A really good and simple project manager?

I’ve moved and I decided to take a role running the labs of a smaller, family owned company. We’re quite small compared to most places I’ve worked.

My request for ideas: currently we track projects in the lab with an excel spreadsheet. It’s OK, and we have it in a location on our internal network where people like my Tech Service Director can access it just to see what’s on the list. But, as none of us here are Excel gurus, its quite simplistic. It is not set up, for example, to really have a good place to enter updates on the project status, attach, well, attachments of various types (photos, documents, etc.)

I’m looking for a very simple project manager. I want to be able to easily enter and update project titles, project goals, priority, who’s assigned to the project,a project plan/approach, updates on a daily or weekly basis, projected timing, and simple attachments. I’d like to have it provide and overview page of the project list and status. It’s needs to be simple enough to use that a couple of my senior computer tech challenged chemists can easily use it (otherwise they simply won’t.)

Any suggestions? Thanks.

My organization just uses spreadsheets. Numbers in our case vs. Excel, but that’s not a substantive difference for the use-case. For visualizing a project, dependencies, etc, I’ve found OmniPlan to be fantastic for our uses. Sounds like you want something more fine-grained than that, though. For that level, we use our issue tracking tool and export data from that for visualization elsewhere. Unfortunately, all of that stuff is internal. There may be some things available for Jira, but I haven’t dug into that personally.

Thanks, I’ll take a look at Omniplan. These are pretty simple inputs; we’re not building a nuclear reactor or planning a software project with multiple interdependencies.

I recall PC mag did a round up last year, let me get that link.


I’m not a project manager thank sweet black female Jaysoos, but I really like Trello. It aligns with the way I think, organizing in terms of cards on a board. I use it to keep track of my ongoing work, moving cards back and forth as needed.

Thanks, I’ll take a look at those. The challenge I run into is that most project management software is very Gant chart/critical path focused. For my needs, that is a nice thing to have and visualize, but it’s more about managing the information around each project.

Trello is not a gantt chart. I agree, I don’t think that way. It’s technically a kanban board, which is a component of agile development, but I don’t use it that way myself. I use it like a giant corkboard with a bunch of notes and pushpins.

Trello looks interesting (and the leads here already have me with 6 open pages of different project managers of all types!) Is it really free?

And one other thing I forgot to add: a lot of profession project managers (my son is a project manager for big capital projects at a global company, so I’ve looked over his shoulder, but he IS using software you could use to build a nuclear plant!) are very “one project” oriented. I need something that also allows me to have an easy status page of numerous projects that are going on simultaneously. These can be as simple as a product tweak/modification, such as testing a new raw material offset, to a support project for a customer complaint on an existing product, to the development of a completely new product designed to pre-agreed upon performance specs.

Trello has subscriptions but I just use the free plan.

There are a number of ways to organize in Trello.

You can have entirely separate boards for each major project, then use each list to categorize cards between “backlog”, “current”, “future”, “version n+1”, whatever. Then you drag cards between lists as needed.

Or you can put everything in the same board, and use each list to prioritize a project by card order, archiving when each one is done. That’s what I do, but I only use Trello to organize my own tasks so it’s lower complexity.

I’ve been struggling with this lately and have tried many different solutions. I ended up with Basecamp because it was the only system that consolidated all the info, provided the features I need, wasn’t Kanban in the your face, and had a great mobile app. I’m using the paid version, which is expensive ($99/month, but unlimited people and projects) but there is a free version available, too.

By the way, I recommend trying the 30-day free trial for the paid Basecamp, if you’re interested. It gives you the ability to have a “company HQ” project, team oriented areas, and project oriented areas. It fits a matrix-ed organization really well. You also can add external collaborators and control what they can access.

We use Wrike. I don’t have a ton of experience with others, but it has been well received by all and is easy to use. Online and all that. Seems to be quite prevalent in large companies.

We use a program called Smartsheet that I like a lot. It basically looks and functions like a spreadsheet but with added features like gnatt charts, dashboards, reports, etc.

I thought this was a job ad :/

Can I introduce you to a couple of my coworkers?

I second the Basecamp, Trello and Omniplan recommendations; they’re all worth trying. We use paid Trello at work with multiple orgs; just beware that the flexibility means you’ll have some more education/reminder work to do.

Sweet burn!

Benefit of trello is it’s easy to understand and follow, unlike gantt charts.

If I had to nominate a world champion of UX for discoverability and usability, it would be Trello.

My experience has been that you can just point people at it and they’re able to pick it up. You still have to have conversations about how you use it.

Plenty of Fortune 500 companies run multi-million dollar, multi year projects in Excel, FYI. PM software is great, but Excel does the trick. And you don’t have to train anyone.