Blog / Optimizing Business Efficiency: Smartsheet vs MS Project

Optimizing Business Efficiency: Smartsheet vs MS Project

Optimizing Business Efficiency Smartsheet vs MS Project - IT Visionists

As we stand on the brink of a new era, the future of project management is being shaped by a significant global trend. Nowadays, this trend is shifting towards a distributed and remote workforce, which demands the implementation of advanced project management concepts. Why does it matter? Well, it’s all about efficiency – getting things done faster and smarter.

In this context, choosing the right project management tool becomes crucial. Today, we will delve into a detailed comparison of unique features and capabilities offered by two powerful, spreadsheet-based project management solutions – Smartsheet and MS Project. Whether you’re a business owner, project manager or a beginner stepping into this field, this article will help you understand their strengths and weaknesses, and guide you in making an informed decision that best suits your project management needs.

Let’s dive in!

Overview of Smartsheet And MS Project

Smartsheet is a cloud-based project management solution that mimics the look and feel of a spreadsheet. It’s trusted by many Fortune 100 companies due to its intuitive interface and powerful features. Smartsheet allows teams to plan, capture, manage, automate, and report on work at scale, enabling them to move faster and achieve more. It’s known for its flexibility for distributed and remote workforce working on a wide range of projects and workflows.

Correspondingly, from Microsoft 365 suits of application, Microsoft Project is a robust project management solution that offers both cloud-based and on-premises solutions. It’s known for its advanced features that supports both Waterfall and Agile methodologies, making it a go-to choice for professionals across diverse industries. Advanced features include task scheduling, resource allocation, and progress tracking etc. Microsoft Project is designed to help teams stay organized and meet project deadlines efficiently.

Feature Comparison: Smartsheet Vs. MS Project

To truly understand the capabilities of these tools, a detailed feature comparison is essential.

Key Features of Smartsheet

Let’s reflect on the key features that Smartsheet provides to make project management easy and productive:

  • Work Breakdown Structure: Smartsheet excels in task management, offering a customizable spreadsheet-like interface for capturing tasks, subtasks, and milestones.
  • Project Views: With Grid, Gantt, Card, and Calendar views, Smartsheet provides flexible options for project visualization.
  • Project Templates: Use built-in templates filtered by project type to jump-start the project setup process.
  • Conditional Formatting: Smartsheet allows for data formatting based on certain conditions, making it easier to visualize important updates.
  • Work Assignment: You can assign tasks to a team member with defined time estimates. This feature fosters accountability among team members.
  • Approval Process: Automation rules at smartsheet facilitate the setup of approval workflows, ensuring a standardized process for any request that requires managerial oversight.
  • Workflow Automation: Smartsheet keeps teams on track with features for work process automation, reminders, and progress updates.
  • Custom Forms: Smartsheet Forms ensures consistently standardized data inputs in sheets. This is particularly useful for handling requests or tickets.
  • Project Status Reports: ‘Report Builder’ enables creation of real-time project reports which are then used in developing real-time visual and interactive dashboards.
  • Dashboards: Smartsheet dashboards display key metrics, charts, text, images, videos, and embedded reports for a holistic project view and answer business questions.
  • Collaboration and Sharing: Fosters team collaboration with features for commenting and  proofing, with permission-based sharing.

Key Features of Microsoft Project

Microsoft Project is equipped with robust features that cater to both traditional and agile project management methodologies. Here are some of its key features:

  • Microsoft Project is equipped with advanced project management features. Here are some of its key features:
  • Task Management: Microsoft Project enables users to create, assign, and schedule tasks and subtasks. Tasks can be indented or out-dented to illustrate project hierarchy.
  • Goal Setting: Milestones can be linked with tasks under the ‘Goals’ section to align with project objectives.
  • Board View: Catering to agile workflows, the Board view allows for the setup of sprints and backlog structures.
  • People View:  Capacity planning and management in people view is a handy feature in Microsoft Project
  • Gantt chart: This essential project tracking visualization tool is a staple feature of Microsoft Project.
  • Task Progress Tracking: Task completion is represented as a percentage, visualized using a progress bar for each task on the Gantt chart.
  • Task Dependency: Dependencies drive the project schedule. In MS Project using advanced task dependencies you can link any two tasks in a project to show their relationship.
  • Lead and Lag Time: For dependent tasks, lead and lag time contribute to maintaining an organized workflow with flexibility and efficiency. Adding lead time to a task allows it to start work on that task before its predecessor task is finished. And adding lag time allows to delay the start time of the successor task.
  • Critical Paths: Critical tasks, interconnected by task dependencies, form the critical path. The Gantt chart can highlight the critical path to indicate if the project is falling behind schedule.
  • Earned Value Analysis: For advanced users can use earned value analysis to compare the budgeted cost of work performed with the actual cost to evaluate project performance.

User Interface and Experience

Smartsheet offers a clean, user-friendly interface that features a spreadsheet-like layout. Its grid-based design is intuitive and mirrors familiar spreadsheet software, potentially shortening the learning curve for new users. Smartsheet emphasizes collaboration, enhancing the overall user experience. Additionally, real-time collaboration features, including comments, attachments, and mentions, enable seamless communication among team members within the platform.

Whereas, the Microsoft Project user interface aligns with the broader Microsoft Office ecosystem, providing a familiar environment for users already accustomed to Microsoft products. The interface places significant emphasis on Gantt charts, offering a visual representation of project timelines and dependencies. Integration with other Microsoft tools, such as Excel, SharePoint, and Teams, contributes to a seamless user experience. Furthermore, the interactive nature of Gantt charts within the interface allows users to dynamically adjust task durations, dependencies, and timelines.

Target Industries & Use Cases

Smartsheet is a versatile tool suitable for various industries and general project management needs. It appeals to teams seeking an intuitive, spreadsheet-like interface for task tracking, collaboration, and resource management. For marketing and creative teams, Smartsheet provides a collaborative platform for planning campaigns, tracking deliverables, and managing content calendars. Its adaptability enables teams to respond to evolving project requirements.

However,  Microsoft Project, with its robust scheduling, resource management, and Gantt chart features, is ideal for construction and engineering projects. It facilitates the planning of complex projects with multiple dependencies and critical paths. Whereas, large enterprises managing complex projects can leverage Microsoft Project’s advanced features, which support detailed project planning, portfolio management, and resource optimization across multiple projects.

Platform Extendibility: Smartsheet vs MS Project

Smartsheet Integration:
  • Third-party Tools: Smartsheet integrates with a broad array of third-party tools, providing flexibility for users outside the Microsoft ecosystem. For organizations with specific integration needs, Smartsheet offers a developer API for custom integrations and application development. Smartsheet supports integrations with:
        • Cloud storage solutions: Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box.
        • Collaboration platforms: Slack and Microsoft Teams.
        • Salesforce and marketing automation tools: Marketo.
        • Business intelligence tools: Tableau and Power BI.
  • Smartsheet Ecosystem: Smartsheet Inc. offers numerous work management products that integrate seamlessly with the project management app, enhancing efficiency and security. These include:
        • Bridge: For building intelligent workflows.
        • Brandfolder: For digital asset management.
        • WorkApps: For streamlining work and simplifying collaboration.
        • Control Center: For automating project portfolio management consistently.
        • DataMesh: For preventing duplicated data entry and mapping data between large sheets and reports.
        • Resource Management: For project tracking, budgeting, and resource allocation.
Microsoft Project Integration:

Microsoft Project’s integrations are deeply rooted within the Microsoft ecosystem, providing seamless collaboration and data flow between Office applications. The Project Accelerator team can extend functionality through Power Apps. Additional integration tools are:

        • Azure DevOps: For organizations utilizing Azure DevOps for software development and DevOps practices.
        • Power BI: For more in-depth analysis.
        • Microsoft Dynamics 365: As Microsoft Dynamics 365 is for customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning, Microsoft Project integrates to provide a unified approach to project and resource management.
        • Planner and To-Do: For flexible task management
        • SharePoint: With deep integration into SharePoint, Microsoft Project ensures efficient document management and collaboration.
        • Developer API: Similar to Smartsheet, Microsoft Project provides a developer API for custom integrations and workflow automation.

Security and Compliance

Smartsheet ensures robust data security with enterprise-grade standards, featuring multiple protective measures. Security features, including two-factor authentication (2FA), single sign-on (SSO), AES 256-bit encryption, and secure data centres, are integral to Smartsheet’s commitment to safeguarding user data. The platform is compliant with significant regulatory frameworks such as HIPAA, GDPR, ISO, SOC, ITAR, and FERPA.

Similarly, Microsoft Project also emphasizes robust security measures, especially for its cloud-based version, Microsoft Project for the web, and integration with Microsoft 365. While specific security features may vary based on the deployment model (cloud or on-premises). For more information visit Microsoft Trust centre.

Price Models

Smartsheet offers 30 days trial period with following price plans (smartsheet):

  • Free: $0 – 1 user and up to 2 editors
  • Pro: $7/user/month, billed yearly – For teams that want to track, share, and manage projects with unlimited viewers.
  • Business: $25/user/month, billed yearly – For businesses that want to manage projects and programs with unlimited free editors.
  • Enterprise: Contact Sales – Suitable for scaled businesses

Microsoft Project offers 30 days trial period with following price plans (MS Project):

  • Project Plan 1: $10/user/month – Includes essential project management features.
  • Project Plan 3: $30/user/month – Provides additional functionalities such as resource management, roadmaps, baselines etc.
  • Project Plan 5: $55/user/month – Offers advanced features with enhanced security and compliance
  • Project Standard 2021: $679.99 (one-time licence). A standalone desktop application for individuals or small teams.
  • Project Professional 2021: $1129.99 (one-time licence). Includes supplementary features such as resource management, multiple timelines, and timesheet management.
  • Project Server: Contact partner – For scalable on-premises solution

Pros And Cons: Smartsheet vs Microsoft Project

Pros of Smartsheet:

  • Familiar spreadsheet-like interface.
  • Highly customizable sheets with formulas and widgets.
  • Free forever plan and affordable paid plans starting at $7 per month.
  • Native features for conversation on each task
  • Detailed training material is available

Cons of Smartsheet:

  • Steep learning curve for new users.
  • Add-ons required for time tracking and resource management.
  • No real-time loading of project update or auto savings

Pros of Microsoft Project:

  • Easy integration with Microsoft 365 Office suite.
  • Reliable customer support.
  • Flexibility and scalability for managing projects of all sizes.

Cons of Microsoft Project:

  • No native communication tool
  • Long learning curve due to complex features
  • Expensive for large teams.

Make an Informed Decision With IT Visionists

In conclusion, our in-depth analysis and feature comparison of Smartsheet and Microsoft Project reveal that both tools are strong contenders.

We recommend Smartsheet if your organization:

  • Prefers a wide range of customization options and is comfortable using spreadsheets.
  • Seeks a secure, scalable, yet cost-effective solution.
  • Wants a quick setup with an easy learning curve.

On the other hand, we recommend Microsoft Project if your organization:

  • Is already working within the Microsoft ecosystem and wants to quickly integrate MS Project into the same tech stack.
  • Is flexible with a steeper learning curve.

Contact us for an in-depth analysis of your business workflows. We’re here to help you choose an efficient and affordable solution for your business.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Smartsheet and Microsoft Project offer mobile apps for on-the-go access?

  • Yes, both Smartsheet and Microsoft Project provide mobile apps, allowing users to access and manage projects on-the-go from their smartphones or tablets.

Which platform is more suitable for small businesses?

  • Smartsheet is often considered more suitable for small businesses due to its simplicity, user-friendly interface, and cost-effectiveness compared to the more feature-rich Microsoft Project.

Can Smartsheet and Microsoft Project handle complex project management needs?

  • Yes, both Smartsheet and Microsoft Project can handle complex project management needs. Microsoft Project, with its advanced features, is preferred for larger enterprises and projects, while Smartsheet caters well to smaller or less complex projects with its intuitive interface.