Social task management applications, in particular Asana, Producteev, and Do.com, are getting a lot of well-deserved attention lately. These free cloud platforms are bringing order to project teams in midsize to large enterprises. Introducing one of these applications to your small to medium business (SMB) is a key first step to getting a basic project management framework in place.
Choosing a social task management solution
Asana, Producteev, and Do.com bring the traditional task list or to-do list to the cloud. As an entry-level tool, social task management applications offer SMBs an option to centralize tasks for the entire organization and provide a familiar format for the widest audience of users. Any authorized user can then interact with workspaces, projects, and task lists in a rather free form manner. If your SMB is struggling to stay organized on projects and other initiatives, going with a social task management platform is a definite first step to achieving a project focus.
Some common features of social task management solutions include:
- Secure workspaces that you can lock down to teams or departments
- Projects (lists of task items) that reside in the secure workspaces
- Limited scheduling tools (date, time, and reminder) for tasks
- Audit trail for tasks (date and time added and then modified by the assignee)
- Tagging of tasks
- Sharing of tasks and task lists
- Favorite particular task(s) in a project
- Comments and feedback on tasks and task list
- Email reminders about tasks
- Integration with Google Calendar
These features can give everybody in an SMB a singular view into what's going on across different projects and business activities. Here are reasons why a social task management solution might be the right choice for your SMB:
- Quick and dirty tool for centralizing all project and business tasks
- Little or no budget for a task management solution
- Schedule tracking is still ad hoc and not an issue yet
- Resource management over people is not yet a consideration
- Project management is yet to be part of a job description
While each of the major social task management platforms is promising to remain free, each one is but an introduction to their company's fee-based premium services or products. The Asana product roadmap includes premium services. Jive now owns Producteev, with plans to use it for attracting new customers. Likewise, Salesforce owns Do.com and now offers Premium Services and uses Do.com integration with other cloud applications as part of its Do More with Do strategy.
Choosing a project management solution
The prevailing winds of SMB growth, project failures, and the need for tighter internal controls over project schedules, budgets, and staff mean an SMB may reach a point when it's time to choose a true project management platform to either augment or replace social task management inside their organization.
The Software as a Service (SaaS)-based project management platforms available aren't just for large enterprises; in fact, project management solutions like LiquidPlanner, Viewpath, and Teambox can point to SMB customers where their product plays a central role in running projects and business operations. As a central hub, a SaaS project management solution can offer an SMB the following:
- One view over project schedules for managers and team members
- Notifications, commenting, and audit trail over tasks
- Time tracking and approval
Any concerns about a SaaS-based project management solution sapping the free flow creativity of your startup or SMB should be put by the wayside, because the current generation of these tools require remarkably little administration and offer a true convergence of collaboration and project management features. Your entire SMB (rather than just a formally trained project manager) can interact with a SaaS-based project management platform.
The choice to augment an in-place social task management solution with a project management solution (or just migrate entirely) comes down to these factors:
- Requirement for multiple views into project tasks, scheduling, and resource information (Gantt charts, workload, and calendar)
- Progress and schedule tracking are becoming a necessity
- Resource pooling and allocation are becoming a necessity
- Time logging and time tracking of tasks
- Project budget controls
Coexistence or one platform?
The possibility of a social task management and a project management solution coexisting depends on your SMB's needs. However, I encourage you to keep transparency in mind, because task management and many of the same features your SMB enjoys with social task management tools are available in LiquidPlanner, Wrike, Teambox, and other project management platforms.
For insight into how an SMB found transparency improvements in a single project management platform, read the case study I wrote for ZDNet (TechRepublic's sister site) about how Duxter streamlines collaboration and project management with Teambox.
What did your SMB choose?
Has your SMB had to choose between social task management and project management? If so, let us know what you decided and how that's working out by posting your comments in the discussion.
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.