Project Management

Five cloud-based PM tools to suit a wide range of projects

Learn about Zoho Projects, Planbox, ProWorkflow, Basecamp, and Milestone Planner to determine if one of the project management tools might be the right fit for your client.

Suggesting alternatives to Microsoft Project for large companies that are dedicated to formal project management (PM) is kind of like suggesting alternatives to Microsoft Office. The reaction will be about the same: "Yeah, that's cute, but we have that covered."

But as a consultant, you may find yourself working with clients that don't have a formal Project Management Office (PMO), have no investment in a PM framework or technology, and frankly find the whole discipline a little bothersome. Still, you have details to wrangle and communications to keep clear. Enter the cloud, and about a million companies offering varying levels of PM functionality with no ramp-up costs or long-term commitment.

The economic upside to cloud PM tools is obvious (particularly if you just need to write a three-month subscription into your pass-along costs), but another key benefit is the wide range of tools that are available. Not every client wants to see a Gantt chart - in fact, some of them are going to balk at the notion of weird, gear-headed PM lingo. The cloud lets you shop not only for short-term PM solutions, but the right fit for a client's culture and needs.

In this post, I highlight five cloud-based products that reflect the wide range of options in the market. You can always go for a hosted Microsoft Project service or take a look at the heralded Tom's Planner, which is a great tool that will cover almost any PM need. Whatever you decide, be sure the solution includes SSL-level data security (for some products, that's an upsell point) and easy export to CSV format - some people are not happy with anything but a spreadsheet.

Zoho Projects

The Zoho Projects toolset is about as comprehensive as you are likely to find in a cloud-based PM tool, and is ideal if you are orchestrating a project (or projects) across a virtual team of internal and external resources. It's a safe bet that much of the available functionality is an offshoot of Zoho's cloud-based CRM suite. There's actually a built-in Wiki (remember those?) and Chat option; overkill for smaller projects, but a nice add-on if you (or your client) wants to ensure all communication is captured. There's also a meeting scheduler that ties into the work calendar that offers more flexibility than simply setting up meetings as tasks.

A built-in meeting scheduler is just one of Zoho Project's comprehensive management tools - there's even an option for a chat client. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Users are unlimited on all Zoho Projects plans, which are fairly a la carte in their options. Pricing runs from $20 a month for 20 projects for the extremely limited Express plan - no task reminders to team members, for example. For about $95 a month, you get more punch across all categories, including an integrated bug-tracking platform and the ability to edit tasks in Gantt view. The monthly subscription prices are higher.

Planbox

Planbox is a business-centric tool that uses the language "initiative" instead of "project" to describe those collections of work you are trying to keep under control, and the mindset extends to the software's functionality. It's a good fit for anyone (say, a consultant) who wants to track the cost benefit of an effort. You can assign dollar values and weighting points, in addition to standard importance rating for tasks. File attachments (another must for almost any PM software) are a tad hidden, but they are there.

Tasks in Planbox can be assigned dollar values and a wide range of ranking criteria, driving a bottom-line approach to project evaluation. (Click the image to enlarge.)

An iteration model allows you to replicate work frameworks and tasks over multiple time periods. You could, depending on how fastidious you are, use this feature to simply block out a recurring monthly gig, such as scheduled QA or freelance writing (if you are really crazy). Reports include planned vs. unplanned work and iteration burndown - again, very business-centric.

Pricing for Planbox is on a per-user model, at about $4 a seat monthly.

Read about three more cloud-based PM tools.

About

Ken Hardin is a freelance writer and business analyst with more than two decades in technology media and product development. Before founding his own consultancy, Clarity Answers LLC, Ken was a member of the start-up team and an executive with TechRe...

13 comments
Bakist
Bakist

I was using BaseCamp but its lack of a decent Note-taking feature made me move to Beesy. me, which is more a less the same software but with a focus on Notes (especially meeting notes) and with a level of process automation that is really time-saving. (if you want to know more about it: http://www.beesapps.com/beesy-me-online-platform/ )

pivotstack
pivotstack

Great list.  Another one to consider is PIVOTSTACK's Workflow (http://www.pivotstack.com).  It has lots of great cloud-based PM tools for any sized organization and project.

ProWorkflow
ProWorkflow

We've updated the $10 a month plan and renamed it SOLO, this is designed for freelancers and is now fully featured - including those client logins! Very excited to bring this to the market!   http://www.proworkflow.com/pricing/

spencerstan66
spencerstan66

I don’t see proofhub which is a SAAS PM tool. Has anyone had any experience with proofhub?

lemarchala
lemarchala

You've obviously put a lot of hard work and effort into this blog post. Kudos! There are some apps on here I'm really keen to check out like basecamp which I've heard some great things about. You might also like a simple project management software called proofhub - a tool for the freelancers amongst you!

Hal Incandenza
Hal Incandenza

Another great tool is WorkZone project management software. My company used to be big believers in Microsoft Project, but have found WorkZone to be a more simple alternative that is much more practical in some ways.

kkubova
kkubova

I miss Redmine and its fork [b] Easy Redmine [/b] here (www.easyredmine.com). Easy Redmine is web based project management software, very smart and cheap. Moreover, it has many extensions like Resource Management, Budget Plugin, etc.

Stormy7777
Stormy7777

This article is a nice touchpoint into the world of Online PM tools. I have previously used ACE and like the look and feel of some of these especially Planbox and teamworkPM. Could anyone recommend a similar feature rich Toolset for Change Management or a PM tool that contains intuitive functionality for CM?

David Meyers
David Meyers

I also recommend you task management software from Comindware. Easy & useful product with a lot of flexible notifications and reporting features. Nice solution

fongamanda
fongamanda

Thanks for writing a review about Planbox! We are continuously improving our product, so your feedback about the file attachments being a tad bit hidden has already been logged into our workflow. I'd just like to add that Planbox has an open API, which makes it easy for users to integrate 3rd party applications. My favorite is being integrated with ZenDesk, that way, we get feedback live from users and get to add comments directly into our work! If anyone having read this article has decided to give Planbox a try, please let me know. I'd love to hear from you! I'm the new community manager at Planbox. :)

John Czerwonka
John Czerwonka

I had used Basecamp for a while but I found its strive toward simplicity left too many important features off the table. TeamworkPM (http://www.teamworkpm.net/) is a great alternative if you're looking for a more full featured product. And the developers are very responsive...they release new features every month. Pricing is similar to Basecamp, free for 1 or 2 projects with reasonably priced packages as you scale up your usage. I have no affiliation with the product other than being a customer...and a big fan!

allytut
allytut

Nice roundup, Ken. Eclipse PPM (http://www.eclipseppm.com) is another example of good PPM software - it's easy to use and has a very clean interface.

TeamLab
TeamLab

Really good collection of PM tools. You may also check TeamLab ;)

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