Top-Recommended Microsoft Project Alternatives for Project Management

By: on January 15, 2019

Selecting project management (PM) software for small and midsize businesses can be tricky, as the options can differ greatly in price and functionality.

Do you need a simple task management tool for managing a small team? Or a specialized solution to manage specific aspects of project management, such as workplace collaboration and bug tracking?

Then again, if you’re a small business that’s growing (with fewer than 1,000 employees) should you explore enterprise project management tools that can help you with forecasting project revenue and resource capacity planning?

Small businesses should carefully shop for project management solutions to avoid investing in the wrong tool. This will not only be an added administrative burden, but also diminish employee productivity instead of boosting it.

One PM solution that’s rated highly by small business users on Software Advice is Microsoft Project. With a 4.5 out of 5 rating, it’s a popular tool that offers project scheduling, resource management, project cost analysis and built-in integration with Microsoft Office tools, such as Skype and Sharepoint.

However, not all small and midsize businesses (SMBs) will find Microsoft Project suitable. Some chief concerns for SMBs, which we’ve discussed in earlier reports, are the tool’s high learning curve and the cost.

To help SMBs that are currently considering Microsoft Project, or looking to replace it, we created this report of the top five most-recommended Microsoft Project alternatives. Read on to learn about the core features of these alternative project management solutions and how they are similar to or different from Microsoft Project.

Asana: Collaborative Project Management

Asana includes all the basic features for task and project management such as scheduling and assigning tasks, setting due dates and sharing files.

It’s especially suitable for businesses that put emphasis on team communication, with functionalities such as centralized group chats and task commenting.

Both Asana and Microsoft Project are feature-rich tools that support teams of all sizes and industries. Both platforms offer integrations with many file sharing and stand-alone collaboration applications that help teams with project communication.

In terms of where they differ, Microsoft Project is designed for project planning, helping businesses effectively visualize task timelines and interdependencies. On the other hand, Asana boosts project collaboration with online dashboards to view project progress and access team calendars, individual to-do lists and a centralized document hub to find project files quickly.

Check out the graphic below to learn about the features that users like the most about Asana and what they think can be improved:

asana alternative microsoft project

Basecamp: Simple Task Management

Basecamp is a tool for managing and tracking the tasks of small and midsize teams. It offers features such as the ability to create to-dos, share files and invite team members to collaborate.

Basecamp aims to help businesses improve transparency in task management, allowing managers to run reports on key stats such as team workloads and task timelines.

Basecamp and Microsoft Project are similar when it comes to improving visibility on key tasks; they both offer dashboards where team members can quickly view the work they’ve been assigned, as well as any upcoming or past due items.

But there are some key differences—Basecamp suits teams that need updates on tasks and progress via real-time activity notification stream and automatic, recurring “status check-in” messages. On the other hand, Microsoft Project is ideal for teams that want task management features such as Gantt charts to trace a project’s critical path.

The following graphic shows what Basecamp users like about the software and some things they feel need improvement:

basecamp alternative microsoft project

Jira: Agile Project Management

Jira is a project management tool that offers task visualization with kanban boards, activity streams, document management, reporting of project status and other features.

Jira is designed for, but not limited to, software development firms that use agile project management methodologies such as scrum and kanban.

Both Microsoft Project and Jira have strong analytical capabilities that help businesses glean insights into team performance and project risks. This allows them to plan projects better, and not over- or underallocate team tasks.

Jira is popular for agile processes, which include visualizing monthly sprints with scrum boards and reporting capabilities such as sprint completion rates and team velocity. On the other hand, Microsoft Project suits waterfall project management more, with functionalities such as Gantt charts for project planning and scheduling.

The following graphic shows the top things users like about Jira, as well as some areas for improvement:

jira alternative microsoft project

Smartsheet: Project Planning and Tracking

Smartsheet is a project management solution with features such as project planning, collaboration, file sharing, task management, time tracking and reporting.

Smartsheet is a versatile tool for project planning, which includes creating task timelines, understanding resource capacity, tracking time and analyzing project costs.

Microsoft Project and Smartsheet are both dedicated project scheduling tools with built-in Gantt chart functionality, which helps businesses sequence tasks more quickly by automatically analyzing task duration and interdependencies.

As for their differences, certain Microsoft Project features work best when used with other Microsoft tools such as Excel. These include extensive analysis of resource capacity, task planning and report generation.

On the other hand, Smartsheet users can access multiple project dashboard views, whether it’s spreadsheets or kanban boards. It also offers extra features, such as time tracking, to add employee work hours when analyzing project costs.

Check out the following graphic to learn about the functionalities that users like about Smartsheet and some features that they feel could use improvement:

smartsheet alternative microsoft project

Trello: Kanban Project Management

Trello is a kanban project management solution in which teams manage projects visually by setting to-dos and tasks as “cards” on a virtual kanban board. Users can drag and drop cards onto columns on the board that represent the work stages (e.g., “to-do,” “in-progress” and “complete”).

Trello works for various industries, from software development to marketing, as it offers a flexible yet straightforward kanban project management workflow.

Both Microsoft Project and Trello let you break down projects into tasks and subtasks. This allows businesses to gain full visibility into the project progress and view reports to understand team performance.

A clear difference between the solutions appears in the project workflow management functionality. Users who like visual project workflows will find Trello’s drag-and-drop kanban dashboard easy for creating, assigning and tracking tasks.

On the other hand, Microsoft Project has a single spreadsheet for task tracking and planning. Users can simultaneously work on a Gantt chart to estimate the effort required to complete a set of tasks.

Here’s a graphic that lists the key features of Trello that users like and the improvements they would like to see:

trello alternative microsoft project

Next Steps

This report is built for project management software buyers and offers a quick look at the key features of the top alternative solutions to Microsoft Project. To get a more detailed understanding of these tools, check out their product profile pages as well.

Click the links below to go to the profile page of a particular product:

Besides these five alternatives mentioned above, there are many other project management solutions that could suit your business better. Read our Buyers Guide on project management software to read about the features, use cases and real user reviews of similar products.

To gain further insights into pricing and features of a particular product, call us at (844) 680-2046 for free and no-obligation consultation with our software advisor.

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