If you head up a department or manage a small team, chances are you already understand how business management tools can drastically boost workplace performance. The right tools don’t just “empower” teams: they increase productivity, improve output quality, and make it easier for individual team members to work together.
Team management software is no different. The whole point of these tools is to help teams manage their tasks and projects and to collaborate with ease. Introducing such a tool into your business could significantly transform your workflows for the better, whether your teams are fully in-house, fully distributed, or a mix of the two.
That said, there are many options to choose from, and they all have their advantages depending on your specific team requirements. That’s why we’ve put together this quick guide to team management software for small businesses, in which we’ll take a look at the different features you might expect from a team management solution and explore what the top players in the market have to offer.
What we’ll cover:
- What is team management software?
- What features to look for in team management software
- The 5 best team management software solutions out there
A team management tool is typically a single application that integrates multiple features designed to make it easier for managers to coordinate their team and encourage greater collaboration among their team members.
The core capabilities that make up most team management tools include a communication functionality (so that information can flow freely between employees) and a task management system (so that team leaders can delegate responsibilities, schedule events, and track the progress of team projects).
You can think of team management software as bringing together team collaboration and project management under one roof—err, window.
By simplifying team communication and project management, the best team management software will go a long way towards eliminating busywork from your team’s day-to-day activities. When employees no longer have to wait an entire afternoon for a colleague to see their email, and when teammates no longer have to make assumptions about who’s working on what, everyone’s time is freed up to work on more valuable high-impact tasks.
While you can find literally thousands of single-function tools to help with team management and productivity, we think it’s generally a better idea for small businesses to opt for comprehensive team management solutions that package most, if not all, the essential features into one flexible workspace.
This helps your team avoid having to constantly switch tools and keep track of different login details—and it can end up being a less expensive alternative to having multiple subscriptions, which can add up quickly.
When thinking about the features you’d need from your team management software, you’ll need to have a clear idea of your budget restrictions and, crucially, the specific requirements of your team. That said, here are some key features that you should expect to find in an all-in-one team management tool worth your attention:
- Team messaging: An instant messaging system lets team members strike up productive conversations wherever they happen to be. Team chat allows users to communicate one-on-one or as part of a wider group discussion. For example, RingCentral’s desktop and mobile app lets you message both individual teammates and project- or interest-specific groups:
- File sharing and editing: Most team management tools integrate file sharing and editing into the team messaging system itself (which beats sending emails back and forth!). This makes sure that everyone on a project has immediate access to important data. Even better if your team management app integrates with file storage tools like Dropbox and Box:
- Video conferencing: Even though video conferencing isn’t a standard feature of all team management apps, we’d argue that it shouldn’t be considered a luxury add-on. Among other things, the ability to arrange a video call with your teammates at a moment’s notice is a key component to managing most types of teams—and gives you the benefits of face-to-face communication even when your team is distributed around the world:
- Task management: A built-in task management system lets you assign individual or shared tasks, update stakeholders, and monitor the progress of teamwide projects.
- Search: Most team management solutions will let you search your archive by name or keyword so that you can instantly surface vital information:
- Third-party integrations: The best team management solutions will offer integrations and sync with other popular workplace apps so that you don’t have to copy and paste details and dates constantly between all your tools.
That being said, you may only need some combination of these features in your team management software and not necessarily all of them. But it’s still good to start thinking about how you’re currently managing your team (and how you’d like to manage them).
You may prefer to have regular one-on-one meetings with them and talk through projects, in which case you’d ideally have some kind of video conferencing feature built into your team management solution—or maybe you’re really busy and it’s easier to just message your team to check in on projects.
Now, let’s turn our eyes to the best team management software solutions on the market right now.
Are looking for a one-stop digital workspace that has a whole range of different team management options and multiple communication channels in one app.
RingCentral incorporates team messaging, video conferencing, cloud phone, screen sharing, and task management all into one app for easy and efficient collaboration between teammates, clients, and contractors. It also lets you work together on any device, and from any location.
The in-app messaging feature lets you organize your messages into one-on-one or team conversations, as well as individual topic threads. For example, you can create a thread for company-wide announcements, another for departmental updates, and another for groups working together on specific projects. Here, you can instantly tell whether your team members are available by looking at the availability status next to their names:
RingCentral’s file sharing functionality also lets you exchange and edit work-related documents and share feedback in real time. This saves your team from having to trawl through cluttered inboxes to find the information they need.
When it comes to managing your team’s priority actions and coordinating group projects, RingCentral lets you add tasks directly into any individual, team, or project conversation thread. Once you’ve created the task, selected your assignees, attached any relevant files, and set the deadline and completion criteria, the task will appear in the conversation thread for all to see:
Arguably the most significant feature of RingCentral as a team management tool is that it incorporates multiple modes of communication. Team messaging—while extremely valuable for keeping teams connected—only lets users interact through the written word. Some conversations require verbal and face-to-face interaction, and RingCentral’s app integrates messaging, phone calls, and video meetings.
The real perk here is that you can switch from one mode of communication to another with a single click without interrupting the conversation:
What does it cost?
The Essentials package offers audio calls and team messaging starting at $19.99 a month per user. The Standard plan also includes video meetings and unlimited chat and phone support, starting at $24.99. The Premium plan costs $34.99 and offers extra features like automatic call recording. The Ultimate plan costs $49.99 and also includes unlimited storage. For more information, check out our pricing and plans.
🕹️ Get a hands-on look at how RingCentral works by booking a product tour:
Need the ability to easily manage team workloads and track the progress of a handful of complex projects running at the same time.
Asana is another popular team management solution that lets managers plan and divvy up work among their teams. The platform lets you organize your projects using a Kanban-style drag-and-drop system (in which tasks are visually represented as labeled “cards” on a project board) or by using a more conventional to-do list format.
You can assign those cards and to-do lists to members of your team, as well as adding attachments, comments, and instructions to them. The calendar view, combined with reminders, lets you easily keep track of your project deadlines:
Under the “Files” section, you’ll find every item you’ve attached to your project cards and to-do lists all in one place. This is an especially useful feature when you need instant access to a document or image you worked on in the past, but can’t remember which project you attached the file to.
The platform also offers easy-to-read reports so that you can quickly tell how much progress is being made on your projects, no matter how many of them you happen to be overseeing.
While Asana doesn’t come equipped with a built-in live chat or messaging function, the platform’s real-time interface means you can still hold conversations by leaving comments on tasks. This has the benefit of ensuring that all your conversations stay contextually tied to their corresponding tasks., though the notifications can clutter up your inbox pretty quickly.
Alternatively, the Conversations function lets you set up group discussions for your team or groups of people working on specific projects. That said, if you still see the need for a dedicated chat application, Asana can also integrate with messaging apps. (Like RingCentral!)
Want a super-visual and easy-to-navigate way to manage projects—and are prepared to use a separate app for team communication.
Trello is another team management solution that uses the Kanban framework to present tasks within projects. Once you’ve created a Trello board for a team or project, you can delegate task cards to your team members and add checklists, attachments, and comments to them. Your team can then interact and collaborate by checking off sub-tasks and by adding their own comments, instructions, and links to each card.
A huge benefit of the card system is that it lets you move your task cards into different column categories depending on their current stage in the project—for example, from “backlog” to “in progress” to “completed”. You can add as many columns as you like and label them as you see fit, and everyone assigned to a project board will be notified when a task card is moved from one column to another:
One drawback of the platform is that it lacks reporting features. What’s more, Trello doesn’t have a built-in instant messaging function. The only way for you to communicate within the app is to leave comments on cards in a shared board. However, Trello offers multiple integrations (called “power-ups”) with messaging platforms like RingCentral, Google Hangouts Chat, and Slack.
Have medium-sized teams to make the most of not having a “per user” pricing model.
Basecamp is an all-in-one team management solution, bringing team chat, project management, document editing, and file storage under the same hood. Each project you create is given its own screen, in which you can add to-do lists, discussion boards, project schedules, and other work-related materials.
Basecamp lets you keep track of your team’s workload and progress through automated check-ins. At regular intervals, your team members will be invited to share their latest to-do list with you so that you can have a complete view of your team’s current priorities. This saves you from having to manually check-in on each team member yourself.
Basecamp also lets you create separate dashboards for client collaboration, allowing you to share and work on specific project documents with your clients.
A central feature is the built-in Campfire group messaging feature that lets teams working on the same project share files and send messages to each other instantly. Campfire also lets you turn off notifications at set times so that you aren’t constantly being bombarded with distracting notifications throughout the day.
Save noteworthy conversations that you’d like the rest of your team to see, whether it’s a thank-you message from a happy client or an important update from a member of the leadership team:
As well as group messaging through Campfire, Basecamp lets individual users send each other direct messages through its Ping tool.
Are looking for a team management solution with an emphasis on customization.
The Podio app gives you the ability to manage project tasks and coordinate team members via its “workspaces.” These workspaces can be customized as needed by adding comments, descriptions, and file attachments:
Podio’s “App Market” is essentially a huge bank of templates that you can use to more effectively organize and track your work within the platform. All the apps are free and fully customizable. You can even create your own apps in minutes without any technical skills.
Podio comes with its own built-in messaging app that lets team members easily join forces and that allows you to check in on how everyone’s getting on with their tasks. Users can either share messages and files via the chat system or by posting them onto their activity stream where other users can add their own responses. Podio also lets you bring external users into the platform—like clients and freelancers—to allow for quicker communication on projects.
Visual reports are one of the standout features of the Podio app. These give you an easy-to-digest overview of your project budgets and how your team is performing against project deliverables.
Ready to pick your team management software?
Selecting the right team management software for your small business isn’t a decision to take lightly.
There are many factors to consider, especially when it comes to determining the exact combination of features and functionalities your team will actually need. As we’ve seen, some solutions emphasize team communication and collaboration, while others have a greater focus on task and project management. In the end, only you can tell what kind of solution will be the best fit for your team.
With that said, if you’re keen to see what a team management solution that integrates messaging, phone, and video looks like, why not book yourself a RingCentral product tour?