Using Multiple Project Management Tools: What's the Secret to Success?

It’s not uncommon for startups to use multiple project management tools across their teams. In fact, we see some Stacklist members using two, three, even four types of project management apps to manage their workload and pipeline. Over 30% of the Stacklist community uses multiple project management tools, the majority of them (not surprisingly) Series A and beyond.

Why do startups choose to use multiple project management tools?

The most common reason is that certain softwares cater to specific teams and purposes. For instance, Pivotal Tracker and JIRA are used most heavily by engineers to manage technical specs of a detailed development project, while tools like Trello and Asana are easier for non-technical audiences to utilize for day-to-day business tasks. In addition, as teams grow, founders are less concerned about the entire organization being on the same system than they are about optimizing workflow for each team.

According to Daniel Chait, founder of Greenhouse,

“Our engineering team moved from Trello to JIRA because they had outgrown it, but the rest of the company uses Trello. The same things that made Trello powerful when we were small made it a barrier once we grew in size--lack of ability to sort, filter, and a very manual/visual nature. Those features are great when you can touch/see everything, but when you have too many things to touch/see, it doesn't work anymore.”

Plated CEO Nick Taranto has a similar philosophy:

“Different teams get to choose whatever platforms they want to use. We have tried a lot of different platforms and programs, and I don’t think there's one solution that's perfect. We run a complex organization, and at the end of the day, we’re just looking for tools that will help facilitate communication, and we let each team choose the PM tools that work best for their team.”

Taranto recommends Slack and Product Plan, a cloud-based Gantt chart tool.

Other startups favor a more ad hoc approach, choosing the software that makes sense for each project. Says Victoria Kimura of Inxent, Inc, 

“Our project management software depends on the type of projects that are happening. For nontechnical projects, simple Google Apps functions and file sharing allow easy tracking of tasks. For more technical, large-scale or multi-point-of-contact projects, JIRA works great. Smartsheet also has simple tools that make collaboration, tracking, tasking and burning down of tasks easy.” 

Jesse Middleton, director of business development at WeWork, uses both Asana and daPulse, and explains, 

“We use daPulse more on the creative side. It's a little more lightweight and prettier, but not as powerful as Asana. We switch back and forth depending on the needs of the project.”

What are the most popular pairings of project management tools?

Most commonly, Stacklist users choose to pair an easy-to-use, non-technical project management software (Trello, Asana) with a developer-focused tool (Pivotal Tracker, JIRA). This recipe gives startups the combination of broad functionality and usability that make for a successful project management foundation. John Papadakis, founder and CEO of Pollfish recommends Asana and JIRA

“We use these two for different purposes. Asana is mostly used for ad hoc projects, and functions as a to-do list. We use JIRA for scheduled project management, and we use it in a more structured way to move forward with the product.” 

Fluent City CEO James Rohrbach, who enjoys the Pivotal Tracker-Asana combination, explains: 

Pivotal Tracker is relatively new for us and we haven't fully used it because we only have one developer, but we definitely like it. The developer uses Pivotal Tracker to track his tasks, but the rest of the team uses Asana. Asana is built for collaboration and text-based project management, so it wasn’t the right tool for our developer.”

And so continues the quest for the perfect project management tool. Until that all-star solution presents itself, startups will continue to mix and match solutions that best suit their needs--an approach that requires time, patience, trial and error, and an understanding that project management needs evolve over time. According to Adam Seifer, founder of Everplans, 

“We've tried everything: Basecamp, Asana, JIRA, Pivotal Tracker, Trello, etc. Nothing makes it easy to view everything on a single, old-fashioned timeline that we can use to see all projects at once. We’ve landed on Trello for managing development sprints and tracking upcoming projects, bugs and small enhancements. It’s not perfect but it’s less complex and has less overhead than some of the others (which means non-engineers also get up to speed and use it pretty quickly).” 

Currently, Seifer has selected Pivotal Tracker and Trello as his tools of choice.

The project management tools you choose today may not be those you will be using next year, but it’s important to meet the needs of your team and give them the resources that will help them do their jobs better.