The web has opened us up to collaborative work on a global scale. On any given project, we may work with contractors around the globe. But managing that collaboration requires a tool, or set of tools, that allows asynchronous communication and information sharing. Picking the right Project Management software is an important decision, and the final choice of tool is going to be highly dependent on both your management style and business needs. Quite some time ago, I posted my list of the 5 best web based project management / collaboration tools. That list has proven to be one of the more popular posts on this blog, but the landscape has changed a lot, even in the last year. So, after taking another look at my own workflow, and checking to see if there are any new tools out there that more closely fit my needs, here’s an updated list of some of my favorite Project Management software for 2013.
Many, if not most, project management tools on the web, are more suited to the concept of “Collaboration”, rather than “Project Management”. These tools are more about file sharing and communicating with remote team members, rather than Gannt charts and task dependencies. ProjectManager.com remedies this situation. While the common collaboration tools are present, this tool really focuses on “Project Management”. Gannt charts, Work Breakdown Structures, task dependencies, and the ability to manage resources really set this tool apart. Coming from a background in Mechanical Engineering, I can definitely see using it to manage capital projects in an industrial setting, and in fact, this was the PM suite for NASA’s Mars Rover mission. It does have all of the file sharing and communication features of other collaboration tools, so you won’t miss out on that, but the ability to generate project baselines, handle resource leveling, and track budgets right there in the app makes this one of the few really good Project Management tools available on the web. If you’re a Mech. E. designing a robotic manufacturing line, or a Civil engineer building a bridge, you’re going to be happy with this software.
Collabtive was on the original list, and it’s software that I used myself for quite a while. Collabtive bills itself as “cloud based groupware”, and it’s really more of a To-Do list on steroids with file sharing capabilities than a full blown project management suite. With that being said, I like Collabtive because its simple to use, and an open source version is available for download. They also offer a hosted version with pricing from 9€ to 39€ per month. Collabtive’s major features include Projects, Milestones, Tasks, Basecamp import, Timetracking & Reporting.
What collaboration article would be complete without talking a bit about BaseCamp. BaseCamp is another tool that I really have a hard time calling a Project Management tool. It’s really all about sharing information, files, task lists, etc… You’re not going to see a Gannt chart in BaseCamp, but it does have powerful tools for communication and sharing. It also has strong email integration, and mobile apps for both iOS and Android. To me, BaseCamp is a good tool for creatives, teams who need to do a lot of communicating and whose deliverables might be something like a Press Release or a Web Design. It’s fairly expensive, though, with pricing ranging from $20 to $150 monthly.
ToDoYu is a new addition to the list. It’s an open source product, which I like, so you can download it and install it on your own server. The company behind it offers premium add-ons such as a billing module. ToDoYu feels a little closer to a project management tool, given it’s structure. Of course, it has the obligatory file sharing and shared calendars, but it also offers some more structured charting and reporting tools. I always like open source tools, and this one is a pretty good tool that walks the line between something that’s really built for collaboration, and a more traditional project management tool.
OnStage is another tool that’s back from the original list. The free version of OnStage has no restrictions, although it does place some rather obtrusive ads throughout the interface. If you can get past the ads, then OnStage is a pretty powerful project management tool. It is comparable to most other project management tools in features. The only real downside to OnStage is the ads, which are fairly confusing for a client to see when he or she first logs in.
Finally, just a few words about one of my favorites that had to be taken off the list this year. ClockingIT was a really tremendous piece of software, but it’s a personal project of the developer, and recently he hasn’t been able to support it as strongly as I know he would like. There is an open source fork of the project, though, called JobsWorth, and it’s located at: http://github.com/ari/jobsworth.