The three Project Management Platforms share many similarities—and a few differences. Which will work best for you? Here's what we love (and...not love) about Asana, Basecamp and Trello.
Hey digital project managers: the next time you’re enjoying a pint with each other, try playing this little game: each of you write down as many project management platforms as you can in 60 seconds. The PM with the fewest platforms listed has to buy the next round.
A quick Google search for “top project management platforms” returns results ranging from Wrike and SmartSheet, to Trello and PivotalTracker, to Capterra—a free service that helps companies research software solutions—which currently lists 509 project management tools in their database.
With so many tools out there—and so little time to assess them—I thought it would be helpful to share some real-world insights on the PM tools our web team has experience with.
Asana bills itself as a workflow and task management tool that is the “easiest way for your team to track its work.” According to TechCruch, 13,000 business customers and 140,000 total business users rely on Asana. At Adept, we use Asana as our core project management and resource planning tool to drive cross-services collaboration and task scheduling for all seven of our teams.
Image courtesy of Asana
8 Things We Like About Asana
- Asana’s project and team member calendars are the most successful in-platform resource scheduling calendar we've come across for day-to-day team scheduling.
- The project building interface is customizable, based on needs of the project, but not so open-ended that you get lost in the features.
- The task creation interface is fairly simple, including task details, building sub tasks, assigning to team members, adding files and task-specific conversations.
- Building and using project and task templates is easy to do, once you understand that a “template” is really just a project that you copy—versus a true template that would populate with variables at the time of spinup.
- Harvest integration allows for in-platform time tracking.
- A strong API allows dev teams to build custom applications that leverage your Asana data; we’ve built a forecasting tool for our dev team using the API.
- There's a mobile app for both iOS and Android.
- We also like using Tab + B (see image below):
What We Don't Like About Asana
- We said that it’s flexible, but it requires a lot of hunting around and reading to begin accessing all of that flexibility.
- There is no easy way to bulk update project dates. As your project shifts, you must work through the whole project by hand to alter downstream timeline impact, versus moving moving entire phases or sprints together.
- Users can build an auto-populated project Gantt by linking their Instagantt account, however, this requires two separate accounts, and constantly switching back and forth between one platform and the other.
- Adding sub-tasks so they are visible on project and team member calendars is a tedious, multi-step process that can only be found in the deep, dark recesses of the Asana documentation.
- A lot of the available documentation and support is for “old” Asana, and not 100% accurate.
- It is not a strong collaboration tool for clients to access and use for communication.
Plans & Pricing
Free Version - For teams of up to 15 people. The free plan includes unlimited projects, tasks & conversations. Premium Account - $8.33 per team member, per month, billed annually. Gives access to all features.
With 9 million active users, Basecamp is the granddaddy of web-based project management platforms. Adept used Basecamp 2 as our primary PMP until July of 2015, when we transitioned over to Asana. We do still use Basecamp 2 in parallel with Asana as our client-facing communication tool, and have transitioned just a few of our clients over to Basecamp 3, which launched in November 2015.
Image courtesy of Basecamp
6 Things We Like About Basecamp
- Basecamp 3 now compartmentalizes in-house communications from client communications, which helps streamline information sharing, based on the audience visibility.
- Users can set notifications parameters to eliminate the ‘always on’ work cycle.
- To-do lists help provide a by-project and by-team-member view of upcoming tasks and due dates.
- File sharing and task/to-do-specific dialogues are well organized and easy to track.
- Basecamp does offer a developer API.
- Like Asana, Basecamp offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android.
What we don’t like about Basecamp
- Basecamp has never been a strong workflow management tool, and falls short as a resources scheduling and planning tool. As with Trello, it’s hard to get a view of individual team member workloads.
- Until the launch of Basecamp 3, the user community was becoming frustrated with apparent lack of feature and functionality improvement and evolution—the platform became stale and was not keeping up with project team needs.
- Individual collaboration areas within each project: To-do’s, Discussions, etc. feel compartmentalized versus cohesive and holistic.
Plans & Pricing
Free Version - One Basecamp project free. Internal Users Plan - $29 per month, flat fee. Client-Facing Plan - $79 per month, flat fee. Keeps client side communications separate from internal collaboration and communications. Enterprise - $3,000 per year.
Trello positions itself as a “collaboration tool that gives you a shared perspective.” It’s basically a Kanban board on steroids. Trello doesn’t come out and compete as “project management” tool, but many tech companies use it to manage their projects and sprints (Trello has 10 million reported users). Adept uses Trello as an HR tool to manage our talent pipeline, and I have managed multiple mobile app projects with Trello.
Image courtesy of Trello
6 Things We Like About Trello
- Trello is one of the most flexible collaboration tools we’ve explored. It’s drag-and-drop, board-building UI can be used to spin up project templates, or quickly build custom project boards from scratch. Seriously. We can’t stress enough how easy it is to customize.
- Task-based team communication and file sharing is easier than any other platform we’ve used.
- Great for lighter projects or highly unique projects that don’t have a lot of complicated task/time dependencies to schedule and manage.
- Strong client-facing communication platform.
- Trello API allows dev teams to build custom functionality and power-ups.
- Like the other PMP's, Trello offers a mobile app on iOS and Android.
What We Don't Like About Trello
- Trello is not a natural resource scheduling platform. There are project calendars available as a power-up, but team member-based calendars are not a feature.
- There is no native time tracking or 3rd party time-tracking platform integration.
- There is no native Gantt chart functionality, or 3rd party Gantt chart building integration.
- It’s a little too light on traditional planning tools for our cross-services project planning & project management needs.
Plans & Pricing
Free Version - Unlimited boards, lists, cards, member and attachments up to 10MB, and some “power ups.” Upgrade to Trello Gold. Business Class - $8.33 per month, per user. Adds integration with Evernote, Gighub, Salesforce, Slack and more. Attachments up to 250MB. Email support. Enterprise - $20.83 per month, per user. Adds single sign on support (SAML 2.0), dedicated account rep, and more.
How Do They Compare Side-By-Side?
So, which platform is the best one for your team? That depends. There really isn't a one-size-fits-all platform that's perfect for everyone. Here's the big three side-by-side:
Bottom line—even with 509+ project managemt tools out there, it’s unrealistic to believe there is a single platform that does all of the things you need it to do, 100% of the time. We’ve assessed close to a dozen tools, and for us, Asana does nearly all of the things we need it to do.
What project management platforms do you use? Comment below and let me know!
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About Dave Ringler
"New digital experiences become available daily, and it can feel impossible to identify which will gain traction with users, and which will obsolesce tomorrow. It's all sexy, fun, and highly engaging, but useless if you don't fundamentally understand who you are, and what you do for your users." Dave cuts through that clutter. He leads cross-functional teams, bringing business, marketing, IT, creative and operations stakeholders together to scope, plan and execute innovative, business-driven digital products and web experiences.
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