Project management dashboards perform a vital function for small business project teams. They provide stakeholders with an overview of a project’s progress: capturing data about team performance and milestone achievements, then collating that information in an easy-to-scan display.
Luckily for buyers, many prominent project management (PM) systems include project management dashboards. However, the functionality and pricing of these systems varies greatly.
To help you better understand the similarities and differences between dashboards, we’ll take a closer look at the top five vendors that offer dashboards for project tracking.
Project dashboard overview: Microsoft Excel users will be familiar with Smartsheet’s interface. Similar to Excel, Smartsheet allows you to perform functions such as project planning and tracking in different “sheets.”
Managers can flag critical tasks and milestones on the project plan sheet, and Smartsheet will mirror that information onto its project management dashboard functionality, called Smartsheet Sights. As progress is made on flagged items, it’s also reflected in Sights, allowing managers to use one dashboard display for all their active projects.
From Sights, managers can:
- Customize the information featured on the dashboard using the report builder (a filtering system allowing users to identify specific criteria to highlight across multiple sheets).
- Set up recurring dashboard reports to be shared automatically with stakeholders.
- Create a link back to the project plan so stakeholders can access necessary details.
Sights users can also link directly to important Smartsheet sheets, external web pages, files and more straight from the dashboard to compile all of the relevant resources for a project in one place.
Why You Would Consider Smartsheet: Last year, we found that nearly half of all cloud-based PM software buyers were currently using manual methods like spreadsheets to manage projects.
Smartsheet’s success can be attributed in large part to its design: It’s a cloud-based spreadsheet tool that allows teams to collaborate in an environment they’re already familiar with. This makes it great for first-time buyers.
Why You Wouldn’t Consider Smartsheet: Because Smartsheet has a similar look and feel to Excel, the user interface (UI) design isn’t considered as “modern” as other solutions on the market.
FrontRunners Score: 8.57 (4.07 for Capability, 4.50 for Value)
Reviews: Read user reviews of Smartsheet here.
Project dashboard overview: Quick Base has a drag-and-drop dashboard builder on the home page that can be personalized for different users.
By hitting the “Customize this Page” button on the top right, executive stakeholders can set their dashboard up to get a visual breakdown of key project success metrics, project managers can see different project budgets and time projections and team members can get a quick overview of their pending tasks, just to name a few options.
Within each dashboard element, users can click on items to get more details. Managers can even set it up so that customized text appears on certain user dashboards to describe what they’re seeing or instruct them on where to go next.
After stacking all of the reports, charts, timelines and otherwise users want on their dashboard, they can then add shortcuts and search functionality for easier navigation and filtering.
Why You Would Consider Quick Base: The amount of customization options and integratable data sources make Quick Base one of the most flexible dashboard options available.
Why You Wouldn’t Consider Quick Base: Quick Base isn’t purely a PM platform (it’s also a business app development platform and an online database system), so it may have more functionality than you want or are willing to pay for.
FrontRunners Score: 8.47 (3.95 for Capability, 4.52 for Value)
Reviews: Read user reviews of Quick Base here.
Project dashboard overview: In Asana, the dashboard acts as the user’s homepage. On the dashboard are thumbnails called “cards” representing different projects the user is involved with. These cards contain:
- A high-level overview of completed and remaining tasks in the project, displayed as a progress chart.
- A colored status bar across the top of the card indicating if the project is on track (green), at risk (yellow) or needs attention (red).
- Status updates or more detailed notes about recent activities, posted by the project owner.
Projects owned by the user are automatically added to the dashboard. However, users can customize their display by adding or removing cards for other projects they’re a member of, and by reordering cards to prioritize them. Users can click on any card to be redirected to that project’s main page.
Why You Would Consider Asana: Asana’s greatest strength is as a task management and collaboration platform. Users can comment on tasks and invite guests outside the organization to collaborate on the project.
Why You Wouldn’t Consider Asana: Asana lacks project planning capabilities, such as Gantt charts, as well as more sophisticated resource scheduling functionality (i.e., staff forecasting for future projects).
FrontRunners Score: 8.40 (3.89 for Capability, 4.51 for Value)
Reviews: Read user reviews of Asana here.
Project dashboard overview: Wrike’s dashboard offering is widget-based. Once you create a dashboard for a certain project, you can add widgets to the dashboard that appear as individual panels to get an overview of tasks or activities relevant to that project. Users can pull from Wrike’s bank of nine pre-built widgets or customize their own based on selected filters.
Within each widget, you can see a timeline of all of the tasks that meet that widget’s criteria. For example, the “My Overdue” widget will show you all of the active tasks assigned to you that are past their due date, while the “Overdue by you” widget will show all overdue tasks that are assigned to other users.
Color-coded fields tell users which stage a certain task is in while icons highlight things like attachments or tasks that should take priority. Dashboards can be duplicated or shared with other users within the organization, as well.
Why You Would Consider Wrike: Wrike is an extremely scalable platform, ranging from a free package with task management and file sharing capabilities for start-ups to a paid PM suite for enterprises and portfolio-level projects.
Why You Wouldn’t Consider Wrike: Wrike doesn’t offer as many options with graphs and charts, preferring instead to focus on lists and feeds in their dashboards. If you prefer the former, there are better options available.
FrontRunners Score: 8.26 (3.97 for Capability, 4.29 for Value)
Reviews: Read user reviews of Wrike here.
Project dashboard overview: Functional as a Kanban, Scrum or customizable agile project management solution, Targetprocess also offers widget-centric dashboard functionality.
Users can select predefined widgets for their dashboards from a library or create their own. Any list or report made in Targetprocess can be dragged-and-dropped into the dashboard view as a custom widget. The default dashboard layout is two columns, but can be altered to accommodate three or four smaller columns if preferred.
The three access level options on dashboards—public, private or viewable only by selected teams or projects—give managers the flexibility to create different dashboards for personal or team use, or even for specific project aspects like quality assurance (QA).
Though Targetprocess does slant towards software development, it’s still a suitable solution for a variety of industries including architecture, engineering and graphic design.
Why You Would Consider Targetprocess: Being able to have to-do lists, progress charts, real-time activity updates and more in one dashboard gives Targetprocess one of the more comprehensive dashboard views. Targetprocess is also the only vendor on this list that offers an on-premise deployment option.
Why You Would Consider Targetprocess: There’s a lot going on here, so the learning curve for new users can be relatively steep compared to other options.
FrontRunners Score: 8.12 (3.96 for Capability, 4.16 for Value)
Deployment: On-premise or cloud-based
Reviews: Read user reviews of Targetprocess here.
As we’ve shown, not all dashboards are the same. If you’d like more information about these and other PM platforms, here are some next steps:
- Read reviews: To see how real users have rated each of these product’s quality and ease of use, as well as other PM products not featured in this article, visit our project management market page.
- Demo products: Researching a platform’s functionality is just the first step. Next, you’ll need to vet products to ensure they support your needs and drive your business goals.
- Call our PM experts at at (855) 998-8505: Our experienced PM Software Advisors can provide you with additional information about the platforms listed above. If these five vendors don’t fit your needs, they can provide you with a short list of products that do.
1The Software Advice FrontRunners quadrant, powered by Gartner Methodology, evaluates a market’s leading solutions to assess which products offer the best capability and value for small and midsize businesses (SMBs).
- The capability score is derived from user ratings on product capabilities, an analysis of the product’s breadth of functionality and an assessment of business confidence.
- The value score is determined by user ratings on product business value and an analysis of product adoption.
The user ratings used to score the products pull from reviews posted on each of Gartner’s Digital Market properties: SoftwareAdvice.com, Capterra.com and GetApp.com. For more information on FrontRunner methodology, please visit our FrontRunners page.
Products not featured here due to not offering project tracking dashboards: Trello.