We were recently given the task of evaluating different project management tools for a client. They were in the midst of using BaseCamp and wanted a tool that was more robust. Due to a lack of expertise with MS Project amongst the team and the need to share the tasks internally, we embarked on an evaluation of six different project management tools to find a more suitable tool for their needs. With a few referrals and a Google search, we decided to evaluate BaseCamp, goplan, WebOffice, DotProject, Microsoft Project, and Zoho Projects.
We assessed these tools based on a number of criteria the client viewed as necessary. They were:
- Making sure it was a shared tool – i.e. making sure it was accessible to the team from the office/home
- Making sure it included an alert/notification feature
- The ease of inputting and changing data
- The ability to assign priorities to tasks
- Ensuring the tool supported task dependencies
- The ability to comment on tasks
- Security features
- Gantt charts feature
- The ability to assign roles and responsibilities
Other nice-to-have features they were looking for included:
- The ability to sort by project or person
- A task completion feature
- Information regulation - i.e. the ability to control who modifies the information
- Multi-resource assignment - i.e. allowing more than one person to be assigned to a task
- Sharing documents with clients
Despite our client's dissatisfaction with BaseCamp, it is a popular project management tool used by over one million people and small businesses. It’s easy to use with a minimum investment required in money and training. However, it lacks many of the features listed above. Out of the necessary features our client was looking for, it did not allow tasks to be prioritized, dependencies, task comments, Gantt charts, sorting by project or person and it lacks heavy duty security capabilities. Other aspects it did not include are a task completion feature and multi-resource assignment.
GoPlan was just released this past March and has similarities to BaseCamp. Their plans range from free to $100/month. While it had most of the necessary features in the above criteria (excluding the priority tracking and Gantt charts), it did not possess any of the nice-to-haves.
WebOffice is a virtual office with collaboration features. Pricing starts at $59.95/month and go as high as $2,500/month. It included most of the features listed above with the exception of dependencies, task comments, Gantt charts, sorting by project/person, and sharing documents with clients.
DotProject is an open source program (i.e. its free, but hosting is not included). It allows you to manage several projects at once across several companies, something not offered by any of the other project management tools. DotProject also includes all the features mentioned. The program even allows you to attach files to tasks and projects. For a more detailed evaluation, visit http://software.newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=05/06/28/1956238&tid=74
Microsoft Project is another popular management tool and it included almost all the features listed above. The standard use of MS Project is on a user’s desktop. As a result, it is only considered a shared tool with Project Server and Project Web Access. Microsoft project does not support document sharing by itself and does not provide any advanced security features.
Zoho Projects was the last tool we evaluated. Pricing ranges from free for one project to $80/month for unlimited projects. The features it did not include were dependencies, security, ability to sort by project/person, the ability to regulate information, and multi-resource assignment.
As you can see, there are a number of interesting new entrants in the project management and collaboration space. This is good news for project teams looking for the right formula to match their needs. However, as one can see from this analysis, it’s difficult to find comprehensive, shared project tools that meet the specific needs of today’s distributed teams. The recommendation for our client might be different from your needs, but this should give you some ideas on how best to proceed in your evaluation.
Note: In the end, our client chose DotProject.
Update: Another tool we at Team and a Dream started using is Huddle. It has almost all the features above and the company is rolling out with new features and updates regularly. This month customers can get 5% off at Huddle for Life by using coupon code: UHGFDX. Offer valid until 28th February 2011 on all paying subscriptions or free to paid upgrades at Huddle.
Written by: Yasmine Mustafa