Supercharge Your Team with the Right Project Management Tool

MELINDA ELMBORG • August 26, 2020

As a compact team of two or three founders, it’s easy to stay organized… But when you’re doing well the team grows. Suddenly you’re managing a team of 5! Keeping track of everything, such as projects, tasks, new features, marketing campaigns, and more becomes much more difficult.

It’s dangerous to waste time and team effort as a small startup. You run on small margins and can’t afford to be inefficient. Yes, I’m looking at you, founder. 👀 I’m pretty sure, payroll is the biggest expense your company has. So, make sure to maximize that resource!

That’s why you need a Project Management tool to keep your team organized, motivated, and up to date.

2 months ago, Jonna Knibestöl, the founder of Beaubi and one of the founders in The Startup Action Club, asked me which Project Management tool I would recommend. I found that I couldn’t give her an answer, I had nothing to recommend! So I decided to do a project and write a blog post about it. If one founder is struggling to find the right Project Management tool, I’m sure more of them are…

I did a bit of research and also asked the other founders in the Startup Action Club what tools they had used or which ones they liked. I tried each tool for a few weeks with my team of 3 (me + 2 freelancers).

Since startups are often small, cross-functional teams, I took into account how tech teams, but also designers and marketing or salespeople, like to organize their work.

Let’s have a look at the outcome of my project:

Basecamp

Basecamp has an amazing UI. I love how intuitive it is to move between screens. It’s really quick to set up, straightforward, and free for small startups! If you want all the cool features, though, it’ll cost you $99 per month.

However, I quite quickly ran into some problems. First of all, the tasks cannot be assigned a status. :( They can either be done or not done, but that is it. This is especially limiting to a tech team who needs to move code through different stages before releasing it!

Moreover, the calendar view is not very dynamic. It has dots on the days when a deadline occurs, but no information on what that deadline is. This really limits the ability to get a quick understanding of the workload to see if it’s reasonable and if you can keep your deadlines.

Teamwork

Teamwork was really just a flop. The UI is terrible, requiring far too many clicks to get where you want to go. It has all the necessary features, but I hated working in it because of all the clutter. The board view is hidden and hard to find. I dreaded going into Teamwork, so I ended up not updating it as much as I should have. Over time, I slowly went back to earlier management methods, such as Messenger, Whatsapp, and Google Drive. 🤦

Notion

Notion has a lovely design, and I really like the playfulness that emojis bring. It is extremely flexible, which is good, but it also means more work to set up. Once you’ve set it up, however, it’s like having your own internal back office. The possibilities are endless. Imagine tens or hundreds of whiteboards available online to collaborate with your team! On the other hand, there are fewer ways of organizing those whiteboards. That said, it can easily replace Google Drive, because uploading and organizing files are so simple.

This tool made me inspired to start jotting down ideas for features or projects, without feeling the pressure of filling in columns for deadlines… priorities… responsibilities… I really felt free while using Notion. It is a perfect alternative for the creative founder who loves throwing out ideas, without having to be structured.

You can use up to 1000 “blocks” for free. According to Notion’s website, blocks are “pieces of content that you add to a page, like a paragraph, a to-do item, an image, an embedded file, etc.” But honestly, you’ll chew through these blocks far quicker than you expect. After adding 10 or so tasks, Notion notified me that I am down to 200 blocks. 🤔 So you should count on converting to the paid version of Notion for $8 per month per user quite quickly, which lets you have unlimited blocks.

Monday.com

Monday.com is charming. It’s beautiful, colorful, and from the outset, it directly asks you to be structured. The boards with your list of tasks are organized vertically by default, which means that tasks are organized as a table with clear, visible columns. One thing I loved about the columns is that you can add a column dedicated to time so that you can get a quick summation of hours and an easy overview of your workload for the week. Plenty of other view options are available as well (Kanban, calendar, etc.).

That’s when I discovered an amazing feature that I had not yet seen in other tools… AUTOMATIONS 😍 It works wonders to automatically manage the account. It’s a great feature that allows you, for example, to be more selective about notifications, so you don’t receive emails about EVERY little thing. So now when a task is moved to “In review”, I receive an email that tells me that the task has been moved to my table.

One small, unexpected drawback of Monday.com is that after inviting a team member, I can’t see if I’ve actually invited them… the invitation kind of disappears into the ether. I can’t add people to tasks before they’ve accepted the invitation, which can delay planning.
Monday.com is highly task-oriented but less good for sharing files or other types of content that are not tasks.

In summary, Monday.com is the control freak’s wet dream. If you like to keep your team organized, Monday.com is for you!

Unfortunately, no free version is available. :( Plans for 5 users start at $39 per month.
Over the course of this project, not only did I learn a few of the Project Management Tools out there… I also found out what I want and need from those tools that I hadn’t realized before! It seems like I’m more of an organized type of founder, so Monday.com got me really excited. Knowing what you need is half the battle, so I hope this guide has helped clarify things for you 🤗

It just doesn’t end here, do check out my ready to use free templates and sheets for startup founders to organize themselves and get started.

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About the Author: 

Melinda Elmborg was a Venture Capital Investor at the French VC firm Daphni. To help founders build, grow and raise capital to their startups, she switched careers to become a startup coach. In 2018, she started Startup Action. 

Based on her learnings, she has developed The Startup Action Framework that guides startups from launch to exponential growth.

So far, over 400 founders have already joined one of her workshops and thousands of founders have taken advantage of her templates and guides to succeed with their startup.

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