5 Essential Project Management Tools: Finish Under Budget!
Hey, project manager! We feel your pain. It’s tough to get a new project from conception to completion, so we’re going to take you behind the curtain and reveal the 5 project management tools—from budgeting and planning to collaboration and beyond—that help us get the job done on time and on budget.
Hint: #3 is the crux of EVERYTHING.
Behind Every Successful Project Lies Essential Project Management Tools
Human brains are tricky. We love the finished product but rarely appreciate the long, arduous journey. But make no mistake, behind every perfectly set painting is a carefully measured nail and a frustrated homeowner with a tape measure and pencil in hand.
Same goes for a TV show or movie. Every gripping episode of Game of Thrones (besides this new season. **George RR Martin screams NOOOOO WHAT?!?**) is the result of teams of writers collaborating within an age-old story structure, analyzing dialog, exploring themes, and mapping character arcs (who knows what’s going on this year though).
See what we mean? It only took us a single major project coming in at double the planned budget to realize that any perfectly finished project requires processes and structure.
If you want to start completing things faster, cheaper, and better, you’ve got to step your project management game up.
Here are the 5 tools we never go without.
The Best Project Management Tools for Business: Budgeting, Planning, Collaboration, and Beyond
Our Favorite Project Planning Software – Wrike
Wrike is the ultimate project planning tool for large and small businesses alike. It’s powerful, relatively affordable (There’s even a FREE plan for up to 5 people), and extremely easy to use. We’ll get to all that in a second….
First, let’s cover how it’ll help you manage your projects.
- Easy to set up
- Tons of features that make planning and tracking projects easy
- Chatting and video call options
- 5-tier pricing keeps things flexible (Free – $1,000+)
- Interface is a godsend
In Wrike, you can create a project and populate it with tasks, deadlines, comments, attachments, and a flurry of other details that go beyond your average project management software. With all of these easy-to-digest features, you can start managing major projects quickly even with little to no training.
You can even chat or make video calls (but we recommend a much better tool for that later on).
On our end, we love the clean interface, fast setup time, and flexible plans. We were ready to go in next to no time and never had any hiccups using it. Since we aren’t a mega-billions conglomerate, the 5 tiers of plans helped us strike the balance between keeping costs down and having room to grow. It is the main structure we operate within to create awesome new products, services, and initiatives!
Bottom Line: Use Wrike for project management, especially if you’re new or not a major corporation.
Team Communication Software – Slack
Slack is where work happens. Where work flows. Where work…okay, you get it.
Slack is where our team talks about work. Like the water cooler or a virtual boardroom, everyone gets together to discuss a project, collaborate, and gossip. Definitely worthy of our project management tools list.
If you aren’t already using this collab hub for teams, do it NOW. We don’t know how we ever survived without it.
- Create different work channels according to department or task
- Slack stores chats, info, and attachments so everything is at your fingertips (it’s easily searchable so you can pull things up to prove you were right)
- Compatible with office tools (you can instantly access your Gmail, Google Drive, or even Trello… another essential tool we get to later)
Slack really is the collab tool of collab tools. Video calls, file sharing, top-notch security—it’s got everything we need to make sure we’re all on the same page. Behind every cohesive team lies an awesome communication tool!
Another Favorite Project Management Tool – Trello
Trello is AWESOME. We don’t use it for overall project planning and tracking like we do Wrike, but just for mini-projects (like tasks within tasks).
How it Works
Trello is just a group of “boards” with “board members” where you can create cards, assign tasks, attach files, and write comments. So, if you’ve got a content writer on your team, you can set up a board for that writer, create a card for every blog they need to write that month, set a due date, and manage that task. Once it’s done, they assign you to the card and you get a notification.
Sound easy? IT IS.
Best Budgeting Software – Freshbooks
“On average, 27% of projects run over their intended cost” – Harvard Business Review
Listen, projects are almost always going to run AT LEAST A TAD over budget. There’s always something you never accounted for, something that goes wrong, or additions you have to make here or there. But the average overrun of 27% is unacceptable.
FreshBooks is super simple, feature-rich accounting software that integrates directly into multiple project management tools (like Asana and Trello). With it, you can track:
And it all comes with powerful analytics so you can track every red cent to make better-educated business decisions. For your projects, FreshBooks lets you keep every receipt, track time, make proposals, divide spending into categories (training, travel, advertising, etc.), and even snap and store pictures of receipts.
It’s made our projects WAY more efficient AND our lives a lot easier. Coming in under budget isn’t magic, it about well-managed processes!
The last of the project management tools on our list is…
Our Creative Workspace and Education – Notion
If you have a lot of creative work to do (writing, designing, etc.), Notion is a super creative tool with a modern feel that helps teams collaborate creatively.
- Knowledge base for team members
It blends all of your tools, spaces, and knowledge into one workspace.
For project management, we use it to bring team members up to speed on advanced knowledge, keep track of creative projects, and give team members individual to-do lists.
The only way to really understand it is to check it out…maybe the Game of Thrones writing staff ought to give it a try.
These project management tools help us get (almost) all of our projects done on time and on budget, and most are extremely simple and very affordable. You’ll wonder how you ever managed a project without them.