit card required. Visit Basecamp’s website for details.