The 6 best agile tools for project management

The right agile project management tool can make a big difference, and not just to whether you stay on schedule and within budget. The right tool can help you find your groove, work with ease, and generally feel more in control. In short, your mind will benefit as much as your project will!

That’s why there’s a lot riding on finding the right tool. Problem is, there are so many options out there. How do you choose? We rounded up the six best agile project management software out there in 2021 to offer a bit of clarity. But first, let’s dig into some basics.

What are agile project management tools?

One way to answer this question is by breaking it down into two parts: agile + project management tools.

A project management tool is software that makes planning and tracking, organizing, and collaborating easier for project managers and teams.

Agile is a method, a set of principles that guides how teams approach their work. Software development teams in particular love Agile because it allows them to work quickly, bring structure to their workflow, and adapt to change.

An agile project management tool complements the agile methodology with features that let you:

  • Keep track of what your team is working on in a given iteration
  • Visualize tasks, metrics, and other data in a number of ways like on a board, timeline, Gantt chart, etc.
  • Generate agile reports such as burndown charts, velocity charts, cumulative flow diagrams, etc. (perfect for when project managers need to report to stakeholders)

What is a cloud-based agile project management tool?

Your project management tool stores data. And in general, there are two ways to go about this. The first option is to host the data on-premise. Think: physical hardware. The second option is to host the data in the cloud.

A cloud-based agile project management tool requires no physical equipment and might be better suited for remote and distributed teams. All you need is an internet connection. All of the options listed below are cloud-based. Some of them also offer the option to host data locally.

The best agile project management tools: free and paid

  1. Jira Software
  2. Monday.com
  3. Asana
  4. Trello
  5. Airtable
  6. Clickup

1. Jira Software

If you spend just five minutes scouting the web for an agile tool, chances are, you’ll come across Atlassian’s Jira Software. Originally created for bug tracking, Jira is now a work management powerhouse. Jira Software, sometimes referred to as JIRA, is geared specifically towards agile software development teams. But with customizable workflows, JIRA can be useful for teams of all kinds. There are both cloud-based and locally-hosted options.

With how prominent Atlassian is in the world of agile, we’re not surprised that JIRA addresses everything that agile teams might need, regardless of which methodology they use. For example, scrum teams can take advantage of easy backlog refinement, scrum reports, sprint planning, scrum boards, and more.

Kanban users can use JIRA to host their kanban board, manage workflow with work-in-progress limits (WIP), and create kanban reports like cumulative flow diagrams and control charts. JIRA also works great for hybrid methodologies and scaled agile frameworks.

Pros:

  • Is a well-established software in the world of agile and software development (trust factor)
  • Is able to track projects across multiple teams within an organization through higher-tier plans (Premium and up)
  • Includes specialized scrum features
  • Offers app marketplace to get even more out of your JIRA platform
  • Includes chat feature to promote team collaboration and communication

Cons:

  • Can seem complex in the beginning

Pricing:

  • Jira Software offers four tiers: Free, Standard, Premium, and Enterprise. If your needs include advanced roadmaps, advanced management of dependencies, capacity planning, and project archiving, you’re better off getting at least the Premium plan.

2. monday.com

monday.com is an all-in-one platform that lets you manage work and collaborate with your team (and even across teams within an organization). Any team, agile or not, can use this software. But agile teams in particular will find monday.com handy for planning iterations, bug tracking, retrospectives, backlogs, product roadmaps, product launches, and more.

Boards are one of the core features for monday.com, and there are 200+ customizable templates to get you started. For even more agile-friendly resources, you can head over to the newly-launched app marketplace. One of these apps, called Live Collab, is perfect for sprint planning sessions, and it even has a built-in Planning Poker feature for estimating user stories.

If monday.com had a calling card, it’d be this: flexibility. There are so many things you can do with this software because of its wildly customizable features. Design your own workflows. Use the automation features to save yourself from mundane tasks. Ask yourself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” and monday.com will likely have a way for you to do it.

Pros:

  • Is one of the more customizable options from this list
  • Is visually appealing with its clean, modern interface
  • Can apply to any type of team and industry
  • Includes integrations with many workplace favorites like Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Dropbox, and Slack

Cons:

  • Can be overwhelming at first since it’s so customizable
  • Doesn’t include a built-in chat feature, so you’ll need to an integration for communication

Pricing:

  • Monday.com offers five tiers: Free, Basic, Standard, Pro, and Enterprise. Free offers unlimited boards and docs to teams of no more than two people. Basic, a good starting point for teams, starts at $8/user monthly.

3. Asana

Asana’s thing is sticking to a few core features and doing them really well. This tool is for teams who favor simplicity to hit the ground running over extensive customization. With Asana, it’s easy to visualize work however you like. There are six different views that you can switch back and forth to: board, timeline, list, calendar, progress tracker, and forms. Organize work with a drag-and-drop board. Create a board for a project and start adding in sections and subtasks to add order. Agile teams will find that Asana’s templates help with agile processes like bug tracking, sprint planning, creating agendas for standups and retrospectives, and roadmap planning.

Integrations include Microsoft Teams, Slack, Gmail, and our very own Clockwise. Clockwise is a smart calendar assistant that handles scheduling conflicts for you and optimizes your calendar for much-needed Focus Time.

Pros:

  • Covers all of the basics that a team might need to get started on a project in an organized way with its core features

Cons:

  • Might not suit your needs if you’re seeking total flexibility and customization (custom roles and statuses are offered by ClickUp for example, which isn’t available in Asana)
  • Doesn’t include a built-in chat feature, so you’ll need to an integration for communication

Pricing:

  • Asana offers four tiers: Basic, Premium, Business, and Enterprise. Basic can be used by individuals and small teams to manage their daily to-dos. It functions more as a task management tool with very lightweight project management. For agile project management, we recommend getting Premium for project planning features like timeline, unlimited dashboards, and reporting.

4. Trello

This one’s for the minimalists. Like JIRA, it’s also brought to us by Atlassian. At its core, Trello lets teams build virtual and interactive boards, of which lists and cards are the building blocks. To get started, simply create a board for your project, then lay out your tasks and subtasks into lists and cards.

Among agile teams, the most popular way to use Trello is by creating lists for To Do, Doing, and Done, which function as swimlanes. Create cards for each one of your user stories or tasks, and track an item’s progression from To DoDoing–Done.

What’s so great about this software is that you choose the level of functionality. Keep it simple by using it for task management (like the method we laid out above), or expand into team collaboration and project management territory. For example, you can add comments, due dates, checklists, attachments, notification preferences, and automations for every card. You can even assign cards to members, so that everyone knows what they’re responsible for.

Trello Premium gives you access to a number of views (apart from the standard board view), which include timeline view, table view (which is essentially a spreadsheet), calendar view, dashboard view, and map view (for when your cards have locations).

On top of that, Trello offers a huge library of templates, some of which cater specifically to agile processes like sprints and retrospectives. Trello’s integrations, which they call Power-Ups, include Confluence, Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Evernote.

If your biggest pain point is lack of organization, Trello has what you’re looking for.

Pros:

  • Is easy to get the hang of
  • Can be as minimal or as intensive of a tool as you like

Cons:

  • Doesn’t include a built-in chat feature. To communicate with your team members, you’re restricted to the comments section of each card. Or, you’ll have to use a separate Power-Up for messaging capabilities.

Pricing:

  • Trello offers four tiers: Free, Standard, Premium, and Enterprise. Free is awesome if you’re looking for task management, but if you plan on having multiple boards — maybe you want to make a board for each sprint, or maybe a board for every retrospective, just for example, then the Standard plan, which starts at $5 per user monthly, will better suit your needs. And don’t forget, if you want more than one way of viewing your project, then you’ll want to get Premium which starts at $10 per user monthly.

5. Airtable

Airtable makes spreadsheets fun again. (Seriously!) Airtable refers to themselves as a relational database. Here’s what that means according to Airtable, “A database is essentially a collection of organized information, and a relational database is a type of database that uses related tables to organize information. When you use a relational database, not only can you better model how different concepts, projects, or people are related to one another, you can also avoid duplicated info and conflicts in your workflow.”

Airtable allows me to easily view, manage, and manipulate information in a number of different layouts, which is incredibly beneficial and convenient. I also like how clean the user interface is and how easy it is to get going with a new project.

Integrations include Gmail, Typeform, Evernote, Github, Google Calendar, Slack, and even some of the other apps mentioned here like Asana and Trello.

Pros:

  • Works for people who love spreadsheets but are frustrated with the outdatedness of most spreadsheet software

Cons:

  • Doesn’t include a built-in chat feature
  • Can be difficult to use at first
  • Allows fees to add up quickly due to its pricing model

Pricing:

  • Airtable offers four tiers: Free, Plus, Pro, and Enterprise. If you’re asking us, things start to get really good when you have the Pro plan which starts at $20 per user monthly. Before that, you’re not really able to take advantage of the features that are distinctly Airtable, like syncing data between tables.

6. ClickUp

ClickUp is trusted by big names, like Google and Squarespace. Yet it’s one of the newer companies to enter the project management space. ClickUp promotes themselves as a productivity platform, first and foremost. Their mission is based on the premise that when everything’s in one place, you get more done.

ClickUp is also one of the only two apps on this list to have a built-in chat feature to communicate with your colleagues (because commenting isn’t always the most efficient way to discuss in real-time). While the other apps offer integrations for messaging, with Click-Up and JIRA, you can start messaging with other team members right out the gate.

Let’s cover agile features, shall we? Agile teams use ClickUp for bug tracking, sprint management, product launches. There are even Sprint Widgets that you can add to your dashboard for burndown/burnup charts, velocity, cumulative flow, cycle time.

There’s also an app center, ClickApps, where you can find tools that have been adapted for specific needs like assigning story points just for example.

There are over 1,000 integrations available on ClickUp, from time tracking apps and cloud storage to developer apps and everything in between. Popular integrations include Slack and Zoom.

Pros:

  • Includes a built-in messaging feature. Save your team from window- and tab-switching (and email!) when you need to communicate.

Cons:

  • May call for a learning curve in the very beginning of using this software

Pricing:

  • Clickup offers four tiers: Free, Unlimited, Business, and Enterprise. The cool thing about their pricing model is that Free offers many of the same features that the higher tiers do — just with a limited amount of uses. It’s sort of like a trial run with no time limit.

The bottom line

By now, there may be one or two (or three) or three agile project management software options that might’ve caught your eye. We recommend visiting their websites for a comprehensive features list. And remember, many of these companies offer free trials, so you can always take a tool out for a spin. But rest assured, whatever you pick is sure to make the project management and development process a whole lot easier.

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