A Small to Medium Business (SMB) is best served by taking their project management to the cloud. Viewpath, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based project management platform, should enter the list of potential choices because it offers familiar tools, accessibility, powerful reporting options, and can even serve as a bridge into agile development.
Viewpath is available in three editions: Starter (Free), Team, and Professional (pricing information). The good folks at Viewpath set me up with a trial of the Professional Edition for the purposes of this review. I also had the opportunity to speak with the company's CEO, Dean Carlson, on two occasions to learn more about the product.
When you first open Viewpath, it gives you the option to follow an interactive tutorial. The tutorial can be valuable if your plan is to extend Viewpath to users outside traditional project management roles. The tutorial was hard to read on a laptop, so you might want to increase the tutorial's font size (or at least put in that option).
The project timeline/Gantt chart in Viewpath (Figure A) shows it got a lot of attention from the developers. Creating and inserting tasks into the Gantt chart is very fluid and easy to follow. Viewpath also works well with constraints. The Drag-and-Drop scheduling available in the Gantt chart should help bridge the gap for the novice or occasional project management tools users.
An example of the Gantt chart in Viewpath. (See an enlarged view of the image.)
I really like the fact you can have multiple projects open at once in Viewpath's tabbed interface. When you add a new project, you have the option to create a brand new project or create a project from an existing project.
Importing Microsoft Project files is handled under the Projects tab. A test import of a large Microsoft Project (*.mpp) file was quick and clean. I also give the import extra points because I was able to update the year from 2007 to 2013 with a few clicks.
Reports and allocation
In the Reports tab, Viewpath users have many reports at their disposal (reports democratize project management information, in my opinion). You can run reports based on a number of scheduling factors, including: Assignee, Start and Finish date and times, Complete, Milestones, Backlog.
You have the option to save reports you frequently use or choose a canned report. Figure B shows a report of Overdue tasks across all the projects I created in Viewpath.
Viewpath Reports tab (See an enlarged view of the image.)
While the Reports UI is very clean and visually pleasing, it will be interesting to look at Viewpath after a few more releases to see if they can reduce the number of clicks it takes to access saved reports.
Lean project teams are the nature of the beast in many companies these days, but people have their limits. Getting a view into personnel allocation can be critically important to a SMB. The Allocations tab provides a clear view into how your employees are scheduled on projects. Figure C shows an example of how over allocation appears in Viewpath.
Over allocation in Viewpath. (See an enlarged view of the image.)
The Projects tab (Figure D) is probably one of the most useful views in Viewpath. In fact, I wonder why the Viewpath developers didn't make it the opening page of the application instead of the current welcome page.
Projects tab in Viewpath. (See an enlarged view of the image.)
From the Projects tab, you can view the status of the project, a timeline, or Burn Down of the projects you have underway.
By tracking employee hours and billing effectively, an SMB gains two more tools to prosper. The Viewpath Timesheet should be of interest to any SMB that needs a better tool for tracking employee billable hours. You need to be realistic and judicious about inputting project hours into your schedules to get the most out of this feature.
Document storage and discussion threads are only available in Viewpath Team Edition. These features aren't part of this review.
While you can share tasks in the Viewpath Professional Edition, you must be using the Viewpath Team Edition if you want collaboration features. I'm sure there is a reason behind this product feature version alignment, but it potentially puts Viewpath at a disadvantage against LiquidPlanner, Wrike, and Teambox, all of which support team collaboration across all their product versions.
Viewpath supports Sprints, enabling your team to focus on development tasks for a set time period (two weeks). Then you can use the Burn Down chart to track actual work vs. planned work.
Viewpath is one of my top choices for an SMB or project team that want to make the move to agile development because its toolset brings the depth in features that can certainly aid in such a transition without feeling like you have to scrap your toolset.
The only major omission I see in Viewpath is the lack of a mobile app. There are also some user interface areas to be tweaked, but it's nothing a few more iterations of the application can't cure.
If your SMB is seeking a SaaS-based project management solution, I recommend taking Viewpath out for a trial, especially if you want a familiar set of tools and a move to agile development is in your future.
Will Kelly is a technical and marketing communications writer based in the Washington, DC area. He has written about SMB technology, data center management, project management applications, mobile computing, Microsoft Office, and productivity applications for online and print technology publications. You can reach Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.