The Internet is full of PM (Project Management) tools to help you manage your time and tasks. Here we focus on the top free contenders that integrate with Google Apps, the commonly-used SME email solution. Not only can you download them for free but because they run on top of Google Apps, they also integrate with Gmail and Google Docs so you can login with your Google account, create tasks through Gmail, and share tasks with your Google contacts. Also known as ‘Social Intranets’ they resemble social media networks that have real-time notifications, activity feeds that track progress and eliminate the need for redundant emails. Most provide real-time collaboration, smart email integration and the ability to prioritize and communicate tasks and priorities. These Apps are designed for small to large businesses but could also be useful on an individual basis. Conveniently, most tools are also optimized to work on mobile devices or have an associated app to do so.
Google Sheet Templates
If you want PM tools without the software, let’s begin by looking at some basic Google templates that will help you organize tasks and timelines.
Project Management Schedule
This template divides project goals into individual tasks, marks dependent tasks, as well as tracks start dates, completion dates, and the owner of each task. Extra features include columns to rank task difficulty and any notes. It’s widely used, with over 300 ratings giving it a total score of 3.5 stars out of 5.
Project Management Timeline (Gantt chart)
A supplementary template for project management is Google Doc’s “Project Management Timeline” template also known as a Gantt chart. It divides tasks into related phases and then illustrates their duration in weeks on a monthly calendar. Each task is also labeled by its owner. This is another popular tool, with over 200 ratings giving it a total score of 4.5 stars out of 5.
Claiming to be the number one provider of social project management software, Wrike has an estimated one billion individual users spread over 55 different countries and have one of the largest and diverse user bases.
Pros: This software’s most interesting quality is a unique split screen which allows you to navigate from one task to another, change account settings, check up on subordinates, attach files, and alter deadlines without ever having to switch browser windows. Wrike is the ideal program for people who have to keep track of a lot of variables, and its real-time activity stream keeps you current and up-to-date with everything that’s happening. Wrike offers both free and premium (paid) options. The “free” package provides basic, but limited services and lacks many of Wrike’s most endearing features. However, the free option does contain some very useful (if elementary) functions, and small business owners, or those lacking an adequate budget may benefit by going this route.
Cons: This product comes with a steep learning curve. Many users have simply given up, citing their displeasure with the unacceptable amount of work involved in mastering the software. People familiar with other project management software are not overly impressed with Wrike’s Gaant charts.
This software uses a method called Kanban, a project management system developed by a former Toyota vice president, Taiichi Ohno, which allows users to move cards—representative of tasks—to create a visual representation of where a project is in development. Trello has a full-functioning free model and an upgraded business model for “team super powers”.
Pros: This tool is extremely intuitive – it’s a simple drag and drop operation. A quick peek at the alignment of the cards lets users know how far along a project is—and what to work on next. While the front of the card lists the tasks and provides images making the interface appealing, the back can be filled with all kinds of information—like who’s working on the task, when it’s due, and what parts of the task have already been completed with a simple checklist.
Cons: Because of Trello’s emphasis on simplicity, it’s missing a few key features. There isn’t a good way to look at a project with high detail—for example, it does not offer an option to see task lists broken down by user or due date.
Bitrix24 is an online service that combines many business functions such as task management, CRM, document sharing, and time tracking. It is presented through a user-friendly interface that appears very similar to a social networking site but provides a secure, collaborative environment where employees, partners and customers can send instant messages, receive activity stream updates and share different types of files. Smaller companies can have enterprise-grade social applications at an affordable price that includes a free plan for limited users.
Pros: Users can choose whether to use Bitrix24 in the cloud or self-host on the company’s own server. The PM features are outstanding: Bitrix24 offers Gantt charts, layered task options, time tracking and management, and even employee workload planning.
Bitrix24 also makes real-time communication a breeze with group chat, videoconferencing, and instant messenger. It also acts as a DropBox alternative—the free version offers 5GB of cloud storage.
Cons: The interface can be difficult to understand and the online tutorials are not expansive. The design has been described as “clunky”.
Asana is one of the most popular project management apps available—and best of all, for up to 15 users, it’s free.
Pros: Dustin Moskovitz, the co-founder of Facebook, also designed Asana. True to the aesthetic and simplicity of the most popular social network, Asana is an intuitive task-management system that works best for teams seeking real-time interaction.
Asana allows its users to visualize their goals, track their time, assign priority to their tasks, and get updates on the project right in the program. It also has a calendar function to graph the team’s tasks right onto the dashboard. Their full-functioning iOS app is user friendly and allows you to edit existing content and add new projects, tasks, comments, tags, attachments and more with your phone or tablet.
Cons: Asana’s plain design, including lack of color, can be cluttered and confusing.
This is a sampling of PM tools available online. Since businesses and individuals prefer different features, it’s wise to prioritize your needs and determine which tool is the best option.
About the author
Cindy loves digital technology and as an college intern, focuses on creating digital advertising strategies and managing Google AdWords campaigns for profit and non-profit businesses. She develops content for the Search Engine Optimist blog and manages posts on social media channels. She will complete her B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Washington in June and looks forward to retiring her text books.