When looking for the best free project management software, you’re going to come across the names Asana and Jira. Both are great tools in their own right and we’ve written a lot about both. However, here at Cloudwards we’re obsessed with ranking things, so in this article we’re going to pit Asana vs Jira and see which one comes out on top.
- If you’re a small team of software developers, go with Jira and don’t look back unless you grow into a much larger company. Jira is free for teams smaller than 10 users and its features are geared toward Agile teams.
- If you’re not big into Agile, Jira loses a lot of its appeal and Asana is the better bet. It’s a much more full-featured project management tool, and you can run any kind of company, of any size, with it.
- Jira is a lot cheaper than Asana if you look at just the cost in dollars, but Asana makes up for its higher pricing with a slew of useful features. As such, you’re going to have to think carefully if budget is a big concern for you.
To make a long story short, the winner is Asana. As you can read in our full Asana review, it has a ton of features, great ease of use and a wonderful knowledgebase. As we explain in our Jira review, it’s a great project management tool, but it’s a lightweight when compared to Asana. That said, it’s not entirely a one-sided beat down and Jira puts up a gallant fight.
However, before we get to any of that, we’re going to give a quick shout-out to the winner of our best project management software roundup, monday.com. While Jira and Asana are definitely within striking distance of the crown, monday.com is still the undisputed king, and we recommend anybody looking for a great all-round tool check out our monday.com review.
Depends. If you need a full suite of tools because you’re running several departments, or at least people with different job descriptions, Asana is better. For small software teams, Jira is what you need.
Asana has a decent free plan, but to get the most out of it you’ll need to pay up. Plans start at $10.99 per user per month.
Yes, but it might not be the best idea. Jira is a great tool for its specific purpose: guiding Agile teams. Rather than replace it as your company grows, we’d recommend integrating the two apps instead.
Jira, hands down. Though Asana can build in some industry-specific demands, Jira is geared toward it from the word go. Still, though, if you have a larger company, the pendulum swings back into Asana’s favor.
Confluence is Jira’s answer to Slack. We’ve played around with it a bit, and we like it, but it won’t replace Slack, especially not for non-Jira users.
Asana vs Jira: A Project Management Tool Showdown
If this is the first time you’re joining us for one of our little bouts, let’s explain the rules real quick. We’ll be comparing our two contenders over the course of five rounds, corresponding with the criteria in our project management reviews. Each round gets a winner — or a tie — and at the end we tally up the points and declare a winner. Cake will be had…or will it?
Our first round is an easy win for Asana. It’s one of the most feature-packed project management tools out there, even outdoing monday.com in a few key areas (check out our Asana vs monday.com article for that titanic battle). Jira doesn’t stand a chance here as it’s just being used for target practice by the better contender.
That’s not to say Jira is no good; it’s just that its parent company, Atlassian, decided to go with a much more streamlined approach. There seems to be two reasons for this: the first is that the Agile philosophy Jira is based on is a very streamlined method that foregoes doodads for getting the work done.
The second is that Atlassian likes to offer simple software that users can then customize to their own needs. We see much the same with Jira’s sibling Trello, where in some circumstances third-party integrations can end up making up more of the program than its core. Read our Jira vs Trello piece for more on this.
We’ll talk more about integrations a little further on in this round, so for now let’s look at the core functions of Jira. Straight out the box, it’s no more than a scrum board or kanban board (any one project can only have one of these), plus a few supporting actors, like a code repository.
Again, this is no value judgment: if it works, it works. Users create cards that represent tasks (or “issues,” in Jira’s parlance), then put them into the kanban board, ready to be dragged and dropped (check out our kanban guide to find out how they work). It’s a good way to maintain a regular workflow.
A software development team will more likely be spending its time on the scrum board, where, instead of a linear set of tasks, you set up “sprints” — tasks that need to be completed in a short time period. You set up a sprint by first creating issues in the backlog, and then importing them onto the scrum board; it works really well.
Agile teams will generally work from sprint to sprint until a project is completed. The scrum itself won’t give much of an overview, but Jira has added a so-called roadmap that will let you keep track of the general progress of a project. We like the roadmap, but we wish there were more ways to get some oversight while using Jira; as you can read in our Wrike vs Jira article, it’s not like it’s impossible.
Where Jira is geared toward software development, Asana is more of a general task management tool that can be used for any kind of project. It offers a lot of standard functionality that you’ll find in, say, monday.com, but you can also create custom functions — within reason — to meet any specific needs you may have.
First, though, let’s talk a little about its day-to-day use. You can work in several environments — called “views” — including a list, kanban, calendar and (if you upgrade) timeline, as well as a few others. That may sound intimidating, but it’s actually very simple: you create tasks in, say, the list view (which we recommend), and then the views are just ways to organize them.
For example, you enter a set of tasks into your list, give them due dates, priority stickers and a status. With that done, you can switch to a kanban view to see the status of all your cards, a chart to determine how many tasks are at what priority, then the calendar view to see when it’s all due.
Asana offers a whole lot of power and oversight when used correctly, and it blows Jira out of the water in this regard.
This is also the biggest difference between Jira and Asana: Jira really only has two views per project. When putting together a large project, the only good way to get any oversight is the roadmap, which is good but not fantastic. Asana has several ways for you to view not only what’s going on now, but also any reasonable time in the future.
Team Member Management
There’s also much better management of team members in Asana. Jira, of course, lets you assign whomever you want to your board (just enter their name and email — you can also add a picture), but filtering by team members only gives you the tasks assigned to them.
In comparison, Asana can show you what they’re doing when, as well as compare the workload of individual team members with each other using the eponymous (or, name) view.
Of course, these are only the most important features — there are plenty more. For example, there’s a built-in time-tracking app called Harvest as well as the portfolio view, which allows you to get a bird’s-eye view of several projects at once. This last one is ideal for project managers who are managing managers of their own (pretty sure we won a bet with that sentence).
However, there are two things to keep in mind when comparing the features of Asana and Jira. The first is that Jira unlocks most abilities in the free plan, while Asana guards its features jealously behind several tiers of payment. We’ll talk about that more in our next section. The second thing is that Jira can get a lot done with integrations, which we’ll talk about now.
Asana and Jira Integrations
All the project management software we’ve reviewed allows some kind of integration with third-party add-ons. There’s just no way for one solution to be able to handle every conceivable need. All kinds of industries and companies use task management tools, so having one that rules them all is close to impossible.
You can handle this issue in a number of ways. You can be like Atlassian, which designs its products to be pretty lightweight but very welcoming to add-ons. Jira is one example, though its sibling Trello is even more flexible in this regard (read our Trello review for more).
On the other hand, you can be like Asana, and make your software flexible enough to handle most cases, but limit integrations to specific apps.
Both approaches work very well, and as a bonus you can even integrate the two together, so that Jira “issues” pop up as “tasks” in Asana. If you’re an Agile team that likes Asana, this is a handy compromise, as there’s no native application for it. There is a guide on how to build a scrum board in Asana, but it still won’t be winning our best scrum software title anytime soon.
Of course, there’s a lot more to integrate than just Asana in Jira. There’s almost no limit, in fact, to the apps that can be added. The Atlassian marketplace is where you’ll do your shopping, and the list of available apps just goes on and on. You have both add-ons made by Atlassian (or directly approved by the company) as well as third-party options.
Apps and Add-Ons
The best way to find out what’s possible is to go check for yourself. You could, for example, use a TeamGantt app (read our TeamGantt review) to add a Gantt chart to Jira, or create a timeline with an Atlassian integration. The sky’s the limit; all you need to watch out for is that some integrations require you to sign up for the service offering it, meaning you may need to pay.
Asana is less flexible in this regard, but it’s still a powerhouse. We especially like how, in the paid plans, you can integrate Salesforce and Adobe products, making for a seamless experience when handing out assignments. Besides that, you also get the option to integrate cloud storage services as well as collaboration tools like Slack.
Of course, if you can’t find the add-on you want for either Asana or Jira, or it just doesn’t work quite the way you want, you can always fall back on Zapier or IFTTT and create your own little scripts. Whatever you go with, you won’t be running out of ways to use either Asana or Jira anytime soon.
With Asana coming out the gate with a firm win under its belt, we’re going to head into a less conclusive round. Thing is, Jira offers much better pricing in terms of dollars and cents, but we feel the value of Asana is much better if you look at how much bang you get for your buck. To explain, we need to get into the nitty-gritty a bit. Let’s start with Jira’s prices.
1-month plan $ 7.00/ month
Save 88 %
1-year plan $ 58.33/ month
$700.00 billed every year
1-month plan $ 14.00/ month
Save 88 %
1-year plan $ 116.67/ month
$1400.00 billed every year
As you can see, Jira is just dirt cheap. Only Freedcamp gets close (read our Freedcamp review), and it’s not nearly as good. That’s if you even decide to pay for Jira: small development teams with fewer than 10 users could conceivably use Jira for free indefinitely, as all truly vital features are included in the free plan. Asana could learn from this, but more on that later. Let’s only discuss paid plans for now.
If you upgrade to the Standard plan, Jira costs only $7 per user per month, and the Premium plan is another $7, for a total of $14 (assuming you pay per year, which you should in most cases).
That’s cheap by any measure, but compare it to others, like in our monday.com vs Jira article, and the result can be kind of shocking. In comparison, let’s take a look at what Asana’s prices look like.
1-year plan $ 10.99/ month
$131.88 billed every year
Save 19 %
1-year plan $ 24.99/ month
$299.88 billed every year
Save 18 %
That’s a pretty shrill contrast, and that’s not even taking into account the free plan. Asana’s Premium plan is $11 per user per month (assuming an annual subscription), which is four bucks more than Jira’s Standard plan. Plus, Asana’s Business plan is a whopping $25 per user per month, which is $11 more than Jira’s Premium plan (confusing nomenclature, we know).
We’re leaving Enterprise plans out of the equation, as in both cases they offer highly specific and specialized features, mostly related to security and user permissions that many of our readers don’t need. Interestingly enough, from what we could glean from their websites, Jira and Asana both offer more or less the same package at this level, too.
Value for Money
So, if we get back to just adding and subtracting dollar amounts, Jira is the clear winner. However, if we hearken back to the last round, you’ll recall that Asana offers a lot more features than Jira does. This is where it gets difficult to declare a winner: yeah, sure, a full upgrade to Jira is a lot cheaper than with Asana, but Asana gets you so much more.
With all the features offered by Asana, the Premium plan’s price becomes a lot easier to swallow. We could still argue about whether the Business plan is worth it, as a lot of the features that justify its price are pretty specific to certain types of companies. However, that four extra bucks for the Premium tier is worth it for many businesses, especially since you can always integrate Jira for free.
Still, though, it’s not the easiest decision, especially for smaller companies. What will make it harder is Jira’s odd approach to pricing for medium- and large-sized teams, which we talk about at length in our article on Jira pricing. As such, we’re declaring this round a tie, though not without a parting shot about the free plans.
Jira and Asana: Comparing the Free Version
As we mentioned in the introduction, both contenders feature prominently in our guide to free project management software. This is because in both cases, if you’re willing to compromise a little and you keep your team small, you could do all your planning in the free plan without ever spending a penny.
Jira especially is pretty amazing. As long as you have fewer than 10 users, you get a practically complete suite of management tools free of charge. We imagine that plenty of small teams could get by on it just fine.
Asana’s free tier isn’t as good. It’s a lot more complete than, say, Trello’s (read our Trello vs Asana article for more on that), but you’ll probably be looking to upgrade a lot sooner than you would with Jira. There are a few very useful features locked away behind the first Premium paywall.
As such, we’re going to declare Jira the winner of the free plan sub-competition, but only for software developers. Overall, the draw still stands as we go into our round on ease of use.
So far, Asana is still in the lead, but that changes in this round as Jira scores an equalizing point. Although Asana is easy to use, Jira is simply easier. That’s in no small part due to the quickstart bar, which is one of the best features of Jira. In fact, we wish more project management tools had it.
In short, the quickstart is a bar on the right-hand side of your screen that guides you through the most basic tasks by letting you pick between getting pop-ups on your screen, watching a video, reading the documentation or all three. We really like it, and even the more complicated parts of Jira’s operation were made quite simple thanks to the quickbar.
In contrast, Asana just uses pop-ups, though you can study your way through Asana’s massive knowledgebase in your own time (more on that in the next section). Generally speaking, the pop-ups get the job done, though sometimes the advice seemed a bit arbitrary.
In either case, once you know what you want to do, it’s smooth sailing all the way. You can sign up by entering your email address. Then the program walks you through a few questions to get you started, and you’re up and running.
You can invite team members with their email addresses, as well, and most navigation is through dragging and dropping tasks or contextual menus on the side of the screen.
There’s very little to distinguish either program, if we’re honest. Both use a card-based system that has you assign tasks, and you can mess with the finer points of each task through clicking on it to reveal the details. We like it, and it gets things done nice and fast.
We have a full Asana guide if you want to get started a little quicker with it, though you could also just try and muddle through. Overall, this round isn’t very exciting as both Asana and Jira are very user-friendly.
4. Customer Support
With three rounds, the race is neck and neck, but Asana will pull ahead now as it has better support than Jira does. It’s not a huge difference, but overall Asana’s documentation is better, and it offers contact with the support team across all tiers. In comparison, Jira only has premium support for paid users. Note that neither offers phone support.
In the last round we already talked about getting to know both the Asana and Jira software, and Jira generally does a better job of that in the moment. However, Asana’s documentation is better. There’s less jargon and you don’t feel like you need to follow an entire course on Agile terminology just to read an article or two. Also, the courses on offer are better structured.
In short, getting deeper into how the program works and why it does what it does is easier with Asana. If you run into acute problems, both offer ticket-based customer service. Asana offers it for everybody, including freemium users, but Jira only for paying customers, so this round is an easy win for our favorite yoga pose.
5. Security & Privacy
This last round is going to be a quick one as it goes to Asana, even if only by a hair. Thing is, security is decent with both contenders, while privacy isn’t. However, privacy is marginally better for Asana, giving it the win.
Let’s talk about security and file storage. Data stored with both Asana and Jira is protected by the TLS protocol when in transit and with AES-256 encryption when at rest on the server. This is fine, and it meets the same basic standard as do any of our most secure cloud storage services, except for one thing.
That thing is that both project management software options use AWS to host their data, which is secure, but its buckets can be leaky as hell. So far, we’ve not received reports that either has suffered from this problem, but it’s only fair you’re aware of it.
As for privacy policies, the news isn’t great: Atlassian’s makes clear that it collects users’ data and distributes it, though so far we haven’t heard about any major scandals, so the data must all be anonymized. Asana’s is a teensy bit better in that only free users get this treatment; people who have paid up get a little more respect. As we said, it’s not great news.
The Verdict: Asana vs Jira
There you have it, a win for Asana. It was a pretty close battle, but in the end it was its lack of features that proved the undoing of Jira. Still, it held its own against one of the top project management tools out there, which is more than many others can say.
What do you think of our battle? Do you agree with the result, or did we miss something glaringly obvious? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.