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How To Choose The Right Project Management Software For Every Use Case

There's a catchy phrase
that's useful when it comes to choosing a project management software: "There is no such thing as average."

The origin of this phrase comes from
, when they designed cockpits around the average dimension of their pilots. It sounds like an OK idea, but they kept receiving complaints from the pilots about how uncomfortable (and downright dangerous) the cockpits were.

When the Air Force looked at the numbers, only 3.5% of the pilots studied came close to the average dimensions they designed the cockpit around, and zero pilots matched the average exactly. The other 96.5% of pilots were scrunched up into their seats or stretching to reach the dials.

How did the Air Force solve this problem? They made certain aspects of the cockpit adjustable.

When it comes to evaluating project management software, you're not going to find a great one-size-fits-all tool. Each one has its pros, cons, and preferred methodologies.

The best project management tool is the one that fulfills the needs of your team and your individual team members. It serves as both a (pardon the buzzword) source of truth for everyone to reference that each team member can customize for their own purposes. Here's how to find the right project management tool for your project, your team, and yourself.

What is project management software?

Project management software helps you plan, manage, and complete projects. That's a broad definition because we're talking about a broad spectrum of software that has arisen to meet a broad spectrum of needs.

What a project management software does depends on the project it's helping to manage. Sometimes you'll need a whiteboard for
, and other times you'll need a detailed,
that everyone commits to.

Typically, the decisions around how to use a project management software fall on the project manager (which could be their job title or just their role as lead on the project). No matter what software you use or how you use it, it needs to suit the needs of every stakeholder, from the big-wig director to the designer to the engineer.

Throughout the project management process, the project manager will use the project management software to make all stakeholders know what's happening with deliverables, when, and why. Visualizations like
, kanban boards, and progress bars provide a quick reference point for how everything is going. Automations, like triggers and
, and integrations, like Slack notifications and
, keep everyone informed and on-task. Project management software uses different project management methodologies to do all of these things in a way that's not too overwhelming.

There are four project management methods to know.

Generally, there are four methodologies that modern project management tools focus on: Agile, scrum, kanban, and waterfall. There are, of course, many more methodologies, but these four are a good starting place. We recommend an iterative approach when picking the right method for your team’s work. Mix and match different aspects of each and allow your team to experiment on their own. The methodology that works best for you will emerge naturally.

Agile

is a broad set of principles for software development that has a core idea: continual iteration. It's from this set of principles where you get sayings like "fail fast, fail often" and "move fast, break things."

There's
and
you can dive into. What's important to know is that these ideas underpin many of the other methodologies in this article and have shaped how we think about software today.

A few ideas Agile champions include:
Stakeholders should work together daily throughout the project.
Prioritize responding to change rather than sticking to rigid project planning.
Build in feedback and reflection time to learn from successes and failures.

In truth, Agile is less a methodology but a collection of principles and ideas about approaching a project. But it's still integral to how much of the tech industry has managed projects for the last 20+ years.

Scrum

is a project management framework organized around daily check-ins and two-week sprints.
thought it up in the 80s, and scrum gained wide adoption once it combined with Agile principles. When you follow the Scrum methodology, you organize your
, which contain planning sessions, daily check-ins, reviews, and retrospectives.

Kanban

is a project management methodology that splits tasks into different phases, which are typically variations of "to do," "doing," "in review," and "done." Each task is a card that moves from phase to phase until it's complete.

Waterfall

method is pretty traditional, where you organize tasks and subtasks in sequential stages. Each stage is distinct, and you can't move onto the next stage until the previous stage is complete. When you lay it out, each stage cascades into the next, creating a waterfall-like visual where
on the last.

Ten things a project management software should help you do.

OK, great, we've got a definition and a handful of methodologies. But what should a project management software do?

Identify the jobs to be done.
Get everyone to use it with user-friendly UX.
Encourage team collaboration.
Handle resource management and allocation transparently.
Track project progress visually.
Adapt plans for complex projects.
Create reports.
Ensure reliability for big and small teams.
Manage projects on mobile.
Scale once you're ready.

Project management software ideas for specific use cases.

We went through the most popular project management software in use today and picked the best for different use cases. This is very much a "your mileage may vary" situation, so check out the alternatives we list underneath each.

Keep in mind as you evaluate your options that you should prioritize a tool that:
Allows for experimentation with different methodologies.
Lets each employee customize their view.

In other words, instead of looking for a cockpit seat that'll fit everyone, look for one that's adjustable.

The best customizable project management software: Coda.

(hey, that's where you are now! 👋) is an intuitive collaboration tool that can accommodate any project management methodology and allows each team member to customize it to their needs. We're the "adjustable" project management solution.

At our product's core are building blocks that let you create pretty much whatever you want, from a CRM to a time tracking spreadsheet to task lists to a fully-fledged project management app. Your team members can then track progress in dozens of ways using
,
, and duplication.

Coda comes with all the expectations of a modern doc: real-time interactive editor, emojis and markdown, offline mode, a mobile app, rich comments, frictionless sharing, and flexibility to support remote teams—plus a few new tricks, like infinite pages and collapsible content, to streamline your space.

Here's our overview video:


Coda's main differentiator is our Lego-like document building blocks which can turn a doc into whatever you need it to be.
Methodologies: Agile, scrum, waterfall, kanban, and more.
Automation: In Coda,
you can set for your doc to automate workflows and relationships with other docs. They're so integral to our product that they're the first thing that pops up when you click the cog at the top right of a doc.
Integrations: We have Packs and
. Packs are integrations
, allowing you to pull live data into the doc and push updates out (e.g. Slack updates, calendar scheduling, Google Drive content, Dropbox assets, or GitHub pull requests).
Pricing: Paid plans are $10 - $30 per doc maker/month, custom enterprise packages, and a free plan that'll take you pretty far. What's important to note here is that we charge per
maker
, not user.
.
What people say:
"I can see Coda becoming a future default doc type, there's certainly no need for spreadsheets for me anymore. But it's more than that, Coda makes me feel empowered to solve problems. In the past, I would google for an app that fits my needs, now I fire up a Coda doc and get solving!" -
.
The formulas in Coda are very powerful yet can turn somewhat confusing, too. The good thing is that there are many YouTube videos available with instructions. Still, it may take certain users quite some time to get a good grasp on the formulas. -
.

Project management software for small teams and startups: Google Sheets.

is Google's spreadsheets product and will serve the needs of small teams and startups. Its free version will you take pretty far, and the paid Google Workspace plan won't break the bank.

That said, Google Sheets is a spreadsheet tool, not a dedicated project management software. To customize it for project or work management, you'll have to study up on formulas and macros while

Google Sheets.png

Google Sheets' differentiator is that it's a free (or cheap) spreadsheet tool that prioritizes collaboration and sharing.
Best suited methodologies: Waterfall, Kanban
Automation: The learning curve is steep, but you can make
and use Google's
.
Integrations: You can use
and the Google Sheets
, but the learning curve is steep here as well.
Pricing: Free for personal use, $6-$18 per user/month with
What people say:
"Google Sheets is very helpful for tracking data collaboratively." -
.
"It chews up RAM like nothing else. Most google products just devour RAM." -
.
Google Sheets alternatives: Excel,
,
😉

Project management software for SMBs: Asana.

is a project and task management software that’s good for small businesses. It has a large feature set at a fairly reasonable price. It's easy to pick up and learn and fairly customizable, but a common complaint is that it's all-or-nothing. Everyone has to use Asana for it to be at its best.

Asana.png

Asana's differentiator is that it does a little of everything in one relatively affordable package.
Best suited methodologies: Kanban, Waterfall
Automation: Asana has a
that manages workflow automation along with forms, dependencies, and approvals.
Integrations: Asana
and has an
.
Cost:
or $24.99 per user/month. There's a limited free tier for individuals and small teams.
What people say:
"The biggest advantage of Asana is that we can easily use it on our android phones and laptops simply by having Internet access. Overall project management has become very effective and easy." -
.
"Used Asana...meh. Pretty much all of these tools are meh. You need everyone in your organization to buy in otherwise it's just another box of crayons." -
.
Asana alternatives:
,
,

Project management software for enterprise: Miscrosoft Project.

is a project management software that's been around since the 90s and is now a part of
(though you can also purchase it as
). For enterprises that have fully bought in to the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, Microsoft Project is a great option because it integrates seamlessly with all your other Microsoft software. That said, it requires significant investment to work well and isn’t the best when it comes to collaboration.

Microsoft projects.gif

Microsoft Project's main differentiator is that it's tightly integrated into the Microsoft ecosystem, working well with other Microsoft tools like Teams, Excel, Outlook, etc.
Best suited methodologies: Waterfall, Agile
Automation: Supports workflow automation, mainly among Microsoft tools.
Integrations: Integrates with other Microsoft products natively and with other systems via API.
Cost:
if you're buying it separately from Microsoft 365.
What people say:
"[It's] mainly designed for enterprise project managers the learning curve is very steep, if you do not have a server and multiple licenses is not a good collaboration platform." -
.
"It's doing a good job of allowing us to assign tasks and keep up with what's going on with our projects. It is cutting down on the number of meetings we are having to have due to the amount of information we can transmit through the software." -
.
Microsoft Project alternatives:
,
,
,
,

Project management software for marketing teams: Trello.

is one of the original kanban-style project management tools and is great for marketing teams because it's lightweight and easy to set up. The kanban methodology (which Trello excels at) provides clear, distinct categorization for the varied tasks and projects a marketing team has on their plate at any given time. But all Trello does is kanban. If you're looking to try other methodologies, they won't fit well here.

Trello.png

Trello's main differentiator is that it's super easy to learn, set up, and use.
Best suited methodology: Kanban
Automation: Trello has
that allows you to automate certain actions to manage your backlog as well as buttons, due-date commands, and calendar commands.
Integrations: Trello can integrate with
. The most fleshed-out integrations are
, which are optional add-ons.
Cost:
, along with a limited free tier for individuals and small teams.
What people say:
"Trello is great, it's simple to use, and has loads of clever UX devices that make tracking and updating tasks a joy. We use it quite often within our organisation whenever something needs "organising fast" - we're not expecting to track the progress of the entire project through Trello, but the occasional breakout." -
.
"I found myself spending too much time looking for information when trying to reference something within a project. The look and feel of the product appeared less professional than other project management software that I have used." -
.
Trello alternatives:
,
,


Project management software for technical teams: Jira.

is a bug tracking tool and project management tool often thought of as the "default" software for Agile project management. It's great for technical teams because Jira has a suite of dev-focused features, from bug catching to issue tracking. That said, if it's not set up properly by someone who knows the software well, Jira can be a huge headache, and
.

Jira.png


Jira's differentiator is that it's specifically built for the Agile project management and enjoys wide usage among developers, engineers, and product managers (there's also
).
Best suited methodology: Agile, Scrum
Automation: Jira has
and a large library of templates, but the learning curve is steep.
Integrations: Jira integrates with
and has a library of apps that
.
Cost:
with a limited free tier and custom enterprise plans.
What people say:
"I thought I hated Jira. I thought it was unwieldy and extreme and just a complete pain. Our setup was completely misconfigured, and someone who knew what they were doing was able to sit down with me and make Jira into the tool I want - Structure and Portfolio are magical." -
.
"Tor someone new to JIRA, it can take some time to be used to it, as navigation can also be tricky." -
.


Personal project management software: Todoist.

is a flexible task manager that's great for individuals looking to manage personal projects. It focuses less on collaboration with a team (though it can facilitate it) and focuses more on freelancers, hobbyists, and busy professionals. It's powerful for personal use, but
a fully-fledged project management software.

Todoist.png

Todoist's differentiator is its focus on simplicity, aiming to foster a sense of peace of mind without distracting you with all the productivity bells and whistles.
Best suited methodologies: Waterfall, Kanban
Automation: Todoist has little to no automation, relying on its
for automation.
Integrations: Todoist has a
, though not as extensive as others on this list.
Cost:
for personal pro, $5 per user/month for teams, and a decent free tier.
What people say:
"Todoist isn't complicated or overwhelming when onboarding. It allows me to collect all my tasks (email, chrome or manually) and provide a framework for prioritizing the list." -
.
"I found Todoist more applicable for personal work and productivity management as compared to the team, as I cannot assign a single task to multiple collaborators with this tool. Furthermore, there is no way to communicate with team members in real-time." -
.
Todoist alternatives:
,
,

Five Coda project management templates you can steal right now.

Coda has a lot of project management templates you can play around with right now for free. You can find drag-and-drop templates in the Explore panel or by typing
/
anywhere in your doc. And in Coda’s Gallery, you’ll find
with docs project managers themselves created and used to complete a successful project:


The basic project management template.

This template from Ben takes you through the process of managing a fairly straightforward project. It includes messaging, status updates, progress bars, task filtering, and a bunch more.

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An all-in-one doc hub for your projects.

Try this project communication plan template to organize stakeholders, communication tools, and deadlines all in one place.

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A template for task dependencies.

If you're looking for a waterfall-like approach that mimics the task dependency functionality of big-name project management software, use this template from Al.

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A solid kanban template.

Kanban boards work super smoothly in Coda, and there are
in our gallery. This template from Jeremy is one of our favorites.

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The Gantt project plan template.

Gantt charts are a core feature of Coda, and this Gantt project plan from John makes full use of them. This template is excellent for when you need to visualize the lifecycle of your project.

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A project management template that integrates with Slack

This template is a great choice if you need to notify people in Slack about a project update. All you have to do is click the "Notify Channel" button, and the update will send.

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Project management software FAQ

What is the best software for project management?

What is the easiest project management structure?

What is the best project management software for beginners?

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