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Summary:

Like many web workers, I cut my project management teeth on applications like Microsoft Project and OmniGroup OmniPlan — I respect the role of the Gantt chart. However, project management is no longer just the domain of the project manager — it should involve everyone on […]

Like many web workers, I cut my project management teeth on applications like Microsoft Project and OmniGroup OmniPlan — I respect the role of the Gantt chart. However, project management is no longer just the domain of the project manager — it should involve everyone on the team. Web-based project management tools like Basecamp, LiquidPlanner (reviewed by Mike), Team Effect (reviewed by Charles) and Teambox (reviewed by Meryl) democratize project management data and make it available for everyone.

If you’re moving to a web-based project management tool from MS Project, which one of the many available do you choose? Here are some considerations to take into account:

  • Microsoft Project compatibility. The first thing is to ensure that you choose a web tool that is compatible with Microsoft Project so that you can use your existing project data.
  • Multiple views into project data. In my experience, the Gantt chart can seem intimidating to some team members. As such, I recommend looking for a web-based project management tool that has a wide selection of views into project status (like calendar-, task- and timeline-based views), besides the venerable Gantt chart.
  • Flexible subscriptions. One of the limitations of Microsoft Project can be the expense of the licenses. Many web-based project management tools like LiquidPlanner and Zoho Projects work on a subscription model, which offer a level of flexibility you just can’t find with traditional desktop software licensing. Project teams can scale up and scale down their subscription as members join and leave the team. If you rely on contractors and freelancers, you can set them up with a subscription and close it out when their project work is complete.
  • Social media component. With social media becoming a growing element of project team communications, it should be an integral feature in web-based project management tools. I recommend looking for a web-based tool that has social media components to augment team communication about project status and scheduling matters. Developing an internal dialog about project scheduling and status is one of the best ways to keep the project on track.
  • Online document storage and collaboration. Today’s projects generate a lot of project artifacts and documents. While it can be easy to let your project team stash documents in their email inboxes and local hard drives, choosing a web-based project management tool with its own document storage and collaboration features means that project artifacts can be accessed easily and won’t get lost.
  • Mobile client/accessibility. Considering a web-based project management tool that has mobile accessibility or even its own mobile client means you and your team can stay in touch with the project at all times.

What are your requirements for a web-based project management tool?

  1. Our main requirement was the ease of use. We just don’t have time to train everybody yet another tool. So it helps a lot when the product is intuitive.

    We ended up going with 5pm (http://www.5pmweb.com) because of that.

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  2. I’m with Tom on ease of use. If you can’t get people to commit to a system, then it loses its effectiveness. People start working around the system instead of using it.

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  3. It would be nice to have a table comparing the features of all these PM tools together (including the pricing). Will probably help people to choose.

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    1. I’ve started creating a Google Doc spreadsheet for comparison purposes.

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  4. Simplicity of client interaction is my most essential consideration. My team and I can figure out the nuts and bolts of a project management system, but if the client can’t interact with the project, it’s over.

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  5. My top requirement is true project scheduling, not just guesstimated milestones. So http://liquidplanner.com gets my vote.

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  6. Believe it or not, there are a whole lot of professional project managers around the world that do not use MS Project. Shocking as it may be.

    Therefore, your first bullet: “The first thing is to ensure that you choose a web tool that is compatible with Microsoft Project so that you can use your existing project data.”, does not apply.

    Thanks in part to Microsoft Project, a lot of people believe project management is about Gantt charts. I mean, it’s the first thing you see when you open the program.

    There is a very good article over at the Key Stakeholders Blog about this very thing:

    http://www.KeyStakeholdersBlog.com

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    1. there may be some project managers who don’t use Project, but if you actually read the article, it says “If you’re moving to a web-based project management tool from MS Project”, so the first point very much applies.

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      1. Simon, I read the article.

        I simply said, for those many professional project managers world wide who do not use MS Project, the first bullet point does not apply.

        I don’t know how else to phrase this so you understand.

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  7. With Copper, we designed the tool from the ground up to suit both spheres of Project Management, the creative people who need to get their stuff done, and the people who need to ensure that the project at large is on track. So many tools don’t represent both sides, while still remaining relevant.

    Will Web Worker Daily please review http://www.copperproject.com its widely recognised as a key competitor to the basecamps/MS Projects of this world without being mentioned in articles like these.

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  8. Since many existing users of MS Project often seek to leverage much of the hard work they already put into a detailed project plan, a key feature in their next PM solution of choice, is the ability to import Microsoft project files. Clarizen supports this and makes the transition very easy to a SaaS based online project management solution. Once bidding farewell to MS Project…it’s a completely different ballgame. Clarizen is clearly targeted at project teams, not only managers, and achieves this by providing an inviting interface and functionality where all team members feel comfortable and, believe it or not, even enjoy it.
    By the way, http://www.toptenreviews.com has a decent analysis and comparison of PM solutions: http://online-project-management-review.toptenreviews.com/clarizen-review.html

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  9. Social media components allow a higher interaction, helps team building. We have a blog and microblogging feature for this very reason in our web based project management tool.

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  10. Please be aware that you can open MS Project files on-line on http://www.amiproject.com and share it using File/Share

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