10 Best project management tools for small teams
Last updated on: November 3, 2022
As a small business owner, you noticed that poor organization causes your team’s productivity to suffer. A quick Google search informed you that project management software is the answer to all your troubles.
After some research and deliberation, you chose a project management tool that you believed fit your team and budget, and sat back, waiting for results to kick in.
And then, nothing happened.
Worse yet, things got even more complicated with your team members spending more time trying to divine how to use the program instead of working on their project.
This happens more often than you’d think, and for one simple reason — we tend to gravitate toward things that are presented as “the best” instead of paying attention to what’s best for us, losing a lot of money and nerves in the process.
This needs to change.
In the text below, we go over 10 project management tools suitable for small teams, and walk you through the process of choosing the right tool for your business, regardless of popular opinion.
Buckle up and let’s begin!
What is a project management tool?
The term project management tool (PM tool) refers to any piece of software specifically designed to help teams:
- Organize, and
- Track their projects.
Good project management software gives you and your team a comprehensive overview of one or more of your projects by allowing you to gather all the data in one place.
It removes the need for cluttered whiteboards, sticky notes, and endless to-do lists, and replaces them with a single, secure, and organized space that all your team members can access.
By giving you a bird’s eye view of the projects you’re working on, PM tools make tracking project timelines, making estimates, and allocating resources easier and less time-consuming.
Why should small teams use project management software?
These days, digital project management tools are more popular than ever. Project management software statistics show that over 69% of project managers use some sort of software to help them stay on top of their work.
There are good reasons for this — as evidenced by the following research:
- 87% of successful projects involve project management software.
- Lack of appropriate PM software was voted among the top ten project management issues in 2021.
- The use of project management software has a significant impact on project success.
This proves that the tempting promises PM tools make are not just empty words.
Now, you might be wondering what project management software has to do with your small business that has nothing to do with project management.
The answer is — everything.
Regardless of size or industry, every business has at least a few employees who each have their own duties and responsibilities. Each of those duties is a project in its own right. Oftentimes, these smaller projects intertwine and work together to contribute to a greater, overarching project.
In a smaller team or a smaller business, these projects might also be smaller. But, they require an equally large amount of effort and coordination as larger teams to keep the cogs of your business turning smoothly.
This is why project management tools are important — they take the load off your shoulders and that of your employees.
They allow employees to focus on their daily duties and rely on the software to:
- Let them know when something changes,
- Let them know if one of the projects is behind schedule,
- Identify bottlenecks that are losing them time and money, etc.
In other words, the right project management software will help you:
- Streamline the workflow of your business,
- Identify issues more easily, and
- Make your teams more efficient.
10 best project management tools for small teams
There are literally dozens of project management tools out there. On the one hand, this fact makes settling on one tool extremely difficult. On the other, you can rest assured that your perfect software is definitely somewhere among them.
Unfortunately, we can’t cover them all here. But, after researching each of them, we settled for what we believe are the top 10 digital PM tools for small teams currently on the market:
- Zoho Projects,
- Team Gantt,
- ClickUp, and
Below, we’ll go over each of them in no particular order, listing their standout features, and explaining why they might be a good fit for your smaller team or business.
Monday is a popular and versatile project management tool. The app has a clean layout with options to view your task as:
- Kanban board,
- Gant chart,
- Cards, and
Monday offers some other views that give a clearer overview of the project, such as the so-called “numbers overview”. Here, you can see the budget or hours from several boards at the same time and compare them.
Monday also has some gimmicky views — such as the battery view, where your progress is visually represented as a phone battery.
Despite its many amazing features, Monday has a rather limiting free plan, which might pose an issue for smaller or growing businesses that are looking to save money.
The app offers a 14-day free trial for their Pro plan, after which you can choose one of the five plans they offer.
Monday’s free plan offers only two seats and 500 MB of storage with no more than 1,000 items on your boards. The basic plan starts at $8 per seat per month, or $24 per month if billed annually.
Why small businesses should use Monday
✅ User-friendly: For those who have some experience in using project management apps, Monday has a relatively shallow learning curve — so you won’t have to worry about wasting time on onboarding and figuring out how to use the app.
✅ Integrations: Thanks to Monday’s extensive integration capabilities, you can connect Slack, Zendesk, Dropbox, Gmail, Zoom, Asana, and many other apps to your Monday account.
You can even import existing tasks from other PM tools like Trello or Jira, which makes for a smooth transition from your old software. The downside is that the number of actions per integration is limited at lower tiers.
Highlight feature for small businesses — Templates
Since Monday has an extensive list of features, it can get overwhelming for people who have never used digital project management tools before.
However, this is precisely what makes Monday so good — its versatility. Besides being a good modern app for project managers, Monday can also be used for other areas such as:
- HR, etc.
Thanks to its long list of templates for nearly every industry under the sun, you’ll surely find something that fits your needs without having to explore the program or tinker with the settings yourself.
|Monday pros||Monday cons|
|– Integrates with many popular services|
– Vast collection of templates
|– Extremely limiting free plan|
Created by the people behind Clockify, the world’s most popular time tracking software, Plaky is a new project management tool that enables small businesses to manage their projects with ease without spending a dime.
Plaky can be used for a variety of use cases, such as:
- Development, etc.
Plaky allows you to:
- Create as many tasks as you want,
- View them as a table or Kanban board,
- Assign tasks to as many team members as necessary,
- Get notified when changes are made to the card you follow,
- Give feedback in the comment section of each card/task, and
- Collaborate with your team members on tasks.
Why small businesses should use Plaky
✅ Templates: Plaky offers several different templates for each of the use cases that you can start using right away to organize your project or team. For example, you can download:
- Strategy plan templates,
- Social media calendar templates,
- Design request templates,
- Employee onboarding templates,
- Product roadmap templates,
- Bug tracking templates,
- Personal goal and task templates, and many more.
✅ Security: Security is one of the biggest concerns of organizations that use cloud-based management software. As a business or team leader, it’s your responsibility to make sure no sensitive information on your team, you, or your business is leaked online.
Plaky is ISO 27001 and SOC2 certified and GDPR compliant, and, as such, guarantees the safety of your information.
✅ 24/7 support: In striving for maximum customer satisfaction, Plaky refrains from using bots for communication with users. Instead, Plaky customer support is available 24/7 and you can be sure that an actual person is waiting to solve your problem on the other side.
Highlight feature for small businesses — Free and unlimited
Perhaps the most fascinating thing of all is that Plaky is completely free and sets no restrictions on the number of users, projects, tasks, and files in your workspace.
When it comes to small teams and small businesses, everything you need to manage projects is available for free. This also includes some convenient quality-of-life features, such as:
- Custom tags,
- Custom statuses, and
- Managing board permissions, and
- Managing board workspace and board status.
|Plaky pros||Plaky cons|
|– Completely free to use|
– Unlimited users
– Unlimited projects
– Unlimited tasks
– Unlimited files
– Various templates
– Time tracking integration with Clockify
|– Some features still in development|
Zoho Projects is a slightly more advanced project management software meant for either larger teams or smaller teams with more complicated projects.
Zoho offers a vast number of fantastic features that project managers will love, such as:
- Gantt charts,
- Estimates and actual performance comparisons against the baseline,
- Critical path view built into Gantt chart reports,
- Dependency creation,
- Resource utilization calculations, and so much more.
However, if you had to google some of the things from the list above, this PM software is not for you.
While Zoho is an all-encompassing project management tool that can work for smaller teams, it is also highly specialized. As such, it might be a better fit for either larger organizations or smaller teams that are in the business of project management specifically.
Similar to Monday, Zoho’s free plan is rather limited — but considering the feature set you’re getting, neither of the two paid plans ($5 seat/mo and $10 seat/mo) is terribly expensive. Just keep in mind that you’ll likely be paying for features you’ll never use.
Another thing you should consider is automation. Zoho has certain automation features — but they are nowhere near as advanced as Monday’s. So, if automation is something you are looking for, keep in mind that you’ll likely have to use Zapier in combination with Zoho, which will incur further costs.
Why small businesses should use Zoho Projects
✅ Feature-rich: While having a heavy feature set can be a double-edged sword when it comes to project management tools for small businesses, we decided to see it as a good thing, at least to an extent.
This is because Zoho is clearly not a tool meant for individuals and personal use, but for project managers in particular. Having fewer features may be seen as oversight by some teams.
✅ Collaborative: Zoho is one of the very few PM tools that go above and beyond when it comes to built-in collaboration. Besides the usual comment/feedback section, there is also a live chat option, a forum, an interactive feed, and information and documentation repositories.
Highlight feature for small businesses — Dependency creation
One very useful feature for any business, big or small, is being able to create dependencies between tasks and projects.
Dependencies allow you to see how different tasks are related to one another and which must be done first for the others to be able to function properly. This way, identifying dependencies helps you save time and prevent issues that might occur if tasks are performed out of order.
Dependencies are often something we are aware of and try to keep in mind, but having a visual representation available for everyone to see is a valuable addition to any project management tool.
|Zoho Projects pros||Zoho Projects cons|
|– A plethora of features|
– Advanced collaboration options
– Dependency creation
|– Extremely limited free plan|
– Steeper learning curve
Wrike is another great project management tool that can work well with both large and small teams. It’s slightly less feature-packed than Zoho, but also easier to use and get used to — which is a win in our book.
Wrike has a different layout than any of the other PM tools on this list so far. So, your first encounter with the app might be a bit confusing at first. Luckily, the onboarding should take care of any issues.
As most project management apps do, Wrike allows you to see your tasks as a list, table, or in Kanban view. In Wrike, you’ll also be able to:
- Track timelines,
- Form Gantt charts,
- Share dashboards,
- Create standardized request forms,
- Submit files for approval,
- Customize the approval procedure, etc.
But Wrike also has some unfortunate downsides:
- All major security features and admin permissions are reserved for the enterprise plan.
- Wrike’s lower-tier paid plans are more expensive than most competitors.
Why small businesses should use Wrike
Despite the higher price tag, Wrike has some really cool features that smaller businesses might appreciate, such as:
✅ Task recovery: An extremely useful feature every PM tool should have, but few do, is the recycle bin. Just like a regular recycle bin on your operating system, it gives you a chance to recover files and tasks that have been accidentally deleted — a small thing that can end up being a real life-saver.
✅ Real-time collaboration: Wrike allows you to share files with colleagues and then comment, draw, or edit them together in real time.
This is another great feature not all PM tools have that saves you from having to use Google Docs or other collaborative software in addition to Wrike. Having everything in one place is very useful — especially if you are part of a dispersed team.
Highlight feature for small businesses — Freelancer-friendly
One of Wrike’s extremely cool features is the ability to invite contractors outside your team to join your workspace, but with limited view and permissions.
This is especially useful for smaller teams or businesses that often hire freelancers and want to keep track of their work — but don’t want to share certain sensitive information.
|Wrike pros||Wrike cons|
|– Can recover deleted projects|
– Comprehensive and simple onboarding
– Cool advanced collaboration features
|– Complicated and costly integration|
– Expensive plans
Asana is one of the most popular project management tools out there, and it’s popular for a reason — it’s effective.
It’s packed with great features such as:
- Multiple views,
- Creating forms,
- Goal setting,
- A long list of possible integrations,
- Excellent automation system, etc.
Like Plaky, Asana has a great free plan (albeit, without unlimited users), offering:
- Unlimited tasks,
- Unlimited projects,
- Unlimited messages,
- Unlimited storage,
- Unlimited activity log, and
- Up to 15 people in your team — among other things.
But, not everything is as great as it appears at first glance.
Similar to Wrike, Asana also has a slightly alternative layout.
But, unlike Wrike, Asana is a little more difficult to navigate — to the point where smaller teams who don’t have a certified project manager at the top might fail in navigating it.
More likely than not, smaller teams would end up using only a fraction of what the app has to offer and still get lost in the vast featureland of Asana.
Furthermore, some aspects of the software, such as Asana’s version of the Gantt chart — the timeline — look less organized than traditional views.
Why small businesses should use Asana
Despite the overwhelming layout and feature set, Asana still does some cool things that can benefit smaller teams, such as:
✅ Eliminating emails: Asana has a convenient chat or comment section for each of the tasks. When someone sends a message, everyone assigned to that task will get a notification.
This is a convenient way to communicate with teammates and keep your conversations focused on the topic and easy to find — eliminating the need for emails altogether.
Highlight feature for small businesses — None
While Asana is without a doubt an excellent project management tool, there is no specific feature that speaks to small businesses in particular.
Asana may be called the jack of all trades. It does everything a project management tool is supposed to do — and it does it well — but it doesn’t offer any standout feature that might set it apart from similar software, especially when it comes to smaller teams.
|Asana pros||Asana cons|
|– Everything in one place|
– Great free plan
– Eliminates the need for emails
|– Complicated and technical layout|
– Better suited for larger teams
Team Gantt is probably the simplest tool on this list. It’s incredibly easy to use and customize. Nearly everything in it works on the drag-and-drop principle, and there are no hidden functionalities.
As its name suggests, Team Gantt is primarily focused on organizing projects via Gantt charts — but the app does offer a list view and a calendar view.
Besides these basic features, there are only a few more things that make it stand out — which is what we’ll talk about next.
Why small businesses should use Team Gantt
✅ Tracking baselines: Team Gantt allows you to see how your project is progressing compared to its baseline. The baseline view can be turned on or off at any time, and it’s best viewed through the Gantt chart view where it shows up as a gray line compared to a colored line which shows actual progress.
✅ Identifying dependencies: As we’ve mentioned before, being able to easily identify dependencies is really important in project management — because it helps prevent downtime due to poor organization and predict possible bottlenecks before they happen.
Highlight feature for small businesses — User-friendly
Team Gantt is not a particularly feature-rich tool, and it can’t do most cool things other software on this list can. But, it’s minimalistic and simple — which means that there’s very little chance that something will go wrong due to your team’s inability to use the app.
On the other hand, Team Gantt doesn’t offer a free plan, and its basic plan costs $19 per manager.
|Team Gantt pros||Team Gantt cons|
|– Extremely simple to use||– No free plan|
Trello is another popular project management software. Trello is mostly known for its user-friendly interface and Kanban project view that gives you a clear overview of all your tasks — while also containing a ton of information and customizability options on each of the individual cards.
However, Kanban is not all Trello is good at. The app also offers:
- Dashboard view,
- Timeline view,
- Table view,
- Calendar view, and
- Map view.
These additional views are available on Trello’s Premium plan which costs $10 user/mo.
However, even without the additional views, Trello remains one of the most user-friendly PM tools for small teams and simple, linear projects.
Why small businesses should use Trello
✅ Simplicity: We already said this, but it’s worth a repeat — Trello is a fun and easy PM tool to use. The free plan doesn’t offer much in the way of customization, but it’s good enough to accommodate a small team of people.
Since its default view is Kanban, the free app works best for small, Agile projects — and doesn’t require any previous knowledge or use of other PM tools.
✅ Customizability: One cool thing about Trello that other software for project management doesn’t offer is customization. In Trello, you can change the background or the color of your labels, or you can use Trello power-ups which give you some really cool additional features like plugging in Gantt charts, tracking dependencies, due dates, and so much more.
Highlight feature for small businesses — Butler
Butler is an automation tool in Trello that tracks the actions you perform regularly and then offers to do them automatically for you. Butler can significantly speed up some of the routine processes you perform daily and save you a lot of time and nerves when creating new tasks.
It won’t realize its full potential on the free plan — but it’s still a very cool and useful feature. Not to mention, it’s really cute.
|Trello pros||Trello cons|
|– Very simple to use|
– Customization options
– Easy and smart automation
|– Crashes from time to time|
Another easy-to-use project management tool is nTask. This is a very basic tool for managing projects with an intuitive interface.
nTask offers three paid plans, and one free, basic plan where you get unlimited access to:
- Timesheets, and
- Issue tracking.
This is one of the better free plans out there, but it only allows for up to 5 people.
nTask has other interesting features, such as:
- Tracking dependencies,
- Creating custom filters,
- Tracking budget,
- Tracking risks,
- Advanced reporting, etc.
However, these are reserved for the Premium and Business plans which cost $4 and $12 per user, per month, respectively.
Why small businesses should use nTask
✅ Simplicity: If you’ve ever used ClickUp, you’ll likely be somewhat familiar with the layout of nTask. There is virtually no learning curve — which is amazing for small businesses that don’t have a certified project manager at their disposal to help them manage more complicated tools.
Unlike some other tools on this list — such as Team Gantt, for example — the premium and business plans of nTask actually offer good value for their price and give you the option for more advanced features if you ever need them.
However, one gripe we have with nTask is that — unlike with Plaky, for example — the customer support is slow to respond, according to reviews. So if you find yourself in a pickle, it might be a while before anyone reaches out to help you.
Highlight feature for small businesses — Meeting management
If we had to highlight one nTask feature that stands out from the rest it would be meeting management.
With nTask you can:
- Sync meetings with your calendar,
- Link meetings to tasks,
- Add locations or share links to meetings,
- Integrate nTask with Zoom or Microsoft Teams and schedule meetings, etc.
This functionality is a fantastic addition to any project management tool. Not only does it keep you from storing your important information across several platforms, but it also enables you to effectively manage dispersed teams.
|nTask pros||nTask cons|
|– Great free plan for up to 5 people|
– In-app meeting management
|– Slow customer support response|
ClickUp is a project management tool that’s often compared to Monday. However, the two have some major differences worth mentioning.
ClickUp is a relatively easy-to-use piece of PM software. It has a pile of great project management functionalities, like:
- Different task views,
- Time tracking,
- Guest members,
- Resource management,
- Advanced integration options,
- Sprint management, and so much more.
While packed with functionality, the issue with ClickUp is that it is so feature-heavy that it can become overwhelming for new users.
There is another thing that might bother visual people — ClickUp has a rather inconspicuous color-coding system and a slightly disorienting Kanban view. This makes it difficult to find and keep track of individual tasks and create a mental overview of your project status.
Why small businesses should use ClickUp
✅ Great free plan: ClickUp is one of the rare PM tools that offer decent functionality with their free plan. Although there are better, and less messy PM tools out there, ClickUp’s free plan is a good option for small teams that want to save money and don’t plan on scaling up.
Highlight feature for small businesses — Task hierarchy
A very useful feature in ClickUp is setting up the task hierarchy. Thanks to this, you’ll always have a clear visual indication of task groupings and a clear overview of steps needed to complete your tasks.
Needless to say, this makes the process of creating a work breakdown structure (WBS) so much easier.
|ClickUp pros||ClickUp cons|
|– Great free plan|
– Advanced time tracking
– Advanced integrations
|– Cluttered Kanban view|
And lastly, we have Basecamp. In the world of project management software, Basecamp is the odd one out. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its advantages, or that it’s bad, but simply… It’s unique.
This can be a good thing, or it can be a dealbreaker — depending on your tool requirements.
Basecamp is not just a PM tool, but:
- A collaboration tool,
- A team chat app,
- A calendar,
- A to-do list, and
- Cloud storage all in one.
Albeit completely different from other PM software, the layout of the app is pretty intuitive, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble figuring out how it works.
However a large number of features are locked behind a paywall — so getting the true idea of what Basecamp can do is probably impossible without opting for the premium plan for $99 a month.
Now, while Basecamp is truly unique and does a good job at combining several tools into one, it fails to excel at any of them. On top of that, it lacks some rudimentary project management features that are sure to deter many from picking it over other, more focused tools.
For example, Basecamp doesn’t allow you to:
- See an overview of your entire project workflow,
- Categorize your work with labels,
- Opt out of notifications,
- Opt for pre-made templates to get you started,
- Have a visual overview of your team’s progress, etc.
And on top of all this, there’s the pricing. The fee for Basecamp’s premium plan is $99 flat, regardless of the size of your team.
This is great news for large teams, but an unnecessary expense for smaller ones who might otherwise be spending half as much for their PM software, or even nothing at all if they opt for a free PM tool such as Plaky.
Why small businesses should use Basecamp
✅ Opt-out of tools you don’t need: Oftentimes, apps that try to be everything at once end up overwhelming and difficult to navigate. This is because they offer so many features while an average team probably uses only 20% of them — the rest is just clutter.
Basecamp solved this problem by allowing users to simply remove the functionalities they don’t need on each board, creating a much more focused and clean view of the tasks.
Highlight feature for small businesses — 5 in 1
While describing someone as the “jack of all trades, master of none” is not exactly a compliment, Basecamp manages to combine five different apps into one — and, somehow, it actually works.
While using all five types of apps separately would probably give you better results, Basecamp is a pretty good solution for small businesses looking to save money and stay organized without spreading themselves too thin across several tools.
|Basecamp pros||Basecamp cons|
|– 5-in-1 app for those who want to save money|
– Live chat on tasks
|– Limited free plan|
How to choose the right project management tool for your small team
Now that we’ve gone over ten amazing PM tools for small teams, you should have an idea of what to expect when picking the software your team will use. But, ten tools is still too many to choose from.
How do you decide which would be the best fit for your team and your business needs?
There are a few things you can do:
- Consider the type of business you’re running — using the size of your team as the only criterion for choosing a project management tool won’t do you any good. A small team making jewelry and a small team renovating houses will have vastly different needs. So, first, you need to determine if your business is simple and linear. If so, a simple PM tool like Plaky or Trello is a perfect choice.
- Plan for the future — Choosing the cheapest and simplest option for your team, even if it’s only a team of several people, might work if you plan on sticking to those same people for the foreseeable future. However, if you plan on growing and scaling your business, you should consider going for a piece of software that can grow with you. Just imagine having to transfer all your data from one software to another after just a couple of months because your business grew and your needs changed.
- Consult your team — You’re not the only one who will be using the software, so if you’re in a dilemma, ask your team for an opinion. Some of them might have a clearer idea of what would better suit their workflow.
Conclusion: Project success doesn’t have to be pricey
And there you have it — our take on the best project management software for small teams. We hope you’ve found something you like — or at least got an idea of what to look for in PM software.
Don’t let the vast choice and fear of the unknown overwhelm you. Plenty of research has shown that using digital project management tools to manage your projects greatly improves the chances of success.
And, if you’re apprehensive about spending money on a mere trial run, you don’t need to. There are plenty of great and simple-to-use PM tools with amazing free plans. Give one a try. The results may surprise you.