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Project management is hard. Trust me, I know. I worked as a project manager for years and it can be really tough to find the best ways to organize everything for your team.
When I started as a project manager, I had no idea what I was doing or how to keep things from falling through the cracks. Then I discovered workflows and the skies parted. Everything in my life got better.
Okay, that last part isn’t exactly true. But using project management workflow software certainly helped save me a lot of time and stress, and it can do the same for you.
So let’s talk about project management workflows, what they are, and how they differ from process management. Then I’ll tell you about the five best software you can find.
Project management workflows are sequences of tasks that need to be done in order to complete a project. Using workflows for project management helps organize all the steps and track their progress.
Projects can get really complicated, especially when multiple people and departments are involved. Workflows help by breaking down complex projects into smaller, more digestible tasks that are easier to follow.
In addition, workflow tools come with features like automation and conditional logic that save everyone a ton of time as they go through their tasks. Spreadsheets and calendars can’t do that for you.
Project management workflow tools help to eliminate any confusion about who is in charge of what and when deliverables are due among many other things.
Let me sell you on project management workflows by talking about why they’re amazing.
As a project manager, you need to have a vision of how the project will be completed from the beginning. Projects cannot thrive without it.
Workflows give you the power to do that. You can lay everything out in a way that’s easy for you and your team to understand. You can clearly see the order in which every task needs to be completed along with deadlines.
Workflows also give you a place to store all the resources needed to complete a project, including all the documents and deliverables. That level of organization is priceless.
With better organization comes better time management. With everything your team needs stored in one project, you immediately cut down on a lot of the time it would take to track down necessary resources.
Additionally, project management workflow software generally comes with advanced deadline features. These can come in the form of timelines or notifications when a deadline is approaching.
These two things in conjunction with each other make it so much easier to track the progress of a project and stick to deadlines. If stakeholders or clients want a status update, you’ll be able to provide one by giving the workflow a quick glance.
No more stress of asking the team for individual status updates!
Project management workflow software also comes with budget tracking features. It’s important to note that these are rarely included in free or cheap plans, but if you are willing to pay, it’s an amazing feature.
These can come in the form of spreadsheets or templates the workflow software makes. Some even offer reports and analytics for budget tracking, making it easier than ever to see where the money is going.
If your project is going over budget, you will be able to figure out why very quickly and show the metrics to the stakeholders so they understand.
This is from personal experience. When I began using project management workflows, my team’s job became a million times easier. Easier work meant that we were much happier employees.
Each day, we knew what needed to be done and who needed to do it. Workflows made our projects incredibly transparent. If a task wasn’t completed on time, I always knew who to talk to. Sometimes I wouldn’t even need to.
Things were so transparent that my team was fully aware of who needed to complete what by when and if something wasn’t finished, they would work it out amongst themselves. Workflows took a lot of time and effort off my plate as a project manager. I never looked back.
Shopping for a project management workflow tool can be intimidating. How can you tell which ones are actually the best versus which ones just have really good marketing?
So I’ve taken the work out of it for you. Below are the five best project management workflow tools. Each one offers a free trial, so read about them and try the ones that speak to you the most.
Self-described as the “all-in-one toolkit” for managing operations, Basecamp really does deliver.
Each project on Basecamp has all of its management features on one page. These features include:
That last feature is great because it allows managers to automate their check-in questions for their team so they don’t have to pester anyone.
Basecamp features team schedules so everyone can see what the others have on their schedules and when their deadlines are.
It’s a highly intuitive tool that’s great for teams who are looking for simpler project management software.
Like most project management software, Asana has multiple ways you can view a project, like:
But it has one extra that sets it apart from other tools: timeline.
The timeline feature gives users a visual representation of the stages of each project from start to finish and helps teams keep track of their deadlines.
Asana also comes with a unique workflow management feature that allows managers to see the overall workload of each team member. It tells managers who is overworked, underworked, or if a project is properly staffed. Features like this save employees from burnout.
Trello is a Kanban-style project management tool that is the digital answer to sticky notes on a wall.
In my previous job as a remote project manager, I used Trello to manage multiple projects at once to great success. It’s a great way to collaborate and have all the steps of the project clearly laid out and defined.
You can see what your colleagues have done or are currently working on in real-time, making it easier to know the status of your project without having to wait for replies from someone in another time zone.
Additionally, Trello allows you to:
It’s intuitive and very easy for teams to learn how to use. You could have your team using it reliably within a week.
Where most project management tools focus on data, Notion focuses on knowledge.
What does that mean? Well, Notion’s biggest selling point is that you can use it to:
It’s about putting all of the knowledge contained in a project into one place.
For example, I once had a job writing scripts for a YouTube channel. We used Notion to upload the prompts, scripts, descriptions, and thumbnails. We even used it to leave notes on each other’s work.
The scripts didn’t have to be uploaded to Notion as separate files, they could be put in directly without sacrificing any rich text.
Notion won’t be able to give you detailed reporting and analytics on data like other tools, but it’s excellent for creative collaboration.
It also includes administrative features for permissions management, checklists, and real-time collaboration.
Monday is the most versatile software for project management.
Monday.com utilizes very user-friendly timelines and calendars to structure tasks, giving users a clear picture of when things should be completed.
You can also change the view to see the project tasks laid out in a Kanban or Gantt chart.
Monday gives project managers a lot of flexibility in their methodologies, whether they prefer Agile or Scrum.
Monday supports lots of different types of workflows that can be used by most departments.
These workflows include:
All of the tools we just covered are great project management software. However, that means they are all inherently lacking when it comes to process management.
But what is the difference between project and process management, and which one do you need?
Well, the answer is surprisingly simple. Projects are short-term and measurable. There is a clear beginning and end to a project. There may be a budget and specific deadlines that must be met, and you may only ever work on a specific project one time.
Processes are recurring tasks that keep day-to-day operations running smoothly. Processes are things like:
You get the idea. It’s literally impossible to run a business without some kind of process management.
If you’re looking for a management tool for one of the listed processes above, you’re better off with one like Process Street.
Process Street specializes in making recurring processes seamless and easy for teams. With it, you can make checklists that can be automated to make everyone’s lives easier and take boring, repetitive work off of employees’ plates.
It differs from project management software because it keeps all the long-term information about company processes in one place. It keeps things organized and standardizes everyday business practices.
If you want to see what a process management tool can offer and have your questions answered in real-time, book a demo with Process Street! Our sales representatives can walk you through the whole process of building a workflow and how the platform can work for entire companies.