Trello vs Smartsheet: The Best Project Management Tool for You

Discover whether Trello or Smartsheet fits your project needs better with a detailed look at their usability, features, and pricing strategies

In the dynamic world of project management tools, where the options seem as varied as the projects themselves, Trello and Smartsheet stand out as two of the front-runners. Each platform brings its unique strengths to the table, promising to streamline workflows, boost productivity, and enhance collaboration. But with such distinct approaches, choosing the right tool can feel like a project in itself. Whether you’re at the helm of a bustling startup or navigating the complexities of a multinational corporation, finding the tool that aligns with your team’s rhythm is key. Let’s dive into the nuances of Trello and Smartsheet, starting with a vital aspect of project management: task management and workflow customization.

Trello
Trello
Smartsheet
Smartsheet
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Task Management and Workflow Customization

At the core of any project management tool is its ability to manage tasks efficiently and mold to the unique workflows of a team. Trello and Smartsheet offer different paradigms in this respect, each with its advantages.

Trello: The Visual Kanban Approach

Trello’s charm lies in its simplicity and visual appeal. It employs a Kanban board layout where tasks are represented as cards that slide across lists, delineating stages of a project. This intuitive system makes it easy for teams to visualize their workload and progress at a glance. Customization within Trello revolves around these cards and lists, allowing for labels, due dates, attachments, and more, facilitating a tailored task management experience. Trello’s flexibility is further amplified by its Power-Ups—add-ons that integrate additional features or third-party apps, enriching the platform’s capabilities to suit a wide array of needs and workflows.

Smartsheet: The Power of Spreadsheets

Smartsheet takes a different approach, combining the familiarity of spreadsheets with advanced project management features. It offers a versatile platform that supports various views, including Grid, Gantt, Calendar, and Card, providing teams the flexibility to manage projects in the way that suits them best. Smartsheet’s strength lies in its detailed customization options, allowing users to track any data relevant to their projects, from simple task lists to complex timelines and resource allocations. Automation features in Smartsheet reduce the need for manual updates, streamlining workflow processes and enhancing overall efficiency.

Integration Capabilities

A project management tool’s strength is partly measured by its ability to play well with other applications, from communication platforms and cloud storage services to developer tools and beyond. Here’s how Trello and Smartsheet stack up in terms of integration capabilities.

Trello: Expansive Ecosystem Through Power-Ups

Trello’s approach to integration relies heavily on its Power-Ups, which allow the platform to connect with a vast array of other tools and services. This includes integrations with major platforms like Slack for communication, Google Drive and Dropbox for file storage, as well as more specialized tools like Jira, Salesforce, and even custom integrations via Zapier. The Power-Ups transform Trello from a simple Kanban board to a versatile project management hub capable of accommodating a wide variety of workflows and tools. This modular approach to integrations offers teams the flexibility to customize their Trello boards to meet their unique project needs and tool preferences.

Smartsheet: Robust Built-In Integrations

Smartsheet offers a comprehensive suite of built-in integrations, designed to enhance its native capabilities and ensure seamless workflow between different tools. It boasts direct connections with popular software such as Microsoft Office 365, Google Workspace, Slack, and Salesforce, among others. Smartsheet’s integration capabilities extend to automating workflows across platforms through its connector for Zapier and its API, facilitating custom integrations for specialized needs. Unlike Trello, where additional functionalities are added through Power-Ups, Smartsheet aims to provide a more integrated experience out of the box, minimizing the need to augment the platform with external add-ons.

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Collaboration and Communication Features

The nature of collaboration and communication features within a project management tool can dramatically affect a team’s efficiency, morale, and overall project success. These features determine how well team members can share ideas, update each other on progress, and work together seamlessly towards common goals.

Trello for Seamless Team Interaction

Trello’s design inherently promotes collaboration through its board and card system, making it simple for team members to interact within the context of their tasks and projects. Each card serves as a discussion thread where team members can comment, share files, and provide updates, ensuring all relevant information is centralized and accessible. The platform’s notification system keeps team members informed about changes, comments, or due dates, which is crucial for keeping everyone on the same page.

Integration with communication tools like Slack further enhances Trello’s collaborative capabilities, allowing teams to receive updates and notifications directly within their communication platform of choice. This integration ensures that collaboration is not only confined within the Trello environment but extends to where team conversations are happening.

Smartsheet as a Collaborative Hub

Smartsheet approaches collaboration by offering a suite of features designed to centralize communication and project information. The platform allows for comments on tasks and rows, attachment of files directly to specific tasks, and even the creation of dedicated spaces for project discussions. Like Trello, Smartsheet integrates with popular communication tools, including Slack and Microsoft Teams, facilitating seamless communication outside the platform.

One of Smartsheet’s standout features for collaboration is its ability to share entire sheets, reports, or dashboards with team members or external stakeholders, providing customizable levels of access and editing permissions. This feature is particularly useful for collaborative planning, review processes, and ensuring stakeholders are kept informed with real-time data.

Customization and Scalability

The capacity for customization and scalability directly impacts a tool’s longevity and effectiveness within an organization. It determines how well the tool can adapt to changing project scopes, team sizes, and complex workflows.

Trello’s Flexible Customization

Trello’s simplicity is the foundation of its customization capabilities. The platform allows for a high degree of personalization through its card and board system, where users can tailor their project spaces with labels, checklists, due dates, and attachments. The real power of customization in Trello, however, comes from its Power-Ups—third-party apps and integrations that extend the functionality of boards to include features like time tracking, advanced reporting, and even integration with CRM systems. This makes Trello highly adaptable, able to fit a wide range of project types and team sizes. However, while Trello excels in offering a customizable interface, its scalability for handling very large or complex projects may be limited compared to more robust project management tools.

Smartsheet’s Advanced Customization and Scalability

Smartsheet offers a more structured approach to customization, with a spreadsheet-like interface that can be extensively customized to track any type of project data. Its flexibility lies in the ability to create custom workflows, formulas, and automated actions, making it possible to tailor the platform to complex project needs. Smartsheet supports a wide range of views, including grid, Gantt, calendar, and card views, each of which can be customized to display the most relevant information for the task at hand.

In terms of scalability, Smartsheet is designed to manage projects of any size, from small team tasks to enterprise-level initiatives. The platform’s robust set of features, including resource management, portfolio management, and detailed reporting, allow it to scale with your organization’s needs, providing a comprehensive solution for complex project management challenges.

User Experience (UX) and Ease of Use

The UX and ease of use encompass how straightforward and enjoyable a project management tool is to use, from the initial setup to managing complex projects. A tool that balances powerful features with an intuitive interface can enhance team collaboration and efficiency.

Trello’s Intuitive Simplicity

Trello is renowned for its user-friendly design, centered around the Kanban board concept. This visual approach, coupled with drag-and-drop functionality, makes it extremely intuitive for users of all skill levels to quickly get up to speed. The minimalistic design reduces clutter, focusing on the essentials of task and project management, which can significantly lower the learning curve for new users. Trello’s ease of use is one of its strongest selling points, allowing teams to spend less time figuring out how to use the tool and more time actually managing their work. However, for very complex projects, some teams might find the need to supplement Trello with additional tools or Power-Ups to achieve the desired level of functionality.

Smartsheet’s Rich Feature Set

In contrast, Smartsheet offers a more feature-rich environment that, while still user-friendly, might present a steeper learning curve for those not familiar with spreadsheet-like applications. Smartsheet’s interface is designed to accommodate a vast array of project types and complexities, offering different views and extensive customization options. This flexibility allows teams to tailor the platform to their precise needs, but it also means that fully leveraging Smartsheet’s capabilities can require a more significant investment in time to learn and configure. The trade-off with Smartsheet is between its powerful, scalable project management features and the time it takes to master and customize the platform to your team’s workflow.

Pricing

TrelloFree Plan: $0, free for the whole team.

Standard Plan: $5 per user/month (billed annually) ($6 billed monthly). For small teams that need to manage work and scale collaborations.

Premium Plan: At $10 per user/month (billed annually) ($12.50 billed monthly). For teams that need to track and visualize multiple projects.

Enterprise Plan: At $17.50 per user/month (billed annually) ($210 annual price per user). For organizations that need to connect work across teams with security.
SmartsheetFree Plan: At $0 per user/month. No cost, 1 user up to 2 editors. Includes 2 sheets, Gantt, grid, calendar view.

Pro Plan: At $7 per user/month (Billed yearly) Max 10 users, unlimited viewers. Includes free plus up to 10 paid editors, unlimited sheets, forms and reports, 20GB attachment storage.

Business Plan: At $25 per user/month. (Billed yearly) Min 1 user, unlimited editors. Includes Pro plus Admin Capabilities, baselines, Unlimited automations, 1TB storage.

Conclusion

Choosing between Trello and Smartsheet ultimately comes down to evaluating your team’s specific project management needs, workflow preferences, and the complexity of your projects. Trello is best suited for teams and projects that benefit from visual task management and seek a platform that’s both easy to use and flexible enough to adapt to various workflows. Its user-friendly interface and customizable boards make it a popular choice for teams across a wide range of industries.

Smartsheet, with its detailed project management capabilities and strong emphasis on integration and automation, is ideal for teams managing complex projects that require granular control over tasks and resources. Its spreadsheet-inspired interface, combined with advanced project planning tools, offers a solution for teams that need a high level of detail and customization in their project management software.

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author avatar
Abir Das
Abir Das is a seasoned writer with a Bachelor's in Technology, specializing in insightful reviews and comparisons of business software. His expertise lies in dissecting complex software tools, helping readers navigate the evolving landscape of business technologies.
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