Project management is a tough nut to crack. Multilevel tasks, complicated methodologies, large team sizes, geographically separated resources, office politics (have you seen the show “The Good Wife”?), progress tracking, reporting, analytics, planning – you get the idea. Intuitive and simplified project management tools were never such necessary arrows in the quiver of project managers.
These tools help you make sense of seemingly unrelated pieces of information, track resources and utilization, design project milestones, delegate tasks, automate monitoring and reporting, and, in general, keep the dots connected.
Even if you’re not a designated project manager, but deal with “projects” that satisfy some or most of the criteria we mentioned earlier, these tools can be a game changer for you.
Thankfully, enterprises don’t necessarily have to spend hefty sums in buying on-premises, off-cloud-based project management tools. The alternatives are open source, free (or inexpensive) project management tools. In this guide, we’ll tell you more about some of the most reliable of these open source project management tools.
Heard of Basecamp, the current go-to software for most project managers? Bitrix24 delivers most of the features you expect in Basecamp. Bitrix24 can be hosted on-premises or on the cloud. With Gantt charts, time tracking, layered task management, and resource planning, Bitrix offers all the core project management functionalities sought in any suite.
It offers videoconferencing, IM, and group chat to enable real-time communication. A downside is the feature overdose (partially, because Bitrix24 also offers CRM functionalities) that can confuse new users. Bitrix24 is a no-strings-attached, absolutely free software for an unlimited number of users, which increases its appeal for enterprises. The storage is, however, limited to 5GB a month, and can be upgraded for $39 a month.
If you’re ready for a locally hosted project management software, OrangeScrum is a fantastic option, which you can get totally free. It provides groundwork for resource management and Agile software development in particular.
You can customize the software as per-project needs. With Kanban view, Gantt charts, task status groups, and integration with Google Drive (and Dropbox), OrangeScrum is fully loaded to manage projects with midlevel complexity. There’s a cloud version as well, with a lot more support, that costs $9 a month.
Freedcamp is increasingly gaining traction as a cloud-powered, free project management software. It’s ideal for enterprises looking to bring in project management software for the first time, and those looking to upgrade from legacy and unsupported tools. You can create unlimited users, projects, and use unlimited storage. The design is intuitive, and the user experience is amazing. Choose Kanban mode, or tasks, based on your requirement.
Administrators can leverage access management features to limit usage permissions for different user groups. From time tracking to invoicing, it offers all functionalities you can expect from a project management software system. No, it cannot scramble some eggs for you but it can do so many other things!
MeisterTask gets all the critical check boxes ticked. For starters, it allows unlimited users and projects, and has applications for iOS, and has the option to integrate with Dropbox, Zendesk, Google Drive, GitHub, etc. Time tracking, issue tracking, internal and external collaborations – you name it, and MeisterTask has it. With no storage limits, collaboration on files becomes easier than ever.
MeisterTask is attuned for Agile project management methodologies. From Kanban to Scrum – you choose the methodology, and MeisterTask has a way to deliver the functionality. The best part – the layout is user friendly, and finds speedy adoption with new users.
The communication system within MeisterTask is considered to be the equivalent of Trello, albeit without the instant updates. Task relationships, actions from emails, collaborations – everything’s doable within MeisterTask.
GanttProject is for the seasoned project managers who’ve spent years working with Microsoft Project. The interface is not in the same league as those of the tools we already discussed, but GanttProject gets the job done. The range of features, and depth of functionality are the key success factors for this tool.
Generating Gantt and PERT charts is a breeze, reporting is intuitive and easy, and time-management tools are perfect for management of complicated projects. Creating a structured schedule for long projects is easily done using GanttProject.
Another golden functionality is that GanttProject allows PMs to identify workflow gaps, enabling them to devise means for process improvement. The support for GanttProject is restricted to its forums, so it’s more suited for PMs with experience in no-frills tools.
Based on Toyota’s iconic and revered Kanban project management system, Trello allows users to move around cards on their screens, to represent project milestones and tasks. This creates a very intuitive visual representation of project status, which has contributed to Trello’s popularity among the newer breed of project managers.
Simplicity is the core principle on which Trello has been designed. Unless you need an advanced project management tool with options such as task list level drill down (no, this has nothing to do with any military maneuvers or boot camp formations!), Trello will work well. It’s amazing how all kind of information such as task-user assignment, due dates, and current statuses are captured using cards. It helps that it comes at a price tag of zero dollars!
Not a bad deal; that is more burger money for spending at your nearest sports bar! Perhaps even some dim sum the following morning!
Producteev is incredibly simple to use. You can create unlimited users and projects in this tool, which makes it lucrative for enterprises. Advanced features include the capability to create tasks that are mapped to multiple task lists, real time communication between collaborators, and progress tracking and reporting.
Emails can be converted into action points using Producteev’s features. Tasks can be filtered on different variables such as priority, due date, status, etc. Plus, it’s integrated with Dropbox and even offers attachment-based file sharing.
Suited for the enterprise
Most of the project management tools we’ve discussed here are suited for enterprise use, primarily because they allow unlimited project creation and unlimited user accounts. Others can be easily upgraded for a reasonable monthly fee.
One caveat is the limited storage space in most of them, which can be bypassed by integrating the tools with other storage options such as Google Drive. Before you make the final decision, experiment with a few of them and have some of your team members do the same (their opinion counts, too!), and see what suits your enterprise the best.
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