Essential Software for SMEs: Collaboration & Project Management

Following our previous insightful exploration of essential software tools for UK SMEs, which looked at automation and accounting software, our next focus shifts to the realm of teamwork and collaboration. In a world where teams are frequently scattered across locations, whether due to having multiple sites of operation or simply utilising remote or hybrid working advantages, the ability to collaborate effectively and manage projects efficiently is not just a luxury but a necessity for SMEs. The right collaboration and project management tools can be the linchpin that holds your team together, fostering communication, streamlining workflows and driving productivity.

The Collaboration Conundrum: Choosing the Right Tools for Your Team

In the extremely competitive digital marketplace, the options for collaboration tools are as diverse as they are numerous. From messaging apps that keep your team connected to collaborative whiteboards that bring your ideas to life, the choices can be overwhelming. However, the key lies in understanding your team’s unique needs and workflows. Do you require a tool that integrates seamlessly with your existing software ecosystem? Are you looking for something that offers robust file-sharing capabilities? Or perhaps, a platform that can scale with your growing business? In this post, we’ll delve into these questions, helping you navigate the sea of options and pinpoint the tools that align perfectly with your team’s rhythm.

So here are some of our top picks for essential tools that can aid collaboration in your business:

  • Slack – Once the darling of tech startups, the chat room focused messaging app has grown to become utilised across companies in a wide variety of sectors, with teams of all sizes. Unlike a typical one-to-one instant messaging app like Skype, Slack’s genius lies in its channel-by-channel approach and ability to seamlessly integrate across multiple workspaces. Consequently, businesses can communicate among teams and projects, in dedicated rooms that are used only by the relevant team members in each instance. Need a channel to discuss a particular client account but don’t need to disturb everyone company-wide who isn’t involved on that project? Easy. Or maybe you just want to put a quick question to your closest teammates whilst working remotely and unable to discuss it in person. This is Slack’s bread and butter. What’s more it doesn’t need to be internal only, as you can set up specific channels and workspaces in which to discuss projects with others outside your organisation such as clients or partners. This can be really useful for keeping on top of specific accounts where the client is involved and can share their own updates or feedback on delivered work. Then there’s all the integrations with other apps, allowing you to connect everything from calendars to cloud storage apps, task management tools and even billing and finance platforms. Before long you’ll be running everything through Slack’s simple, colourful interface! Best of all, Slack’s free version is surprisingly functional meaning you’ll only need to upgrade to a paid plan if you really become a power user requiring multiple app integrations and access to full chat histories over 90 days. Paid plans start at £7 per user per month.
  • Miro – This collaborative interactive whiteboard platform fosters creativity among remote teams by allowing seamless idea sharing and strategising. Simply share the link to your workspace board with everyone you want to be involved and let the brainstorming commence! Though there’s always the risk of your whiteboards becoming cluttered and messy, Miro is smart enough to include various tools and templates helping to keep everyone on track. So whether you want a collaborative Kanban framework or somewhere to manage complex projects and gather resources from different platforms to help build reports, Miro can deliver. You can use it with up to three separate boards on the free plan or for all-you-can-eat access it costs $10 (approx £8) per user per month.
  • Teamwork – This is a tool that straddles the line between collaboration software and project management tools, however given the name it’s only fair to include it among the teamwork tools we’re discussing in this section! Teamwork caters to the diverse needs of SMEs, regardless of their industry and is designed to streamline project planning, task management and team collaboration, all within its user-friendly interface. Imagine having a central hub where you can oversee every aspect of your projects, from the initial brainstorming phase to the final execution. That’s what Teamwork offers. It allows you to create detailed project plans, assign tasks to team members, set deadlines and track progress in real-time. But it’s not just about managing tasks; Teamwork understands the importance of communication. It provides a platform for team discussions, file sharing and feedback, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Need to manage multiple projects simultaneously? No problem. Teamwork’s intuitive dashboard gives you a clear overview of all your projects, helping you prioritise and allocate resources effectively. And when it comes to customisation, Teamwork shines. You can tailor the platform to fit your specific workflow, whether you prefer Gantt charts, Kanban boards or simple task lists. Plus, it will seamlessly connect with your favourite tools, from cloud storage to time tracking apps. The best part? Teamwork’s free plan offers a generous set of features, making it accessible for small teams. But if you’re looking for advanced functionalities like workload management and time tracking, their paid plans start at £8.99 per user per month.

Project Management: The Art of Juggling Tasks and Deadlines

Project management software is more than just a digital to-do list. It’s about having a bird’s-eye view of your projects, understanding the intricacies of each task and ensuring that deadlines are met without a hitch. But with the plethora of project management tools available, how do you choose the one that’s right for your company? Whether you’re a creative agency juggling multiple client projects or a tech startup working on the next big innovation, the right project management tool can make all the difference. In picking our recommendations we’ve explored the features that matter most, from intuitive interfaces to powerful analytics, uncovering the tools that can turn project management from a challenge into a competitive advantage.

These are our favourite small business software solutions to support with project management:

  • ClickUp – At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking this is simply another task management tool. However ClickUp’s rich feature list makes it a far more powerful all-in-one project management suite than some of its more traditional to-do-list style competitors. With goal tracking, document sharing, automations and AI functionality plus an almost limitless number of ways you can customise the tool to suit your specific workflows, ClickUp is one of the finest tools to turbocharge your productivity. The free plan is excellent but for unlimited integrations and storage paid plans begin at $10 per user per month.
  • Trello – Known for its simple, card-based interface that makes project management visually intuitive, Trello is great for small teams that need a straightforward tool for organising tasks and tracking progress. It’s particularly popular with developers who like to be able to move tasks between development phases for an easy at-a-glance overview of a project’s current progress. Whilst Trello didn’t invent the Kanban board, it’s easily one of the best-known tools to utilise it. This is another tool with a surprisingly generous free plan that allows up to ten project boards per workspace but if you need more than this and would like more storage paid plans start at $6 per user per month.
  • Basecamp – A stalwart in the project management arena, Basecamp has been used by SMEs across various industries for almost 20 years. Unlike conventional project management tools that can sometimes overwhelm with features, Basecamp’s charm lies in its simplicity and user-centric design. It offers a centralised space where teams can manage tasks, share files and communicate effortlessly. Need a dedicated space for a specific project or client? Basecamp lets you create individual projects with to-do lists, message boards and schedules. And if you’re collaborating with external stakeholders, you can invite them to join specific projects, ensuring transparency and efficient communication. Plus, with its array of integrations, you can connect Basecamp to your favourite tools, making it a hub for all your project needs. Though there’s a free trial BAsecamp don’t offer a free plan so if you do decide this is the tool for your team, it will cost $15 per user per month
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