The 10 most popular project management tools for SMEs

Professional task and project management is increasingly part of the everyday life of SMEs and is no longer the pure domain of corporations. But how can projects be implemented successfully, leanly and pragmatically in medium-sized businesses?

The right PMS (project management software) not only helps you to digitize your company. At the same time, it enables your teams to work more effectively, faster and more location-independently. This ensures competitiveness and helps to optimize existing processes and to open up new business areas.

If you start looking for the right PM software, you will quickly lose the overview. Due to the large number of providers and solutions, it is difficult to make the right choice, as research usually takes a lot of time. The software platform Capterra alone lists 807 different solutions in the area of "organizational tools" – this makes the search all the more difficult!

How to find the right PM tool for my team?

In addition to the pure functions, other criteria should be considered in any case: Is it easy to use? Are there helpful visualizations? Is personal support available? What about data protection?

Important: privacy matters more than ever

However, before testing begins, legal concerns should also be addressed. Nowadays, the issue of data protection is more relevant than ever before. In particular, compliance with the GDPR and secure processing of data is a must, because in case of doubt, a project manager must "guarantee the legality of the collection and processing". In addition, projects often contain sensitive business objectives, key performance indicators and metrics – protecting this information is at least as important as the mere functions of the PM tool.

Solutions from German software providers are therefore particularly interesting for SMEs and teams. Although the market continues to be dominated in large parts by companies with US headquarters, in the meantime some German alternatives are also available. This is particularly relevant for critical topics such as data protection. In addition to the DSGVO, such tools meet the requirements of the strict German BDSG-neu. But German PM tools don't have to hide when it comes to features either.

Project management tools from the cloud with many advantages

Cloud solutions are becoming more and more popular across all markets and sectors. Thanks to digitalization, project management can be so much more flexible, mobile and quicker. The advantages are obvious:

  • No download necessary
  • Always up-to-date thanks to automatic updates in the background
  • Platform and device independent
  • No own maintenance effort
  • High scalability

Cloud and PM software form a powerful duo more than ever to support teams in your project management. We present the currently 10 most popular project management tools for SMEs, so that you can find the right solution for you in a market that is difficult to navigate.

Factro – secure and intuitive project management

factro is a project management software from Bochum, Germany, which is particularly characterized by intuitive operation. The tool can be used directly without any prior knowledge or time-consuming training. The interface is self-explanatory and clearly structured. In addition, the software is highly scalable and can be used by small, medium and large teams.

There are also four clear and practical project views: The project structure tree, the spreadsheet, the Kanban board as well as the Gantt chart. With the different visual representations you always have the right angle on the project and the appropriate view for your focus. You can easily make changes by dragging and dropping thanks to its ease of use.

In addition to other useful features such as a performance tracker, checklists for tasks, and a cross-project dashboard, factro is particularly convincing in terms of data protection. The tool relies on ISO-certified German server locations in Frankfurt a.M. and Nuremberg, which comply with both the DSGVO and the BDSG-neu. The tool can be used in the free basic version with up to 10 users, also the personal support is free of charge.

Asana – lean PM tool for teamwork

The US-American tool Asana is especially suitable for teamwork in small or medium-sized teams. Asana impresses with simple and clear task workflows. These are visualized in the map view with progress and processing status, which ensures quick awareness.

Tasks can be visualized in a list, a kanban board or a timeline. Changes can be made in the latter two views by drag & drop, the operation is very smooth. Other features include a calendar and chat, which facilitates task-based communication within the team. The feature set on the project level is not quite as pronounced, but Asana focuses a lot on simplicity when it comes to features.

This allows for a user-friendly app for smartphones and tablets. In addition, other services such as SalesForce or Mailchimp can be integrated through interfaces. Asana follows the DSGVO, but the data storage does not take place on German or European servers but in the USA.

Trello – Kanban board for agile working

Trello also focuses on simplicity and uses the Kanban board as its (only) project view. This type of project management is particularly suitable in small and highly agile teams for fast, task-related work. In addition, the operation is very easy and well suited for beginners without previous experience. An app for smartphones and tablets is also available and enables mobile working.

Other features include comments and attachments for tasks, as well as filters. Trello compensates for the somewhat limited functionality of the basic version by offering a fee-free service. In the paid plans, additional functions can be integrated through so-called "power-ups".

Like Asana, Trello does not store data in Germany or any other EU location, but in the USA. Thus, the servers are not directly subject to the DSGVO or the BDSG-neu.

Meistertask – Project management with individual Kanban Board

The project management tool Meistertask focuses – similar to Trello – on the Kanban Board. This makes it particularly suitable for agile working within small and medium-sized teams with short decision-making paths. The Kanban Board not only enables easy & flexible management of tasks, but also provides an overview of all tasks and their progress. The functional scope of Meistertask is kept slim, but not as puristic as z.B. with Trello.

The tool, which originates from Munich, can be used via mobile app in addition to a web version. The operation is simple and the interface is kept a bit more "colorful" and graphical. Individual workflows can be used to structure tasks and projects according to one's own wishes. However, this is not possible across projects.

Meistertask is available in a free basic version and in various paid tariffs with additional features. – task management with a visual focus

The Israeli PM software especially focuses on the visualizations of projects. The graphical focus with timeline or kanban board provides a lot of overview and can be customized with the help of widgets. This way the tool answers questions about upcoming or already completed tasks at a glance. In addition, there is also a simple operation for an easy start.

However, the functional scope of the software is a bit more scarce. Thus there are z.B. No predecessor-successor relationships or Gantt Chart. Thanks to the mobile app, can also be used on the go. In addition, the tool offers integration with services such as Slack or Google Drive.

Important: In contrast to the other tools there is is not available in a free version. There is a choice of four paid packages with different functionality, which are staggered in fixed user numbers. This means that you do not pay per user, but for a fixed number of minimum or maximum users. Maximum users. The packages start at 2 users and are then staggered between 5 and over 200.

Basecamp – project management and communication

Basecamp is a minimalist PM tool that places particular emphasis on communication. Due to the puristic approach, it is very easy to use, but the range of functions is limited. Basecamp focuses on an overview of tasks from individual or all projects.

Besides this simplicity, Basecamp focuses on communication between team members. The US solution offers an integrated chat for the entire company as well as for each individual project. In addition, users can also exchange personal messages to communicate in a more targeted way.

Basecamp is available in a free version that includes 3 projects and 20 users. The paid business version offers unlimited users and unlimited projects at a fixed price. The tool is only available in English.

OpenProject – open source PM tool with many functions

The PM tool OpenProject is particularly interesting due to its open source nature. This makes it particularly suitable for experienced users and developers, as it is very flexible. A multitude of functions enables even more complex project management. The PM tool supports Gantt charts as well as the agile views Kanban and Scrum.

In addition, OpenProject also has a time tracking feature so that efforts can be tracked and processes can be optimized. By individual designs, logos, help texts and fields the tool can be adapted more strongly to the own enterprise. Since OpenProject runs in the browser, it is platform-independent. However, only the browser variant is available for mobile devices – an app tailored to the form factor is missing.

The open PM tool is available in one free and two paid variants. However, the free version has the disadvantage that it is only available for self-installation on a separate infrastructure. This means implementation and maintenance costs for server and software. Hosting at OpenProject is only possible in the two paid tariffs.


Wunderlist is a PM tool in the style of a classic to-do list. Users can create individual tasks or projects as folders and organize themselves in this way. Detailed information like time or a checklist can be added to the to-dos. In addition, tasks can be assigned to other users, so that Wunderlist can also be used collaboratively.

The handling is very simple and the surface puristic. Since the functional scope focuses on individual tasks and their details, the software is not suitable for complex projects and visualizations. This is where the approach as an extended to-do list reaches its limits.

Wunderlist is available free of charge for smartphone, tablet and PC. However, the future of the tool is questionable: Microsoft acquired the tool in 2015, but already introduced its own to-do app in 2017. Recently, Microsoft has been increasingly pushing for the switch to the new development, which, however, differs functionally from Wunderlist. For long-term planning Wunderlist is therefore only conditionally recommended.


The PM tool Jira is primarily aimed at teams that develop their own software. It's great for bundling bug and problem reports and coordinating with employees. In addition, it offers a Kanban Board as well as a listing of all completed and pending goals with time classification. This provides a good overview of deadlines and progress.

In addition, individual workflows can be set up in Jira to optimize processes. Although the tool is also suitable for project management thanks to such features, the orientation is very specific. Outside of software projects, Jira therefore reaches its limits.

PM software is available in a free variant for up to 10 users. Additional users and features are available in two paid plans.


awork is a user-friendly and clear PM tool. The interface is reduced to the most important things, which makes it easy to get started. For project management, the list view, kanban board and gantt chart models are used.

Other features of awork include time tracking and integration with other services such as Slack or Google Drive. In addition, thanks to the app, users can work on their projects on the go from smartphones and tablets. Offline functionality allows changes to be synced after reconnecting to the internet.

awork is offered in three tariff options, one of which is free and limited to 10 users and 3 projects. The premium and enterprise versions offer an extended range of functions.

Conclusion: Finding the right project management tool

The choice of a suitable PM tool is very individual. It depends mainly on the way you work, how big your team is and which user interface is best accepted. Questions about scope and functions are also relevant. Some tools are better suited for agile, quick tasks, while others can also manage multiple projects and more complex contexts.

More and more important is the topic of data protection. Because even if companies comply with the GDPR, servers in locations outside the EU are not directly subject to the European regulation. In addition to the necessary certifications, you should therefore pay particular attention to this, so that you can work with your sensitive data in projects with a clear conscience.

Once you've made a selection on potential candidates, trial and testing is especially important. This will help you and your team determine which feature set, operation, and work method is best for you.

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