Designed to be so easy to use you won’t even know it’s intended purpose, Trello wins the award for best small business project management software hands down.
Trello is used in small (0–50 employees), and medium companies (51–1,000 employees).
Trello features project ‘boards’ and it’s simple drag and drop interface make it one of the most visually appealing project management software.
It has a decent online marketplace with lots of mobile apps for both Android and iOS. Trello is also supported by Zapier so you can integrate your apps and services.
The free account is perfect for many small businesses with the ability to create unlimited boards and also no limit to collaborators. They also offer a 30 day free trial for their paid accounts.
Lacking many features that come standard in other software such as gantt charts, billing, or reporting tools.
Lack of progress tracking makes it difficult to use with any large or long-term projects.
How it works:
Trello is set up very similarly to a whiteboard, when you make a new ‘Trello Board’ you’re greeted with a large blank open space. From there you can make ‘Cards.’ They each represent one different project, maybe it’s a task for IT to set up the intern’s computer or something for accounting to get on.
Each task, or card, gets categorized into ‘Lists.’ Let’s look at the whiteboard metaphor again, your business has a few founding members and each of them needs to look at and physically sign a new charter. How would you track that? If you were organizing this offline, you could go up to a whiteboard (the Board) and put each council member’s name along the top (the Lists.)
From there, you label a post-it note (the Card) “Sign Charter” and put it under the first council member’s name. When he finally gets around to signing it, you hand it over to the next council member, and you move the post-it under his name. Rinse and repeat moving the post-it until each and every member has signed it.
That’s how Trello is set up, it makes tracking the progress of current tasks a breeze. With one glance at the ‘Design’ department board, you can see that the ‘New Company Logo’ task (card) is currently being re-drawn (list) and once it’s finished, it’ll move onto the ‘Pending Approval’ list for you to take a look at. You could move the card to ‘Finished’ if you like it or throw it back to ‘Re-Draw’ yet again if it isn’t what you’re looking for.
The neat part about Trello is that the cards can do a whole lot more than just display the task name. You can add checklists, due dates, and unlike real post-its, attachments. So if the design department finished up Logo 3.0, they can attach it to the card and send it your way for approval. There’s no need to go digging through your cloud storage or email, it’s all right in the program. You can also comment on each card, so if Logo 3.0 was close but just need a color tweak, add a comment about what you’re looking for and send it back to the Re-Draw list! Maybe you want a senior member of your design department to do it personally? No problem you can assign ‘Members’ to specific cards!
All of the changes are in real time for members of that board. Not all users need the privilege to view all the boards either, so each department could get their own board only they can see while you and the council members can look through all of them.
Whenever a card moves from one list to another, gets a comment added, has an item checked off it creates a ‘Notification’ for all members of that board. Notifications stay in sync across all of your devices and you can opt to receive them inside the web app, through desktop browser notifications, email or even as a mobile alert on your phone.
Trello offers ‘Power-Ups’ as well, these are various additional features to make life a little easier. There are three Power-Ups that come with the free version of Trello:
- Calendar: If you utilities due-dates on your cards, this Power-Up can organize them into a weekly or monthly view of what’s soon to be due.
- Card Aging: What happens if a task gets stuck in a certain list? With card aging the card will visibly start to distort and look older if it hasn’t been moved in 1, 2 or 4 weeks.
- Voting: All team members you give access to can vote on cards. You could put two similar cards in a list, then ask the team to vote on their favorite. Ice cream or pizza party for a kick butt fiscal quarter?
As we had hinted above, Trello does have a free version and everything mentioned above is included. You get unlimited boards, lists, cards, attachments and members with every version and the free one comes with limited integrations with Box, Google Drive and Dropbox. Keep in mind each file attachment is limited to 10mb on free, so if you do audio or video editing that might be limiting.
One step up is Trello’s ‘Business Class,’ and it charges $9.99 per user per month. You get everything offered for the free version and it ups the attachment file limit to 250mb. Business class offers a whole plethora of power-ups including much more detailed cloud management suites, Google Hangouts, SalesForce, MailChimp and much more. They also throw in quite a few security and privacy controls including one-click access removal of former members, control who can create private and public boards and restricted membership invitations.
Finally Trello offers ‘Enterprise’ mostly focused on large companies for $20.83 per user per month. It comes with all of the Free and Business features but also tacks on 2-factor login, a dedicated account executive to help train and onboard and file encryption.
Trello really stands out from the pack with its ease of use and approachability. It’s designed to bring out creativity and encourage members to interact with each other as much as possible. For that reason, it’s a great choice for small to medium sized businesses who are more tightly knit than huge corporations.
For complete rankings of all project management software, go here.