Best Project Management Software and Tools in 2021

Effective project management can be a boon for your business—and we’ve scoped out the best tools for it.
Best overall
Asana
Asana
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Great tracking and reporting
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Waterfall and agile capabilities
Best price
Trello
Trello
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Easy learning curve
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Kanban boards
Best for tech
Backlog
Backlog
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Great price
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Bug tracking
Best for reporting
Wrike
Wrike
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Time tracking
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Great customer support
Most versatile
Google
Google Workspace
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Wide variety of apps included
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Tons of customizability

With a good project management system, missed deadlines and forgotten deliverables can become a thing of the past.

So we’ve rounded up the best project management software and tools out there. (Because sometimes, sticky notes and long email chains just won’t cut it anymore.)

Our rankings include project management tools for a variety of needs. So whether you need lots of collaboration tools for your software company, time tracking for your freelance business, shift-based tasks for your restaurant, or other project needs for your small business, we’ve got a pick for you.

Let’s manage some projects.

Our top 10 best project management systems

Project management software

Vendor
Free trial
Price
Learn more
Asana

30 days

$0.00–$24.99/user/mo. (not including Enterprise plan)
Trello

N/A

$0.00–$17.50/user/mo.
Backlog

30 days

$0.00–$175.00/mo.
Wrike

14 days

$0.00–$24.80/user/mo. (not including Wrike for Marketers or Enterprise plans)
Google Workspace14 days $6.00–$18.00/user/mo.
Jira

7 days

$0.00–$14.00/user/mo. (not including Enterprise plan)
Airtable

N/A

$0.00–$20.00/user/mo. (not including Enterprise plan)
Basecamp

30 days

$0.00–$99.00/mo.
Nutcache

14 days

$0.00–$12.00/user/mo. or $8.95/mo. freelancer flat rate
7shifts60 days $0–$69.99/location/mo

Data effective 12/8/2020. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Asana: Best overall

Asana is one of the best cloud-based project management systems on the block. Care to see what Uber and Pinterest have bought into?

Asana
Asana’s flexibility in features and integrations makes it a great choice for a small, growing business. And it offers unlimited users and storage!
 

Asana plans and pricing

Plan
Starting price (for annual payments)*
Max users
Storage
Learn more

Basic

$0

15

Unlimited

Premium

$10.99/user/mo.

Unlimited

Unlimited

Business

$24.99/user/mo.

Unlimited

Unlimited

Enterprise

Contact for quote

Unlimited

Unlimited

Data effective 12/8/2020. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

*Prices increase by $2–$5 if you decide to pay monthly instead of annually.

Asana is flexible enough to work for both Agile-style and Waterfall-style approaches—whatever your team prefers.

Even if your team has a million tasks to tackle, Asana is built to help you break that elephant down into bite-sized pieces. Before you know it, that elephant has become an organized checklist of tasks and subtasks. Also, Asana includes an individual dashboard for each team member, which makes it easy to manage all the individual tasks and deadlines without getting in each other’s way.

Asana may have majored in web-based project collaboration, but its emphasis is tracking and transparency. Project managers will be especially happy with Asana’s Gantt charts and generated reports. All these tools will let them track time, manage multiple projects, and collaborate easily.

Asana gives you a way to manage everything. It’s got marketing integrations, sales integrations, real-time collaboration, a mobile app, and more. With Asana you will have all the best project management resources at your fingertips, including Slack, Evernote, and Harvest.

Icon Quote  Dark
Asana manages the nuances of multiple team members collaborating on one project.

Cons to Asana

Asana has a great customizable dashboard, but there’s a learning curve when it comes to using this project management tool. For all of its bells, whistles, and integrations, Asana isn’t always the most intuitive.

Maybe that’s the drawback to being so flexible and adaptable—users have to adapt to Asana’s adaptability.

There isn’t a team chat capability on the software itself yet, so collaboration won’t be completely seamless. Asana does allow team members to sign up for email updates, but for collaboration purposes, they integrate with Slack

Also, Asana’s customer service is missing a 24/7 helpline, and there’s no two-factor authentication—just a single sign-on. So Asana is down a point for security and customer support.

Trello: Best price

Trello has a ton of users. It’s clearly doing something right, and it may partly be its great prices.

Trello
Trello is the most popular project management option, and it’s stellar for a low budget.
 

Trello plans and pricing

Plan
Starting price
Max users
Storage
Learn more

Free

$0

Unlimited

Unlimited

Business

$9.99/user/mo. (for annual payment)

Unlimited

Unlimited

Enterprise

$17.50–$7.38/user/mo. (sliding scale)

Unlimited

Unlimited

Data effective 12/8/2020. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

First things first: Trello’s free plan is amazing. For a whopping $0, you get all these features:

  • Unlimited users, including freelancers and clients
  • A Kanban-esque, drag-and-drop dashboard
  • Unlimited boards
  • Unlimited tasks

For no cost, you can still get unlimited collaboration. And depending on the size and needs of your team, you could manage projects for free for years!

Even if you have to upgrade and pay for Trello, the price is still pretty good. With the Business plan, you’ll get additional support, security, privacy, integrations, and up to 250MB for file attachments, which is much more than the 10MB allowed in the free plan. To put it in perspective, 10MB is about enough for a magazine, while 250MB is enough for a book series.

When debating between Trello and Asana, remember that Trello is like your goofy, Hawaiian shirt–wearing uncle with its customizable backgrounds and laid-back usability. Even people who don’t have a lot of project management experience find it easy to work with Trello. That’s a big reason why it’s the most popular project management software on our list.

The intuitive drag-and-drop dashboard looks and functions like a Kanban board, but you can get Gantt charts and other resources through power-ups or integrations. You can even update your Trello cards with extra tasks through email.

Trello is ideal for small and just-starting businesses, such as small marketing agencies. Even some big businesses can get a lot of value out of it—after all, it’s good enough for Google.

Icon Quote  Dark
With Trello, you can easily see which team members are finishing tasks and others who are falling behind. It gives you a nice high-level overview of what’s going on in your business.

Cons to Trello

The thing with being the most popular project management tool is that you also tend to draw quite a bit of criticism. But I guess we couldn’t expect to be handed our dream project management system for such a cheap price.

Trello requires a lot of power-ups or integrations to get the best project management features. Anyone who wants time tracking, report generation, and project tracking on the free plan of Trello might find it frustrating.

Even when you get unlimited power-ups (added features) in the paid plans, the reporting doesn’t go into all the useful details you would get through Asana and some other software. And there are some collaboration tools, like team chat, that we wish were there.

Trello also doesn’t have great customer support. “Priority support” for Trello means email support. There’s no helpline and no customer support chat. C’mon, Trello—your job is to make this easier for us, not easier for you!

Backlog: Best for tech

The best project management tools for software development are Backlog and Jira. We’ll get to Jira in a minute. What you need to know is that Backlog has better pricing and better customer service than Jira.

Backlog
Backlog is a homerun-hitter with great prices, customer service, and collaboration tools.
 

Backlog plans and pricing

Plan
Price
Max users
Storage
Learn more

Free

$0.00

10

100 MB

Starter

$35.00/mo.

30

1 GB

Standard

$100.00/mo.

Unlimited

30 GB

Premium

$175.00/mo.

Unlimited

100 GB

Data effective 12/8/2020. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Backlog may seem more expensive at first, but remember that it’s a flat monthly rate, not a per-user cost—which makes it one of the cheaper ways to manage your workflow. For teams with more than 10 members, Backlog’s standard plan is actually cheaper than Asana’s Premium plan.

Backlog aims to be the one-stop shop for tech and software development teams, so it’s all set with industry-specific resources:

  • Git repositories
  • Bug tracking
  • Burn down charts
  • Gantt charts
  • SVN hosting
  • IP Address Control

Backlog is laid out to allow all the techies to collaborate with production, development, marketing, design, and other departments.

Backlog has great scalability as well. So tech startups can sign up with the assurance that they won’t need to switch software as their business grows.

Unlike Trello and Asana, Backlog does have a team chat app and centralized message board for collaboration with an on-premise option if you want more security. Most project management systems offer only cloud-based service.

The cherry on top of the Backlog sundae is that it’s the first system on our list to have 24/7 customer service. Combine that with the better price and industry features, and you’ve got a pretty sweet deal.

Cons to Backlog

Overall, Backlog’s customers seem very happy with their project management tool. Still, if you beat a rug long enough, you’ll find some dust.

Right now, most tech teams want to develop in an Agile style. Backlog follows this trend, so if you’re a software developer with a soft spot for the Waterfall methodology, Backlog might not work so well for you.

Plus, it’s not a drag-and-drop interface, so you might feel a little locked in. And there is no third- party integration, so you might feel limited with just Backlog’s features.

Backlog is also missing quite a few of the management features and integrations that teams outside of software development want, like budget tracking, time tracking, and Kanban boards.

So if tracking bugs in your deliverable isn’t your highest priority, Backlog may not be for you. Backlog is kind of like an ice cream scoop—really good at what it does but no Swiss Army Knife.

Wrike: Best for reporting

Wrike is all about those reports. Real-time reports, report templates, user audit reports, graphical analytics—talk about a bird’s-eye view! What will all of that reporting power cost you? Let’s see:

Wrike
Wrike specializes in real-time reporting so you’ll always be in the loop.
 

Wrike plans and pricing

Plan
Starting price
Max users
Storage
Learn more

Free

$0.00

5

2 GB

Professional

$9.80/user/mo.

15

Starting at 5 GB

Business

$24.80/user/mo.

200

Starting at 50 GB

Wrike for Marketers

Contact for quote

Unlimited

Starting at 50 GB

Wrike for Professional ServicesContact for quoteUnlimitedStarting at 50 GB

Enterprise

Contact for quote

Unlimited

Starting at 100 GB

Data effective 12/8/2020. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Wrike has some of the best interactive Gantt charts around. These charts are built in, by the way, not just available through integrations. But Wrike is also compatible for hundreds of integrations, including your email.

Additional features include:

  • A real-time newsfeed
  • Enterprise-level security
  • Document management tools
  • Private dashboards

As a bonus, every one of Wrike’s paid plans allows for 15 GB a month in video uploads—that’s roughly 15 hours of movie-quality video.

Wrike aims at an effective yet easy and flexible project management experience, with both Agile and Waterfall workflow capabilities. To that end, the dashboard, folder structures, and workflows are all customizable. This way you can do your work the way you like it.

Icon Quote  Dark
At the enterprise level, I like Wrike, as it has more workflow visualization features than Asana, as well as a really cool dependency functionality.”

Cons to Wrike

If you look at the plans table above, you’ll see that Wrike’s middle plan maxes out at 200 users—and it doesn’t include all the features Wrike can offer.

If you have more than 200 users or need more capabilities, you can go for the Wrike for Marketers or Enterprise plans, but they have the restaurant-so-fancy-the-prices-aren’t-on-the-menu thing going on—if you’re interested in those plans, you’ll have to call to get a custom quote. Truth is, some of Wrike’s best management features are available only in those high-level plans. Wrike is simply built with medium to large businesses in mind.

Plus, Wrike might have one of the stingiest free plans. Five user accounts might be enough for a small tech startup, but you can have more users for free with Trello and Asana.

Google Workspace: Most versatile

Bell

Google Workspace used to be G suite. G suite was recently rebranded Google Workspace. This rebranding brought slight changes to the pricing structure, which are reflected in this section’s table.

Technically speaking, Google Workspace isn’t a project management software. But it offers a powerful, well, suite of tools that you can easily adapt for project management.

Google
Google Workspace gives you lots of tools that you can customize to meet your project management needs.
 

Google Workspace plans and pricing

Plan
Starting price
Max users
Storage
Learn more
Business Starter $6.00/user/mo. Unlimited 30 GB
Business Standard $12.00/user/mo. UnlimitedUnlimited
Business Plus $18.00/user/mo. UnlimitedUnlimited
Enterprise Contact sales for pricing UnlimitedUnlimited

Data effective 12/8/2020. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Every Google Workspace plan comes with the following:

  • Email services
  • Video and voice conferencing software
  • Team chat
  • Personal and shared calendars
  • Word processing
  • Spreadsheets
  • Presentation software
  • Form and survey creator
  • And more

So, for example, you could use Google Suite’s Calendar app to set deadlines, and then use Calendar’s task function to make sure your team gets to all the steps on time.

Or you could use Sheets, the spreadsheet app, to create a Gantt chart or a project timeline. And since Sheets includes pivot tables, you can get deep analysis of your project data.

The point is, Google Workspace can be customized to work for your project management style. And unlike other project management software, Google Workspace's tools can be used for plenty of things aside from project management. So no matter your management style, you’ll be getting a full stable of apps that can help your team communicate and create―and you’ll get all that at a pretty competitive price, with plenty of storage for all your project assets.

Cons to Google Workspace

Google Workspace offers lots of versatility, but it will require more work on your part to make it work the way you want.

For example, we said you can create a Gantt chart with Sheets. That’s true, but you’ll either have to create one from scratch or find a template you can use. Neither should take you too long, but both require more effort than simply using the built-in functionality of other project management software.

So if you want a fast and simple project management solution, you probably won’t want to spend time tweaking Google Workspace to your liking.

Bell
Pro tip: Always get the app
Real-time reports are even better when you can simply pull them off your phone. A web-based software and project management app makes it easy for you to walk into any meeting and have the latest company stats on hand.

Honorable mentions

By now you should have a good idea of what the best project management systems offer, but if none of our top five quite fit the bill for your freelance graphic design company, we have some more options for you.

Jira: Best tools for developers

Jira is all about software development, combining Kanban boards, Scrum tables, and Gantt integrations for the ideal Agile workflow. It’s not as cheap as Backlog, but many still consider Jira to be the best software development tool on the market. It has a very tricky interface though, so expect a steep learning curve.

Airtable: Great for content creation

Airtable works great for content creation and publishing. Here at Business.org, we love Airtable and use it to develop our own content. Airtable is methodology flexible and has a beautifully organized dashboard. The free plan allows for unlimited bases and 1,200 records per base. We’re sorry there isn’t any 24/7 chat though.

Basecamp: Best for collaboration

Basecamp is one of the top project management solutions for collaboration. Its Business plan includes a message board, chat app, unlimited users, unlimited projects, and 500GB of storage. Basecamp technically has a free plan, but it limits you to just three projects (yikes) and 20 users, so we suggest you go with the flat-rate paid plan.

Nutcache: Best for freelancers

Thrifty freelancers will like Nutcache. Its free plan comes with unlimited projects and tasks, plus basic time tracking features. If you upgrade to Nutcache’s affordable freelancer plan, you also get invoicing tools and guest access for your clients. Nutcache may not be the most feature-rich software, but it offers plenty for most freelancing businesses.

7shifts: Best for restaurants

For restaurants, most project management software is overpriced and stuffed with features you don’t need. Not 7shifts. It’s project management just for restaurants, so 7shifts has tools like shift-based task lists, scheduling, and POS integrations―all with a per location price instead of a per user price. Its task management tools do require an add-on to your plan (with an additional cost), but it’s worth the expense.

Money
Pro tip: Always do the free trial first
You won’t really know how the shoe fits until you try it on. For example, you might like the idea of Kanban boards for your small startup, but once you actually put them into play, you may realize they’re all wrong for your team. So try a project or two in a free trial of whatever system you’re considering. It could take some time to pinpoint the right tool for your business, so be patient!

Project management software FAQ

Should I use an Agile or Waterfall project management tool?

The best project management tool for your startup business depends on how you manage your workflow. There are basically two ways to do this:

Agile: Your product goes through multiple tests and versions. There is no set-in-stone order to getting your deliverable made. It’s like basketball. Yes, the hoops stay in the same place and the ball bounces between the same players, but the ball is going to get passed around to the different players in a different order every time before it makes a basket.

Waterfall: Whatever you’re making, it has a process written in stone. This one is less like a basketball game and more like making cookies—your grandma’s secret recipe for cookies that won’t turn out right if you switch the steps around.

What should good project management tools do?

A good project management tool should take the kinks out of your teams’ collaborations and give you, the manager, the ability to see the big picture.

During your free trial, see if the system’s collaboration tools meet your business’s needs. Are your team members feeling limited by the interface or any of the features?

Can you, as the manager, see what’s going on and what’s getting done without having to stop by everyone’s desk or send a thousand emails? Are there any features you are desperately wishing for that another system might have?

Also, consider how you expect your company to grow in the next few years. Is this system scalable enough to still work for your company in the next year, five years, or decade?

The takeaway

Optimizing your workflow through a project management system can really give your business a leg up. Whichever software you choose, you’ll have something that will unify your team and get them all on the same page.

If we’ve convinced you to go for Backlog or Jira, you might enjoy a look at our list for essential tech. But how you want your project management page to be laid out depends on you, and we hope our breakdown of these project management systems will help you find the best one for your business.

Still aren’t sure whether a project management system would be worth the cost? Refer to our article “How to Measure Your Return on Investments (ROI).”

Disclaimer

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Business.org Staff Writer
Written by
Business.org Staff Writer
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