Guide to SaaS Project Management Systems and Top Solutions

What is a PM Software?

Project management software are designed to improve efficiency of project management teams through tools including progress tracking and collaboration tools. Compared to traditional/on-premises PM software, SaaS PM solutions are more versatile because of their cross-platform compatibility, scalability, flexibility and low initial cost. SaaS or on-demand solutions allow businesses of all sizes to quickly get started without having to invest large sums of money in purchasing and maintaining a PM software.

Benefits of SaaS Project Management Systems

The benefits of all cloud-based apps and services are pretty obvious. Low initial cost, access from anywhere and across-the-board deployment makes SaaS solutions cost effective and more efficient. Same is true for SaaS PM solutions, which is the main reason they are flourishing. The key benefits of using a cloud-based PM system include:

Low Upfront and Maintenance Costs

Subscription-based (monthly, quarterly, annual etc.) SaaS PM solutions save businesses from having to buy expensive hardware/software and hire/allocate resources for set up, configuration and maintenance. Most SaaS software also come with support and seamless updates so the IT teams don’t have to re-configure all the pieces themselves. 

Although subscription-based software solutions might not be cheaper than one-time/perpetual licenses in the long run, they work well for SMBs that cannot afford (or don’t want to) invest thousands of dollars in features they don’t actually need. Add the cost of future updates to the equation and cloud-based solutions start to make more sense.

SaaS for the end-user is a low-maintenance technology, allowing IT teams to focus more on their core operations instead of maintaining yet another software. Updates, security patches and feature enhancements are usually a responsibility of the provider, which can be time-consuming and costly endeavor for IT teams.

Better Collaboration

Cloud-based apps are a blessing for remote workers who are growing exponentially as an increasing number of organizations rely on them to get work done. SaaS PM solutions allow remote teams and individual workers to stay connected and productive regardless of their location by creating a central workplace. This allows all team members to collaborate and communicate from anywhere and keep track of deliverables.

Flexibility and Scalability

Most SaaS PM programs only need a browser and internet connection to work. This allows teams to collaborate from anywhere using their mobile devices and get things done faster from an environment they are comfortable with. SaaS solutions are also highly scalable, allowing businesses to upgrade as they grow.

Free Trials and Different Pricing Options

Most PM solutions are available as a free trial so businesses can test drive them and see how they fit in their IT infrastructure. Another advantage of using cloud-based PM solutions is the availability of different pricing options, which are often based on the basis of features and account size. This allows SMBs to pay only for the features they need and get access to advanced technologies, which otherwise might not have been possible due to costs associated with traditional licensing.

Speed and Security

Setting up and signing into SaaS PM systems is easy, while new features and security updates also become instantly available. Users don’t have to wait for months for deployment of updates and new features and in most cases, upgrades are included in the subscription plan at no extra cost.

Securing business systems is a costly and time-consuming affair. Most SaaS services providers take the responsibility of ensuring security of their cloud-based systems. This includes encryption, disaster management and data recovery.

Integration

Modern PM systems can be connected to other platforms through APIs and custom integrations. Integration with other platforms/tools allows businesses to make the most of their existing systems while boosting adaption rate.

Spreadsheets vs. a PM Software

While spreadsheets might work for small teams that share a physical location, things start getting complicated as the operations grow. Sharing and updating files through email can become a mess, especially when remote workers are also working on a project. That’s when a Project Management software becomes a necessity as it helps streamline communication, makes it easier to organize work and track deliverables.

PM systems are designed to help businesses with all aspects of running their projects, including planning, scheduling, control, resource management, communication, collaboration and reporting. Transparency for team members as well as stakeholders is another main advantage of using a PM software.

Things to Consider when Choosing a PM Software

Choosing the right Project Management software is essential for success as there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all in the software world. That’s why businesses need to consider different factors before making a decision, including:

Business Requirements

A clear assessment of current business requirements is a must when choosing a PM software. Businesses need to understand where their current solutions are failing and how a new system can improve productivity. For example, if a business is already using a PM software and having issues with resource management, they might be better off with a resource management solution that is specifically designed for the purpose and offers visual resource planning.

PM Methodology

Five popular project management methodologies include Agile, Kanban, Lean, Waterfall and Six Sigma. Businesses should opt for a PM system that supports the methodology they are using otherwise they might end up wasting time and resources trying to change it. 

Features

Making a list of all the features PM teams need makes it easier to grade different PM solutions against each other. Each feature can be categorized into must/should/could have. Not all businesses will need features such as access levels and advanced customization options, while many would only be interested in planning and scheduling tools. Having a clear assessment of what you really need makes it easier to choose a solution and saves businesses from having to pay for features they don’t need.

Users

Another important aspect to consider is the type of users who will be using the PM software. A less formal approach will work for in-house PM, but a more professional approach is needed when dealing with various clients. Simple PM solutions work well for small teams, while enterprise and large organizations need advanced solutions such as ERPs.

Consider Alternatives

Match and compare different providers with the outlined requirements. Don’t limit yourself to online research. Ask your fellow project managers, read specialty reviews and trade magazines to make sure no potential match is overlooked. Price should not be the only deciding factor as provider’s reputation, and technology on offer also matters a lot. Filter down the list to around five providers while keeping in mind the costs involved in switching to a new system.

Test-Drive

Evaluate the shortlisted solutions against business needs by test-driving each. Demos only show how a software ‘generally’ works, making it important to invite team members/clients to test-drive different solutions thoroughly. The team members can help in ranking each provider, making the choice obvious. The trial period should be long enough so you can clearly see if it’s a good fit or not.

Cost Evaluation

Several other cost-related factors also need to be considered when evaluating PM solutions, including monthly vs. quarterly or annual payment, adaption and implementation costs and time needed to implement the solution. Sometimes the cost in terms of time of having a particular tool is more than not using it at the first place. A solution might not be worth it if it saves 10 minutes by adding 10 minutes of extra work.

Top 10 Project Management Solutions

1. Confluence

Confluence by Atlassian is designed to maximize productivity through an open, shared and accessible workplace that allows users to keep all their work in one place. Confluence can also be combined with Jira for even better organization of software documentation and effective collaboration. Confluence supports integration with over 3000 apps available in the Atlassian Marketplace, making it one of the most powerful PM and collaboration solutions.

The Starter package is available for a flat fee of $10/month (up to 10 users), while Standard and Premium plans cost $5/user/month (11-100 users) and $10/user/month (1-100 users) respectively.

Key features

  • Project planning
  • Product requirements
  • Meeting notes
  • Marketing plan
  • Blog post
  • Built-in templates
  • Advanced search filters
  • Flexible page permissions
  • Tasks tracking
  • Real-time notifications
  • Page history

2. Wrike

Wrike works well for teams of more than 20 people, features enterprise-grade security and can easily be scaled according to growing business demands. Features such as Gantt charts, custom dashboards, auto-assignment of tasks and more allow teams to get more done in less time. Creative and marketing teams can opt for Wrike for Marketers that comes with tailored templates, an extension for Adobe and proofing tools. Write can be seamlessly integrated with a variety of popular platforms and tools, including Salesforce, JIRA, Slack, Microsoft Office 365 and Google.

Small teams of up to 5 users can benefit from the free version that provides a shared task list. The Professional (5/10/15 users) and Business (5-200 users) plans are priced at $9.8/user/month and $24.8/user/month respectively. Pricing for Wrike for Marketers is available by quote. The Professional plan offers all project planning and collaboration features, while the Business plan also includes executive reporting and advanced work management with customization.

Key features

  • Dynamic request forms
  • Dependency visualization
  • Task scheduling and prioritization
  • Custom workflows
  • Context-based conversations
  • Streamlined collaboration
  • Dashboards, enhanced visibility
  • Real-time work visibility
  • Resource management tools
  • Customizable workflows
  • Agile Teamwork, Kanban
  • Project with Dependencies
  • Work intake forms
  • Automated task assigning

3. Zoho Projects

Zoho projects comes with all the essentials and is suitable for small businesses and teams that want to keep costs low. The solution supports Kanban as well as other traditional styles and can also handle more complex project requirements. The solution can be integrated with Zoho’s other productivity tools as well as other major solutions, including Google and Microsoft apps.

Zohos offers feature-based flat pricing, which can be huge advantage for businesses looking to cut costs by only paying for features they actually need. The Standard plan (10 projects and client users) is meant for small teams of up to 10 users and costs $18/month ($3/additional user). The Express plan (unlimited projects, 15 client users) costs $15/15 users ($4/additional user) and offers more features than the Standard plan, including up to 20GB attachments, recurring tasks, Gantt charts and timesheet approval.

Key features

  • Project templates
  • Time tracing
  • Task dependency
  • Issue tracking
  • CRM integration
  • Custom views
  • Recurring tasks
  • Gantt charts
  • Timesheet approval
  • Integration with invoice and books

4. Evernote Business

Essentially a productivity boosting app, Evernote Business allows teams to create/share notes and documents in real-time so everyone remains on the same page. The solution helps create a clear visibility and serves as an effective PM and collaboration solution. From whiteboard brainstorms to meeting notes and checklists, Evernote Business keeps everything organized in one place.

Evernote Basic is available for free and allows taking notes, while Evernote Premium costs $7.99/month and comes with organization features. Evernote Business is a comprehensive solution for businesses and costs $14.99/user/month (minimum two users). Integration support includes Google Drive, Outlook, Slack, Salesforce, Microsoft Teams and more.

Key features

  • Notes and checklists
  • Web clipper
  • Workflow management
  • Geolocation
  • Document storage and sharing
  • Advanced search
  • Customizable notes permissions
  • AI-suggested content
  • Integration with Google Drive, Outlook, Slack, Salesforce etc.
  • Team collaboration
  • Permissions-based access
  • Virtual bulletin board
  • Real-time editing of notes
  • Single sign-on
  • Activity history

5. Monday

Monday is an intuitive and easy-to-use tool that helps project managers and their teams keep track of deliverables, collaborate and share knowledge. The visual color-coded boards make PM fun and keep everyone on the same page whether its scheduling or task tracking. The solution allows teams to plan, organize, track and collaborate using a single platform without having to learn complex software.

The Basic plan includes the essentials and costs $49/month (5 users), while the Standard and Pro plans cost $59/month (5 users) and $99/month (5 users) respectively. Pricing for the Enterprise plan is available by quote.

Key features

  • Customizable templates
  • Timeline and calendar view
  • Map view
  • Unlimited activity log
  • Advanced search
  • Full API
  • Time tracking
  • Custom tags
  • Private boards
  • Session management
  • Audit log

6. Trello

Trello by ATLASSIAN is an easy-to-use solution that uses boards and cards that represent projects and tasks respectively. The GUI provides an intuitive interface that simplifies tasks and works well for users who are new to project management software. Information such as comments, due dates and attachments can easily be added to cards, which are visible across all devices. 

The basic version is available for free and includes unlimited personal boards, lists and cards, but only supports up to 10MB/file attachment and 1 power-up/board. The Business Class and Enterprise plans cost $12.50 and $20.83 per user per month and include many advanced features.

Key features

  • Boards, lists and cards
  • Advanced automation
  • Scheduled commands
  • Custom field actions
  • Advanced administration permissions
  • Google Apps Sign-on
  • 2-Factor Authentication

7. Basecamp

With a large loyal customer base since over a decade, Basecamp offers an uncluttered user interface along with powerful search tools that make it easier to find any task of file. It provides a central location to access all the important stuff including emails, documents, chats and more. The solution combines all the tools teams need to manage projects at one place and presents information in an organized way.

Basecamp offers a flat $99/month plan regardless of the number of users and project. The plan includes 500 GB file storage space and all the features. The pricing makes the solution more suitable for larger teams as they don’t have to pay on a per user basis.

Key features

  • To-do lists
  • Message boards
  • Task scheduling
  • Document sharing
  • Real-time group chat, direct messages
  • Check-in questions
  • Client access
  • Hill charts
  • Reports
  • Daily activity digest

8. Microsoft Project

MS Project is one of the oldest PM software that requires a steep learning curve and does not come cheap. That’s why it’s mostly preferred by experienced project managers who have to manage complex and large projects. It’s suitable for users who need granular details of resources and tasks and powerful reporting tools. MS Project is available as an on-premises/perpetual license solution as well as part of an Office 365 subscription (for extra cost).

Project Online Essentials costs $7/user/month, while Project Online Professional and Premium cost $30 and $55 respectively. One-time licenses for Project Standard and Project Professional cost $649 and $1279 respectively, while pricing for Project Server for large organizations is available by quote.

Key features

  • Built-in templates
  • Scheduling tools
  • Portfolio management
  • Initiative prioritization
  • Resource management
  • Time management
  • Timesheets
  • Gantt charts
  • Project health monitoring
  • Advanced analytics

9. Jira

Designed for agile teams that need a powerful tool for software development, Jira helps software development teams in planning, tracking, releasing and reporting and integrates well with a variety of popular systems and developer tools. The solution aids teams in timely and frequent release of software and provides them with the confidence that they are always using up-to-date information.

The pricing plans include Starter $10/month (up to ten users), Standard $7/user/month (11-100 users) and Premium $14/user/month (1-100 users). Discounts are also available for large teams (more than 101 users).

Key features

  • Scrum boards
  • Kanban boards
  • Roadmaps
  • Agile reporting
  • Enterprise-grade security
  • Custom filters
  • Developer tool integrations
  • Connection with over 3,000 apps
  • Robust APIs
  • Customizable workflows
  • Knowledge management

10. Teamwork Projects

Teamwork Project provides an intuitive and user-friendly while still offering most of the advanced features other PM solutions include. The solution focuses on making it easier for users to get started and keep going and shows tasks as Kanban boards as well as traditional tasks. Users don’t have to dig deep into the menus to find important information as most of that information is easily accessible. This allows teams to focus on the bigger picture instead of spending a lot of their time on dealing with complexities associated with using a full-fledge PM software.

The solution is available for free for teams of up to five users, making it a great option for small teams that want to get started with PM. Paid subscriptions include Pro ($9/month/user), Premium ($15/user/month) and Enterprise (by quote). Users also have the option to host the solution on their own server, while discounted pricing is available if the user base is more than 101.

Key features

  • Gantt chart
  • Tasks and subtasks
  • Task list templates
  • User permissions and parameters
  • Advanced privacy settings
  • Contextual messaging
  • File versioning
  • Notebooks
  • Board view
  • Risk register
  • Task history and reports
  • Project filters
  • Personalized dashboards