Three cloud-based tools provide solid project management and collaboration features
Like the global economy, the world of project management and collaboration software seems to be divided into two significant groups: the "haves" and the "have-nots".
The "haves" are the big enterprise companies that enjoy having enough of an IT budget to afford solutions such as Microsoft SharePoint and Alfresco. It's not just the money, either: they have to be big enough to actually need such comprehensive tools.
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Then there's the "have-nots," who look at such lofty tools and wistfully wonder why they can't get solutions like that for their smaller organizations.
The good news is, of course, that there are plenty of smaller (and scalable) project management and collaboration tools available for any size organization -- even individuals.
The tool class we're examining is more than a task manager -- these tools also include file management and other collaboration features that let project managers create start-to-finish platforms that project participants can use to share information, documents, and task assignments easily. Hopefully, they will let your team create on-the-fly management for projects without the big-ticket prices the "haves" will pay.
This, then, leaves out a lot of really good applications and tools such as Evernote, Remember the Milk and OmniFocus, all excellent task managers that have mobile and desktop presences that let you remember things to do and important events.
Price: Scaled (Free-$99/month)
I didn't know much about AceProject coming into the research phase of this review. Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise to see such a comprehensive project manager when I rolled into the system.
From the very first screen, I was impressed, especially with the dashboard that contained pretty much everything I needed to see about my own work. This system enables an unlimited number of users to track tasks, projects, time, and expenses in a cloud-based interface that was fast and efficient to navigate.
The AceProject sidebar enables easy access to all of these categories, so you and your fellow users can find what they need fast. You can either view tasks or projects that are only assigned to you, so there's not a lot of clutter with other projects' information getting in your way.
I was really intrigued by the time and expenses features, which let you track time spent on projects and tasks, and any additional expenses a project might have. Managers can approve time and expenses as needed. You can even generate nicely formatted time or expense reports to turn into managers.
I also liked the Portfolio feature, that gathered all the projects assigned to me in one place. It was here that I found the stand-alone Documents library, as well as access to Gantt Charts that showed task and project progress. Whole workflows could not be created per se, but it was a simple matter to assign dependencies to any task, which did pretty much the same thing, just more ad hoc.
Document management in general was relatively clear and easy to work with; the Document library was good, but it was a little hard to tell which tasks had documents assigned to them without cracking open the task itself.
I also had a chance to play with the mobile interface. All of the information about tasks and projects was presented within on the mobile platform, as well as the time tracking. Expense tracking was not available, though, but that was about all I noted as a lacking feature.
There is a lot of functionality within AceProject, and the prices were certainly right. Services are offered on a scale, starting from the free Basic service, which lets you manage two projects, 50 tasks, and provides up to 250 MB in storage space to the Gold package at $99 per month with unlimited projects and tasks and 20 GB of space. (There are intermediate options, and all accounts have unlimited users.) The AceProject site also mentioned the availability of a locally hosted version of the software, in case you would need even more oopmh.
Even at $99 per month, AceProject is a decent bargain. It pulls no punches as far as how deep it tracks users, tasks, and projects, and gives project managers a great deal of flexibility in how they can manage their work.
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