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These are the true costs of free project management software

5 min read

Assigning tasks, collaborating with one another and managing multiple projects at once… this is the reality to many project managers out there. Without proper tools, however, the various responsibilities within modern project management might be hard to meet.

For this reason, various project management tools have been developed and launched in recent years, not only in the paid version but also free of charge. The latter variant seems very tempting for some companies. Unfortunately we have to dampen the euphoria a bit. To make it easier for the entire team to work together and actually streamline internal processes, you should always choose a tool that suits your needs best - even if its price seems to be higher at first.

Free project management software solutions are tempting - but let's be honest, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch...

Searching for free project management software? Be aware what the price depends on!

First of all, many project management solutions are offered free of charge. At first glance, they seem to be the perfect choice, especially for individuals, startups and small businesses. Of course, testing some options and making cost comparisons before deciding on a solution can not hurt. Keep in mind, however, that - especially when it comes to free project management software - you might find some hidden costs sooner or later.

When choosing a project management tool, it’s important to go for the right set of features. Even though using such software doesn’t ensure project success - it can easily affect the productiveness of your team and help you reach your business goals in the long run. To put it simply: you have to match the vital business needs to specific software features before you invest in the right tool.

There are other things that you might want to keep in mind once you’re at it. According to Statista, 40% of project management software purchase decisions are made for functionality, 24% for ease of use, and 9% for price. Factors such as support, reputation, software popularity, and implementation training also matters - but slightly less. At the same time, 95% of project managers are willing to spend more for project management software, especially when it offers the “missing features” they have been looking for.

That’s hardly surprising, given the variety of options available. When it comes to pricing, though, the list of elements that usually determine the price of project management tools includes:

  • Number of users
  • Workspaces
  • Available features
  • Integrations
  • Reporting capabilities
  • Storage space
  • Support services

Apart from different prices, each of the project management tools takes its own approach to tracking projects and managing teams that you might find better than the other. Nonetheless, many project managers still seem to be looking for a “one tool fits all” solution, mostly to cut costs. Unfortunately, a single best tool doesn’t exist.

If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense: project management revolves around a variety of tasks and responsibilities, which is why it’s extremely difficult to find a tool that does everything for you. Basically, a jack of all trades is a master of none - and this applies to project management software as well.

The Problem with free project management software: Why it is worth to invest in a tool

In fact, poor communication is cited as the main cause in nearly a third of failing projects. For this reason, teams should always strive for open communication.

A project management software that records work progress and all information at one place provides the best possible support. Reason for that is, of course, that a large part of misunderstandings can be avoided from the outset. Information no longer flows through various channels - they are unadulterated and accessible to anyone in a central location. The dependencies in the team decrease - which gets even clearer when comparing it to communication via e-mail. Areas that roll back the project on schedule can be detected more easily. Well, the list can be continued. The right software, being able to increase the quality of communication within the team, can therefore bring a significant advantage in terms of collaboration. Free project management tools are usually not part of this group.

In general, a good project management software should allow a team to manage task processes in a structured way, keep track of schedules, collaborate on documents, keep files as well as all other files accessible to all stakeholders and communicate openly. The bigger the team, the more complex the workflows and the higher the requirements, that will be imposed on the software.

These are the hidden costs of free project management software

Less Features. Free project management tools often serve as simple “to-do” lists, which might help you manage your tasks, but not entire projects (especially when they are complex). Without the ability to see and manage dependencies or the critical path, as well as the project management timeline, it can be much more difficult to manage resources and tasks that are interdependent. A proper tool should support risk and change management, as well as project analysis and reporting, just to name a few. Apart from actual features, it’s also common to encounter many limitations around the number of users, projects and data, as well as APIs and integrations.

Lack of customisation. Usually, free project management software can’t be customised in any way. This means that you can’t fully adapt them to your needs, especially if you plan to grow rapidly in the near future, and/or you use different methodologies for your projects. It’s because such software is pretty much unable to grow with your business, and tends to support only one project management methodology at a time. Yet again: you should think of your needs in advance, as changing the tool in the middle of a project might give you and your team a real headache.

Limited training and support. The majority of paid options comes with proper training and support, since the vendors want to keep you satisfied with the software. In the case of free options, however, dedicated support, guarantee period and ongoing maintenance are much less common. It means that any costs associated with training your staff and configuring the software will come out of your pocket.

Higher security risks. Every project management tool is meant to store lots of important and sensitive company data, including the details of your customers, employees, and resources. It’s essential to know who you’re entrusting with this information, and how safe it actually is. Especially with project management software offered free of charge, the settings for increasing the security standard (password guidelines, two-factor authentication, etc.) are often limited.

Choosing your project management software: test and compare!

As you can see, free project management software might involve some additional costs though being not always obvious at first glance. More in-house efforts due to a lack of support, inefficient workflows due to functional deficits and a lack of flexibility, risks due to security gaps: all of these factors determine the price of the software.

Before the decision is made, all expectations on the tool should be evaluated. The important thing is to finally select the tool that suits the needs of the team best and that adds value to the teams workflows. By no means should it additionally hamper the productivity of a team due to lack of adaptability and too little functionality.

Our project management software comparison shows you what to look out for in the comparison.

Data protection and information security should also play a role in the selection, as the price for a lack of security can be very high. For this reason, in addition to a broad range of capabilities and adaptability, Stackfield also provides security measures beyond the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation. Convince yourself in a free trial that Stackfield is a worth a investment.

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Lena Wimmer
About the Author:
Lena Wimmer is Product Marketing Manager at Stackfield. She is passionate about American literary history, great content and cinematography.
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