These days, there seems to be a new product aimed at managing projects every week. Just in the last month or so, WWD has reviewed MissingLink Project Center, Zen, Zoho Projects and EasyProjects.net. Joining this parade is WizeHive, which has just released a new beta with several upgraded features.
I find a project management system indispensable. Like a lot of web workers, I’m always juggling multiple projects and clients, and such systems are the only way for me to easily track deadlines, time spent, and progress. So I’m always interested in new options, although my three-person company has been generally happy with ActiveCollab.
Thus, when I look at a product like WizeHive, I confess that I have some preconceived ideas as to how a project management system should operate. I’m not entirely sure that WizeHive would work for me, but it does include some good ideas, and the latest update offers some nice features:
- Email and Twitter integration. The folks at WizeHive understand that some people prefer to use tools with which they are familiar, rather than navigating through a web site. Thus, it’s possible to post files and comments, and to follow discussions, directly from email and Twitter.
- Desktop software. For people who’d rather have a standalone application, WizeHive offers an Adobe AIR-based client. I haven’t tried this, but it’s supposed to have the same functionality as the web app, and can be customized using the WizeHive API.
- Easy setup. The first time you log in, you’re taken through a series of screens that help you set up the basics. These screens are well-written and easy to understand; much more so than many others I’ve seen.
- Home screen. There are actually several home screens, depending on how many workspaces (sort of like meta-projects; see below) you create. Each workspace has its own home screen, marked “Recent Activity.” Here you can see messages and tasks from you or others related to the specific workspace. You can specify whether to show replies or not, and whether to limit the length of messages that are displayed. The resulting effect is somewhat like the Twitter web site. There is also a tab marked “All,” which shows activity from all workspaces.
- Task management. I like the layout and customizability of the task screen. You can choose to view just about any aspect of tasks, and arrange the display to suit.
- Version management. WizeHive automatically saves multiple versions of the same document; earlier versions can be retrieved if needed.
- Backups. WizeHive told me that they do real-time mirroring, with another mirror every 15 minutes, plus document backups through Amazon S3. I like that approach, since project management data really is mission-critical.
- Extendability. WizeHive has developed an API, and is working on an SDK, that will allow users to develop their own modules. It already has a “ratings” app for clients who need to conduct votes among project participants.
I haven’t decided if I like some features of the other WizeHive features, though. They may appeal to you more than they do to me.
- Workspaces. This is one of the features that WizeHive is most excited about. It describes workspaces as being appropriate for people who have more than one company or organization with which they work. Thus, you could have a “Company A” workspace and a “Family” workspace, each with its own color scheme, layout and set of users. I’d probably want to make each project a separate workspace, which would cause the need to scroll the tabs at the top of the screen. Luckily, it’s possible to change the order in which the tabs appear.
- Pages. Most other project management systems would call these “Projects,” but WizeHive has made Pages more open-ended. WizeHive pages can be created for aspects of a project, or they can be used to collect data on present or potential customers.
- Email archives. I’m not thrilled about getting a daily update of activities from the program, but it’s easy to turn off. I prefer RSS feeds, which WizeHive also has.
There are also some limitations in WizeHive that I’d like to see addressed. Some seem to be simple bugs, which I assume can be fixed relatively easily.
- Management of user profiles. Administrators can invite new users to share a workspace, and have control over whether they’d like the program to send invitations, or send their own. Users can create their own profiles, and add a significant amount of information. But administrators can’t edit other people’s profiles, so WizeHive can’t easily be used as a CRM solution.
- Documentation. Given that the introductory setup screens are well-written and laid out, I was surprised that I found some parts of the help system to less than clear. It could be that the help hasn’t yet caught up with the new features, so let’s hope that it will improve.
- Creating files online. WizeHive has options to create documents or spreadsheets online. These options redirect users to Zoho Writer and Zoho Sheet, respectively, but after creating and saving test documents, one has to close the Zoho window manually and refresh the WizeHive screen to see the updated list of files.
- Uploading files. WizeHive now allows uploads of up to 50 files at a time. When I tried it, however, it crashed Firefox 3.5. Their one-file-at-a-time uploader worked, but the image preview function did not display either a small GIF or a small PNG.
- Pricing. WizeHive is currently in beta (although it’s been available for over a year) and is free. The WizeHive folks told me that the plans listed on the pricing page are subject to change. Right now, they’re thinking of making the number of users for all plans unlimited, and charging for the amount of storage used and for some of the more sophisticated features. Hopefully, they’ll decide on their pricing structure soon, so that potential users can make informed decisions as to whether they want to deploy WizeHive.
Mike Levinson from WizeHive told me that he and his colleagues couldn’t find a project management system they liked. So they built one. The result is an admirable attempt at creating a very flexible system that can be used in many different ways, while giving users guidance in how best to make the most of it. However, I’m not entirely sure they’ve succeeded, as WizeHive reflects an idiosyncratic view of how to organize projects. WizeHive’s flexibility could be a great strength for some people; for others, a more structured product may work better. Nonetheless, WizeHive has potential, especially for those who haven’t used a project management system before. For those of us who are familiar with other systems, it definitely takes some time to get used to how the site is organized.
Have you used WizeHive? What project management systems do you prefer?