Best project management software for small businesses

We review the most popular project management tools on the market to help you find the best choice for your small business.

Our Research

Our expert team of writers and researchers rates project management software against the factors small businesses care about most - value for money (for both small and growing teams); depth of features; ease of use; quality of templates and ability to customise them, plus help and support when problems need resolving.
Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young
Robyn Summers-Emler Grow Online Editor

Our independent reviews are funded in part by affiliate commissions, at no extra cost to our readers.

In today's uncertain economy, the right project management software may be the best investment a business owner can make, helping you prioritise key tasks and responsibilities and find the most cost-efficient route to project success.

According to our most recent round of testing, conducted in July 2023, the best project management (PM) software for SMEs is still monday.com. The platform stays in pole position thanks to some smart AI updates that massively boost its ease-of-use score to a winning 4.5 out of 5.

But, it's a hotly contested software market. With firms trying to find every possible efficiency gain amid spiralling overheads, the right project management software can make a huge difference. These are our top picks, based on testing that focuses on ease of use, features, and value for money:

Best Project Management Software for 2024

  1. monday.com – best overall project management software thanks to its fantastic templates and easy customisability
  2. Clickup – best for startups or small teams looking for a free solution for short sprint tasks
  3. Teamwork – best for customer service teams working with a lot of tickets and wanting collaboration features to support colleagues
  4. Wrike – best for agencies working on client projects or large teams that need to regularly present data in a clear and professional-looking way
  5. Asana – best for remote teams working on complex projects – such as software developers
  6. Smartsheet – best for SMEs moving from Excel or Google Sheets and needing to analyse large datasets
  7. Zoho Projects – best for early-stage startups wanting a scalable solution that can grow with your team

Testing disclaimer

Our last round of project management software testing took place in July 2023. But fret not! Our writers and researchers are constantly updating our project management pages to ensure we are keeping up with the latest trends, price changes, and product releases so you're well informed about each provider before committing to a subscription.

Best Project Management Software to choose

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0 out of 0

Asana

Zoho Projects

Best for

Creative agencies or teams with multiple departments that need a focus on collaboration, without risking on budget

Best for

Startups or teams of fewer than 5 looking for a free PM solution for short sprint tasks

Best for

Customer service teams working with a lot of tickets and wanting collaboration features to support colleagues

Best for

Agencies working on client projects or large teams that need to regularly present data in a clear and professional-looking way

Best for

Remote teams working on complex projects – such as software developers – that want to take advantage of a fully-functional suite of tools

Best for

SMEs moving from Excel or Google Sheets and needing to analyse large datasets, such as those in accounting or healthcare

Best for

High-growth startups or ambitious small businesses wanting a scalable solution that can grow with your team

Price per user:
When billed annually

From £8 per seat, per month, billed annually

Price per user:
When billed annually

$7 per member (around £5.49)

Price per user:
When billed annually

£5.99 per month, per user, billed annually

Price per user:
When billed annually

From $9.80 per user, billed annually (around £8.14)

Price per user:
When billed annually

£9.49 per user, per month, billed annually

Price per user:
When billed annually

£5 per user, per month, billed annually

Price per user:
When billed annually

£3.20 per month, billed annually

Free trial?
Free trial?
Free trial?
Free trial?
Free trial?
Free trial?
Free trial?

Last updated February 2024

Project management (PM) software is a crucial resource for SMEs to manage project spend and keep costs down. But it’s a competitive market, with lots of different products available. To help you decide on a brand, we’ve carried out an extensive investigation into the seven best available platforms on the market. Here's our top three:

  • monday.com is our top choice for project management software. It excels in all of our scoring categories and is, overall, an easy-to-use platform with lots of collaboration features and affordable price plans and deals
  • Clickup is the best PM option for budget-conscious small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) wanting a functional and capable system, without overspending. Users should try its impressive free tier to get a better idea of the platform.
  • For teams that have many tight deadlines, and want a project management solution that offers good time management tools, Teamwork is the best choice.
Our research methodology: what's changed for 2024?

Our latest round of testing was carried out in July 2023. In collaboration with an independent researcher, we refreshed the scores and results from our previous project management testing round (conducted in 2022) to ensure they are up-to-date and reflective of the current challenges facing SMEs. This includes:

  • Pricing changes: Like many software brands, nearly all of the top providers have upped their pricing to reflect the more expensive cost of doing business today. Some, like monday.com, have also got rid of their free plan, or shortened the length of a free trial.
  • AI rollout: As companies increasingly embrace AI in project management, many of the top brands have been introducing AI features at rapid pace. We therefore added a new area of research for project management features, measuring how well each brand performs for AI Task Management Assistance.
  • Remote working: Audience interviews told us SMEs are struggling to adapt to the challenges of remote working, with firms finding it harder to collaborate with their colleagues. In answer, we created a new scoring category, ‘ease-of-use', to measure not just how simple onboarding is on each platform, but also user buy-in, ie. the likelihood the software will be regularly used by a team.

monday.com: best for creative agencies or teams with multiple departments that regularly collaborate

4.7 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4.5
  • Pricing
    3.9
  • Functionality
    4.2
monday.com budget tracking

The monday.com business plan template is colour-coded using a traffic light system, making it immediately obvious when you're in the red and a task is overdue. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Pros and Cons

Due to its visual appeal and customisable progress tools, monday.com has become a favourite among creative teams. It has lots of customisable elements – including dashboards – that provide key insights, such as the status of budgets and projects.

monday's outstanding ease of use score of 4.5 out of 5 (which easily beats second-place Clickup's score of 3.9 out of 5) means your team will be much more likely to buy-in to the benefits of the software. In particular, its helpful, colour-coded updates.

Red means stuck, Orange means working on it, and Green means done. These updates help managers easily track progress, showing them who might need support, as well as who has the capacity to take on more tasks.

💡 What's new

monday.com is also a very up-to-date software that's regularly introducing new tools for users. In April 2023, the platform announced it would launch its first monday.com AI Assistant. Our researchers found it the most comprehensive AI assistant of any PM brand, and an excellent cost-effective solution for streamlining resources in today's economy.

Users can type in any instruction as unstructured text to turn it into an automated action. For example, if the team is starting a new design phase, you can ask the platform to generate a list of tasks that members might need to complete.

What do monday.com users think?

Bella Adams is the Head of Operations at Aura Ads, a video marketing agency. According to Adams, “monday.com meets so many of our needs. We use it to manage monthly workloads, tracking inventory like cameras and mics, and even to schedule our shoots each month – I don’t think we’d survive without it.

“It’s super user-friendly and there are lots of templates to take advantage of, including content plans for marketing, Gantt charts for project management, and recruitment forms for HR.”

monday.com pricing

When it comes to pricing, it's worth understanding how monday plans scale depending on the number of users. First up, these are the tiers:

  • Basic – £8 per seat, per month (annual billing, minimum 3 users)
  • Standard – £11 per seat, per month (annual billing)
  • Pro – £17 per seat, per month (annual billing)
  • Enterprise – bespoke pricing

That may sound straightforward, but monday.com has a unique pricing model. Instead of charging per user, its payment structure is based on a set number of seats, with its Basic plan offering £8 per seat, billed annually. The seat number equates to the size of your team, and increases in the following increments:

3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 100, 200+

This means that even if you only have six people on your team, you’ll still have to pay for 10 at a cost of £130 per month when billed monthly. The closer you are to the upper limit, the better value your plan will be. This can be beneficial or frustrating, depending on your team size.

If you're unsure about what tier your business requires, SMEs can still try its 14-day free trial as a no-cost way to see which plan is the right fit for your company, however.

Verdict

monday.com is a great PM tool for creative, design-based teams, with plenty of customisable tools and an attractive interface. However, its pricing system could be a pain point for small businesses with fluctuating team sizes. For more information, read our monday.com pricing guide.

Clickup: best for teams of fewer than five wanting a free PM solution for sprint tasks

4.7 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    3.9
  • Pricing
    4.4
  • Functionality
    4.6
Example SMART goal action plan template for an invented jewellery business

We found ClickUp's action plan template was the best way to track our progress towards a SMART goal. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Pros and Cons

Clickup is designed to replace any software you might need when running a business. The platform’s generous freemium plan provides unlimited users, spaces, and tasks, as well as nine specialist templates for different team departments including finance, marketing, operations, and IT.

Clickup Free members also have access to 20 advanced features – the most of any in this list – including custom views, Gantt charts, and real time collaboration with colleagues.

Clickup's ample feature library makes it excellent for budget-conscious SMEs (which in today's economy, is most of them). However, some users have reported feeling overwhelmed by the amount that’s on offer. This could limit team buy-in. As a result, Clickup loses to monday.com on ease-of-use score (Clickup gets 3.9 out of 5, while monday.com gets 4.5 out of 5).

Another area where Clickup has significantly fallen down is customer support. This is because Clickup has got rid of its 24/7 live support feature – leading to a 14.5% drop in its overall customer support score since last year.

💡 What's new

In August 2023, it rolled out even more project management features such as the addition of two new Triggers to detect when Tags are added or removed. Because of this, we increased Clickup's functionality score by 1%, and it easily takes the gold medal once again in this category. It also scores highly for pricing, with a mark of 4.4 out of 5 (equal to Zoho Projects).

More recently, ClickUp launched ClickUp 3.0. The new platform comes equipped with Universal Search which allows you to instantly find any file — whether it's on ClickUp, a connected app, or your local drive. You can also now create new task types to fully represent anything you do throughout your project life cycles. It's also created a new, sleek design, that makes the platform more intuitive.

Clickup pricing

Although we’ve ranked it highest for its freemium plan, Clickup’s pricing plans are also some of the most affordable on the market. This is why it's on the top of our list for pricing with a huge score of 4.4 out of 5 (surpassing first-place monday.com, which scored 3.9 out of 5).

Pricing begins at just $7 per user when billed annually ($10 per user when billed monthly) for Clickup Unlimited, which unlocks unlimited storage and larger monthly allowances. Here's the full pricing by tier:

  • ClickUp Free – $0
  • ClickUp Unlimited – $7 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • ClickUp Business – $12 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • ClickUp Enterprise – on request

ClickUp's biggest sell is undoubtedly its free plan. Almost every dashboard view is included for zero charge, and you'll even be able to use advanced permissions like guest access something monday.com doesn't offer on either of its small business tiers.

Verdict

Clickup offers a comprehensive software solution for companies wanting to find one app for all of their project needs. Growing companies should invest in Clickup Unlimited to take full advantage of the app, but the freemium plan is a good place to begin because it's one of the most generous on the market for features.

Teamwork: best for customer service teams working with a lot of tickets

4.6 out of 5
  • Usability
    4.3
  • Pricing
    4.2
  • Functionality
    3.7
Teamwork screenshot

We particularly liked that, once a task had been allocated to a specific team member, the Teamwork software let us add their image to the card for instant at-a-glance accountability. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Pros and Cons

Customer service teams have very specific PM requirements. They typically work with short-term tasks rather than large-scale projects, which means they need a project management system with standout time-tracking abilities.

From our research, Teamwork caters exactly to this need. Its interface is kanban-based, giving users a simple column system to help them track tasks based on their billing amount, status, and deadline.

This also allows other team members to get a clearer view of project progress. You can step in if a bottleneck is likely to occur, lowering the risk of your team losing money and wasting resources. At a time when firms are having to justify software spend, this is a clear benefit for teams.

As the name suggests, Teamwork's impressive toolset is complemented by a strong focus on teamworking features (standouts include task comments and a project message board). Its integration offering is also strong, with eight communication apps available to add-on, as well as marketing, finance, and data reporting integrations.

We gave the platform a score of 4.3 out of 5 for ease-of-use, as it's easy to make a case to employees for why the platform will support their collaboration.

Teamwork’s strong package for customer service agents is mirrored in its own offering. Users gain access to a suite of support options, although our testers found its onboarding capabilities were lacking, due to minimal signposted during setup. As a result, Teamwork gets a fairly average customer support score of 3.8 out of 5.

💡 What's new

Teamwork announced a new preventative rate management feature, which allows you to change a user's project-level billable rate based on dates that have already passed. This means that any incorrect rates can be rectified moving forward, helping you have full control of your finances and stick to your project budget.

Teamwork also launched four new reports that help users analyse, understand, and draw conclusions about their work. The four include estimated vs logged time per task, task completion by user, logged time per project, and logged time per user. This lets you understand your team's performance and adjust accordingly before you start your new sprint.

Teamwork pricing

For pricing, we gave Teamwork 4.2 out of 5, which means it has had a 20% uplift in this area since 2022 when it achieved just 3.6 out of 5 – the biggest increase of any brand on this list.

This is because Teamwork is one of only a few PM brands that have not upped their prices in the cost of living crisis. Priced at just £5.99 per user, per month (billed annually), Teamwork's Starter plan is great value. Here's how the other plans stack up:

  • Teamwork Free Forever – £0
  • Teamwork Starter – £5.99 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Teamwork Deliver – £9.99 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Teamwork Grow – £19.99 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Teamwork Scale – bespoke

We were, however, slightly frustrated by Teamwork's seemingly arbitrary limitations placed on its free, and low-tiered, payment plans. Users should be aware that they can only create 100 projects on the Teamwork Starter plan – a sore point in an otherwise good product.

Verdict

Teamwork's robust time-tracking capabilities and Kanban-first dashboards make it the best option for customer service agents needing a complete overview of the department's day-to-day operations.

Wrike: best for agencies or large teams working on client projects that need clear and professional data presentation

4.5 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4.1
  • Pricing
    4
  • Functionality
    3.7
Wrike gantt template

Our testers were pleased to find that Wrike offers a Gantt chart view for free. Whereas with rivals like monday.com, this premium offering is only available on a paid-for tier. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Pros and cons

Wrike is similar to Zoho Projects in that you’ll need to purchase a higher tier for anything more than the staple PM features, such as customisable views. However, Wrike's dashboards more than make up for this drawback.

Wrike’s impressive Office Timeline integration, which users can download free of charge, also automatically turns chaotic team messages into Gantt charts and timelines – giving you an excellent visual on your project progress and goals (also why it gets a respectable ease-of-use score of 4.1 out of 5).

Unlike monday.com, Wrike permits guest access across every payment tier, even on the free Wrike plan. As a result, those working with outside stakeholders who need to share their projects externally can do so easily – improving cross-business communication and keeping clients happy.

💡 What's new

Finally, in our July 2023 testing, we found Wrike has one of the best AI assistants on the market. Teams can record voice notes to ask Wrike to carry out an action, such as creating or assigning tasks. It can even identify project risks based on historical data, to recommend what areas to prioritise.

Best of all, all AI features are available on the free plan (unlike Smartsheet and Clickup, which make you pay for the privilege).

Wrike pricing

Here's how Wrike's pricing plans look (charged in $):

  • Wrike Free – $0
  • Wrike Team – $9.80 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Wrike Business – $24.80 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Wrike Enterprise – bespoke

Wrike is the only project management software in this article that does not offer a monthly billing option, making purchasing an annual commitment for startups. It also does not have a refund policy for cancellation.

However, in our 2023 testing, our researchers increased Wrike's pricing score from 4.2 out of 5 to 4.5 out of 5. This is because, while competitors have upped their pricing fees (like Clickup) or got rid of their free plan (like monday.com), Wrike has kept its prices consistent, starting at around £8 per month for Wrike Professional.

Its free plan also doesn't scrimp on essential tools – and our experts score it particularly high for security features (5 out of 5), with both two-factor authentication and Google Authentication available.

Verdict

Wrike is perfect for SMEs of any size that want to focus on organising, viewing, and presenting data. It has excellent work allocation capabilities, guest access, and offers unlimited use of Gantt charts for project timelines. We had to move it up the ranking due to its much improved ease-of-use score.

Asana: best for remote teams working on complex projects – such as software developers

4.5 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4.2
  • Pricing
    3.7
  • Functionality
    4.1

Asana timeline template for conference plan. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Pros and cons

Asana is a major player in the PM market, allowing for a simple and easily navigable overview of your projects. It offers a strong set of features that include excellent co-working tools. Like Teamwork, it offers a chat feature for team messaging, making it easy to collaborate with colleagues remotely.

Certainly, Asana's USP is its huge list of sophisticated integrations. In our research, it scored a phenomenal 4.7 out of 5 in this area, putting it miles ahead of second-place monday.com with a still-impressive score of 4 out of 5. Asana out-performs its rivals by being one of the only brands to permit third-party CRM and communication extensions.

Consequently, it's simple to craft a bespoke tool for your team to work on, contributing to a stellar ease-of-use score of 4.2 out of 5. This also makes it a great option for remote teams that need to base themselves on one platform to improve collaboration.

One drawback is that the lower tiers are limited when it comes to management features. Advanced elements, like personal time tracking, aren’t available, whereas rival Clickup offers this as a free extension.

💡 What's new

Asana recently added a conditions and branching feature so that you can set one rule to perform multiple actions and get the right work to the right person at the right time. You can now also use the capacity planning feature, which enables you to optimise resourcing decisions by creating high-level capacity plans across projects to help you visualise staffing trends and highlight hiring needs.

What do Asana users think?

Lucy Shrimpton is the founder of The Sleep Nanny, a sleep consultancy business for new parents. According to Shrimpton, Asana is “an excellent tool for organising projects. It’s really intuitive and user friendly, and great for working with remote teams. As my team has grown, I’m making it the absolute hub of my business, where all systems and processes lie.”

Asana pricing:

In terms of price, Asana sits firmly in the middle of the cost spectrum. However, its payment tiers have increased slightly in 2023, and as a result we've been forced to drop its pricing score from 4.1 out of 5, to 3.7 out of 5.

  • Asana Basic – free
  • Asana Premium – £9.49 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Asana Business – £20.99 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Asana Enterprise – bespoke

Previously we could have called Asana an affordable PM choice, but our July 2023 testing round now shows that Wrike has overtaken it as a better option. The product’s free tier, Asana Basic, showcases a generous menu of essential features, including unlimited projects, tasks, and storage, but it's still not as full-featured as Clickup.

The lowest payment plan, Asana Premium, costs £9.49 per user, billed annually (£11.49 billed monthly). Compared with budget options like Zoho Projects and Teamwork, that's a significant uplift – but worth it if you're a remote team as you're essentially paying for a virtual office to house your team online.

Verdict

Asana's unique messaging tools and a huge score for integrations mean that Asana is a great option for small businesses working remotely. However, the higher pricing point should be taken into account – especially for organisations with budget constraints.

Did you know?

Organisations that use project management practices consistently have a 92% success rate in meeting project objectives. This means you'll definitely want to pick a project management software that fits right into your firm to maximise success!

Smartsheet: best for spreadsheet lovers that need to analyse large datasets, such as accountants

4.4 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    3.6
  • Pricing
    4.2
  • Functionality
    3.5
Smart

Smartsheet is designed to appear similar to Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel. It had a very short learning curve for our testers, who liked how easy it was to turn table information into a Gantt chart. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Pros and cons

Smartsheet differs from competitors because of its familiar spreadsheet format, which is essentially a collaborative, online version of Microsoft Excel.

Like monday.com, Smartsheet has a lot of customisation tools for spreadsheets, including conditional formatting and changeable column types. However, Smartsheet’s are more advanced and less visually appealing, supporting more intelligent reporting tools, like Gantt charts (only available with monday.com Standard).

Due to its heritage as an Excel integration, Smartsheet is easy to master for those with experience using spreadsheets. Teams without much experience in this field will struggle to adapt to Smartsheet's singular focus, which is why we gave it a pretty poor score of 3.6 out of 5 for ease-of-use.

Smartsheet's score of 3.6 out of 5 for functionality is also nothing to write home about. An AI tool is pending, but so far unreleased – making it very slow off the mark compared to brands like monday.com.

Smartsheet also does not offer any time-tracking tools, which is a big problem for teams working to lots of tight, short deadlines. We recommend it for long-term projects, such as accountants managing payroll throughout the year.

💡 What's new

Recently, Smartsheet announced their new card view, which has continuous auto-save, improved editing seamlessly integrated through a new right panel experience, the ability for quick creation of one or many cards in a lane, and nicer image handling. They also embedded Generative AI into the platform, which will help users generate formulas, get help, create text and summaries, and analyse data.

Smartsheet pricing

Smartsheet does not offer a free plan or trial. Still, it has become significantly cheaper in the past year, slashing the cost of its starter plan by 50% to cost just £5 per user, per month in 2024 (when billed annually). As a result, we gave it 4.2 out of 5 for pricing, an uplift of 27% year-on-year.

  • Smartsheet Individual– £5 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Smartsheet Business– £19 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Smartsheet Enterprise – bespoke

Its payment plans still flawed, however. Small businesses with more than 10 employees are limited to just the Business plan, priced at £24 per user, billed monthly (£19 billed annually).

Verdict

Smartsheet's unique sheet-based layout means its best for SMEs that deal almost exclusively with spreadsheets, such as accountants and data analysts. You can take a look at the Smartsheet demo for a better idea of what the software can do.

Zoho Projects: best for high-growth startups wanting a scalable solution

4.3 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    3.2
  • Pricing
    4.4
  • Functionality
    3.3
Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects displays information in a similar format to Wrike. This means it lacks the aesthetic of monday.com, but is easier for viewing large sets of data. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Pros and cons

Zoho Projects provides a substantial amount of value for a very low price, making it the ideal choice for small and growing businesses. It boasts tonnes of excellent collaboration features with a team-wide calendar, instant messenger, project message board, and task comments all available.

So, where does it stumble?

Understandably, Zoho's super cheap pricing does mean some areas suffer as a result. Chiefly, you'll likely become stuck if you encounter an issue with the platform. We gave Zoho a low 2.5 out of 5 for customer support as it doesn't offer onboarding support, live chat, or phone support with any paid-for tier.

There is also very little in the way of advanced PM features. Despite us being in 2024, no AI assistant is available, and Zoho has not said anything about releasing one soon. Integrations are also poor (we scored it just 3 out of 5 in this area) with no marketing, finance, or data reporting add-ons available on the lowest tier.

Our testers also found the user interface difficult to acclimatise to. Feedback from the team was that Zoho was clunky and outdated, potentially leading to a slower adoption rate for teams new to the software. As a result, it gets the lowest ease-of-use score in this list with 3.2 out of 5.

💡 What's new

The newest version of the platform, Zoho Project 8.0, has a more intuitive and streamlined user interface and allows users to make bulk updates on Gantt charts. It can also automate tasks like performance reviews, quality assurance testing, or inventory audits, and also harnesses the power of Witness Zia and OpenAI, which enables users to regenerate, summarise, or enhance existing content in seconds.

Zoho Projects pricing

Racing ahead of its competitors, Zoho Projects scores a massive 4.4 out of 5 for pricing in our research, which is owed to its low starting costs and scalable tiers. That means it matches Clickup, which is similarly affordable (with around £2 between both brands' Basic plans).

  • Zoho Free – £0
  • Zoho Premium – £3.20 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Zoho CRM Enterprise – £7.20 per user, per month (billed annually)

If we had to choose a winner, Zoho is a bit more scalable than Clickup. The latter's pricing jumps very quickly between tiers from $5 per user, per month to $12 per user, per month (when billed annually). It's definitely a budget option, but that might be all you're looking for in the current economic climate.

Meanwhile, Zoho's increases from just £3.20 per user per month, to £7.20 per user, per month (also billed annually). That means your growing business won't be punished for taking on new hires – a big incentive for startups wanting to recruit.

Verdict

Zoho Projects is the perfect choice for those companies that want a cheap, long-term solution. Even if you hire a lot of new starters, you won't be punished for scaling up because Zoho's costs increase at a gradual pace, which is great for early-stage firms or those running a side hustle.

How does project management work?

Most project management systems are organised using dashboards. These are essentially a virtual workspace when you can see every component of your project plan.

Tasks can be arranged into lists, cards, or a spreadsheet-style format to make it easy to identify what jobs need doing next, and who is responsible for delivery. Team members and stakeholders can be added to dashboards so they can view how well a project is progressing.

Advanced software brands will also offer internal messaging tools and file storage, so that you're not jumping between several other work management platforms. And, because all your project data is kept in one place, dashboards can be downloaded to generate weekly, monthly, or annual reports.

What types of businesses is project management software suitable for?

Any type of business will find project management to be a useful solution. Whether you are a marketing firm or a construction company, you will likely have a business or team objective you need to work towards to find success for your company, customers, or clients.

However, PM systems are especially beneficial for businesses that manage remote workers or hire independent contractors. These kinds of teams need a collaborative online space to store files and share ideas – something a project management dashboard can provide.

In today's business climate, project management is also cost-effective. Budgets can quickly spiral out of control if project spend and manpower are not properly allocated. And, because it acts as several business tools in one, PM software can improve cost-efficiency by limiting your number of software subscriptions.

How we test project management software for small businesses

We tested 14 project management software to evaluate them in terms of functionality, usability, customer support, features, and more so we can make the most useful recommendations to small UK-based businesses.

Our rigorous testing process means these products have been scored and rated in five main categories of investigation and nine subcategories – in fact, we covered 51 areas of investigation in total. We then gave each category score a ‘relevance weighting' to ensure the product's final score perfectly reflects the needs of our Startups.co.uk readers.

Our main testing categories for project management software are:

Customer Score: external customer opinion; the feedback and ratings given by customers who have used a particular project management provider. Also, the market position and reputation a project management tool holds.

Features: the functionalities and capabilities offered by the project management solution, such as task management and team collaboration.

Customer Support: the assistance and resources provided by the project management solution provider to users, such as phone support and email or chat support.

Usability Testing: we get people just like you to test out the products to focus on evaluating the ease of use and user experience of the project management solution.

Cost Factors: the financial considerations associated with using a project management solution, including licensing fees, subscription plans, and storage and user limit.

The Startups product testing process

The Startups product testing process diagram

How can project management software be used effectively?

Choosing the best project management software is only part of the process. The real change comes when you begin using it in earnest to focus your team's initiatives, objectives and responsible stakeholders.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Some businesses may enjoy working off a simple Kanban-style board, while others will want to plan activities through Gantt charts, RACI indexes, or even schedule work through calendars. Every project management tool has a different approach, and most will also offer a huge variety of ready-made templates that you can customise to suit the working style of your own team.

We have a number of guides that can help you understand some of the best ways to use project management software, including:

Final review – which is the right project management software for my business?

The market for PM software is highly competitive, and it can be difficult to find the best choice for the unique needs of your business. Our ranking has picked out the best tool for the project management priorities of UK SMEs:

  • Teams with multiple departments wanting to collaborate effectively should use monday.com.
  • Developer teams should choose Clickup. It's loaded with tons of essential features for sprint work.
  • Customer service teams managing lots of small tasks and tickets should use Teamwork.
  • Teams needing to present to managers or external clients should use Wrike.
  • Remote teams needing a full library of PM tools to manage complex projects should use Asana.
  • SMEs migrating from Excel and working with large volumes of data should use Smartsheet.
  • Early-stage startups looking for a scalable PM solution should use Zoho Projects.

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Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.
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