16 min read
Sep 13, 2017
Project Management

Agile vs. Task Project Management Software: Which One Does Your Small Business Need?

Searching for the best software to lead your project team? This overview of Agile vs. task project management software can help.

Lauren MaffeoAssociate Principal Analyst

Were you confused the first time you heard the word "Agile"? I certainly was. I attended a networking event where I met a woman who called herself an "Agile consultant." Unsure how else to respond, I smiled and nodded. But as it turns out, she was ahead of the curve. Agile experts are in high demand today - especially on project teams. And if your own team is trying to use Agile, you might wonder which type of software is the best fit.

Shopping for project management software isn't easy. GetApp's own project management software catalog lists nine separate categories. That's because while some teams need broad project management software, others have more specific software needs.

For example, we also have categories for Agile and task project management software. But some Agile project management software tools offer task management features as well. And some software tools that prioritize task management also support Agile frameworks. So, how can you tell which type of tool is the best fit for your project team?

In this article, we'll share the key differences between Agile and task project management software.

You will learn about:

  • The users each type of software supports

  • Five features each type of software should have

  • Three examples of each type of software (including user reviews)

  • The best resources to keep narrowing your search.

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Agile project management software

Agile is a methodology that aims to help project managers achieve more work via shorter, more frequent development cycles. It's frequently used for software development but is now more common across a broad range of business functions as well. Its goals are to make continuous releases and incorporate customer feedback into each release.

Using the right Agile project management software plays a key role in success. Agile project management usually falls into one of two frameworks: Scrum or Kanban. So, Agile project management software should have built-in features that support one or both frameworks. Regardless of which framework your own project team uses, these features are standard across Agile project management software:

  • Activity boards to visualize work and adjust timelines

  • Project workflows that are customized for your team

  • Sprint planning to define the work and effort per release

  • Release management to make forecasts for project stakeholders

  • GitHub integration to review open source code and manage software projects

Some Agile project management software tools (such as JIRA) are framework and methodology-agnostic. This means that they support Agile project teams that use Scrum as well as Kanban. In JIRA's case, the tool offers activity boards that are specific to the Scrum and Kanban frameworks.

Other Agile project management software tools support specific frameworks. For example, LeanKit supports project teams that use Kanban.

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Task project management software

No project is complete without finishing tasks - either your own or those of your project team members. Regardless of how many tasks you have, a standard to-do list won't cut it.

That's where task project management software comes in. It helps project managers name, assign, and monitor the tasks that they and their team members must get done each day. This type of software is especially helpful for teams juggling several projects at once.

Each project will have its own task priorities, assignments, due dates, and workflows. Task project management software can help project teams see all the details at a high level. Then, they can drill down and see specific details per task. This boosts team transparency and communication. Key features include:

  • Several workspaces to let project managers track personal and team member tasks

  • Assignment and completion tracking to confirm when tasks are given and finished

  • Permission to follow and add assignees to tasks as needed

  • Subtasks to manage assignments and due dates that roll up to larger tasks

  • Custom views and calendars to see the same tasks from several perspectives

Task project management software helps project teams manage assignments and prioritize them based on due dates. By contrast, Agile project management software supports the Agile methodology. And since it's often used for software development projects, these tools often offer features such as development tracking. This is a key difference between both types of tools.

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Which tools can I use?

Agile and task management overlap in some cases. As we already mentioned, some Agile project management software tools offer time tracking features. But comparing an Agile project management software tool with a task project management software tool side-by-side shows several differences.

Before you buy either type of software, make sure you're clear on what you want to accomplish. If your project team uses a specific Agile framework such as Kanban or Scrum - especially to build software projects - then make sure to shop accordingly.

Alternatively, your team might manage projects beyond software and need a tool to track project tasks at individual and team levels. In that case, task project management software might be best for you. Luckily, several options exist regardless of which software you need.

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If you need Agile project management software, opt for...

JIRA

JIRA is often called the Agile project management software. This is partially because JIRA invests in features for team communication alongside its robust technical features. Custom workflows, @mentions and assignment options, plus integrations with Confluence and HipChat are just some of the features that users rave about. Its JIRA Agile add-on is the icing on the cake.

GetApp reviewer Daniel Galinkin says:

"JIRA helps us organize our workflow. It is very well tailored to our Scrum workflow, and the integration to Bitbucket, Bamboo and Confluence is very nice. It can be a bit complicated on certain points at the beginning, but the complication pays off, and once you get used to it, it is not complicated at all. Integration with other Atlassian products (Bitbucket, Bamboo, Confluence, etc). Tailored to agile (Scrum, Kanban). Awesome support from Atlassian."

Pivotal Tracker

Pivotal Tracker was built by Pivotal Labs to support web and mobile project teams. Each team member within the tool can see the same real-time view of each project. They can also use an iterative Agile workflow to complete several projects on any iOS device.

GetApp reviewer Megan Kakitsubo says:

"I liked that the contents of the dashboard [were] customizable for every member of the team who all had different roles. For instance, as a web developer I constantly kept my eyes on 'My Work', 'Current', and 'BackLog' as I liked to track my tasks as well as what others in the team had in progress. On the other hand, the Project Manager had 'Charts' and 'Epics' opened as he wanted to track the velocity of the team. Aside from the customizable element, the dashboard was easy to edit as changes to an existing story as well as creating new ones could be accomplished in one tab/window without moving onto a new page. Because everything could be tracked with a one page view, it provided a good summary of what everyone was up to as well as [a] nice way to track individual tasks."

VersionOne

VersionOne has high brand recognition as one of the most popular Agile project management software tools. Features include Agile project portfolio management, product planning and roadmapping, and spaces for sprint planning, tracking, and reviews. It's well worth a look from Agile project teams in midsize organizations with bigger budgets.

GetApp reviewer Terence Beck says:

"I have used VersionOne extensively in a few of my companies. Our product managers use it to create and prioritize backlogs. Dev team leads create tasks and [allocate] hours to them. This then gets sorted into releases and sprints. And finally scrum masters use this to track daily progress. Sprint planner, storyboard, burndown chart."

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If you need task project management software, opt for...

Asana

Asana puts task management front and center. Its wide range of features - from @mentions in task comments to adding task followers to task updates and due dates - are all designed to prioritize work. You can even add hearts to specific tasks to show your gratitude to project team members.

Says GetApp reviewer Crystal Wilhite:

"I use Asana heavily at my job - it is extremely beneficial for organizing work flow, delegating and prioritizing tasks, and ensuring everything gets done on time. It is simply the best resource we have found for task management. Highly recommended! Ease of use - very simple and powerful. Love that there is a free version, which I use in one of my roles. I also use the paid version in another role, so the customization is fantastic. I appreciate being able to forward tasks from email, create sub-tasks, create recurring tasks, and the floating unicorns!"

Basecamp

As a project management tool that prioritizes tasks, Basecamp is another GetApp fan favorite. You can use it to organize team and client projects alike. In doing so, you can control permissions to share certain information with clients while keeping it private from colleagues. You can also plan, schedule, track, and report on tasks within the tool.

Says GetApp reviewer Brandon Wascom:

"Basecamp is the main player in the task management software [market]. They do a good job of assigning and tracking tasks in a given project along with providing task management. They provide flexible response: website, mobile app or through email replies. Basecamp…has a simple website interface and they make it very easy to interact with."

MeisterTask

Teams in need of task project management software for iOS should consider MeisterTask. Each user can create as many projects as needed and invite colleagues to collaborate on them. Customizable project dashboards let you create project sections based on need. And you can get notified when tasks are checked off by using the tool from your preferred device of choice.

GetApp reviewer Colin Scattergood, PMP, says:

"The best part about Meistertask is how dead simple it is, while still absolutely nailing what it needs to really get right. Meistertask makes task management dead simple for me, and keeps the detail out of the way unless I specifically need it."

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"But if you had to choose"

So, should you buy Agile or task project management software? The answer depends on how your project team works.

If you're part of a robust project team that follows an Agile methodology, you'll need software to support your team's framework of choice (Scrum, Kanban, etc.). Features like sprint planning and release management will be must-haves in the software tool you choose. And integrations with tools such as GitHub will be crucial for collaboration with the engineering team. In this case, Agile project management software is likely a wise investment.

But let's say your project team doesn't follow a specific Agile framework and works on projects beyond software development. In that case, an Agile project management tool might have more features than you'll use in practice. It also might involve a steeper learning curve than a tool that offers fewer features, but excels at what it does have.

It's also worth noting that since Agile project management software often has extensive features, these tools can creep up in price depending on how many team members (i.e., software users) you have.

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Taken to task

Instead, project management software that focuses on task management first and foremost is a strong fit. Task project management software helps teams communicate more clearly and prioritize which work must get done today. It also tends to be much cheaper (i.e., free in many cases) compared to Agile project management software.

Want more information about which type of software is the best fit for your team? These resources can help narrow your search based on which features and integrations you need most:

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