Curious how this app compares to others?
Throughout our article below, we'll use the words overwhelming and overly complex a lot.
Many of the most popular project management tools are designed for large teams and organizations, and they can be overwhelming and complex to set up and use for smaller teams. Here's what to keep in mind:
We see more often than not that teams actually jump into implementing a project management tool too early believe it or not.
The main question we'd ask is, does your team currently use a CRM? If so, is your project management/task needs actually simple enough to not require an entire standalone tool for it?
Believe it or not, pipelines within a CRM can actually be a great alternative to a project management tool for smaller teams. With the introduction of a standalone project manager comes with a lot of added work as mentioned above.
Now this is totally fine and possible, just trying to flag that many smaller teams and startups might be trying to create too much complexity and structure, when they really just need to move quickly, pivot, and figure out their process before actually implementing a proper project management tool.
Ok, let's get into your best project management software options + project planning platforms ⤵
The "Project Management" category is one that has been quite underwhelming for a while. Project management software was first created for engineering teams or large enterprise companies. If you've worked for an enterprise company, you'd be familiar with the software Smartsheet and/or Jira. Project management tools were reserved for highly complex technical projects and there weren't any tools available for the average small–medium sized teams.
That is, until 2008 when Dustin Moskovitz (Co-Founder of Facebook, now Meta) and Justin Rosenstein (former engineering lead at Facebook) co-founded Asana—which would go on to be the first project management tool accessible to the average business. Wild enough, Asana was actually built off of Facebook's internal task tool 🤯
At Asana, their mission was simple: create a software that anyone could use and to help teams collaborate better.
In 2010, after having just 15 beta users (oh, and just a small $9 Million in Funding from Benchmark Capital and Andreessen-Horowitz), they officially launched to the public. The response was incredibly positive, with many early users saying:
"Asana is one of the first project management tools that our team actually enjoys using."
One of their big differentiators was that they prioritized keyboard shortcuts from day one (which was super uncommon at the time), remember, we're still in the Adobe Flash era of the internet. And this was a huge productivity boost for a tool you'd be using sometimes many hours per day.
Today Asana is one of the main leaders in the project management space, with over 1,700 employees, for whom are still focusing on one thing: helping teams and companies to best manage their projects.
We actually used Asana for 7 years at Efficient App—in-fact, it was our favorite for a long time, but new innovation entering the market has caused us to switch to a new exciting contender in the space: Motion (more or on that later ⤵).
Shortly after Asana launched, Trello entered the market in 2011 with a project management tool with one key differentiation: kanban boards—different from that of the list-making style of managing tasks. Why was this a big deal? Well web technologies weren't anywhere near where they were now, and at the time, being able to visualize floating cards, dragging and dropping them between columns and statuses was a big deal that hadn't been seen outside of Flash.
Trello at the end of the day was incredibly simple to use, being geared more to individuals and small businesses that wanted a simple and visual tool to manage their tasks. While it was (and still is) a simple tool, it wasn't that powerful of a tool, as it was much like having a digital pen and paper as your task manager. The general attitude around Trello is:
Everyone has probably used Trello at some point
But it's hard to think of many teams that have stuck with it in the long-term. It's not a serious project management software that we'd recommend today as it stagnated a while back, and since Atlassian acquired them in 2017 for half a billion dollars—the stagnation sadly only continued as they tried repurposing it to more deeply integrate with their other tools (Confluence, Jira, Bitbucket, etc.).
Then came others, like Monday.com (founded in 2012, previously known as Dapulse which rebranded to Monday.com in 2017):
And ClickUp in 2017:
For a while, when you thought of project management software, you'd think of Asana or Monday.com. That was until 2019–2020 when ClickUp amped up their marketing. It felt like you couldn't go anywhere without seeing a billboard or advertisement with their software (in major US tech cities at least).
With all of that said, neither Monday or ClickUp actually re-thought project management—they just built the project management basics while focusing on expanding as quickly as possible to be the "now coveted" best all-in-one software on the market.
Their feature-set was similar to that of Asana, with just a slightly different interface. That and, well, way more features like embedding other apps, full note taking capabilities, and much more, because they wanted to be more of a "productivity suite" rather than just helping people with the task management involved with running large projects.
The truth of the matter is that since Asana in 2010, there hadn't been any true innovation in the project management space for nearly a decade, but rather just more tools competing for teams to manage projects.
More and more all-in-one tools entered the market, like Notion, which more recently is being pushed as a project manager (spoiler alert: it isn't).
With all of this came with it major frustrations. Many teams thought that Asana, Monday, and ClickUp would solve their productivity problems, saving them immense time as project managers, but people quickly found that adoption amongst other team members was quite poor, leading to large unexpected onboarding expenses and never-ending sinks of time.
As these tools moved up market, so came the enterprise team needs that Jira and Smartsheet had being so early on in the space (and focused on enterprises at the start). What this led to is Asana, ClickUp, and Monday.com focusing years on building these large team management features to try growing outside of the SMB space, hoping to expand.
These features ranged from gantt charts, to reporting dashboards, and just generally custom dashboards overall. Companies found that to have success with project management software, they needed to take a lesson out of the enterprise playbook by hiring dedicated team members as standalone "project managers" and/or consultants to help them set up the tools properly.
All the meanwhile, the average small–medium sized businesses got left in the rearview mirror as they didn't require these highly custom and advanced tooling, but rather finding themselves floundering somewhere in the middle of being overwhelmed with features and having perceived productivity (aka spending time setting up project management tools rather than actually working on projects).
Motion started out simply as a calendar and scheduler tool. Upon perfecting the time management component (with deep Google Calendar and Microsoft 365 integration), they moved into task management for individuals. Re-thinking what a task truly was—not just a line item in a list or kanban view, but rather blocks of time that could be scheduled onto your calendar, as a task. No longer requiring 2 separate tools to manage your tasks and time:
Then in 2022, their project management tool (for teams) was released. Motion's 2022 press release stated:
“Despite impressive advances in software and AI in the last decade, productivity tools still require massive overhead and manual coordination. We set out to solve this problem in a way that 'just works.'”
Motion found that:
Knowledge workers spend 58% of their day coordinating work instead of doing work.
So they knew the clear path to take forward. It wasn't about the project management format or features, but rather the work involved with actually managing a project that was leading to the complexity and low adoption of project management tools.
That's where they introduced AI planning and auto-scheduling, so that teams could dramatically increase their productivity. They essentially created this over-encompassing category of time management, daily planning, and project management, all while mixing in the newfound era of AI (for task/event prioritization). All of this with the goal of giving everyone the experience as if they had a personal assistant when using the tool.
After 7 years of using Asana, we switched entirely to Motion because of the drastic time-saving component. With Motion, you create tasks, grouping them into projects. From there, you simply set the deadline, priority, and any blockers. That's where Motion uses AI to automatically schedule the tasks required to complete the project on each team member's calendars, all while taking into account any meetings and calendar schedules.
No more need for a standalone project manager to manage a project—Motion knows what tasks are blocking the rest of the team from getting the work done, and the capacity available for each team member, because your team's calendar is at the core.
Oh, and whenever things don’t go according to plan (which they never do), Motion automatically re-prioritizes everyone’s tasks and calendar so that everything gets done, on time. Helping de-stress teammates by offloading all of the cognitive processing surrounding what should be done next.
And that's why Motion holds the spot for the best project management software in the category. It has been the first tool to actually innovate the project management and time management/daily planner categories for over a decade.
That said, Motion is focused right now on small–mid-size teams, and individuals, so Asana still wins the category for larger teams over 100+ employees (as their features are more developed to accommodate complex projects and the reporting that is required for traditional project management needs).