The 10 best project management tools for MDs

If you’re still using email to manage team projects, you’re way behind the curve. The project management tools described here enable you to get a bird’s eye overview of your team’s activity, as well as see the finer detail. Which one you prefer to use will be a matter of business requirements and personal taste, but all of them will save you time and money.

AceProject

Aimed at small businesses, AceProject is a tool that enables the coordination of projects, tasks, employees and expenses. It offers some of the best functionality available for small to medium teams, and comes with the ability to work entirely offline.

However, learning the interface is daunting, and requires you to spend time fiddling with settings.

Asana

Asana enables you to create lists of projects and sub-projects, then allows members of your project team to follow, comment on and ‘heart’ them. To each task you attach a photo of the staff member assigned to work on it, and tasks can be hidden from view on an ‘eyes only’ basis.

Despite pretensions to Facebook-like functionality, Asana’s interface is austere and text-based.

Basecamp

As the product name suggests, Basecamp acts as a central workbench for your projects. Team members do all their work through the interface, and can upload files, create to-do lists, append notes and schedule events. Project managers have access to views keeping tabs on progress.

Basecamp’s interface gets it just about right. It’s easy to navigate and visually pleasing.

LiquidPlanner

LiquidPlanner is the Marmite of project management tools, because it forces you to work with it rather than being adaptable to your workflow. As such it’s mostly recommended for people who aren’t set in their project management ways. But if you can get on board with the Liquid Approach, you’ll save yourself untold time and money.

The interface is one of the clearest, easiest to navigate of all project management tools.

Mavenlink

The best thing about Mavenlink is the precision with which it allows you to schedule tasks. Whenever you create a project, you are prompted to enter the latest possible time it must be completed. It’s even possible to enter an estimate of the total time required.

Mavenlink’s interface includes the ability to switch easily to a Gantt chart to gain an overall perspective on task allocation.

Resource Guru

Resource Guru is another ‘does what it says on the tin’ project management app: it helps you allocate resources effectively. Use this if you want to find out quickly and easily what your team members are working on at any one time, and what their availability will be in the future. A helpful tool is the impossibility of making bookings that clash.

Resource Guru’s interface is appealing and extremely clear, formatted as a visual calendar.

Smartsheet

If you’re a spreadsheet power user, you’re sure to find Smartsheet intriguing. It uses interactive spreadsheets as the basis for project management, and adds web 2.0 technologies for team working and crowdsourcing.

Although nothing this powerful could ever be exactly easy to use, Smartsheet’s interface is fairly intuitive. And once you’ve mastered it, it’s guaranteed to save you time.

Teamwork

Teamwork has been likened to an earlier incarnation of Basecamp, at least in terms of look and feel. But it’s far more feature-rich, offering useful things such as a central files store from which you can select all documents. You can also communicate with Teamwork through email, creating and allocating tasks in this way.

Sadly, Teamwork’s interface is underwhelming. It looks and works fine, but it can best be described as functional.

Trello

Trello is set up as a series of boards, to which you can pin task-focused cards. Invite the relevant team members to join a card, and they can interact with each other via attachments, conversations, checklists and labels.

This is one of the most beautiful project management apps out there. The display resembles a cork pinboard, and cards fade with age over time. Each card displays a heading, plus team photos.

Wrike

Wrike is a sophisticated solution for project managers who need to keep apace many different variables and working modalities, and it has a real-time event stream to help you do just that. In the latest version, its innovative split screen allows you to access attachments, lists and discussions from a single location.

As you might expect from a piece of software that places advanced capabilities in your hands, Wrike’s interface has a steep learning curve.

Bob Bradley

Bob is a specialist in running high value added service businesses, having run five such businesses as General Manager, Managing Director or Chief Executive. His last employed role was as Chief Executive of a £16M, 200 person family owned business having previously been Chief Executive of an AIM listed company for which he raised £5M funding and which he grew from £4M to £12M in three years through two acquisitions and organic growth, and a corporate PLC subsidiary where he was Managing Director responsible for delivering £10M profit on £45M turnover through 450 staff.

Bob is now following a portfolio career providing entrepreneurial business leaders with mentoring and coaching around business leadership, business growth, merger integration and exit planning.

Core to his portfolio is MD2MD. Having experienced for himself the value of having a strong sounding board of fellow Managing Directors he founded MD2MD in 2004 to provide groups of business leaders with a confidential environment within which they can support and challenge each other to raise their game as leaders and by doing so improve the success of their organisation.

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