How do you get a project off the drawing board and into the execution phase? With a plan. But project plans are unruly beasts that need to be reined in. That’s where project planning software comes in: it’s a project manager’s best friend.
Project planning software gives project managers the means to control costs and stay on schedule. It’s how deliverables meet the quality expectations of stakeholders. Planning software also has features that track progress and assess whether you’re meeting your planned goals.
Yes, project planning software is massive. It is an umbrella under which a number of foundational tools reside, such as Gantt charts, task lists, kanban boards, reports and more. If you’re looking for a project planning software that meets this criteria, prepare to compare options because it’s a crowded field and getting denser every day.
Below are some of the best project planning tools available today, with their pros and cons. Take a minute to look over these options and get the tool you need for your next project.
2020 Best Project Planning Software Rankings
ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that offers a full suite of project planning software features. With Gantt charts, task lists, calendars and kanban boards, users can choose how they want to plan their project, depending on its scope and complexity.
ProjectManager.com even has templates to help you set up your project plan, or you can import a spreadsheet with your task list to create a new project instantly.
Not all projects are the same, so ProjectManager.com has customizable columns to set up your online Gantt chart how you want. To keep projects running smoothly during the execution phase, ProjectManager.com gives you the flexibility to pivot quickly as projects change. Simply drag-and-drop start and end dates on the Gantt to their new time, and reassign resources as necessary. It’s that easy.
You can assign from their Gantt plan and team members can work collaboratively, adding relevant documents and commenting at the task level. Once the plan is in play, project managers have transparency into the process to make sure the actual progress matches the planned progress.
Automated features like dashboards, reports and email alerts make tracking even more practical. The real-time dashboard tracks six project metrics and one-click reporting offers a deeper dive into project data. This lets project managers know instantly if the project is going off the rails and get it back on track faster. Meanwhile, email notifications keep team members alerted when deadlines are looming, or there have been changes made to the tasks. Everyone is kept in the loop.
The project plan is a living document and ProjectManager.com makes it easily adaptable to real-life working conditions. ProjectManager.com features resource management tools that keep the team’s workload balanced and easy timesheets to help monitor time spent on those tasks. The project plan is only one part of the whole project that ProjectManager.com helps you control. To see just how much control over your projects you can get with ProjectManager.com, take a free 30-day trial.
Smartsheet is an online project management software that is used in many industries to track and manage work. It is suitable for large and small teams, whether working in an agile or more traditional methodology. In terms of project planning, there are collaborative tools, due date tracking, Gantt charts and kanban boards. It plots milestones and track tasks.
A shortcoming, however, is that Smartsheet requires an understanding both spreadsheets and project management. It’s divided between these two points, and so it ends up not serving either one fully. In terms of features, its resource management tools are complicated, which makes its dashboard more difficult than it needs to be. There are no timesheets, which is a key feature for tracking teams hours and tasks. This could be a deal-breaker for project managers.
FunctionFox is web-based time and project management software used in industries such as advertising, marketing and public relations companies. It tends to be used more in the creative fields to plan and track projects. It has tools for managing multiple projects, forecasting workloads and communications.
FunctionFox is not ideal for every industry or the teams that work within those fields. For example, there’s no kanban boards, which is a visual planing tool that helps avoid workflow bottlenecks. Task management is only available for more money and even at that payment level you’re just getting a categorizing tool, not something that manages the task details or dependencies.
4. Zoho Projects
Zoho Projects is a cloud-based project planning software tool. It’s used by large and small teams in many industries to plan and track projects. It offers collaborative features and can be used within an agile framework or with more traditional methodologies. It does have a soup-to-nuts menu of features for project planning, such as Gantt charts, kanban boards and milestone tracking.
Some complaints about the software include difficult integration with other apps, and reports are not thorough. There’s also a lack of privacy among users and clients. The interface can sometimes be difficult to maneuver. The Gantt charts are overly complex, and it would be nice if projects could be exported to a spreadsheet to share with clients who are not subscribed to the software.
ClickUp is a cloud-based tool that is mostly good for collaboration but has some project planning that works with businesses of varying size. It has communication, task assignment and status alert features. There are also events and reminders, which help with collaboration. Its project planning tools include Gantt charts, kanban boards and progress tracking. It has multiple project views and is flexible and customizable. It allows for recurring tasks.
The problem with ClickUp is that it’s core offering is strong in collaboration, but weak with project planning. It has a lot of the tools that are essential for project planning, but they’re not robust. If you’re looking to create and control a project plan, you’ll find ClickUp somewhat challenging. Additionally, the overall design is such that it doesn’t make it easy to see all the task data at a glance.
Mavenlink is a project management software that focuses on collaborative tools to enhance business performance. It features time tracking, resource management and budget tools. Its project planning features help track due dates for tasks and can build plans on Gantt charts and manage workflow with kanban boards. It also has reporting to add visibility into a project, program or portfolio.
Project managers have complained that rather than reducing their workload, the software actually makes more work for them. For one, there’s a steep learning curve. You can’t share with clients, either, if they’re not paying for the software. It’s really more of an enterprise software solution—less plug and go and requires time and effort to configure. The reporting isn’t without problems, though, such as naming and categorization of project metrics isn’t clear. There’s no space to add comments when approving or rejecting timesheets without them being published across all entries.
Forecast is a project planning and resource workload visibility software with transparency across multiple projects. It has tools like kanban boards, which make it ideal for scrum teams. Files can be attached to tasks, which are then tracked throughout their life cycle. There’s also project scoping, resource allocation, time tracking and team collaboration. It is flexible enough to be used by startups and enterprise ventures that are looking to boost their productivity.
The trouble with using this is that things don’t always work as they should. This creates road bumps that slow down a project’s progress. Timesheets are also not easy to use. Though it can help scrum teams, those that work within the larger agile framework will find the software frustrating in its rigidity. Even scrum is not fully served as there is no retrospective management.
ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software with all the features project managers want to better plan their projects. Online Gantt charts link task dependencies to avoid bottlenecks. Kanban boards help team members work more productively. Collaborative tools are designed to give team members the autonomy they want to get the plan executed more efficiently. Try it today with this free 30-day trial.