I’ve been taking a lot of demos for project management solutions and while some are well-suited for the Web worker who is looking to get a handle on multiple projects, clients and virtual team members (like Basecamp), others are geared more toward the enterprise and aren’t even priced with a smaller team in mind (like GroupSwim).
Another SaaS project management system is Clarizen, and their raison d’etre is to “embrace the team” in the virtual work process. Clarizen seems to be the direct answer to the problem of a mid-level project manager hoarding control over the Microsoft Project files and not involving team members directly in more aspects of project management. Clarizen allows different levels of engagement – from the novice who only feels comfortable participating via email to the advanced users who log into the system and interact with all of the system’s tools.
Each person on a team gets their own personalized dashboard when they enter the system based on their particular role. So a project view shows only the aspects where you have a direct role. Clarizen has a robust engine for sorting content. You can drill down to view by project type and by your specific role such as just the projects for a particular client where you are the project manager.
You can drill down on tasks as well such as just the current tasks where you are responsible. The dashboard also let’s you see a progress report on each task. Color coded icons can tell you at a glance if a project is on track (green), running the risk of derailing (orance) or off track (red). Knowing the status of a project at a glance can help you prioritize your work day.
Basically, Clarizen offers centralized view of everything you need to know in any given project and allows you to break down content using powerful filtering. Your dashboard also features a What’s New section so you have an at-a-glance view of new projects, tasks, milestones, documents, notes and posts. You also get a visual timeline or “Road Map” of each project.
Email integration let’s anyone on the team report their progress without having to log into the system. Or they can log in to see how their work ties into the project timeline but they aren’t burdened with the clutter of information on tasks that don’t pertain to them directly. This is a useful feature when some of the parts of a project are outsourced to people outside the core team – they are only exposed to the areas that pertain to their work.
While Clarizen came out last October, their 2.1 version was released about two months ago. The turbo-filtering system at the dashboard level was part of the new features as was better support for Firefox, and budget calculations integrating each team member’s hourly rate. Clarizen also opened their API to developers. The company says they will roll out even more features at the end of September, alluding to a timetracking feature that will be “unique.”
Back to Reality
Despite all of these robust features, my impression overall is that Clarizen is meant for the enterprise. Priced at $24.95 per user per month, it isn’t as pricey as GroupSwim ($150 per month for 4-15 users) but isn’t as affordable as Basecamp ($24/month for 15 projects and unlimited users). Even though Web workers have multiple clients, projects and teams – and often different people on each team – an enterprise-level solution at enterprise-level prices just doesn’t cut it.
Still, for the Web worker who is part of really large projects that can support a higher-priced project management solution, Clarizen just might be a better tool than Basecamp.
How many clients/projects and team members are you managing at any given time? What are you willing to spend on your project management solution?