The right project planning software helps businesses get more done, faster. Learn about the best options on the market right now—plus how to choose a tool that fits your team’s specific needs.
Project planning is essential for every business initiative—from small team projects to sweeping, company-wide programs. Without an effective way to plan work, things get confusing. Employees don’t know who should do what, by when. Timelines get pushed back. Resources get overloaded. Project scopes creep past the point of feasibility.
But with project planning software, it doesn’t have to be that way. The right tool can help employees orchestrate work from the beginning phase of a project to its final delivery—no matter how many stakeholders and cross-functional teams they need to work with.
Project planning software is a tool that helps teams coordinate and execute initiatives. It lets employees organize work, so they can plan what to do, by when. Ideally, project planning software should go beyond simple, single-project organization. It should also help bridge the gap between teams—making it easier for cross-functional stakeholders to collaborate on business-critical initiatives.See Asana in action
The right project planning software can help businesses get more done, faster. Here’s how:
Get stakeholders on the same page right from the beginning. Project planning apps help teams organize all project information in one central platform, so every stakeholder can find the information they need. The best solutions promote clarity with features like:
Clear goals that link each project back to overarching business objectives.
Integrations that connect information across different apps so team members can access project information in one place.
Tasks with owners and due dates, so everyone knows what they’re responsible for and by when.
Dependencies that link related tasks together, so teams can complete work in the right order.
Different ways to visualize projects and organize information—like Kanban boards, Gantt charts, calendars, or task lists.
Project planning software helps teams spend less time on repetitive admin tasks and back-and-forth communication. The best options save time with features like:
Automations that automatically assign, schedule, and triage work.
Project templates to help your teams get started quickly and standardize processes across your organization.
Easy task approvals and proofing functionality, so stakeholders can quickly view, sign off, and provide feedback on work.
Projects don’t always go as planned. Good project planning software has features that help teams anticipate roadblocks and adjust their approach mid-flight. For example:
Dashboards that track project progress in real-time—so you can see when an initiative is off track and course-correct as needed.
Resource management tools to help managers visualize and adjust team bandwidth.
Project milestones to identify key targets over the course of your project timeline.
Status update functionality, so teams can easily communicate project changes.
Looking to get started? We’ve sourced the nine best project planning platforms for 2023.
Cross-team collaboration is essential for modern businesses—especially if leaders want to solve problems quickly and effectively. In fact, according to Deloitte, 83% of companies are leveraging cross-functional teams.
But while cross-functional project planning is important for all companies, it’s especially tricky at larger organizations—where teams tend to get siloed within different departments and hierarchies. That’s why enterprise companies need a project management tool that goes beyond simple planning. Large companies should look for software that works across teams and facilitates cross-functional collaboration—no matter how many stakeholders are involved in each initiative.
With a suite of enterprise offerings, Asana helps large organizations (and small ones) execute mission-critical work. With features like goals, automations, and workflows, you can easily bridge the gap between teams, reduce busywork, and keep employees focused on what matters most for your business. Plus, Asana includes essential security, privacy, and compliance features to keep your data safe.See Asana in action
Smaller companies don’t necessarily need more advanced collaboration and security features. Many small businesses appreciate Monday.com’s user-friendly interface, which makes it easy to get started. That said, you may run into barriers as you grow your team.Comparison: See how Monday compares to this alternative.
Favored by smaller teams and startups with tight budgets, Clickup’s colorful interface is fun to adopt. While it’s easy to hit the ground running, some users report hitting barriers as their teams expand and cross-functional collaboration becomes a priority.Comparison: See how Clickup compares to this alternative.
Founded in 1999, Basecamp was one of the first web-based project planning tools on the market. Project managers like its robust messaging platform, but Basecamp might feel limited if adaptability is your priority.Comparison: See how Basecamp compares to this alternative.
This task management software dives into details like budgets, time sheets, and time tracking. It’s great for specific project planning, but larger organizations may hit a threshold for what’s possible as they expand cross-team collaboration.
This tool was designed specifically for software development, with Agile-specific features like epics, user stories, and sprints. While Jira shines for Agile methodologies like Scrum, it may not be flexible enough for teams across your company.Comparison: See how Jira compares to this alternative.
To do their best work, companies need to connect cross-functional development across teams. With the Asana + Jira integration, you can automatically create Asana tasks from Jira issues—and automatically sync issues, tasks, projects, comments, assignees, custom fields, and more.Discover the power of Jira + Asana
With easy-to-use security features and permissions, Wrike helps clients and internal teams access information safely. That means it’s helpful for teams that prioritize work with external partners, but it may be less effective for managing cross-team work.Comparison: See how Wrike compares to this alternative.
You might recognize Trello for its distinctive Kanban boards, which smaller teams can use to drag-and-drop tasks through different stages. But if you have a growing team and need a variety of project planning views, there’s a risk you’ll quickly outgrow Trello.Comparison: See how Trello compares to this alternative.
Smartsheet appeals to teams who live and breathe spreadsheets. It offers more capabilities than Microsoft Excel—for example, time tracking and collaboration features. Since not all teams prefer to work in spreadsheets, this tool may not translate well across your organization.Comparison: See how Smartsheet compares to this alternative.
Some tools work best when paired with a more robust project planning option. For example, teams often use a handful of applications to handle different aspects of project planning—like instant messaging, data storage, and more. By integrating those apps with your chosen project planning software, you can help teams collaborate more effectively.
Integrations allow you to centralize project information in one place. That means cross-functional teams still have a single source of truth, even when they use different tools to get things done.
These tools play well with project planning software. By integrating them with your chosen app, you can boost efficiency and help cross-functional teams work together.
Instant messaging can help bring teams closer together, especially if you work remotely. Look for a project planning tool that integrates with Slack, so you can capture details and action items from messages—ensuring that nothing gets lost in the shuffle.
Aside from Slack, tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams can also fuel connection. Choosing project planning software that integrates with these apps can help make meetings actionable—with tasks, action items, and searchable transcripts.
Google Drive allows you to securely store, share, and collaborate on files. With features like comments and suggestions, teams can easily work together on a single Google doc, spreadsheet, or presentation. To ensure files don’t get lost—and that you’re notified when stakeholders leave comments—look for a project planning app that effectively integrates with Google Drive.
If you deal with large files, Dropbox can help. The app offers secure cloud storage—so teams can store all their content in one place and easily share files with anyone. Integrating Dropbox with your project planning tool is a must to keep files accessible, so stakeholders have a single source of truth for project information.
Zapier helps you automate work without writing any code. This tool allows you to connect your project management platform with software tools—so you can automate repetitive, manual work.
Asana is the best option if you work at an enterprise-sized company, want to scale your team, or value cross-functional teamwork. From complex projects to company-wide initiatives, Asana can cut the time to complete a project by up to 60% and reduce project errors by up to 90%. More than 80% of Fortune 100 companies* trust the software, and global enterprise customers—including Amazon, Affirm, Japan Airlines, and Sky—rely on Asana to manage their strategic initiatives.
Asana offers more than simple project planning and to-do lists. It’s flexible and customizable enough to use across your entire organization, helps streamline workflows between teams, and provides a single system of record for all work.
True to its name, project planning software helps project teams iron out key details of an initiative before it kicks off—like creating your project roadmap, identifying dependencies, planning resource allocation, and breaking down final deliverables.
On the other hand, project management software doesn’t just help teams plan projects. It also gives employees a way to monitor and adjust strategy over the course of an initiative. For example, effective project management software should help teams track progress, communicate updates to your project status, identify blockers, and adjust resourcing.
It’s best to choose software that can do both—plan new projects, and execute them from start to finish.Read: The best project management software of 2023
Rather than investing in software for a specific use case, look for a project management solution that’s flexible enough to use across your entire company. In addition to task management and project tracking, effective project management apps provide a digital workspace where your entire team—and company—can collaborate.
When evaluating new software, focus on:
Ease of adoption: If software isn’t intuitive, teams won’t adopt it. Watch product demos or schedule a session with the product sales team to get familiar with the software’s UI—including its web, desktop, and mobile app. Make sure the software has an easy-to-navigate user guide. You want teams to easily get started with the tool on their own, without a steep learning curve.
Return on investment (ROI): A new app should improve your company’s bottom line. In addition to researching pricing, look to independent reports that quantify time savings from different work management tools, like this report from Nucleus Research.
Security: It’s critical to ensure company information stays private, even when employees work in different locations and time zones. Data security is a must-have feature; do your research, and make sure the tool meets your IT team’s required security standards.
Cross-team use cases: New software shouldn’t contribute to application sprawl. Instead of picking a tool that you can only use narrowly for a specific team, look for options that are flexible enough to cover a broad range of use cases. Ideally, collaboration software should streamline cross-team workflows—like campaign and project planning, work request tracking, or strategic planning.
Information tracking: It’s hard to get things done when information is scattered across different apps. To solve this problem, project planning software should create a single system of record for all work, centralizing information so employees can find what they need easily.
*Accurate as of September 7, 2022. Asana makes no representations about updating this number.