Basecamp is a common sight in offices around America. And there is a good reason for that. Offering a generous two month free trial, Basecamp knows how to get people hooked onto its software. And once you’ve integrated all of your business processes into one piece of software it may be hard to find the time to move onto a new system.
The Ultimate Project Management Software Showdown
That said there are other systems out there, some which can make your life easier than Basecamp ever could. This article outlines the advantages and disadvantages of using each one, starting with:
As said above, Basecamp is the king of project management tools. Priced on a per project basis, if you have ten projects you can expect to pay $20 a month, whereas if you are wanting an unlimited amount of projects, you can expect to spend up to $150 a month.
One of the great, almost unrivaled, aspects of the Basecamp system is the progress report. It is really easy to send a status update, with all of the right information, to anyone you want straight within the Basecamp interface.
Basecamp is also one of the fastest moving companies, constantly bringing out new apps to allow you to quickly get work done. Apps are available for almost all computers and mobiles, with Windows Phone (currently) being the only exception, although Basecamp still looks wonderful on the Windows Phone web browser.
This integration can make spontaneous project working a breeze. If inspiration strikes at the weekend, (maybe a designer sees a restaurant flyer that uses just the right kind of font,) it is easy to snap a picture and upload it to the correct project so that everyone can see it.
Each project member has a personal page on Basecamp, which allows them to see what they should be working on and when, as well as a quick view of any files they have already uploaded and any conversations they are currently a part of.
Basecamp also has a simple task and calendar system. Large tasks are entered, and then subtasks underneath this are inputed, giving a clear idea of what the expected path through a project should be. Tasks can then also be given a due date, meaning that they will appear on a calendar allowing everyone on the team to see when exactly something is due.
Unlike some other solutions, Basecamp is also great at integrating media into its projects. It is fully possible to insert in pictures or videos into any messages within the Basecamp system, meaning that no one has to go to an external website or download a file to see newly uploaded media.
One of the problems with Basecamp is that there isn’t a lot of granular privacy settings. Once you have invited someone into viewing a project, they will be able to see everything in it. This means that if you’d rather separate people from seeing tasks, for example prevent designers from seeing the progress of development or clients from seeing the rate of work, you will need to look at an alternative.
One of the great benefits of Freedcamp over Basecamp is in it’s name, Freedcamp bills it self as the free alternative to Basecamp. This is perfect if you are just getting into project management systems and don’t know which one is for you, as you can get started straight away without spending money.
Free does come with it’s limitations though. One of the ways that Freedcamp makes money is through it’s storage space. On Freedcamp, you only have a mere 20MB of space. If you use other methods to send files to project members though, such as Email or Dropbox, then this might not be so much of a problem but you will still miss out on the benefit of project management tools keeping all of your files in one place.
Freedcamp also charges extra for additional functionality. For example, if you require a CRM to manage your calls and emails, or a Wiki for documentation, Freedcamp will charge you for these features every month. These modules are though, quite cheap, with the Wiki only costing $2.99, still putting it far below the price point of many other project management systems.
Freedcamp also has very basic time tracking features, allowing you to assign how much time you have spent on certain tasks. This isn’t just useful if you bill your clients by hour. It can also be very good for keeping track of what tasks are taking a project staff member too long to perform, and can identify potential roadblocks before they become problematic.
If your team are used to other tools, such as Google Drive or Calendar, then Freedcamp can be quite amazing as it integrates with these tools instantly. This also means that, depending on how your organization is set up, it might take less time to switch your workers over to this system as everything can be done automatically.
Compared to many other players in the project management market, Freedcamp is young, having only been created in 2010, a full six years after Basecamp. Although this may give the impression that Freedcamp is behind it’s competitors in terms of tools, the reverse is actually true. Freedcamp is always releasing new modules and features, with a new update to the software coming almost every two weeks. Using Freedcamp means that you will also be able to have all of the latest features (even if, for some of them, you may need to start paying a small monthly fee).
If other project management tools are about organizing your tasks, Asana is about reducing your conversation time so you have more time to do what matters.
All of the communication in the platform can be seen in a project members central space, and this includes if a task is simply updated, or there have been any changes in any discussions.
The interface is also laid out in a way which allows you to stop communicating and just start working. When you click on any task, in the same window, a sidepane appears giving details of any comments or discussions on the task. This means that you can quickly catch up on the latest developments in your team while still having a view of what you actually need to do.
The last great thing about Asana is the sheer amount of extensions available for it. If you use Dropbox, there is an extension for that. Or how about a Chrome extension that allows you to quickly add a task straight from your browser? Or for developers, linking up to Github to allow you to quickly share the latest pull requests? All of this is possible. This ease of integration to existing systems, once again, means that Asama may be one of the fastest ways to get going for your business and tasks.
Pricing for Asana, like other systems, is based on a monthly subscription system. This one goes up as you have more members. The lowest amount, for five team members, only costs $21 annually, making it one of the cheapest Basecamp alternatives if your team size is small.
Another popular project management tool in companies of all sizes, Trello works differently to all the other project management systems. It uses a card based system, allowing you to arrange your tasks on a time line, or by team members.
One of the best things about Trello is that there isn’t any need to click through long lists to find your tasks. You can see almost everything straight away in one window, allowing each team member to have an instant overview of exactly what they should be working on at any one time.
Each one of these cards can then be clicked on to see more details. Like other project management systems, these cards can have a number of sub tasks associated to it, allowing project members to see everything that is needed for completion.
Trello is another free alternative to Basecamp, providing some additional features if you pay, such as being able to have multiple Trello boards, and being able to view all of the boards within your own company. This is perfect if you would like to give each one of your teams their own way of organizing projects, but still wish to have an overview of what is happening everywhere within your business.
Even with this option, Trello is still the cheapest project management tool for small teams, coming in at only $3.75 per user, monthly.
If your organization has never used any form of project management tool before, Trello can be a great choice because of how easy it is to use. It uses a very simple drag and drop system that almost anyone can understand, even if they are not computer savvy. Adding new members, discussions, and tasks is also easy, with the interface being influenced on mobile phone apps. Trello even takes cues from Facebook, with a red highlight appearing on a notification icon whenever there is something for a user to pay attention to.
The only problem is coming from Trello from other systems. Because it does things in such a different way, it may require adjustment of how your previously running project management processes work.
If Trello is focused on usability and simplicity, then Sharepoint is firmly targeted at the professional user and top end businesses.
Not just a project management system, Sharepoint is a fully integrated system that links perfectly together with Microsoft applications (such as Word) and allows for businesses of gigantic sizes to stay on top of every little task.
Sharepoint can become almost like an internal Facebook for your staff members, with the discussion boards and communication systems being set up incredibly similar (in fact, some might even accuse Microsoft of stealing the layout from Facebook.
This enterprise piece of software allows each user to have up to 1TB of space, which means that unless you are working regularly with really large video files, you will virtually never run out of room.
The suite also has a powerful rollback feature. Let’s say that someone accidentally uploads the wrong version of an important document. All is not lost. It is easy to just simply go back to a former version, creating a strong security against user error.
Task management is also simple with Sharepoint, with powerful project scheduling features, and clear timelines of when work is due and when it is going to be completed.
For any high-end business, Sharepoint is very much the clear winner. It links in with all of your currently existing office tools, allows for powerful cross-departmental (or even cross location) collaboration which would not be possible in other businesses and allows every member to stay perfectly on task. Unfortunately, this does come at a price, with a Sharepoint installation costing $5 for every user on it, per month, but if you can afford that, Sharepoint will be the way to go for your enterprise.
Teamwork, another new player in Project management, has quickly made its own mark.
One of the best things about Teamwork is how easy it is to use for clients. If you are the kind of business that have employees or clients outside of your organization who needs to contribute, Teamwork should be the choice for you.
Whereas other project management systems use a simple task and sub-task system, in Teamwork you can go a little further and give sub-tasks their own subtasks, meaning that it becomes really simple to organize any project the way you want.
One very simple feature is a private slider, allowing you to quickly mark any item as not being able to be seen by your clients. This means that it is easy to use the tool, while waiting until you have a completed file ready to hand over before presenting your work.
Another useful feature for everyone who works with clients or freelancers is the hour tracking. This syncs in automatically with pretty much every billing software on the market, making getting paid and paying your external workers simple.
The other essential feature of Teamwork is the graphs. Although not as detailed as other systems, Teamwork still easily provides a overview of what is happening with projects, and what the expected completion date is. Furthermore, in the case of delays or changing specifications, Teamwork also uses a simple click and drag interface, allowing you to easily adjust project milestone times.
There is also a very basic CRM included within Teamwork. Instead of each team member having a, possibly, out-of-date address book, every detail of employees, freelancers, and clients can be inserted into Teamwork for quick and easy lookup.
One really unique feature to Teamwork is something taken from social networking; status updates. If you have flexible working times, this can help keep your team up to date on what everyone is doing. A member can simply state that they have gone to get a coffee, or maybe that they are working at home or have to take a sick day, and everyone important to the project is instantly informed of what is happening. This means that there are no more emails sent around the office and everyone can stay completely up to date with whatever is happening.
If your main tasks are in software development, Jira is the project management tool that you need to think of.
Made for programmers, Jira has been built from the ground up to consider the needs of this specific group. It includes an easy to use work flow system, allowing software teams to set out their own procedures for who is doing what at each stage of software development.
The basic interface is very much like Trello, making use of cards, allowing you to set which tasks are in a ToDo, In Progress, or Done list.
But what makes Jira special is its ability to set which deployments have happened. Unlike other types of projects, software development might not have a full “completion” date, and instead have a series of different uploads and code releases. Jira makes managing this complexity easy.
Jira also has great compatibility with Stash and other code commenting systems. When a user finds a bug and posts it on these other software pieces, Jira automatically updates the project management system, informing the right team pr team member of what needs to be fixed.
Another amazing functionality of Jira is that you don’t need to use their cloud service. It might be that you are working on sensitive projects, and would rather keep all the associated data on your own server. Jira allows you to do this, with flexible prices depending on how many users will be using your implementation. The cloud system, for such a specialized project management suite, is also pretty cheap. Billing is based on the amount of users, with ten users costing only $10 a month.
The last project management system sits somewhere between Trello and Teamwork. It is both easy to use internally, and very simple for all members outside of your organization to use.
Perfect for Agencies, ActiveCollab includes an invoicing system, allowing you to ensure you get paid on time, every time. This invoicing syncs up into the task system of ActiveCollab which makes it easy for any team member to log time.
One feature of time logging that ActiveCollab has over other systems is that multiple members can contribute time to the same task. This is great if, for example, you have a piece of design work that is picked up by one designer and then finished by another. Instead of organizing tasks by people, you can simply organize tasks and let your organization take care of it self (even though you can also choose to assign people to them).
Project managers can also get a really clear email whenever any task is complete, allowing them to keep on top of whatever is happening.
Just like Jira, this Basecamp alternative allows you to either use a cloud based solution, or install on your own server. Both options allow you to spend 30 days as a free trial, allowing you to see if ActiveCollab is for you before spending either a one off fee of $499 for your own copy, or $25 a month for your cloud copy.
Clients will love the ease of use of ActiveCollab. Most of the action takes place in a discussion tab, where anyone can make a new thread with any users they want. For clients who only know how to use email, ActiveCollab will send an email notification to them. Instead of logging onto a project management system that might confuse them, all the client has to do is respond to this email. The response will be inserted straight into ActiveCollab. This can be great for small agencies who have clients who have never used project management systems before, and don’t want to learn one.