Friday, February 07, 2014

Free Smartsheet Alternatives To Consider

I have found awesome free SmartSheet alternative – Bitrix24. By free I mean free for small teams (up to 12 users) - you get all the premium features minus time tracking and records management. If you have more than 12 users, you have to pay, but you get unlimited users as well unlimited external users (extranet). Also, unlike with SmartSheet, you have a choice – you can either use the online cloud version or you host it on your own server, if you have cash to spare. And if you go with the self-hosted version you get source code and API, so you can modify it as you want and integrate pretty much with anything that has API. If you have PHP coding experience, you’ll love this. Now, let’s look at the features more closely. 

Essentially get all the features SmartSheet offers and then some. The approach, however, is quite different. Both in terms of service and design, SmartSheet tends to be very basic. For example, here’s file sharing and document collaboration in SmartSheet. And here's file sharing and collaboration in Bitrix24, not only it looks better, you get Bitrix24.Drive, ability to work with documents with no MS Office installed, online multiuser simultaneous editing, version history and so on. I mean, I can see an advantage of 'keep it simple stupid' approach, but I can't think of anyone other than Google who offers similar features for free, and free is a major turn on for me. It's essentially true for other features that SmartSheet and Bitrix24 share – tasks and project managementprivate and shared online calendarsmobile and so on. 
There are also several interesting features that Bitrix24 offers that SmartSheet does not come with. First, there's CRM with lead management, email marketing, invoicing and more. Certainly not a tool many teams use, unless they are in sales and it's not the best CRM I've come across, but having a free mobile CRM can come quite handy. 

Second, there's a HRIS module – that's human resources information system. It comes with org chart, time off management, absentee calendar, employee self-service portal, time management and more. Half of the features are available in the free edition and half you'd have to pay for. 
Third, there's a really cool communications hub inside Bitrix24 – enterprise messaging, group chat, video conferencing, web phone calls, screen sharing – all free with the exception of web phone calls. Personally, I never used video chat until I started working with distributed teams. For some reason, when you don’t see people face to face in your office daily, having an option to hear someone’s voice and see than becomes important to me.

There's something really seductive about SmartSheet familiar spreadsheet design, but just like very few people use command lines any longer when working with PC, I found the perfect free SmartSheet alternative that works for me. And, given how good SmartSheet is, that’s no easy task.