In this article, Fred Wilson explores the top 16 features that should exist in a great free task management software.
With the soaring number of free task management software, finding the ideal tool can be time-consuming and confusing. The criteria for each tool depends on the organization, its needs, and requirements, as well as work processes. A range of features, ease of use, reliability, security, and expense can greatly affect your choice in management tools.
So how do you make sure you are investing in the right tool that can facilitate your task management without complicating work processes?
Whether you need a simple to-do list app or a sophisticated tool to help your team achieve tasks, it is important to understand the exact requirements. The right tool should be equipped with the appropriate features suitable for your work patterns.
In short, the ideal free task management software features should work towards enhancing your efficiency and improve your productivity, not add on to the existing workload.
Despite the fact that an ideal free task management software features must conform to your work policies, there are some basic features you should look out for and well, not compromise on. Here is a hand-picked list from us to make your quest for the best easier.
1. Task Planning
Effective task management starts with appropriate planning. Depending on the budget, resources, scope, and timeline; efficient task planning requires breaking down the work into stages through a structured approach.
With a good free task management software, you should be able to break down your work into simpler tasks that can be easily managed. Moreover, there should be an option to organize and prioritize tasks as required.
Check out our list of top project planning tools.
2. Task Scheduling
The idea behind task management software features is to organize work, be it personal or professional, on a daily basis to make it more streamlined.
A good management tool should allow for creating and managing schedules. When work is planned on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, it becomes easier to not only miss out on important tasks but also helps monitor progress. Notifications and reminders make task scheduling even better as they keep you on alert and can save you from overspending much time on a single task.
3. Recurring Tasks
Another option most good management tools have is the option to create a task and schedule it on multiple days for various purposes.
Some tasks need to be repeated daily e.g. your daily alarm and others occasionally e.g. your doctor’s appointment.
When it comes to professional projects, a single task can at times serve multiple projects. For instance, the task of updating timesheets by the end of the week can be scheduled on a daily, weekly or monthly basis for multiple teams.
With so many things on the list, it is only but natural to get confused in sorting out tasks on priority. An efficient task management software features can help with that by allowing the option for prioritizing tasks. Tasks are usually prioritized based on the urgency level of the task itself or the dependency of other tasks.
A good tool should be able to provide a mechanism to specify such priorities along with the tasks. This helps in completing urgent work first and speeding up the implementation of the critical stages of the project.
5. Task Tracking
When a number of tasks are scheduled, especially in teams, keeping track of all the tasks done can prove a struggle. In order to make this process easier, it is wise to adopt a tool that can help you trace exactly which activities are started, in progress and done with.
With properly defined tasks in terms of team members they are assigned to, the project they fall under and their urgency level, you can get the added benefit of searching and filtering out tasks using any of the criteria. When you can track tasks, you can make tasks and project planning easier while saving time on the unnecessary recreation of tasks.
A good free task management software should be easily integrated with a simplified calendar that is easy to manage and access. Through a calendar, you can organizing and schedule tasks as well as use it to work for project timelines and meetings.
Whether you need to mark deadlines on the calendar to help the team easily follow up on the work progress or you need to schedule meetings and conferences, a central calendar is vital.
In teams, collaboration goes hand in hand with task management software features. This is why we believe that great free task management software should be designed to work toward improving team collaboration. Complicated or underperforming apps can greatly impact communication, which can in turn negatively affect task management.
An efficient collaboration channel is a key element to look for in a task management platform. The team should be able to exchange information, share tasks and receive task updates. Be it file attachments or elaborating on assigned tasks, the team should be able to communicate information on time and with ease.
Looking for a collaboration tool for your team? Check out our list of the best free team collaboration software.
8. Time Tracking
A core element of streamlining work is to keep track of the time for each activity. This way you can measure the time spent to do each task, whether it’s worth the time and how contributes to or has an overall impact on the project, in terms of budget and time.
When working with teams, the importance of tracking time manifests itself in 2 ways: to calculate the time spent by the resource on each task and to calculate payroll based on the hours worked. The hours are then logged into timesheets that need to be reviewed by the management.
Also, check out our list of top time tracking tools if you’re looking to invest in one.
9. Reporting and Visualization
A part of task management is to monitor and observe task progress. This is needed to regulate the flow of tasks so as to avoid missing deadlines and making task progress more effectively.
Good software should be able to provide functionalities that help easily monitor as well as report progress for tasks.
10. Budgeting Feature
In project management software, it is essential for certain projects that the tool has a budgeting feature included.
There are some tools that allow time, cost, expenditure, and revenue budgets to be imported or created by manual input.
Are you maintaining all your data on Microsoft Excel? Then you need to think again as 88% of spreadsheets contain errors. Some common advantages of having a documentation facility in a project management app are:
A. Quick access to all your data
A top project management tool allows you to have access to all your documents in one place with the option of sharing it with your team members in just one click.
There is no need to move between different spreadsheets to locate and share data.
Not all project management tools provide Invoice Automation. So be careful when considering opt-in for a specific tool.
B. All of your data is available in one dashboard
Wouldn’t it be great to have access to all your project management information available in one place?
12. Resource Management for Free task management software
You don’t just need to keep track of your team’s time needs…
In addition, you might need to keep track of all the financial, human and administrative resources that were used as part of a project.
The best free task management software allows you to keep track of meeting rooms utilized as well as materials used in the process of the project.
13. Dependencies, Milestones and the Critical Path
It’s quite common to have instances in a project where two or multiple tasks are connected to each other.
A top task management software would need to offer the possibility of defining all the development stages of a project.
Setting up milestones to pinpoint specific phases within a project will ensure that directionally speaking the project is moving in the right direction.
14. Ease of using the task management software
It’s always good to have a tool that is easy on the eye as well as easy to configure.
The tool should be accessible by people from desktop, iOS, and Android solutions.
The less the hassle in making your team understand the tool, the better the potential benefits.
15. Third-Party Integrations
With your broader teams utilizing a specific task management software it is essential that the perfect software allows for integrations.
This is one way to really beef up your task management software.
16. Real-Time Data Use
This feature is slightly less heard of. By now, we have analyzed and reviewed several project and task management software, but a very select number of programs rely on real-time data use.
How does it work? Take the example of Procore. It is a project management program that also enables users to manage their business-related financials. Procore, slowly keeps tabs on end-user activity, so that it can recommend and automate all future tasks in a better way.
The next time you are looking to use such a task management tool, a majority of your work will already be done due to real-time data activity. Such programs are a rare breed because developers have to put in a lot of effort to introduce anything that has to deal with Artificial Intelligence.
But hey, if you do end up with an overall free task management software with a panache for artificial intelligence, go for it.
Our Recommendation for free task management software
Keeping all of the above options in mind, for a great free task management tool, we recommend nTask. It is a complete solution for Tasks and Project Management, built for individuals and teams alike.
A comprehensive tool with a simplified interface, you can manage your tasks and tailor your project flow via multiple options. A clean environment with a central taskboard, nTask provides you with other modules including meetings, timesheets, issues, and risks to provide solutions to meeting management, timesheet management, and risk and issue management.