There is a bewildering array of modern Project Management software tools available. I’m no expert, but I do get asked about this a lot. So, in this article, we will take a look at the three Big Beasts of the sector: Asana, Jira, and Monday.
How We Structure our Overview of Modern Project Management Software
We’ll look at seven things for each of the three modern PM software tools:
- Basic Facts
- How Does it Work?
- What is it Good at?
- What is it Not so Good at?
- Who is it best for?
- Basic Pricing Information
- Learn how to use the Software
However, these are not reviews, and I will not be making any recommendations. This is for three reasons:
- First, and most important – I ‘m not a PM software expert and I don’t have the experience to make recommendations
- There’s no such thing as best. Every situation and user experience will be fdifferent. What may be best for you may not be ideal for tanother organization. Indeed, there may not be a ‘best’ option for you. Two or more may offer what you need and the choice may cone down as muc to pragmatics as to what is in some abstract way ‘best’.
- There are plenty of other competitors that I have not looked at in this article. Take a look at our article, Free Project Management Software: A Roundup of 20+ Options to Try
So, our Agenda
I’ll take the software in alphabetical order, and look at:
- What Do we Mean by ‘Modern Project Management Software’?
- Things that are common to all three
- Who Have We Missed? The Main Competitors for Asana, Jira, and Monday.
Please note that, if I do not mention a capability, you must not infer that it is not available. It simply means that I either:
- missed it in my assessment of the product or
- I omitted to include it in my write-up
If you work with any of these tools and believe I missed something important, please do let me know (politely) in the comments, and I shall update the text.
What Do we Mean by ‘Modern Project Management Software’?
To explain what I mean by my term ‘modern project management software’, let’s start with what it is not. It is not what we might call the ‘traditional project management software’ apps. These are tools like Microsoft Project or GanttPRO.
These follow a traditional, predictive project management lifecycle, and so offer all of the planning tools you’d expect:
Two Types of Modern PM Software
Modern PM Software falls into two types:
- Task-based productivity and collaboration tools
- Development-focused Agile Project Management tools
And, of course, there are all manner of composite, or hybrid, tools with combinations in various proportions of these two, and our more traditional style of application.
These tools put their focus on allocating tasks to team members so they can communicate and collaborate productively. They are equally at home in day-to-day operations and in small project environments. They are also great platforms for running a small business or start-up.
Great examples include two of our three tools in this round-up, Monday and Asana, alongside tools like AirTable, ClickUp, Trello, and Wrike.
These feature capabilities to:
- Assign tasks to team members
- Track collaboration and facilitate communication about each task
- Present data in timeline, calendar, table, or Kanban formats
Development-focused Agile Project Management tools
These are tools that fully implement components of agile methodologies. They are designed for use by product and software development teams and their feature set will meet their needs for tracking, testing, and reporting.
Examples include Jira, which we will look at in more detail, below, and Microsoft Azure DevOps.
Typically, these apps feature:
- A full suite of scrum development tools
- Kanban tools
- Issue tracking
Things we take as read: Features Common to Asana, Jira, and Monday
…and also, by the way, to most modern project management software tools!
Now you know what we mean by modern PM tools, let’s see what features we can expect in all three of Asana, Jira, and Monday.
All three are excellent products with a large and satisfied user base. This means you can expect all three to have:
- An attractive user interface (UI)
- Strong collaboration capabilities – either built in or through a straightforward integration
- Reasonably intuitive and easy to use at the basic level
- However, you should expect that optimizing them for your team and workflows will take time and careful thought
- Tiered pricing, on a per user, per month basis, with a forever-free tier and an enterprise-level option
- Plenty of templates, tools, and integrations with related products
- Good data security
All three products claim high levels of security. However, understanding the technicalities of the different standards they comply with is beyond my competence. So, I have deliberately omitted any security and data protection assessment. But, if you are considering any of these (or other) products, do carry out your own due diligence here – or get someone to do it who has the right level of undertanding!
Basic Facts about Asana
- Website: asana.com
- The Claim: ‘Organizes work so teams know what to do, why it matters, and how to get it done.’
- Targets: Efficient working in small and medium-sized organizations
- Hosted: Cloud
- Interface: Browser, macOS, Windows, iOS app, Android App
- Integrations: Plenty, including:
Zapier, Slack, Teams, Zoom, Dropbox, Google tools, Salesforce, GitHub, and Jira.
- User numbers: 119,000
How Does Asana Work?
Asana has two tiers of workgroups:
- Workspace (for example, departments, brands, or programs)
Withing a Workspace, you can create multiple projects, for which you can use one of the standard templates, or create your own structure. Within a project, you create tasks and subtasks, allocate them to team members, and build them into workflows. You can tag tasks to make search more efficient.
What is Asana Good at?
- Basic file sharing and storage for common file types.
- Tasks, subtasks, dependencies, Gantt chart presentation.
- Task allocation, tracking, workflows.
- List, calendar, timeline, and kanban views.
- Permissions and commenting on tasks, and ability to invite guests into projects.
- Plenty of options for custom fields.
- Ability to visualize workloads for each team member.
- Strong process automation features that allow you to automate repetitive tasks, workflows, and processes – with good integration into other widely-used business tools. These include all of the kind of triggers, rules, and actions you are likely to need. And it’s easy because the you set them up with a graphical workflow builder.
- Multiple Projects (Portfolio) view.
- Agile and Scrum tools like roadmaps, kanban, sprint planning, bug tracking, work requests, feedback, product launches, and tracking task iterations.
What is Asana Not so Good at?
- Full-scale Project Management. Asana has no resource management, time tracking, bugeting, or cost management tools.
- Assignment of tasks is limited to one person only.
- No ability to create template workflows and processes.
- The mobile (Android and iOS) apps have functional limitations.
- If you want a rapid implementation of the tool, this may not be best for you, as it starts off with a very minimal user interface that you need to build up for yourself. However, its templates will help you.
- There is no live chat feature built into the tool.
- Assana does not manage document versions, meaning you will rely on third party integrations to maintain proper document management.
Who is Asana best for?
Asana is best-suited to simple projects where team productivity, task allocation, and workplace collaboration are your priority. On the other hand, lightweight is not well-suited to teams working on larger and more complex projects.
Asana works well for product development, marketing and campaign management, product launches, event management, lightweight development, operational projects like service management, support, and maintenance, and basic business projects
Basic Pricing Information
- Forever free basic tier for up to 15 users (perhaps the most generous of the three software tools we look at in this article)
- Premium and Business tiers (business has additional functionality that some users will not need) priced on a per user, per month basis
- Enterprise tier for largest customers
Learn how to use Asana
We recommend StreamSkill’s online course, Introduction to Asana.
Basic Facts about Jira
- Website: https://www.atlassian.com/software/jira
- The Claim: ‘The #1 software development tool used by agile teams’
- Targets: Agile working in development teams
- Hosted: in the cloud or on local servers (the only one of the three that offers this)
- Interface: Windows, MacOS, Mobile apps: iOS, Android
- Integrations: Over 3,000 third-party integrations, including: Microsoft tools, Google tools, Slack, Miro, Zendesk, GitHub, Asana
- User numbers: 65,000
How Does Jira Work?
The Jira workflow follows an agile approach that moves a task or issue through a series of status points that follow a work process you have created. You can use one of Jira’s built-in workflows, or you can start from scratch and create your own, to match your organizational processes.
What is Jira Good at?
Jira was designed primarily for Product and Software Development, so its feature set and strengths play to this agenda. And, consequently, unlike Asana and Monday, it is also designed to be primarily an Agile tool. However, it has more recently added additional functionality to give it a wider appeal – it is currently the least widely-used of the three tools in this article.
In Jira, you will find:
- Scrum tools like backlog, story estimates, sprint tracking, burndown, burnup, and velocity charts.
- Kanban boards.
- Multiple project views.
- Roadmaps – which you can see as an overview-level timeline view.
- Bug tracking and issue management (this is what Atlassian developed Jira for, at the outset).
- Excellent reporting tools.
- Jira is highly custo,izable, through its vast number of integrations and its own proprietory database language, JQL (Jira Query Language).
- String on audit and compliance, with good role allocations, archiving, and audit log tools.
- Integrates into Monday and Asana.
What is Jira Not so Good at?
- Jira is complicated and designed for people who are ready to invest the time needed to understand it. Its interface is, perhaps, the least user-friendly.
- The focus on agile development is at the cost of not having a full suite of traditional project management tools. Most notably, Jira does not offer a timeline view of its data nor a proper Gantt Chart tool.
- There is no in-built communication tool for day-to-day collaboration. However, its ‘sweet-spot-users’ (software development teams) will be happy to integrate their tool with others – most notably Slack and Trello (Trello is also owned by Atlassian, Jira’s owners).
Who is Jira best for?
Jira is best for development teams – whether traditional product development or software development. It is also ideal for other teams for which the Project Management approach is strongly weighted towards agile methods. For these users, Jira ill be the tool to compare others against.
Because of its product development base, it is also great if you need a strong issue management capability. Indeed, the sister app, Jira Service Management, is a strong layer in the helpdesk market.
However, because it has a rich capability set, Jira can be used by any part of the organization that needs to deliver large or complex projects, like major events, product launches, or transformations.
Basic Pricing Information
- Forever free tier for up to 10 users
- Standard and Premium tiers (premium has additional functionality that some users will not need) priced on a per user, per month basis
- Volume discounts for over 100 users
Learn how to use Jira
We recommend StreamSkill’s online course, Getting Started in Jira.
- Website: monday.com
- The Claim: ‘A workplace operating system – a way of working.’
- Targets: Collaborative working in medium and large organizations
- Hosted: Cloud
- Interface: Web or mobile (iOS, Android)
- Integrations: Most of the main integrations you’d expect, including: Zapier, Slack, Dropbox, Zoom, Microsoft tools, Google tools, Trello, Jira, Zendesk. Howerver, the full list is probably the most minimal of the three tools in this article.
- User numbers: 152,000
How Does Monday Work?
It’s best to think of Monday as a highly sophisticated spreadsheet tool, with an elegant design and a huge array of templates and macros. This makes it simple to use and flexible, but limited for large, complex projects.
What is Monday Good at?
- Plenty of views: timeline, calendar, Kanban, tasks, lists, and tables.
- Time tracking.
- Task allocation and workload management.
- Easy to use automation of repetitive tasks, with plenty of pre-built examples to get you started – similar to IFTTT and Apple shortcuts.
- Project portfolio tracking.
- Custom dashboards, using a suite of pre-built widgets, that you can make public or private.
- Contact management and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools, which are ideal for managing your stakeholder engagement.
- Helpdesk tools like issue logging, tickets, and onboarding.
- Large numbers of customizable templates.
- Ability to add team discussion to pretty much any piece of data.
What is Monday Not so Good at?
- Task dependency tool is limited and clunky, and, even then, only available at higher tiers.
- This means that the timeline view will never match the capabilities of a proper Gantt Chart – but for visual display, it gets close.
- And the consequence of this is that it is hard to see Monday as a proper Project management tool. It is more of a workflow and team productivity tool. But, for many teams, doing simpler projects, this may wel be enough.
Who is Monday best for?
Use Monday if you crave ease of use, with a low cost of entry in both cash and time terms.
If your budget is tight, use Monday if you don’t need more than the basic features. It holds a lot back for the higher-tier price plans.
Even at higher tiers, its limited Project Management feature set means it is best suited for teams carrying out smaller, less complex projects. And, there is very little here for teams dedicated to agile working.
With its built-in CRM capabilities (although limited), Monday.com will be of particular interest to small businesses and start-ups.
Basic Pricing Information
- Basic, Standard and Pro tiers (with increasing functionality that some users will not need) priced on a per user, per month basis
- Enterprise tier for largest customers
Learn how to use Monday
We recommend StreamSkill’s online course, Getting Started in Monday.
Who Have We Missed?
The Main Competitors for Asana, Jira, and Monday
There are a huge number of competitors to Asana, Jira, and Monday. Do take a look at our article, Free Project Management Software: A Roundup of 20+ Options to Try. However, there are some that are also big players in the world of modern project management software. Those that most readily come to mind are:
An early player that has more limited functionality than most
Popular with start-ups and solopreneurs
Popular with startup software businesses. I have a video review of Favro
A slick Kanban and collaboration tool with a super-generous freee tier.
A similar product to Monday and Asana but with far fewer users
What are Your experiences with Modern project management Software
Please tell us about which tools you have used and what capabilities they are strongest at, in the comments below. As always, I will respond to every contribution.