Smartsheet and Airtable are two popular spreadsheet-style project management tools that offer a range of features and integrations. They both enable users to easily organize, track, and collaborate on projects in one convenient place.
Companies of all sizes can use Smartsheet to manage projects, track progress and keep teams on task. It provides a more intuitive interface for those who love interacting with spreadsheet cells and viewing project progress. Try any Smartsheet plan for free for 30 days.
Airtable, however, is more than a project management tool—it’s a powerful engine for managing any type of data at scale, providing users with a way to customize how they organize, track and collaborate on their endeavors in one place. Get started on Airtable’s free-forever plan to get a feel for what this software can do for you.
Smartsheet and Airtable Compared to the Best Project Management Software
There are a ton of options for project management software you can choose from. We rate Smartsheet highly and use Airtable a lot for our own internal data tracking and project work. But they’re hardly the only solutions that could fit your needs. Let’s take a look at three alternatives that work for a wide range of PM use cases.
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Smartsheet Compared to Airtable
Smartsheet takes a familiar spreadsheet-style platform and allows users to easily arrange tasks and resources. It’s perfect for handling large projects involving many stakeholders or team members. Additionally, Smartsheet showcases an impressive range of automation capabilities, permitting users to build customized ways to make their workflows more efficient.
You’re also getting more ways to view information than just sheets. Gantt charts and Kanban-style boards provide clear visual representations of project progress. And, if you opt for one of Smartsheet’s paid plans, you can also tap into advanced reporting and greater file storage limits.
Not only will Smartsheet unify all your project information into one well-structured format that makes tracking progress effortless, but its advanced business intelligence features also help you spot issues and take corrective measures in a timely fashion.
Airtable took Silicon Valley by storm with its hybrid design of databases, spreadsheets, and project management capabilities. The software is eminently flexible and customizable to give organizations in a wide array of industries a platform for analysis, task management, process building, and collaboration on deliverables.
It’s no exaggeration to say that it is one of the most well-rounded database platforms you can get your hands on. Use and store data from multiple sources, create rules-based automations to help you stay on top of workflows without unnecessary manual effort, manage your teams and tasks, and much more.
You can use Airtable for project planning, budget and financial reporting, resource management, and bug tracking, just to name a few use cases. The possibilities are nearly endless. It’s built with the intent that any company or individual can make it fit their purposes right away, though that entails a rather steep learning curve.
Smartsheet vs. Airtable: Pros and Cons
Just like any other project management platform we’ve tried, there are plenty of things we love about both Smartsheet and Airtable, but there are drawbacks for certain types of users or needs. Our job here is to put ourselves in your shoes and help you make a solid purchasing decision. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of Airtable and Smartsheet’s benefits and shortcomings.
Where Smartsheet Shines
Team collaboration: With Smartsheet, you’re not just getting project management software—you’re also getting its excellent collaborative features. Your team can easily share files and notes while keeping tabs on the progress of every task they work on, all in one centralized hub. Smartsheet also delivers the flexibility to choose only the collaboration features essential for your team and omit those unnecessary, keeping it streamlined yet powerful.
Reporting: We adore Smartsheet’s robust reporting capabilities. They simplify the process of consolidating essential data from multiple sheets into one report. You can detect trends and potential roadblocks to continually refine performance. You can also share your reports across multiple departments and with external stakeholders, which is great if you need to keep the entire organization or your clients updated.
Security and compliance: Smartsheet’s two-factor authentication, single sign-on (SSO), granular user access controls, and AES 256 encryption ensure that your project and internal data stay secure. It also offers GDPR, ISO, SOC II, ITAR, HIPAA, and FERPA compliance to put any worries related to regulatory privacy and security at ease. That helps any industry take advantage of Smartsheet, whether healthcare, finance, or any other area that needs maximum security.
Familiar functionality: If you’re a fan of spreadsheets and cells, Smartsheet is your knight in shining armor. Spreadsheets may be basic, but Smartsheet is a tremendously versatile tool, capable of being adapted to project management, inventory control, budget tracking, and many other use cases. You can utilize it for hundreds of different tasks or switch out tools you’re already using within various departments. In that regard, it might act as a replacement for a few of your business tools.
350+ templates: Sprint planning, Agile project management, new hire onboarding, budget tracking—whatever you need, Smartsheet has pre-made templates that can be modified to meet the requirements of your company. This makes it perfect for those who want to hit the ground running rather than spend time configuring a bunch of apps and features from scratch.
Where Smartsheet Needs Improvement
Key features only in add-on modules: Beyond simple project management, you can add digital asset management, resource management, and a budgeting module to the core Smartsheet platform. But Smartsheet doesn’t offer these out of the gate, they’re each only available as add-ons that come with an additional cost—something that a few other project management platforms include on their base paid plans.
Spreadsheets aren’t terribly modern: If you’re someone who grew up despising Excel, Smartsheet isn’t going to be your cup of tea. Its reliance on spreadsheets is a turn-off for some users who find the interface difficult to navigate. On the flip side, it’s perfect for those clinging to their spreadsheet roots and seeking an upgrade that still feels comfortable. Plus, some ways of using Smartsheet can translate well to the software’s more contemporary views, like Gantt charts. Still, where other modern PM platforms tend to be Kanban board-first software, Smartsheet’s core reliance on sheets and cells may not be ideal for every team.
Higher cost: Initially, Smartsheet appears to be quite cost-effective—plans start at only $7 per user each month. Compared to other tools, though, its tiers aren’t exactly competitive. And having to add on additional features or modules can seriously raise the monthly rate, sending you looking elsewhere for a better deal. It also doesn’t have a free-forever version that so many other PM solutions offer, so it’s rarely the best choice for micro teams of three or fewer users.
Where Airtable Shines
Deep customization: Airtable allows users to customize the platform they envision based on their business’s specific needs. It can do just about anything you’d need it to. Use it as the backend of a website, program it to be a CRM, or tap into its ability to automatically collect and populate different customer data into specific areas based on criteria, keywords, and actions. Or, do all three at once in different sections of Airtable.
Interface designer: That customization extends to a granular level, as users can tweak and radically redesign individual interfaces. Users can create custom views for different team members tailored specifically to each user’s responsibilities. Plus, they can build custom interfaces that pull data from multiple other databases and utilize widgets for workflow and approvals.
Deep integrations: Not only can you integrate Airtable with a dizzying array of other platforms, whether it’s tracking customer service inquiries via Zendesk, sending a problem to your dev team in Jira, or saving new application data and updates from GitHub. And, with the way that Airtable collects and syncs information from these other platforms, every activity your organization’s members complete stays visible and accounted for. That’s huge for complex project work or simultaneously juggling multiple endeavors in a project portfolio.
Real-time data: In Airtable, there are a lot of ways to pull data from other locations and create dependencies for accurate reporting, monitoring, and project tracking. Thus, it’s a key virtue of the software that multiple users can work together or individually on the same table without creating inaccuracies or conflicts. Users can conveniently work together in real-time, and commenting, notification, and tagging features help keep everyone on the same page, even if they’re working on the same table while located halfway across the world from one another.
Where Airtable Needs Improvement
Steep learning curve: Those who go with Airtable tend to do because of the depth of what it can adapt to and accomplish. But getting it to do what you want will take some time and effort to learn the ropes. This can be intimidating for less-experienced users who may struggle to understand how to use the product effectively. It’s not a “set it and forget it” type of deal—it takes time to learn and onboard your whole team or department, which is something that can cause a protracted implementation if your users aren’t already savvy with software like this.
Complexity leading to clutter: In many cases, Airtable’s features and massive customizability is seen as positive. But, even after you’ve gotten the hang of getting the most out of this software, it’s easy for that customization to drift into bloat and clutter. New bases and interfaces can be made with ease for any purpose, but if you don’t stay on top of how it all clicks together, you could easily be forced to play clean-up a few months or quarters down the road.
Expensive for larger teams: For small teams, Airtable is a rock-solid choice. It can do a lot and doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. However, the cost-per-user doesn’t get lower as you approach higher numbers of seats, whereas many alternatives end up costing a good deal less per user for 50 or more people than 20 or fewer. On top of that, critical features for larger teams, like expanded file storage and a higher number of supported records, are locked away on either the $20 per user Pro plan or the custom-priced Enterprise tier.
The Last Word on Smartsheet Compared to Airtable
When it comes to handling complex project work, both Airtable and Smartsheet rise to the occasion. Each is innovative and powerful in its own regard, and users of both tools are generally happy with the depth of features and capabilities on offer. But it’s important to note that each one has specific use cases it is better suited for than the other.
For those who want a true project management tool, Smartsheet is the way to go. It can handle task and resource management with aplomb, plus it comes with plenty of automations. Organizations that need more than just project management and are looking for a comprehensive database solution that can handle a lot more than day-to-day tasks will find Airtable an excellent (if slightly intimidating) addition to their tech stack.
Of course, there are a host of other options beyond these two to consider for your project management or other needs. To get the full scope of the solutions available, check out our full post on the best project management software.