The next project is coming up. The goals are set high, the zeal still great. However, we all know that a little organizational talent and motivation are no longer sufficient in modern project management. Quite frequently, project structures become so complex that it is difficult to keep track of them. For the success of a project, however, nothing is more important than that.
For teams with large projects, the project management software as a central tool for collaborating and communicating is now indispensable. No wonder, with the right tool, even challenging projects can easily be directed in the right direction. However, some feel overwhelmed by the wide variety of tools available.
How about having a look at five of 2019's most popular project management tools before making a decision?
Consider this before choosing a tool!
Project management tools can be found quickly - more precisely, they are a dime a thousand. And they are all packed with a whole bunch of features. How do you actually find the one that fits best? Fortunately, there are a number of factors that can make the decision significantly easier.
These factors are worth paying attention to:
Adaptability. Projects are different. Always. Each team works differently. Every time. So what advantages can be derived from a simple one-fits-all-solution? None. It is a great advantage whenever tools can be adapted to very diverse demands that arise from different workflows. If, on the other hand, the team has to focus completely on the structure given by the software, additional efforts and low productivity is what follows.
User friendliness. It may sound simple, but a high level of usability is extremely important for the success of the project. If the application raises problems, it will throw the team back on schedule. Also, new project participants need to be able to find their way quickly, because new projects or only temporary participants are quite common during projects that are scheduled for several weeks or months.
Support. The fact that it can be problematic to opt for a project management software is (as already mentioned) due to the vast range of functions. Consequently, just as the above-mentioned user-friendliness, a good support is also essential. After all, tools are being improved and they receive new features as part of numerous updates regularly. Whom should I approach if usage problems come up? Who will help me if I cannot find my way around the tool? What if I have problems logging in? Who answers all my questions? If you have answers to all of these questions after you made your decision, congratulations! That's definitely a plus for the provider.
Data security In 2018, the GDPR revolutionized data protection in Europe. It is now more important than ever for companies to protect personal data and it is as important as ever, to keep the company’s internal data safe. There is probably no need to mention, why the protection of personal data is important to customers. Nevertheless, some project management tools set higher security standards than others. And THIS is a criterion that can outdo all others.
Functionality. Of course, also functionality is very important. What is the good of a privacy-friendly and easy-to-use tool - even if those factors are essential - if the tool doesn’t help you with anything? What is the use of a tool with the largest range of functions, if a software for communication as well as for task and resource planning is needed, but none of that can be put into practice with that tool? This issue is a very individual one because the structures in project management differ depending on the team (size), preferred workflows and internal regulations. Internal structures determine how a project management software will be used. These areas are of particular importance for project management:
- Task management: The task management is essential for the planning of projects. Here, responsibilities should be clarified and tasks should be structured, scheduled and linked with the associated documents and files. Depending on the software, different views can be offered.
- Communication: Communication in real time and logical links keep the coherences even over longer periods of time - Communication is key!
- Management of documents and files: Transparent filesharing and the ability to work together on documents should also be possible. Then, all the information about the project is in one central place.
Let me give you a HIGH 5: Five Top-Tools compared
What are we taking a closer look at? Five providers of cloud-based project management software offered as SaaS (Software as a Service) solution.
The project management software with German server location combines communication and task workflows in one tool while remaining GDPR compliant. Stackfield is available to users as a cloud-based solution as well as on-premise.
Usability and function. On the one hand, Stackfield shows user-friendliness in it’s clear structure. Project rooms are created for different workspaces. And because work structures in different project teams can be quite different, they can be designed flexible: each room contains various modules (e.g. group chat, discussion module, task management, time recording, calendar document and file management, etc.) whose composition can be easily adapted to the needs of the users. For example, the Kanban board in the task module can be converted into an editorial plan. Modules can be switched off if not needed. In addition to the existing integrations (such as Dropbox), the Stackfield API provides an opportunity for integrating additional systems, such as links to a CRM module. Gantt charts are still in the works at Stackfield, but are about to be released. These diagrams are useful, for example, in resource planning or to get an overview of individual projects.
In order to maintain relationships, all elements (tasks, files, comments, etc.) can be linked to each other. Thus, Stackfield also keeps the project management with complex workflows clear and structured.
On the other hand, great care was also taken to create an intuitive user interface in which you can quickly find your way around. To further facilitate entry, the project managers and all those involved in the project team are guided through the first steps.
Support. Stackfield offers various options to ensure optimal support. A help database answers the most common questions. For specific questions, consultants can be contacted by e-mail or live chat. For enterprise customers, personal priority support is available over the phone and furthermore, webinars and on-site training can be arranged.
Data security. High standards of data protection guarantee GDPR compliance. All sensitive data is being encrypted by using client-side end-to-end encryption directly in the browser, which is why even the platform providers are not able to view anything. What follows is an encrypted transmission to Stackfields servers, where the data will be stored encrypted all in rest. Stackfields servers are located in Germany, which means that the use of the tool complies with European data protection law.
Extensive opportunities for assigning roles and user rights guarantee the adherence of the compliance rules of Stackfields customers. For instance, the respective role also allows external employees to be integrated into work processes without having any concerns.
Stackfield also gives its users the option of an on-premise solution, giving them full control over their data.
Let's head over to the popular US giant Asana. Because of its simple structure and its easy task workflows, the tool is suitable for small to medium-sized teams.
Usability and function. Above all, users of Asana appreciate the simple, intuitive handling. The task workflows are kept simple and the functionality plain - especially in the Basic version. For example, the "data deletion and export" function is only available in the Enterprise version. In Asana, various projects can be created to which individual tasks can be assigned. Also notes and details about the tasks can be added. All of it is presented in a clear three-column structure. For this reason, the use of the App is more clearly arranged compared to some other providers. For small teams, the tool with the beautiful user interface is well suited. However, if the projects become more extensive and complex also the product management software needs to offer more. Those teams who want to map complex task workflows are shown the limitations of the tool.
Support. The "customer support" is basically limited to a community, an introduction to the program and video material. Only the paid versions include customer support with a contact person, which, however, can only be reached by e-mail.
Data security. Asana is certified under the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework. Though, Asana – based in the United States – is subject to the Cloud Act and also hosts all data on American servers. Thus, companies that place high demands on data security will draw on other alternatives.
US providers without Privacy-Shield-certification whose servers are located in the US are classified as extremely critical for data protection. However, Trump's Cloud Act creates legal uncertainty regarding US providers, not regarding those with US-server locations but also those with EU-server locations, as the law is in high contrast to the European GDPR. Users of German cloud providers whose servers are also located in Germany can be considered to keep out of harm’s way.
Trello is the Michelangelo among the PM tools - here the focus is clearly on the colorful and open presentation. The Task Manager is known for its map view and is mainly suitable for agile project management in small teams.
Usability and function. Without a doubt, Trello can be described as user-friendly. However, the tool is largely limited to its simple task boards. Basically, everything ends up there in a card: tasks, appointments and other contents, which can then be provided with file attachments and detailed information. These cards can be easily moved using drag and drop. For extensive projects, however, Trello is only partially suitable. The time recording is only possible via the Harvest Power-Up. Global overviews or a central dashboard, such as those found at Stackfield, are neither available at Trello. Though, an advantage is the quite wide range of integrations (for example Slack or Dropbox). It’s mostly very small teams within an agile project management environment that benefit from Trello.
Support. Also the support is greatly limited at Trello. It is limited to a (mainly English speaking) community and video tutorials as well as help texts, which are partly integrated directly into the tool. If these options do not provide a solution, the "Trello Support" can only be reached via a contact form..
Data security. Trello is Privacy Shield certified. Also Trello – being an American provider – hosts all data on servers that are located in the United states. Users of the platform should be aware of this.
Basecamp is regarded a classic in project management. Its handling is kept simple and its focus lies on communication.
Usability and function. Basecamp provides some one-stop-shop features - real-time communication, file management, to-do lists - but stays simple within these areas and relies on streamlined functional areas. For example, a Kanban board, that is perceived by many users as being more concise, does not exist. Additional features (CRM tools, time tracking, etc.) can be added as integrations. Basecamp focuses on communication in the teams. Thus, it can be said that the tool is also mainly aimed at communication-driven smaller teams. For larger projects with complex task structures, users can quickly lose track of things. Nevertheless, the tool is to be classified as user-friendly due to its intuitive interface.
Support. Basecamp offers live video chats and support via contact form. Short video tutorials and help texts are intended to clarify basic questions.
Data security. Basecamp is Privacy Shield certified. Like the other American colleagues, Basecamp is based in the States. That’s also where the platform provider from Chicago hosts all data.
Heading over to the veteran of the project management tools: MS Project - a complex strukture for complex and extensive projects. MS Project is offered as a cloud or on-premise option.
Usability and function. Its quite complicated usage testifies why the tool is almost exclusively used by experienced project managers. MS Project is especially time-consuming for newcomers. Experts appreciate the very detailed options that are available when mapping the operations - whether in a task, in the assignment of user roles or other content within the project planning. The intricate but finely granular structures lead to descriptions like this online: "Clunky. Frustrating to learn. Unfriendly." Anyone interested in MS Project should therefore think in advance about what functions are actually needed. The high-priced product is designed only for those who – due to extremely complex projects – invest a lot of know-how and time to make the most of what the tool has to offer.
Support. With regard to the detailed development of the tool and the lower user-friendliness (the latter results from the first), it can be extremely problematic that Microsoft does not provide a personal contact. Answers to various questions can be found in the Help Center.
Data security. The provider is Privacy Shield certified. Furthermore, the American project management tool MS Project is also offered as an on-premise option. If you host the software on your own server, privacy is also within your own sphere of responsibility. Nevertheless, on-premise solutions result in an increased workload for the customer, which is why this solution might not be perfect for everyone.
Conclusion: Project workflows can be individual, but not when it comes to security
As already mentioned: Project management software is a dime a thousand. However, those who think in advance about what task workflows should be displayed and what functions are of relevance for collaboration within the team will have a much easier decision process. We have listed important factors that should definitely be considered in the decision. Especially in terms of data protection there is no room for compromises. Too big are the risks: reputational damage, sanctions for data protection violations or competition losses, to name some of them.
All other factors need to be assessed individually and with regard to in-house processes during the project planning. How important is a personal contact - someone who is there to help whenever problems come up? How detailed should the task processes be displayed? Which software increases your productivity while remaining easy to use? If in doubt, it still helps to get an overview yourself, taking advantage of the free trial period.