Project Management

Project Insight: a feature-rich platform in need of a UI makeover

Will Kelly says there's a lot to like about Project Insight's various features, though the application needs a new skin.

 

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 Credit: iStock/marekuliasz
 

Project Insight is an online project management application that serves trained project managers as well as their teams. It's available in Software as a Service (SaaS) and on-premise based versions and in Workgroup and Enterprise versions. The platform is built using Microsoft technologies, so Microsoft shops should flock to it as a platform. Contact the company to request a demo account and pricing information. 

The company recently set me up with a trial account, and I tested its wide range of features. Here are my thoughts on using the application and its pros and cons.

Getting started with Project Insight

Onboarding your project team to Project Insight is an administrator's first proposition. Project Insight includes thorough product documentation augmented by an online community and additional resources.

At first glance, the administrative tools might be too complex for some users, which is disappointing because Project Insight has many strong points, particularly reports and dashboards. Project Insight could benefit from more fluid or wizard-driven tools to set up a new project in the system to support project managers who don't have a lot of experience. The company set me up with test projects, but I found the process of starting a new project confusing.

Dashboards and reports

Project Insight's strengths are its dashboards and reports, which are feature rich and easy to use. Figure A shows an example of a simple Project Insight dashboard.

Figure A

 

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This simple dashboard is typical to what a team member would view. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Dashboards are also available for other project and organizational roles. Figure B shows an example of a Project Sponsor.

Figure B

 

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Project Sponsor dashboard (Click the image to enlarge.)

I'd like to see the dashboard have a more minimalist "skin"; it has too much of a SharePoint 2003 feel to it, which betrays some of the wonderful work that obviously took place under the application's hood.

Project Insight offers a range of reports, including Gantt charts, task lists, and resource allocation. If you sign up for a Project Insight trial, I strongly encourage you to spend time creating reports with test data and experiment with setting default report options. Figure C shows an example of an incomplete task report.

Figure C

 

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Incomplete task report (Click the image to enlarge.)

Project views

Project views in Project Insight check off all the important boxes on my list of views, which include:

  • Gantt chart
  • Project calendar
  • Work schedule
  • Project issues

Workflow

Canned workflows and workflow wizards can be helpful to project teams that need to add some quick formality to their internal processes or need to jumpstart a new one. The Workflow feature in Project Insight supports:

  • Capture requirements of a project;
  • Create a project charter;
  • Present your business case;
  • Track items on a checklist;
  • Gain user acceptance authorization;
  • Provide a quality assurance checklist; and
  • Invite customers to assess the success of a project.

The workflow features in Project Insight are one of its strongest selling points, and I hope the company continues to produce incremental improvements to its workflow features in future releases.

Time and expense tracking

It was wise to include time and expense tracking in the application, because those are becoming important to many organizations in today's down economy, not just those in professional services or consulting. 

Figure D shows an example of a Time Entry Worksheet with Unsubmitted Entries.

Figure D

 

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Time Entry Worksheet with Unsubmitted Entries (Click the image to enlarge.)

Document management and collaboration

Project Insight enables you to upload documents as part of your projects, though the document management and collaboration features lag behind the application's other features. I found the feature a bit unwieldy and in need of a better user experience.

At the time of this writing, Project Insight doesn't offer integration with Box, Dropbox, or Google Drive, going against a growing standard across SaaS-based project management applications.

Microsoft Outlook integration and mobile support

Project management platforms need to offer touch points with team members through multiple tools. Project Insight offers integration with Microsoft Outlook (Windows), which can be useful for teams with members who would rather interact through the familiar tools of Microsoft Outlook than the full application. While I'm not a fan of Outlook as a project management tool, it does have its place as an interface to project management applications under the right circumstances.

Mobile access to Project Insight is through an HTML5 interface that does the job. It can be a toss-up between HTML 5 and native iOS/Android apps in the market right now. LiquidPlanner and Clarizen are doing great things with iOS and Android apps, and I hope Project Insight explores more mobility options for its platform.

Security

Project Insight supports multiple mainstream methods of Single Sign-On (SSO), including:

  • ADFS 2.0
  • SAML 2
  • OAUTH

Conclusion

Project Insight brings a lot to the table in terms of features, but when it comes to design, it has a very old Microsoft-centric (SharePoint 2003) feel and user experience that I found distracting at times. I would love to see Project Insight consider at least the option of a non-SharePoint centric user interface.

If you've tried Project Insight, tell us about your experience in the comments.

 

About

Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management ap...

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