October 31st, 2014
Get the most out of your team and your budget by taking advantage of these free collaboration and project management tools.
Free Collaboration and Project Management Software
Casey Stengel, Hall of Fame baseball manager once said, “Gettin’ good players is easy. Gettin’ ‘em to play together is the hard part.” The same holds true for today’s technology workforce.
Collaboration is one of the keys to success whether you’re a small, medium or large organization. Add to that the fact that, according to a recent American Community Survey, 2.6 percent of orkers telecommute and it’s easy to see how important the right collaboration tools are to keep your teams connected and moving in the same direction. The collaboration tools listed here will help you do just that, whether you’re in the home office or a Starbucks in Paris.
Podio is an enterprise social network that aims to add the functionality of a project management system. Each user has his own profile, which is associated with other people such as a manager, direct reports, project manager and lead developer. A chat app, internal email, contacts, calendar and tasks are also included.
Where Podio is most robust is in its customization features. There are many apps available via its marketplace in categories such as project management, CRM, marketing management, recruiting, and HR and IT support. You can also build your own apps using the Podio App Builder. Podio offers three tiers: Podio Lite for up to five employees, Podio Teams and Podio Business.
Asana, created by Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook, and former Facebook tech-lead Justin Rosenstein, is a project management/workflow management tool that lets users customize their interface to whatever configuration makes them most productive. It works on most platforms, offering the flexibility to assign tasks and to-dos, set milestones and deadlines and keep track of it all on work on tablets, smartphones or desktops.
One caveat, Asana doesn’t offer an internal chat; a feature found on many of the products on this list.
This tool is free to use for up to 15 people. After that pricing ranges from $50 to $800 a month depending on the number of users.
Everyone knows Google Apps, but many of us are using them in a one-off fashion. However, used as a suite, Google provides via Gmail, Hangouts, Calendars, Docs, Sheets, Slides and more many of the features project management and collaboration software offer. Like some other apps it requires a connection to the Internet, but it’s accessible on most devices.
Users can work on the same document at the same time and see changes in real-time. They can also create hangouts for group chats or video conferencing.
Google offers Apps for Work for more storage, business email addresses, video and voice calls for $5 per user a month. For $10 per use a month, you get unlimited storage and additional administrative tools.
In 2012, Microsoft bought Yammer, an enterprise social network, for $1.2 billion to bolster its social networking shortcomings. Yammer is a great tool for communication and collaboration among employees and offers many features for free. Its ease of use is often compared to Facebook, making it a great way to enter the collaboration software arena. Users can create a personal profile page, create and join groups, share and like comments, upload images, and attach files. However, its strongest attribute is communication as there isn’t much there in the way of project management.
Many features are free, but you can also get Yammer Enterprise for $3 a month per user or Office 365 for Business at $8 a month per user.
Trello is a free project management tool that offers a simple and intuitive interface. It uses a model known as Kanban, made famous by Toyota in the ’80s. Projects are represented and organized using what the company refers to as boards or cards that contain task/ to-do lists that users share in real-time. Cards can represent an ongoing technical issue, project specs, people architecture or anything else you can think of. Organize them any way you like and keep track of progress using its progress meter.
If you need a place for all your employees to meet, chat and collaborate, but you don’t need much else, consider HipChat. This multi-platform communications tool allows you to create virtual rooms for your teams to meet and communicate as well as share files and photos. Members can quickly create one-on-one chat rooms on-the-fly, organize virtual meetings and catch up on a project’s history.
You can also set up for push notifications ensuring that everyone stays well-informed.
HipChat Basic is free. Hip Chat Plus (which offers one-to-one screen-sharing, unlimited file storage and additional administrative options) costs $2 a user per month.
If project management is your thing, GanttProject might be for you. This free open source project management and scheduling app was first created in 2003 and has gone through many release cycles. It allows users to create and organize tasks and milestones. It can also create Gantt and PERT charts as well as reports in HTML or PDF formats.
On the downside, it doesn’t offer any of the social features that others on the list do. But if your business doesn’t need those features, this free app may be appealing.