If you’re like most professionals, you’ve found yourself managing a project in the time of COVID, either leading or part of a remote team that needs to collaborate and track progress daily. In the past, email, whiteboards, Excel and sticky notes were OK. But a year of closed offices and kitchen table cubicles has led to the mainstream discovery of what were once niche tech solutions — the project management app.
Project management apps and software are called SaaS products — software as a service. Some are free, and some are paid. Some are a combination of both. Some are better suited to specific environments, like an enterprise setting, with others fine for smaller teams or even individuals and sole proprietors with crammed schedules and detailed to-do lists.
The app you choose depends on what you need from it. Do you need a secure place to communicate with everyone and stay connected? Or are you wanting to track progress on a calendar? Do you prefer checklists with automatic reminders? Maybe a daily email with due dates and deadlines? Define your goals first, then start exploring! Following are but a few examples. Learn the basics, then do some research to find the best fit for your culture, work style and goals.
Asana is a program for anyone in the trenches of an involved project with a lot of moving parts. You can track assignments by date, by assignee, on a calendar or on a list. Create multiple teams and multiple projects. Set due dates and track progress on a dynamic and continually updated calendar. Make tasks dependent on each other so team members know when it’s their turn to do something. Even add attachments, photos, PDFs, spreadsheets or external links. Outgrowing this application is a near impossibility. The interface is intuitive, and most importantly, it asks you twice if you try to delete something.
Slack is a way to keep in touch rather than track work. You create different teams, called “channels.” Include attachments, share links, spreadsheets and documents that everyone can see, or you can direct message privately. There is no calendar in Slack, but you can add your Google calendar. There’s also no built-in checklist, but typing “/todo” allows you to integrate Outlook.
Basecamp lets you keep your files and attachments in one place that is accessible to everyone. Create to-do lists here, set up a message board for announcements, start a group chat for conversation and collaboration. The basic version is free. Paid versions are for larger teams or corporations.
Lastly is Discord. Discord gets a bad rap, but it’s quite useful in a professional setting. Use Discord when you want to talk and screen-share with no time limit. There’s no progress tracking, calendars or checklists, but you can include attachments and links in the chat. Bonus: Using Discord will make you a little cooler to your kids.
As you can see, there’s truly an app for every style of remote workplace. All are available on desktop and mobile, for both iOS and Android. As with anything, there is a learning curve. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder how you ever did without them.
Cynthia Maggard is director of social media services at Bentonville retail and e-commerce marketing firm The Levio Agency. The opinions expressed are those of the author.