Monday, October 21, 2013

Project management (online) tools

I am currently looking for a tool to centralize project management across the group. I asked on twitter for suggestions and received a number useful tips. In case this is of use to others here are a few notes I took when exploring of few of these options. The features I am particularly interested are: low/no set-up or upkeep requirements, intuitive use, rich project notebooks with the possibility to add images and back-up support. Nice features to have: possibility to share with public; integration with Dropbox and/or Google Drive.

Here are the notes in no particular order with my preferences at the end.

Simple, intuitive and well designed project management and collaboration tool. Each project can have: project updates (activity list), text documents (simple text documents, cannot add images), To-do lists (linked to the calendar); discussion items (text and embedded images that can stand-alone or be linked to any other item including other discussions). Group view can quickly show you updates across all projects you are involved in. The group and projects view is great but it would be nicer to have notebooks within each project as implemented in Evernote. Discussions can be used as notebooks but they get mixed in with comments on any item such as a to-do list item. All projects can be downloaded for back-up but automation required 3rd party service or coding via the API. iOS app available and Android via 3rd party app. No free account (60 day trail), plans start at $20/month 10 projects 3GB limit up to £3000/year unlimited projects 500GB limit. Basecamp can be extended from a list of additional services (mostly 3rd party) and they tend to cost additional fees.

Project views with to-do lists, discussions, milestones, file attachments. Dashboard view with group activity. Marketplace with additional group and project widgets to add (eg. Group chat and wiki's). Free account 20MB limit with paid accounts starting at $2.5/month for 1GB up to $40/month for unlimited storage. Fairly cheap but  below average design and somewhat sluggish.

This tool is centred on the idea of notebooks (collections of notes). Notes can contain text, embedded images, to-do lists, voice clips. Has a stand-alone program that facilitates copy-paste actions into the notebooks (mac and windows but works well under wine). Notebooks from free accounts cannot be edited by others. Premium accounts (£35 per year) can have notebooks edited by others. One premium account could be used to centralise group notebooks. Business accounts (£8.00/user/month) are needed to have group management features. Limited tools for group interactions (no comments, chat, activity dashboard) when compared with others.

Free but but requires local installation. Fully fledged project management tool: activity, roadmap, issue tracker, gannt charts,calendar, news, documents, wiki, forum, files. Recommended by several people in twitter. I only had a quick look since I would prefer an online tool without set-up.

Card concept – Each card can have Activities (could be text description of project entries), to-do lists, files, can be assigned to specific people, due-dates,Attachments including google drive and dropbox. Cards can be stacked in groups, moved around, tagged with color codes, stickers and individuals responsible for them. It looks nice but I don't like the design for project management. Android and iOS apps. 10mb standard, 250mb gold (plus additional customization features) $5/month or $45 per year

Dashboard concept; Users can be assigned to projects. Dashboard view has the list of tasks and notifications for the day. Projects can have activities, conversations tasks, notes, files and members. Notes would be were the project/sub-project/task notes could be added. Notes have version history and can be shared to public. Images can be embedded in the notes. Additional group tools: calendar , gantt chart, time tracking, video conference (by Zoom). Pro accounts also have workload and group chat. iOS and Android apps available. Free - 5 users/5 projects – Pro accounts are $5 per user per month (annual- 20% discount, two years – 30% discount) with unlimited projects. dropbox integration, workload views, group chat functionality and priority support.

Project management with a specific focus on science labs. Very large number of features including: dashboard with activity feed, projects (organized into past/present/future milestones, notes with embedded and resizeable images, attachments, pubmed integration, automatic report generation), lab equipment/reagents inventory. Organizing science into milestones makes more sense than into tasks as it fits more the spirit of research versus engineering. Android and iOS apps meant to be used to follow protocols, take pictures, check storage, etc.  Overkill for a computational group.  Not very smooth as every action results in a full webpage refresh. Expensive ($12 per person/month, yearly billing).

Dashboard view and project view. Projects have: overview, calendar, tasks, tickets, time (could be useful for contract work or grant reporting issue), files, conversations and notes. Files can be integrated with Google drive and dropbox. Notes can have embedded images. Pricing starts at 5 projects, 5GB $20/month up to unlimited projects, 100GB for $200/month (1 month free for annual billing). Very directed towards engineering code based projects.

My favourites at this point are Basecamp, Teambox and Evernote. Evernote is clearly lacking as as group tool but has a nice focus on notebooks (as in lab notebooks). Basecamp is more polished and intuitive than Teambox but is missing a proper "notebook" within each project and is somewhat expensive. Teambox is not as well designed as Basecamp but should work well, is cheaper and has integration with Google drive.