Asana vs. Pivotal Tracker: A Project Manager’s Perspective

One of my favourite things about the abundance of innovative start-ups building amazing SaaS services is the creation of useful lean project management tools. These tools often stem from a wise start-up philosophy: build to solve a problem you have because others are probably suffering from the same problem. Trust me, no start-up wants to use MS Project!

I haven’t worked with many of the tools out there but today I’m going to compare two SaaS project management tools I’ve used in the past: Asana vs. Pivotal Tracker.

AsanaI’m comparing these two products from the perspective of a project manager, not a team member. The experience of each tool differs depending on the role one assumes during the project. Which just goes to show, that you can build software to solve your own problem but you can’t solve everyone’s problems!

Task Management

to do list In terms of task management, Asana is a glorified checklist and Pivotal Tracker is more of a shared, complex organized checklist. Asana is great for personally getting organized. You can arrange all your tasks in a line and set your own priorities for your tasks within a project. However, when building software or building eCommerce websites, as we do here at Demac Media , it is essential that each project member understands his/her tasks in relation to the bigger picture. Asana is great at re-organizing personal tasks so that you can meet a task deadline but its main feed for project tasks is not as sophisticated as Pivotal Tracker’s task management.

In Pivotal, I have a clear picture on one page what’s been done, what’s currently being worked on, what’s coming up, what needs prioritizing and see any recent activity. The only disadvantage to task management in Pivotal is that a project manager doesn’t have a helicopter view of all tasks associated with each member. It’s hard for me to understand how many tasks are assigned to each member of our development team for the many projects we work on concurrently.

Asana definitely gains some serious PM cred for that feature. In Asana, you can change views to see all tasks related to a single project member. At Demac we created our own version of this feature to help our project managers get a better grip on available resources. While Pivotal is certainly the more sophisticated tool in terms of task management, it is missing a key element for tracking resources and how each resource’s time is spent.

Score > Pivotal +1 // Asana: +0.5

Time Management

time management Both Asana and Pivotal Tracker are seriously lacking in the time management department. Time management can be such a fluid concept when working with an agile methodology that tools built for simplified project management often lack solid time management features. But, agile project managers still need to manage time to a certain extent! In Asana you can set deadlines for tasks, which may be useful in certain situations, but when working on an eCommerce website build assigning deadlines on tasks is far too granular. None of my developers would be able to meet deadlines like that! Nor would I want to manage all of their tasks this way.

Pivotal, on the other hand, uses algorithms to gauge the speed at which your team works based on past iterations. It’s an ingenious feature, but when a company is working on many projects concurrently it doesn’t give an accurate assessment of what a team is actually capable of. Pivotal does allow you to adjust the ‘team’s strength’ for an iteration to accommodate for any resource drop depending on the iteration.  However, this feature is of no use to us at Demac Media. We get our clients involved on Pivotal, which adds a false sense of team strength and, in general, with numerous concurrent projects changing almost daily, managing the team strength does not provide the benefits the amount of effort warrants.

Score> Pivotal -1 // Asana -1

Communication

communication The communication functionality in both tools is pretty much on par. Both have activity feeds where project members can communicate with each other regarding any task. E-mails can be sent out to notify members of project updates, communication notices, etc.  Unfortunately, Asana updates everyone on a project because there are no ‘admin’ roles. This is particularly unnecessary and can lead to people ‘un-following’ a project, which will easily lead to communication issues. Pivotal, on the other hand, only notifies members based on the tasks they are involved with and an owner of a project can easily bump a member up to owner status to receive all project e-mails if necessary.

Score> Pivotal +1 // Asana +0.5

Conclusion

Final Score > Pivotal Tracker: 1 // Asana: 0

In the end, there really isn’t a better tool. It depends on your needs. If you’re running an eCommerce solutions business like Demac Media; Pivotal Tracker is way more development task friendly. If you’re running an eCommerce company, then you’re more likely to have business projects than development projects; Asana is much more business task friendly. Pivotal is far more useful for projects heavy on collaboration, while Asana is far more useful for ensuring that each member working on a project takes responsibility for the completion and organization of his/her tasks. Take your pick, both are amazing lightweight project management tools depending on your perspective and needs!