Project Management

Check out two Microsoft Project alternatives: Basecamp and QuickBase

When managing an IT initiative, most technology professionals automatically turn to Microsoft Project. Erik Eckel describes two highly-capable alternatives to Microsoft Project: 37signals' Basecamp and Intuit's QuickBase.

For many IT pros and consultants, Microsoft Project has been the de facto standard for organizing work schedules, timelines, and budgets. Microsoft Project is still an incredibly capable and complex application; the program ties in to back-end servers to power large-scale collaboration and possesses astonishing levels of customization. But does your next IT project really demand that much firepower? Overkill is expensive, especially when you have to purchase, maintain, and administer the requisite back-end servers running everything.

As technology professionals, in particular, have become more comfortable working with Web-based applications, it's no surprise that viable new alternatives have arisen. Web 2.0's benefits are clear to most everyone working in a technical capacity. Microsoft even offers Project 2007 as a Microsoft Office Online component (and includes Web-based connectivity options within its Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Project Portfolio Server products).

Two new options to check out are 37signals' Basecamp and Intuit's QuickBase. Both offer highly-capable Web-based solutions to common project management issues.

Basecamp

37signals first caught my attention a few years ago when I discovered the company's Ta-da List application. I was impressed with the task management software's simplicity, cross-platform compatibility, and approachability.

Many IT professionals will find all the project management, collaboration, and scheduling elements they need in Basecamp. Companies from Trek Bicycle to Continental Airlines and a host of others rely upon the online application to power their project management work.

Just how capable is Basecamp? 37signals advertises comments from Jim Dunnigan (former Product Manager for Microsoft Project) on its Web site in which he is quoted as saying, "Basecamp is the first product I have seen that is truly project management for everyone."

For just $49 a month, subscribers to the Plus plan receive 10 GB of storage, unlimited user accounts, time tracking, and capacity of 35 separate projects. Three other premium plans are available: Basic, Premium, and Max, The Max account (which is $149/month) provides unlimited projects and 50 GB of storage. A limited free plan is also available that enables the creation of a single project; file sharing features are not included with the free account.

Basecamp simplifies complex projects with the introduction of color-coded projects, easy-to-learn dashboards, integrated to-do lists, and milestone and time tracking. Users also receive file sharing features, reporting functionality, online collaboration tools, and message boards. Milestone information can be exported in iCalendar formats, and e-mail messages can be set for a variety of events.

While Basecamp offers many comprehensive features, its simplicity also makes it easy for less experienced software users to get up to speed quickly. And, the less time a team member spends learning the intricacies of the project management team's software (and the easier the project management software is to use), the more time he or she has to perform core functions.

QuickBase

Intuit, long known for its Quicken and QuickBooks products, offers a project management application called QuickBase. The Web-based project management tool is designed to provide staff with a streamlined program for data collection, project tracking, communication, and reporting. JetBlue Airways and Ventana Medical Systems are among the larger companies now relying upon QuickBase to empower its project teams. Indeed, Intuit touts the software as being used by almost half of Fortune 100 companies.

At $249 a month, QuickBase includes 10 user accounts. As with Basecamp, there are no contracts, and subscribers can cancel at any time. Additional users can be added for three dollars per user per month. More pricing information is available on Intuit's Web site.

QuickBase includes several templates to help teams get started managing projects in just a few hours. Since the application is Web-based, the software is also cross-platform compatible and requires only that users have stable Internet connections and a valid user account.

Staff can create their own applications and leverage predesigned templates for a variety of vertical markets (including generalized project management, professional services, sales and customer management, IT management, marketing, process excellence, legal, real estate, and human resources). Customizable reports make it easy to glean needed information quickly, while table views, graphic timelines, and charting features help communicate complicated information in an easily understood format. Reminders and e-mail notifications can be set within the software, and role-based permissions are easy to set up.

Microsoft Project: No longer the only game in town

For some organizations, Microsoft Project (and even back-end Project servers for empowering larger-scale collaboration) may be the most appropriate option. But many offices and small businesses will find all the project management features (minus the administrative headaches) they need in one of these two alternatives. Best of all, organizations can test drive both programs at no charge thanks to each vendor offering a free trial.

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About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

33 comments
JanyBB
JanyBB

I tried several project management tool, not bad, but something was always missing. I'm so fed up with BaseCamp. Am I too demanding? ;) About a couple of weeks ago I signed up for proofhub (http://www.proofhub.com/). So far it has all the features I need. The most convenient thing is that I can manage tasks from anywhere anytime. It is convenient and saves a lot of time.

rmosenkis
rmosenkis

For those looking for an easier-to-use alternative to Microsoft Project, but who need something a bit more robust than Basecamp, take a look at WorkZone -- http://www.workzone.com. It's quite sophisticated, with great cross-project dashboards and detailed tactical to-do lists, but it's dramatically simpler than the other robust tools like MS Project, Quickbase, etc.

JayMSmith
JayMSmith

If you've got users who don't need all the bells and whistles of Microsoft Project, Swiftlight is worth a look. Good for level one planning - nice looking timelines, pretty intuitive. http://www.swiftlightsoftware.com

deepika10
deepika10

Another alternative is http://www.proofhub.com/ It is really good and easy to use, it also contains less time for loading. It is a web based project Management Software. It contains many features like time tracking, Real time chat, Collaboration, Online file proofing, Milestones, documentation and many more.

Garry Edwards
Garry Edwards

Consider using Organasis MyTasker EPM, a software solution for full?fledged offline access to Microsoft Project Server and participation in corporate planning for ordinary team members. http://www.organasis.com/MyTaskerEPM.aspx Unlike standard solutions, MyTasker EPM has been specially designed for team members to work with large volumes of assignments and a number of projects, as well as making maximum use of the advantages of desktop applications. How using MyTasker EPM increases team member efficiency when working with Microsoft Project Server * Makes it easier to commit new tasks to Project Server * It's not a secret that many employees use Excel tables or other sources to store their personal tasks. * MyTasker EPM allows importing tasks from Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word and other sources, transferring * team members' personal tasks to Project Server in just seconds. * Simplified analysis and work with tasks for a number of projects * View project task hierarchy while working. * View tasks for each project in a separate tab. * Rich features for grouping and sorting tasks by various criteria. * Evaluate changes made to tasks before committing them to Project Server. * Group operations on tasks save time * Change the deadline for a number of tasks with a single click. * Automatic calculation of the completion percentage for overall tasks and subtasks. * Team members can work on the project when and where convenient * Company employees often go on business trips and need to work on a project and their assignments on the * road. * Company branches are connected to the central office over low?bandwidth connections. * Not dependent on availability of the Project Web Access website and Project Server (an unreliable VPN * connection, for example).

alexbuchanan
alexbuchanan

Don?t mind settling for MS Project if switching to other Apps means emptying the coin bank. Lucky I found WORKetc that has been my reliable partner in CRM project management (www.worketc.com/CRM Project Management) ever since I tested drive it. It is a fast, cost-effective business solution for online project management.

wodenickel1
wodenickel1

also ganttproject.biz, another GREAT free open source product - I've used it for years.

biljana.pesevska
biljana.pesevska

Basecamp and QuickBase are 2 out of hundreds of web solutions to replace MS Project. I recommend ProjectOffice.net since it is developed by and for people in the IT business. Moreover, bug tracking is included.

dannielo
dannielo

If you'd like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this application inspired by David Allen's GTD: http://www.Gtdagenda.com You can use it to manage and prioritize your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar. A mobile version is available too.

seagullsenthil
seagullsenthil

I am using the Project management tool in Zoho.com. Very easy and flexible with nice features.

jcrist99
jcrist99

I don't think the MS Project does what it should. It is overall a good tool but it is very weak in certain areas (resource planning is one of the main problems). Another important issue is that MS Proejct doesn't promote the right way of using it (I know it sounds wierd but it is true). It is very easy to create so many constraints in your schedule that it becomes almost useless and non-maintainable. Sometimes the resource levelling does very strange things like splitting tasks with no obvious reasons so I have to spend hours to get it right. MS Project Server is a separate story. I have seen very few successful implementations of it in the enterprise scale and the main reason again is some fundamental flaws in the resource planning.

angela.castro
angela.castro

Project Insight is powerful for project managers and easy for everyone. Don't settle for less software when your company may outgrow it. Project Insight is scalable, and can be customized to fit your business process needs.

Hendry_Betts
Hendry_Betts

You have GOT to be kidding. What about dotproject? This is a half hearted attempt to sell someone else's platforms. Please, if you are going to post something don't hide your sales pitch behind the guise of trying to help. You belittle us all.

b
b

Liquid Planner has a nice assortment of tools, planning features and collaborative methods. It only get pricey if you have more than three people working on a single project.

b
b

Liquid Planner has a nice assortment of tools, planning features and collaborative methods. It only get pricey if you have more than three people working on a single project, but for projects involving multiple players that are remotely located it's a great resource. http://www.liquidplanner.com/

cunham
cunham

Hi, Erick. Thanks for the alternatives. The company I'm currently working in has no backend platform installed yet and I think these products can encourage management to test these cheaper otpions.

fparth
fparth

This is a poorly researched article. MS Project has never been the only game in town. There are scores of alternatives to it. As a long-time project manager I wouldn't even consider Basecamp as a serious project management tool. It's basically a collaborative to-do list that offers document sharing, messaging, and a couple of other simple items. There's no capability of defining the sequence of activities or of printing out a network diagram. It's useful only for the simplest of projects, and then it's only better than an Excel spreadsheet if the team is not co-located.

nkurukgy
nkurukgy

Projectmanager.com is also an excellent software for project management. You get 10GB storage, free one month trial (can be extended). It is cheap to buy. Nuhad Kurukgy M.Sc.,MCSE,MPM

tremblad
tremblad

... For smaller project. I tried many of them a couple of years ago and nothing "serious" emerged from my search. Is there any development in that area?

santeewelding
santeewelding

How you mangle English, I will get to what you are saying. Mind, the PTB and others here do not appreciate critical reading. Upsets their apple carts, ass hole.

DavidMorisseau
DavidMorisseau

When it comes to project management, you want something that can help employees be efficient as possible. This is what WORKetc does. WORKetc combines project management with billing and CRM, making it an all-in-one solution for small businesses. Instead of dealing with integration troubles of having a maze of different applications and add-ons to manage your business, WORKetc allows all aspects of your business to be done under one piece of software. And their feature list is greater than many of the competitors (this link is a comparison chart of feature by feature: http://www.worketc.com/compare)

DavidMorisseau
DavidMorisseau

Basecamp is good, but quite simplistic and often comes short of features many businesses need in project management software. If you want something that has project dependancy, gantt charts, easy collaboration on tasks, to-do lists, leads, etc. You should check out WORKetc, it offers a full set of project management features but also CRM and billing features as well. It is an amazing project management software and covers all aspects of business. Their website gives a better run-down than I can: http://www.worketc.com/project_management_software

jreeve
jreeve

Take a look at OpenAtrium, a web-based project management app that is open source and build on top of Drupal.

jreeve
jreeve

Take a look at Intervals as an alternative to MS Project. It does a good job at filling the niche between MS Project and Basecamp. http://www.myintervals.com

ncudmore
ncudmore

I've used GanttProject in the past, which is free and is java based so cross platform (OS X, Windows and Linux).

paul.suchomel
paul.suchomel

I have looked for something for my Mac that would allow me to look at MS Project, and I discovered OpenProj. (http://openproj.org/) Earlier versions were so so, but V1.4 works pretty good.

Adrian_curiosu
Adrian_curiosu

Last time I checked, Open Workbench was free and open (almost, except for some resource allocation algorithms). It's a mature and stable product.You may get peer support from forums, or you can get paid support from CA, if your company policy requires it.

jreeve
jreeve

A third alternative worth mentioning is Intervals. It's got more features and functionality than Basecamp but is not overkill like MS Project. It fills in a niche between the two that a lot of small companies are finding useful.

Mihnea D. Mironescu
Mihnea D. Mironescu

It seems this software has been aquired by Serena, which still provides the personal version for free. But they recommend a paid subscription for the collaborative version named Projects On Demand. This costs $10/month per user for the first six months, then $20/month thereafter. It's interesting to see how long the free version will still be available.

mckinnej
mckinnej

I use it daily. It still has a minor quirk or two, but it gets the job done and I don't have to budget for it.

Daniel.Muzrall
Daniel.Muzrall

I've been using this as a MS Project alternative on some smaller projects, and it has done exactly what I need it for. Easy to use, and has some cross-compatibility with MS Project. Nice software, and available for a variety of OS's.

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