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Feeling on top of your game, rather than always reacting to situations, feels pretty amazing.
Imagine a day when your team comes to you wondering how long it will take to complete a big project, and you can immediately give them an answer with confidence. Or better yet, they can figure it out for themselves.
That’s what project management systems do for you. When they are properly used, they save a lot of mental time trying to either find the task of prioritizing the team’s weeks and months ahead.
If you’ve never tried using project management software, then you’re missing out.
The tools I’m going to outline here are the best free options I can find today.
I’ve also had the good fortune of using all of them in varying capacities over the last ten years, so I can definitely guide you through this journey of project management.
The Top 5 Free Project Management Software
- Pivotal Tracker – Best for small/medium teams
- Atlassian Jira – Best for medium/large teams
- Trello – Most lightweight solution
- Asana – Solid starting point for anyone
- Clickup – Best for large teams
How to Choose the Best Project Management Software
Project management software is like a big whiteboard playground for you to work with.
You will generally get from it what you put into it.
The key to any project management software has a system for tracking your projects, bugs, and issues and not deviating from that path.
My suggestion would be to use any one of these for at least a month before you decide whether to stick with it.
The free tier from any of these providers can last you a long time, especially if you’re in the early stages of building your business online.
So which one is the right one for you right now?
I’ll review the key aspects of project management software so you know whats right for you.
The basic structure of project management systems is to be ridiculously simple.
The idea is that anyone can come in and see exactly what they need to do regardless of whether they have been on the team for ten days or ten years.
Each of the companies mentioned above do this very well, however what about if you have a preexisting process?
Thats when finding the right solution to meet your teams current processes is key.
The hope is that over time the systems will help elevate your process and save you time for more important things.
As your team grows from one to.. well more than one, collaboration becomes an important factor.
In our new world of many more companies working remotely worldwide, collaboration will be key to working more effectively.
The other bonus is the ability to see the state of any project at a given time. This will allow teams to work much more seamlessly without the burden of constantly emailing each other.
It goes without saying that you can schedule and plan your week out even more effective when you have project management software available to you.
We love to work in two-week sprint cycles where we plan our work two weeks ahead of time. We can say with certainty that any given project will be complete within that two-week timeframe.
Project management services allow us to plan this work and share those expectations collaboratively with our teams.
Not only is looking forward important with project management software, but also being able to look back.
All of these platforms allow their customers to draw up reports to understand the productivity of their teams.
With this project management software and processes in place, we know how productive the team is by how much work was completed and the time it took them to complete it.
These insights are invaluable in being able to effectively make the most use of your teams time and effort.
This is the one category where things differ greatly from platform to platform.
Some allow integrations with various other systems to further branch into the team’s workflows and simplify today.
Other systems are very strict in their implementation in order to force the same type of process along the way.
You’ll have to decide what is right for you here, but try them all out.
#1 Pivotal Tracker – Best for small/medium/large teams
Pivotal Tracker kicks off this list and is the one to use in the software engineering space.
Software engineers created this system to better adhere to Agile practices. The goal was to alleviate the problems of deviation from the agile methodologies and bring order without the work.
This lives in the space between board project management and lists.
Pivotal Tracker’s views help to see the priorities for the current working cycle immediately and what is available to work on should the team finish early.
One of my favorite features is the ability to assign work to two or more people.
This is one of the great things about pivotal because it fosters the idea of collaboration among teams and paired programming among engineers.
Luckily, Pivotal comes with five free seats for small teams to get started.
#2 Atlassian Jira – Best for medium/large teams
Atlassian Jira is one of the bigger solutions in the project management space.
If we took some of the features from Pivotal Tracker but mashed them with the ability to change how everything can be done with the ultimate flexibility, then we would land on Jira.
Jira is another board structure project management space.
In their free tier space, they allow five members to belong to a team and will be free forever.
Jira is best for medium to large organizations and is in use by some of the tech industry’s biggest names.
It comes with features such as Roadmaps, Release Management, Issue Tracking, and of course, the ability to track your team’s work.
Out of the box, Jira runs in an agile format for project management, much like Pivotal Tracker.
Because Jira is one of several Atlassian products, it directly integrates many of their other solutions right out of the box.
Things like Confluence for documentation and planning as well as bug tracking.
Speaking of integrations, Jira comes with integrations for just about everything under the sun.
Because out of the box, Jira works with little to no configuration, it is worth giving it a go with your team’s next big project.
#3 Trello – Most lightweight solution
Trello, another Atlassian product, is probably the absolute easiest one to start with. This is probably why over 1,000,000 teams use it worldwide.
Its so dead simple that you can jump in, drag and drop blocks and start going.
Like many others in the project management category of software services, Trello is board based.
Again the concept is simple so that any user can drop in and see what the projects are and who is working on each one.
Trello also comes with 5 free seats to start your journey, making it easy to get a feel for any small teams.
#4 Asana – Solid starting point for anyone
Asana was developed by the former founding engineer of Facebook, Dustin Moskovitz, coming from the experiences of bigger organizations, like Facebook, Instagram, and the like.
Being a list-based project management system, Asana will allow the teams to see from a top to bottom approach, and if to-do lists are your thing, then this is a perfect match for your way of working.
Like most other players in this space, Asana is ripe with integrations with other software systems like Slack and Github. This allows for easier approaches to completing team tasks.
The nice thing about Asana is it allows you to start a free account with 15 team members, which is 10 more than most of these other companies. This is why I like it for smaller teams who are more list-oriented.
#5 ClickUp – Best for large teams
ClickUp is definitely one of the better picks for broad mixed modality teams.
They have several opportunities to allow for customization to make it easy to make it perfect for your teams needs.
Because it comes with such a large amount of flexibility, larger teams can jump in and make the most of the system.
ClickUp is a list-based system in terms of how it manages the team’s work to do. With the free version, you are given more than enough room to allow the teams to work with lists.
Imagine large to-do lists, but intuitive enough to help your day-to-day work and easily find what you and your teammates are working on.
The feature list is almost too long to mention here, but things like interdependent projects make it simple to know when certain features are waiting on others before they can be started.
The goal here is to get teams organized and reduce the overhead of planning and guessing what needs to be done next.
ClickUp is one of those solutions, and with a free forever pricing plan, it’s a great starting point to understand whether it’s the right solution for your team.
Overall each of these systems captures the team’s workflows and keeps everyone on task towards completing projects.
The hardest part is knowing your team’s current working style and finding the right project management software to match it.
Depending on where you’re starting, I would suggest Pivotal Tracker if you have a software engineering-based project and work with boards.
For the most simple and quick to start a solution, I would go with Tuple. You and your whole team can get up to speed in less than 5 minutes and have a process in place to help focus on the things that matter.
No matter which solution you pick, it will invariably help you get to a far more productive stage in your business.
Got a free favorite solution beyond the ones I chose here? Let me know in the comments.