As projects grow in complexity and workforces expand globally, the need for online project management tools is no luxury. There is no lack of products to choose from, with varying degrees of usefulness. Microsoft has thrown its considerable weight into the ring with Microsoft Project. While MS Project has become an industry-standard in project management, it comes with problems, leaving people to search for the best Microsoft Project alternative.
Why People Seek a Microsoft Project Alternative
Microsoft Project can do much of what you need when managing a project, but it’s not a perfect tool. There are many reasons why people who use it are searching for an MS Project alternative. Thankfully, there are many other software solutions on the market that offer users a great alternative to Microsoft Project. We’ll get to those in a moment, but first, let’s outline the reasons people are dissatisfied with MS Project.
- Steep Learning Curve: Microsoft Project is not for beginners. The software is very technical and not user-friendly. That might be fine if you have an advanced degree in project management, but for the rest of us it’s going to require a lot of work, time and training to get a handle on how to use the tool. If you struggle with project management software, your project struggles too.
- Poor Team Communication: Microsoft Project falls short in this category. You can’t easily message your team in the app, which means you’re going to have to jump onto one of the messaging tools that Microsoft offers, such as Teams, Outlook or Skype. Why do you want an add-on when it’s so much more efficient to have your communication tool embedded in the software?
- Lack of Integration: While MS Project works okay with other Microsoft products, that’s not the case if you want to use a tool outside of the Microsoft family of apps. So, if you’re looking to integrate with Salesforce, Slack or other tools, you’re probably going to find yourself frustrated and looking for an MS Project alternative.
- High Price: If money is your bottom line, then Microsoft Project’s price tag will be a tough pill to swallow. What makes matters worse is that you have to pay for each license. You may have to selectively license MS Project to your team. Some will get to use it, others won’t, which is going to block collaboration and slow down progress on your project.
- Hard to Share Data: It’s almost as if Microsoft Project doesn’t want your team to work together. If anyone on your team works on an Apple product, they’re out of luck. It’s such a problem that a cottage industry of online tools has emerged that offer ways to take MPP files, convert them into friendlier formats to edit and share, then convert them back to MS Project files. That’s not very efficient!
2021 Best Microsoft Project Alternatives: Software Rankings
ProjectManager is a cloud-based project and work management software that provides real-time data for more insightful decision-making. It organizes tasks, teams and projects (including portfolios) with ease and effectiveness.
This is likely the best Microsoft Project alternative for your team, as it matches Microsoft Project in terms of having extensive features and beats it as a team collaboration platform. It also can import and export MS Project files, so making the switch is easy!
Schedule on Gantt Charts
Like Microsoft Project, ProjectManager is equipped to manage one project, a program or a portfolio of projects with the same easy usability. For example, its Gantt chart does everything expected of this fundamental tool, but can also filter the critical path and set a baseline to compare actual to the planned effort, which keeps you on track.
Work Your Way with Multiple Project Views
ProjectManager has multiple project views, too, including kanban boards, task lists, calendars and sheets. If you want to see more columns on the Gantt, then toggle over to the sheet view. This loses the visual timeline of the Gantt and adds an expanded spreadsheet. Add as many customized columns as you need and then select the ones you want reflected on the timeline when you return to the Gantt view.
But if you want to take your team collaboration to the next level, then switch over to the kanban board and build custom workflows for your team. It’s easy to get work done, collaborate and track progress in one intuitive location.
Plan Projects from Start-to-Finish on Roadmaps
If you’re managing more than one project, use the roadmap view, which is like a Gantt, but with a timeline that tracks multiple projects on the same page. This allows users to chart all their projects and discern how to more efficiently distribute resources. There’s also a portfolio dashboard that automatically calculates metrics across all your projects for an instant status report. You can customize your portfolio dashboard too, and filter your projects by client, team, project manager and more. This is a great ppm tool.
Track Progress on Real-Time Dashboards
Speaking of dashboards, there’s a real-time dashboard that tracks single projects as well. Displaying live data on workload, timesheets and more in easy-to-read charts and graphs. For more in-depth information, one-click reports can be filtered to show only the data you want to see. They can also be easily shared with stakeholders to keep them updated.
Stay Up-to-Date with Notifications
ProjectManager has email and in-app notifications, fostering collaboration and keeping you in one tool rather than having to log into several to manage your project. There are resource management features to balance workload, security settings, budgeting and much more.
Of all the software tested, ProjectManager is the best MS Project alternative. Try it free today.
Smartsheet is online project management software that functions like a spreadsheet but adds collaborative features that connect teams. Its focus on collaboration means that the scheduling and task management features are lighter than some might want, but they’re not absent from the tool. It’s powerful like MS Project but more customizable, supporting automation.
However, because of its limited reach in terms of managing projects, users will have to spend extra to get such tools as time tracking, budgeting and resource management. There’s no real-time updates, and autosave can be a little slow, which is frustrating if you lose data before it has been saved. If your needs are strictly connecting teams, though, this is a good MS Project alternative.
ProofHub is another Microsoft Project alternative that also pushes the collaborative nature of its tool as it’s selling point. It has kanban boards to visualize workflows and help teams work on their tasks as they work together. The tool is easy to use, which gives it an advantage over the difficult MS Project, and it has a less expensive point of entry for users.
However, like many MS Project alternatives, it does one thing very well and then relies on third-party integrations to fill in the gaps. That solution is a frustrating one. Ideally, users want one tool to carry the load of their project management needs. Here you have to integrate, and the tool doesn’t even have very many integrations available.
GanttProject has one giant advantage over MS Project and even most of the Microsoft Project alternatives—it’s free. Gantt charts are the heavy lifters in project management and a free one is sure to be attractive. Especially one that’s easy to use and that can export documents to MS Project. That means this could prove a major asset to MS Project users.
That is also its deterrent. You’re still wedded to MS Project. Though, perhaps you’d use GanttProject all by itself to manage your project. After all, Gantt charts are great tools. The problem is that this Gantt is limited in what it can do. You’re going to have to use a suite of other apps to get the coverage that MS Project offers.
Trello is a tool that manages projects and helps teams collaborate. This software uses a kanban board interface that allows users to visualize their workflow. It provides transparency and fosters collaboration. It has real-time updates, which is definitely a plus and has easy onboarding for teams. It’s a fun and easy-to-use project management solution, which is why it made it at number five on our list.
But, as a fully-fledged Microsoft Project alternative, Trello falls short. It has a project bar chart instead of a Gantt. While that feature might try to mimic the usefulness of a Gantt it doesn’t set a baseline to track your actual progress against your planned effort, there are no inter-project dependencies and it can’t filter for the critical path in your schedule. It’s recommended only for the most rudimentary of projects.
Related: How to Run Microsoft Project on Mac
6. Zoho Projects
Zoho Projects is a project management software with kanban boards that organizes tasks, a social feed that captures updates on those tasks and forums for lengthier discussions. It definitely connects teams to foster productivity, and even has a timesheet feature for managers to see how much time each team member spends on their tasks. It offers issue tracking and a Gantt project view.
What it lacks as an MS Project alternative is resource management tools and reporting. In a sense, a manager is flying blind if they can’t generate status reports and then reallocate resources to keep their teams working at capacity. There is also no function for managing more than one project at a time, leaving the tool limited in what it can do for users.
Teamwork is an easy-to-use project management software. It organizes tasks and subtasks, labeling priority and identifying dependencies to avoid bottlenecks. There are messages at the task level to connect teams as they work on their tasks and time tracking for managers to monitor progress. Like many Microsoft Project alternatives, it also features a Gantt chart view.
There’s a free version that has limited features. Reviewing all these apps shows the shortcomings of MS Project when it comes to teamwork, hence the name of this product. But the tool is not great for every type of collaboration. For example, you can’t mark up files, which is a problem if teams are working on visual materials. But it’s still miles ahead of MS Projects.
Which MS Project Alternative Is Right For You?
There are a lot of MS Project alternatives out there, and for good reason. Microsoft has clunky, expensive and hard-to-use project management software. While it might be the default for many organizations, you don’t want to follow the crowd. Get a more nimble tool, one that’s easier to use, less expensive and fosters live collaboration.
ProjectManager is award-winning software that organizes tasks, teams and projects. It’s the best Microsoft alternative, with all the features and none of the frustration. You can use it to import and export MS Project files or better yet, abandon the expensive tool and subscribe to ours with multiple payment tiers. Try it free today.