6 Considerations When Moving to a Web-based Project Management Tool

37 Comments

Like many web workers, I cut my project management teeth on applications like Microsoft Project (s msft) 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?

37 Comments

Christine

We ended going with Projecturf (www.projecturf.com) since it is intuitive and easy to use with our clients. The design really stands out compared to many of the other available options and the workflow makes the most sense.

skat004

I couldn’t agree more with the point about Microsoft Project Compatibility. If i’m using another piece of software I still might need to import/export docs created using MS Project.

Ben Prendergast

Actually, I shouldn’t have suggested any affiliation, it was just a thought.

However have you seen our new version 4 out now? We have a free trial available, definitely ping me in any case, I’d like to hear more about what your base level requirements are as we’re always refining the product for different verticals.

Mark Etting

Ben – I’d be a little more careful about posting such accusational “thoughts”. It might rub some people the wrong way.

Mark Etting

Ben – I’m trying to select a project management tool for freelance work I do and am not in any way affiliated with any of them. I looked at Copper Project months ago but am still looking for the one that best fits my needs.

Simon Mackie

I do sincerely hope that you are not accusing us of “postvertising”? If we ever had a sponsored post (and we haven’t posted one in the year that I’ve been in charge here) it would be clearly stated as such.

We might do a fuller review of Copper Project at some point, but PM tools are a particularly crowded market and we only have limited resources. Often, the products we review are reviewed because one of our team is actually using it in a live project, but AFAIK no one on the team is using Copper Project.

Mark Etting

I just discovered SantexQ and was wondering if anyone had any experience with it or if WWD will one day post a review.

Simon Mackie

there are a *lot* of PM tools available, which as you have seen makes it tricky to pick one. We might get around to reviewing this one at some point, but we only have limited resources.

BG

We’ve been using Deskaway but haven’t fully committed. Our main objectives are the ability to track tasks/milestones and keep clients in the loop. Economics is important as well.

We’ve also used Basecamp, which is nice. I just wish there was one dashboard page where you could see all projects/tasks at once in a spreadsheet format. If a task or milestone was completed, it would simply show the date in that cell.

Storage Solutions

Have to agree with many above comments, ease of use is paramount to me when considering web based PM tools. I have found that in competitive market segments such as these “bells and whistles” become way to important for sales purposes. And we customers are at fault as well as we fall for those “bells and whistles” that we will in fact never use.

I don’t have a “dog in this hunt” per se but give me ease of use and I am happy. In addition, I also see social media and mobile client coming on with a full head of steam soon to be “must haves” instead of “would be nice to have” on the web based PM tool front. Nice comments by the readers. And great post Will…informative and thoughtful. Until next time. Bravo!

Dina Garfinkel

I second Lisa that true project scheduling was a major factor for me and the reason I first moved to LiquidPlanner in 2008. (http://www.liquidplanner.com). Migrating our projects over from MS Project to LP was pretty easy, and in the time I’ve been using LP they’ve added a nice pile of great collaboration and other features. And, yes, not only do I use their product, I’ve also started to do some social media evangelism for them on the side. What can I say, I’m a true believer in their product!

Cynthia Siemens

I’ve used Project Insight with a couple of different clients, and everyone seems to feel that it bridges the gap between managers and other team members. Outlook and Project integration seem to make a big difference when it comes to adoption and learning curve. http://www.projectinsight.net

Cynthia Siemens

Hi–not hiding anything. I do some contract work for the makers of Project Insight involving their clients. Those are the projects I mentioned and the clients have had really good experiences. I’ve also used Basecamp and Harvest on other projects, and they have their place.

Gil Heiman

Very interesting Cynthia! Counted almost 10 posts of yours over the web promoting ProjectInsight but could not find anything about you doing contract work in this space nor were you complementing Harvest or Basecamp…
Readers are not that clueless.

Cynthia Siemens

Gil, I’m not sure why you’re so interested in this. I don’t need to mention my contract work every time I talk with other project managers about projects I’ve managed. At any rate, what I post is my truthful opinion.

Cynthia Siemens

Gil, if you’re really interested, you can look at the Uniloc.com website or the Magnify360.com website for examples of projects managed with Basecamp and Harvest. I really think this thread is not interesting to anyone but you and me, though, so let’s end it here.

John

Take a look at Intervals as a PM option. We built it after going through the recommended steps and not coming up with anything (granted, that was four years ago and there are a lot more options now).

Anyways, the portability from MS Project is one step that can probably be ignored. We used to use MS Project exclusively and eventually abandoned it altogether. Yeah, we had to replicate the data in our web-based app, but MS Project was such overkill that it was the best route we could take.

Priyanka D

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.

Gil Heiman

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

Ben Prendergast

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.

Brenda

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

Simon Mackie

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.

Brenda

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.

Chris

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.

PM Hut

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.

BG

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

Anne

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.

Tom

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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