Trello vs Wrike vs Productive: Choosing the Best Software for Your Agency (Features & Reviews)

Lucija Bakić

October 12, 2023

Pinpointing the best software solution for your agency can be hard, even when you have a shortlist of possible options.

This is why we’re bringing you an in-depth overview of three popular agency and project management software solutions: Trello vs Wrike vs Productive. To help you make the best decision, we’ll compare these tools by their main features and explore how users feel about them by referencing first-hand reviews.

By reading this article, we hope you’ll get one step closer to finding the tool with the project management features you need to support your agency operations. Let’s start with a brief comparison and introduction to each of these solutions.

Trello vs Wrike vs Productive: A Short Overview

A lot of project and agency management software solutions can look similar at first glance. After all, they all target roughly the same audience and provide certain project planning and task management features. Although the differences can be slight, it doesn’t mean that they’re not important.

Therefore, let’s start with a short overview of each software tool and its key features.

Starting with Trello, it’s an online project management tool that provides streamlined task management and workflow organizations to project managers and their teams. The key features of Trello include various project views, workspace templates, and project-specific data visualizations.


SOURCE: TRELLO

Wrike is also a project management tool for various agency teams, but it has some advanced features compared to Trello. Along with essential project management and time tracking, Wrike includes resource booking, workload management charts, and even budgeting and billing.


SOURCE: WRIKE

Compared to Trello and Wrike, Productive is different in that it’s an all-in-one agency management software. This means that it goes beyond simply supporting projects — it aims to address challenges that concern overall agency processes.

Some of Productive’s standout features, along with essential project and team collaboration support, are the following: business budgeting software, financial forecasting, real-time documentation, and an integrated Sales Pipeline for lead management.


PRODUCTIVE IS THE ALL-IN-ONE SOLUTION FOR AGENCIES, FROM SALES TO POST-COMPLETION PROJECT reports

How does this difference reflect what these tools can do for your business?

We’ll explore this question with a detailed breakdown of three core project and agency management challenges, and the benefits and downsides of using each of these solutions to address them. As the most distinct software in this article, we’ll use Productive as our baseline, and compare how Trello and Wrike perform against it. 

Now, let’s get started with the basics: project management.

Main Difference #1: Project Management

According to McKinsey, the average worker spends nearly 20% of the workweek looking for project information or trying to find colleagues who can help with specific tasks. When this information is stored in one easily searchable place, this can reduce time spent searching by as much as 35%.

With Productive, you can track project progress and project information more easily thanks to the following main features:

1. Customizable project views: Productive provides multiple ways for teams to structure their task assignments however is most suitable for them, including the following views:

  • Gantt
  • Kanban-style
  • List
  • Calendar
  • Table
  • Timeline

Wrike and Trello both give users the option to switch up their project views, though Productive offers the most options out of the three. With Wrike, you can choose between four options, including a Kanban-style and Gantt view, while Trello offers a Kanban-style, timeline, calendar, and table view.


SWITCH UP YOUR PROJECT LAYOUTS TO GET FULL VISIBILITY OF ALL TASKS

2. Streamlined task management: Productive offers efficient task management with subtasks and milestones, a task activity log that can be filtered by different update categories, customizable notifications that are stored in your inbox, easy file attachments, as well as custom fields. Wrike and Trello provide most of the same basic task management features.

However, Wrike reviews on Capterra often report that notifications are not robust enough for their needs, as well as that they’re not stored for later access, which can be inconvenient. When it comes to Trello, users have also reported some issues with notifications, namely that they “can be overwhelming at times, and it may be difficult to filter out which ones are important” (Source: Capterra).


COLLABORATE WITH CROSS-FUNCTIONAL TEAMS ACROSS MULTIPLE PROJECTS WITH INFORMATIVE TASK SCREENS

3. Flexible time tracking: When it comes to Time Tracking, both Productive and Wrike offer multiple ways for teams to manage their hours, including a live timer and manual input. A perk of Productive is that the timer can be placed on your desktop, so you don’t have to switch between tabs just to start or stop your tracking. Additionally, if you book workloads using Productive’s resource management, you can automatically generate time entries for your teams. On the other hand, Trello doesn’t come with built-in agency time tracking software but instead offers various integrations to provide this feature.


WITH PRODUCTIVE, YOU CAN COMBINE ADVANCED FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT WITH SIMPLIFIED PROJECT MANAGEMENT

4. Easy-to-use templates: With all three tools, you can create and store project and task templates to get quicker management for future projects. With Trello, you can also access community-based templates for various project types, including those for project management for graphic designers and software development boards.

Users of Productive report the following:

The one thing that we never had before that I really like is the ability to almost templatize our projects. We created a sample project that has all of our standard processes built into it. Whenever we start a new project, it’s something we can clone. Since the process has been baked into the tool and we clone it, the chances of people following the process and not missing critical details has been a huge win.

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Why Is Trello So Popular?

When it comes to project management features, Trello can be a good pick because of its simplicity. It provides a highly visual interface that can be suitable for teams of creatives or newcomers to project management tools. Trello can even serve as a good option for creative agency project management software.

Why is Wrike Considered a Top Choice for Project Management Software?

Wrike can be a solid pick for a project management solution, as it offers most of the basic features that teams need for a streamlined project management process. Despite some smaller shortcomings, users generally enjoy Wrike for work organization and collaboration.

Trello vs Wrike vs Productive: Project Management Overview

All three tools can be a suitable pick for project management. Trello is the option with the most streamlined user interface, which can be a good choice for simple projects. However, larger teams with more robust teams might outgrow this tool quickly:

The only issue I really see here is the fact that this software is obviously built for someone who is just starting out, or only has a team of, at most, five people.

Source: Capterra

When it comes to Wrike and Productive, users will generally not go wrong by picking either solution for this category. Wrike users may have outlined some minor cons of the tool, but it’s altogether a suitable option for various types of projects. However, users who choose the software will have to forgo the useful budgeting features that Productive can offer, which are closely integrated into time tracking, resource planning, and all other essential project activities.

Additionally, consider that Productive offers built-in collaborative documentation and file sharing with Docs, which you can link seamlessly with your custom workflows by tagging team members and creating tasks directly from pages.


CENTRALIZE YOUR PROJECT AND AGENCY DOCUMENTATION ON ONE PLATFORM

Learn more on what is end to end project management and how to best support it with a tool like Productive.

Main Difference #2: Resource Management

Research shows that overcommitting and assigning people to many projects is the greatest cause of project delays. This usually results in a utilization rate of over 125% (ProSymmetry). Consider this in comparison to the optimal utilization rate:

Industry standards suggest an overall successful agency staff utilization rate should fall between 85 and 90%.

In order to be able to optimize your utilization rate, or the number of hours your teams spend doing billable work, you first need to be able to calculate it. Thankfully, with an agency and project management platform such as Productive, this can become easy.  You can track your team’s hours, manage their sick days and leave, and get insights into utilization per various key metrics: seniority, team, services, clients, and more. 

Aside from utilization insights, the most powerful feature that Productive offers is the ability to forecast various agency KPIs. First, by creating and assigning your project resources, you can create a comprehensive and highly reactive resource plan.


USE HEATMAPS TO GET A QUICK VISUAL INDICATOR OF YOUR TEAM’S WORKLOADS

Then, once you’ve allocated your resources, you can forecast your budget spend until the end of the project to check whether you’ll stay in the green or cross into the red. Then, by switching to the profitability view, you can also forecast your profit margins. If you input any changes into your plan, these charts will update in real time to reflect them. This lets you stay one step further and ensures that you can communicate accurate information to your clients, which can significantly improve client relationships.

I think that in project management there’s a tendency to focus solely on profitability, but it’s inevitable that projects will go over budget, and that’s ok. However, it’s important to have transparency on where that stands, and Productive gives us that visibility.

Amy Nichols,
Director of Operations AT Seven2

Forecasting can also be applied to your utilization: you can forecast your availability across different teams or agency skill sets to determine whether you have enough resources to take on a new project and decide whether you need to start hiring more talent.

That’s a key thing that we get out of the reports that really feeds into our utilization and resourcing. If we know we’re doing 30% on internal projects, then we know we’ve got the capacity to take on more client work.

Brendon Nicholas,
Co-founder and Technical Director AT DotDev

Learn more about the importance of resource planning.

Why Use Trello & Why Not?

In comparison to Productive, Trello doesn’t offer specialized resource scheduling and management features. It does provide support with workload allocation by providing you easy visibility into tasks with custom cards, as well as reporting dashboards that let you visualize assignments per team members and due dates for better project scheduling. However, this support is very lightweight in comparison to more robust resource planning tools.

Why Is Wrike So Good?

Compared to Trello, Wrike offers somewhat more advanced support for resource planning. With resource bookings, Wrike lets project managers request resources from team leads, which helps them evaluate the demand for particular types of skills or job roles. This also supports easier workload visualization and balancing.

You can also check out our list of the best workforce planning software.

Trello vs Wrike vs Productive: Resource Management Overview

When it comes to resource management, Wrike and Productive are both more in-depth solutions in comparison to Trello, which follows the streamlined Kanban-style project management tool approach in this regard. Although Wrike does include some essential features for workforce scheduling, some user reviews have reported that Wrike’s interface can be difficult to manage at times:

In contrast to other platforms, the interface is not as visually appealing, and the layout can be more challenging to navigate.

Source: Capterra

Additionally, Productive’s fully-fledged resource map is more comprehensive in comparison, as it includes days off and gives full resourcing visibility, which is particularly useful for complex projects. Finally, Productive’s forecasting is also more robust, which helps anticipate and resolve roadblocks on large-scale projects, as well as those with a narrower scale:

Now we’re able to now see out into the future—far more than we were ever able to see before.

HEATHER SCHNEIDER,
SENIOR VP OF PRODUCTION AT 4SITE INTERACTIVE STUIDOS

Therefore, if you’re considering a solution on the basis of its resource management capabilities, our vote in this category would go to Productive.

Main Difference #3: Financial Management

According to data from the PM World Journal, 55% of project managers cite budget overruns as the reason for project failure. Additionally, one in six IT projects has a 200% cost overrun. Projects can surpass their scope and budget for a variety of reasons, including unrealistic expectations set during the initiation phase.

However, cloud-based project management tools can significantly minimize the bad effects this can have on client relationships and the operations of the agency providing the services.

Productive supports advanced financial management by taking a budget-first approach to projects. When creating new projects on the platform, you immediately associate a budget with it, whether it’s priced hourly, fixed, or mixed. Productive’s Budgeting also supports retainer projects with the recurring budget feature, which lets you set dates and occurrences for budgets to generate automatically.

For complex projects, you can also split up your budgeting into phases to get simpler money management. This also means that team members will be tracking their hours directly across budgets, immediately generating key data such as billable vs non-billable hours.


UNLOCK VALUABLE AGENCY INSIGHTS WITH PRODUCTIVE’S BUDGET MANAGEMENT

Productive’s budgeting also includes support for Invoicing. Pull the remaining amounts directly from your budgets on the platform and generate brand-friendly bills that you can send directly from the platform. If you’re working on an hourly-priced project, you can even attach your timesheets directly to the invoice to speed up the approval process, improving your cashflow in the long term.

Users of Productive report that:

Between the recurring templates that I use and standard line item options, doing the invoicing for 30-40 clients each month in Productive takes me a couple of hours tops.

LORE HAMILTON,
PROGRAM MANAGER AT RIETTA   

Additionally, Productive’s Reporting provides managers with a library of more than 50 agency-focused project templates. With custom fields, your reports can be additionally populated with parameters that are not tracked by the platform.

Reports can be easily turned into visualizations, arranged on a private or shared dashboard, or even synced up with your team’s or external emails so that updated data is delivered on a regular basis. 


CHOOSE BETWEEN SIX POSSIBLE VISUALIZATIONS TO DISPLAY YOUR DATA: Column, Line, Area, Bar, Donut, or Metric

The Benefits and Downsides of Trello

Trello doesn’t support integrated project budgeting or invoicing. There are some board templates that support the manual entry and calculation of data. Additionally, there’s an expense-tracking integration that can export your data to Excel. However, these processes can be liable to human error, whereas project management systems can deliver these calculations at a lower time cost, and with a higher degree of accuracy.

When it comes to reporting, on its own, Trello offers some basic project-specific data and visualizations that can be useful for lightweight projects, but lack the deeper insights that are necessary for mid-sized and larger agencies.

What Is Unique About Wrike?

In comparison with Trello, Wrike is one step higher when it comes to the financial elements of project management. With Wrike, you get essential project budget management which allows you to check your billable and non-billable hours, manage hourly rates on the platform, as well as generate invoices.

For reporting, Wrike provides all of the support you would expect from similar solutions, with shareable dashboards and data visualizations. Users often report that they enjoy that Wrike provides useful reports on team performance and project tasks. However, some of the reviews state that in other aspects, Wrike’s reporting capabilities can be somewhat subpar, especially when it comes to customization options:

Although the pre-built reports are useful in most cases, I found the limited customization capability to be a barrier for those who require a higher level of customization in this area.

Source: Capterra

If you’re considering Wrike as a budgeting solution, it’s useful to keep in mind that this feature is currently only available for the most advanced, custom subscription plan, which might be inaccessible to agencies of smaller sizes. In comparison, Productive offers budgeting as a basic functionality with its most affordable business plan.

Trello vs Wrike vs Productive: Financial Management Overview

We’ve approached financial management through the lens of two crucial features: budgeting support and reporting. When it comes to Trello, although it has some capabilities for adding basic integrations to expand its features, it doesn’t quite reach the level of advanced analytics that some more robust popular project management tools do. 

Wrike is next up, as it offers some essential support for budgeting and the creation of real-time reports. However, it may come at a higher price than comparable tools that are more financially oriented.

Finally, Productive is by far the most budgeting-focused tool, as it integrates it closely with other features such as project management and time tracking. Additionally, as part of its accounting support, Productive also offers Purchase Orders, which help you manage your external expenses and keep track of payments to suppliers directly from the platform.


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Finally, consider the forecasting capability, which was covered in more detail under the resource management section, but is equally important for financial management. Users frequently highlight the ability to view and forecast their profitability as the selling point of the platform:

From a managerial point of view, the main benefit of the tool is seeing your profitability in real time. It’s there. We don’t have to calculate it or ask for financial reports from our accountant.

Nika Serdoner,
Project Manager AT ENKI

Having all of this in mind, if you’re looking for a tool that can provide accurate forecasts and support your agency’s financials, Productive is your best pick. 

Trello vs Wrike vs Productive Takeaway: Which Management Software To Choose

There’s no clear answer to questions such as, “Is Tool X better than Tool Y?”, as all agency tools are built for a particular purpose. Therefore, Trello, Wrike, and Productive can all be a good pick depending on your agency’s needs.

The real question is: What does my agency need, and how can this tool help?

In short, Trello can be a great choice for startups and agencies with smaller teams that are mainly interested in boosting team productivity with real-time updates for tasks. Because it’s so simple in how it provides project visibility, it can be good for visual thinkers, such as teams of creatives (learn more about creative project management software).

When it comes to Wrike, it has many of the same useful features as Trello, but because it offers some additional capabilities such as resource management and budgeting, it does tend to be more complicated to learn. Some users find it hard to navigate, though most report that this issue is resolved once they’re used to the tool. 

Finally, Productive combines most of the features offered by Trello and Wrike, and provides some additional functionalities such as financial forecasting, collaborative documentation, and an integrated sales pipeline. In comparison to the previous two tools, it’s the only unified agency management software solution.

Therefore, if you’re looking for comprehensive support for your daily processes, or you want to dig deeper into the financial side of your business, consider booking a demo with Productive today.

FAQ

Is Wrike better than Trello?

Both Wrike and Trello can be good options for tracking your project progress, depending on what your agency’s needs and priorities are. For example, if you’re looking for a way to streamline communication between team members and get project visibility with simple Kanban-style boards, Trello might be a better pick than Wrike. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in additional management features, such as resource management and budgeting, Wrike can be a better choice.

Finally, if you’re looking to really lean into your financial considerations and optimize your workflows with a unified solution, consider an all-in-one agency management software such as Productive.

Do big companies use Trello?

Big companies can use Trello, especially for certain projects or specific teams that are more used to simpler project management software and work organization tactics. However, the tool is more commonly recommended for startups and smaller businesses, as agencies with more complex needs might find themselves needing more robust overall support.

Who is Trello’s closest competitor?

There are a couple of possible Trello competitors, depending on the features you consider as the most important. For example, a similarly simple tool with Kanban-style task management and agile methodology support is Asana. If we’re looking for an option that expands upon Trello’s workflow and collaboration features, some popular competitors are Wrike and Productive.

Related: Wrike vs Asana vs Productive

Do project managers use Trello?

Yes, project managers can use Trello to manage their team’s assignments by adding deadlines and tracking status updates, connecting them with subtasks, and viewing all assigned cards to balance workloads. With templates, agencies that work in a fast-paced environment, such as digital marketing agencies, can easily start organizing their next projects.

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Lucija Bakić

Content Specialist

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