How to Save Money While Buying Project Management Software

By: on September 15, 2017

Whether you’re purchasing a new project management tool or upgrading an existing one, it’s important you get the best software for your business. However, an unfortunately common notion is that the more expensive the software, the better it is.

This leads many small to midsize businesses (SMBs) to buy expensive software, which just sits on everyone’s computers gathering cyber-dust, without anyone having a clue how to use it.

Don’t let this happen when you get new software

To avoid this scenario, businesses should closely examine whether the software offers functionalities relevant to their business needs. They should check if the vendor charges support and maintenance fees. They should compare software providers to determine the industry benchmark of software pricing. And that’s just the beginning.

We understand that not every business has the time to do all of this. That’s why we wrote this report, which looks at exactly how SMBs can save money while buying project management software.

Use a Features Checklist

To save money while buying a project management tool, you need to remember that not every project needs project management. What matters is not whether the software has a ton of functionalities, but whether they are of use to you.

To make it easier for you, we’ve created a checklist which clubs functionalities into essential-for-all (critical functionalities, every PM tool should offer) and essential-for-some (important for specific business use cases) categories.

For more details, read our guide on the essential project management features your small business needs. Included is a quick summary of what these features are:

Feature type Feature name
Feature description
Essential-for-All Features Task Management Allows teams to create, assign and track tasks on a centralized dashboard
Collaboration Helps teams communicate better with chat boards, shared calendars and more
Project Planning Offers Gantt/Pert charts that help businesses plan projects more effectively
Essential-for-Some Features Bug/Issue Tracking Helps software development teams track and resolve a product’s errors
Document Management Enables teams to share project-related files with each other
Time Tracking Helps to track employee performance and create billable-hours reports

Questions to ask yourself as a business when considering features:

  • Does the software plan, you subscribe to, include the Essential-for-All Features mentioned above?
  • Are the functionalities built-in or offered as third-party integrations for which you have to pay extra?
  • Would buying the software as a bundle result in cost savings?

You can use the above features checklist when making a purchase decision. Also, you can call us at (844) 680-2046 for a free consultation with a software advisor to ask about the pricing of a specific tool you have in mind.

Compare Alternatives

The good thing about project management software is that there are many vendors that publish software pricing on their website, making it simple for you to understand what you get for the price you pay.

But you need to look at other products in the market, so you don’t end up paying more for software than what you should. It takes a comparison of about four or five similar vendors to understand which one best suits your needs.

To help you compare software and make the most cost effective decision for your SMB, we have identified software alternatives that compare products with similar capabilities.

Here are three tools, and their alternatives, that rank high on our Project Management FrontRunners Quadrant:

Note: you can learn more about our alternatives methodology here.

Best Trello Alternatives

What is Trello?: Trello helps teams track projects and tasks using a Kanban dashboard. Most users of the tool at Software Advice consider it an easy-to-use solution that makes task management simple with a visual dashboard.

Project collaboration in Trello

Business need: Businesses who prioritize team collaboration will find Trello useful, as it allows teams to share files and chat with colleagues on a centralized dashboard. The solution is relatively inexpensive making it suitable for small businesses on a tight budget.

Top alternatives: Asana, Evernote, Jira, QuickBase and Slack

Best Jira Alternatives

What is Jira?: Jira is a popular project management tool, especially designed for software development firms. Software Advice users observe that the tool makes it easy to track issues and assign tasks to team members.

Task management in Jira

Business need: Jira, as mentioned earlier, is ideal for software teams looking to track tasks and bug fixes using automated workflows. The solution offers an intuitive interface with drag and drop functionalities that small businesses can use without any prior training.

Top Alternatives: Rally, Trello, Slack, Box and QuickBase

Best Microsoft Project Alternatives

What is Microsoft Project?: Microsoft Project is a project management tool with a wide-array of functionalities ranging from project planning to portfolio management. Reviewers at Software Advice have rated the tool highly on its integration capabilities.

Project templates in Microsoft Project

Business need: Microsoft Project is ideal for midsize and growing companies. The solution comes with a wide-range of functionalities and offers seamless integrations with tools such as Excel, Outlook and more.

Top Alternatives: Asana, Basecamp, Trello, QuickBase, ProWorkflow and Wrike

Try Workarounds

As a small business, not all your projects will require project management software. This does not mean that you will be able to manage everything using Excel sheets. However, it does mean that you can try workarounds by using a combination of tools. Here are two workarounds that you might find useful, which can save you from paying for an expensive project management tool.

Priority business need: Task management

 WORKAROUND:  At times you can manage projects by using simple task management tools such as Todoist and Wunderlist. They come with functionalities such as project breakdown into tasks and subtasks, creating and assigning to-do lists, reminders and deadline tracking. These tools are relatively cheaper than robust project management tools and some of them even come with a free version.

Priority business need: File sharing

WORKAROUND:  Projects often require a document management system, especially if you have a collaborative approach to project management. There are many tools such as Box and Dropbox, which let you securely share files online. If sharing files and gathering feedback from team members is more important than task management, then these tools can work for you.

While the above two are common workarounds for project management tools, creative thinking will lead you to countless others.

For example, collaboration is different for every business. If all you need is a shared calendar where all team members can track and assign online meetings, then a simple Google calendar might suffice in place of a needlessly complex full-featured project management tool.

Want to understand a specific workaround tool for your project management needs? Give us a call at (844) 680-2046 for a free consultation with a software advisor.

Check Out Free and Open Source Tools

Open source project management tools can be an option for small businesses who want to avoid the upfront costs of paid software. Similarly, free tools are a consideration for businesses with limited functionality needs.

However, there are many things to consider before you decide which of these tools best suit your requirements. For instance, free and open source are not the same designation. There are differences in functionalities, customer support and many other aspects. Here’s a quick summary of the top things to keep in mind while selecting either of these tools.

Open Source Project Management Tools

These tools come with a freely available source-code, using which businesses can create a customized project management tool that meets their business requirements


  • No license fee, as the source code is free
  • Customization of features is possible by making changes to the source-code
  • A strong user community, if available is useful for making feature upgrades


  • Service can be an issue, if you are totally dependent on the user community
  • Software can be vulnerable to threats, unless you have an experienced IT security team
  • High total cost of ownership (TCO), as you have to take care of software maintenance and data management

Taiga: Open source tool suitable for agile project management with functionalities such as task management, collaboration and bug tracking.

Redmine: Cloud-based open source project management tool suitable for business who need functionalities such as automated workflows and time tracking.

Scrum screen in Taiga

Free Project Management Tools

These are cloud-based tools that usually come with a forever-free plan, which businesses can use without paying an upfront fee.


  • No software cost—lack even the installation charges typical of open source tools
  • Simple and easy to use, as most free tools can be used without any prior training on how software operates
  • Option for upgrade is available for those who want a tool that scales as their business grows


  • Functionality can be crippled as free solutions limit the number of users and features
  • Additional costs can accrue, related to support requests, data storage and other functionality

Asana: This project management tool comes with a forever-free plan that lets you create unlimited projects and tasks.

Trello: This tool offers a free version that can be used to create unlimited Kanban boards.

Kanban board in Asana

Want to know whether an open source or a free project management tool is right for your business? Give us a call at (844) 680-2046 for a free consultation with a software advisor.

Additional Tips and Next Steps

While this report intends to give you general tips on saving money when buying project management software, you can also read detailed buyer guides on functionality and industry-specific project management tools. Here are additional three tips that can help you save money while buying software:

1. Understand software bundles

Project management software bundles seem like a no-brainer at first: you get more functionality at a discount. A PM software vendor Atlassian, for example, offers a bundle that includes Jira for tracking feature development, HipChat for communication and Confluence for collaboration.

But here’s the thing: You don’t always need every tool in a software bundle.

SMBs should pick and choose add-on tools carefully so that they are only paying for what they will actually use.

2. Use the free trial and demo

Most cloud-based solutions offer free trials and demos to let users know they are paying for the right software. To make the most of these opportunities remember the following certain key points:

  • Get a detailed understanding of features. During the free trial—and especially when the representative is giving you a demo—explore as many functionalities of the tool as possible to see if it can scale with your business needs.
  • Make notes when using the tool. Documenting your experience will help you ask pointed questions to the representative later on during your trial period.
  • Gather feedback from users. Create a dummy project and check out how easily all teams that will be using the tool can collaborate and track the tasks. Maintain a spreadsheet or survey to gather bulk feedback from involved team members.

3. Choose the best deployment option

The two popular software deployment options are on-premise and cloud based. While historically on-premise solutions have been used by most companies, recent improvements in cloud computing have made cloud-based solutions more popular.

Here’s a quick comparison of these two deployments:

  • One-time license fee, which can be an expensive initial investment
  • Installation costs could be high
  • Data needs to backed up by the business
  • A pay-as-you go solution, which can be more expensive in the long-run
  • No installation costs
  • Vendors usually take care of data backup

This guide is meant to be a handy tool for those who want to save money while buying software. However, if you’re interested in a software demo or want to better understand your business needs, then call us at (844) 680-2046 for a free consultation with a software advisor.

You can also fill out this short questionnaire to get custom software price quotes delivered to your inbox.

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