One of the more difficult aspects of tracking a project’s time and costs is the coordination of all the people on the project team. One solution to this problem may be Projux, a Web-hosted application that allows a project manager to track projects and manage invoices via a browser. With Projux, project members can input time amounts and other data by just logging on to the Projux site.

Product overview
“When you’re actually running a project,” said S. Paul Childs, marketing director for Projux, “you need to have all of the people who are working on it key in their time on a regular basis so you can keep track of progress against budget.”

This, he said, is where Projux comes into the picture. By storing information about the time each project member spends on given tasks and being able to display that data to leaders and other members in a browser, Projux can bring the progress/budget picture into focus.

Getting started with Projux is pretty simple. There’s no software to download; all data is maintained on Projux servers and managed via the browser interface. Because it’s a hosted application, Projux takes away some of the hassle of dealing with the project tracking tool. Projux handles all upgrades and product maintenance behind the scenes.

Collaboration is at the root of Projux
Projux is designed to be a collaborative tool, so you can add new members to any project, even if they are not signed up with Projux. This gives these new members access to the project details and allows them to add their own task and time data updates.

Another useful collaboration feature Projux offers is file sharing. Project files can be uploaded and accessed in a single location to prevent users from having to send attachments back and forth via e-mail or from needing access to a network drive. Members can upload and download from anywhere, and they’re secured on Projux servers. This means organizations don’t have to give every project member remote access to network resources to share files and information.

The common workspace for projects also makes it easier for all members to stay up-to-date on issues and progress and to add their own comments and questions. Childs said the product is especially useful for freelancers who might be working for several clients simultaneously.

“They can go into one page,” said Childs, “and view all of their projects listed by project or task or however they want to break it down, and they can key in their time for all of their projects in one fell swoop.”

Because each client will likely operate differently, Projux allows users to structure projects in a variety of ways to accommodate different tracking methods.

Childs said that Projux has drawn members from a variety of industries, including software development, law, engineering, and mass media. Childs said that Projux is particularly useful to media companies.

“They have a lot of freelancers in that business,” he said, “who work from home, so we’re ideal because they can get into our application through the Web.”

Time-tracking feature comes in handy
Projux includes two valuable time-tracking features: a timer function and an annotation option. Project members can use the timer function to determine exactly how much time they spend on specific tasks. You can start the timer when you begin working and turn it off when you’re finished, and Projux automatically enters the time in the project-tracking database.

Team members can use the annotation feature to enter notes about specific entries that can explain how the time was spent as well as enter time for all of their projects from a single location on the interface. This makes it easy to update progress on several tasks at once.

The reporting tool makes tracking progress easier
In addition to the collaboration and time-tracking features, Projux also includes a reporting tool that allows members to view data in a variety of ways. Report categories include:

  • Time
  • Expense
  • Invoice
  • Budget

Under each category, the user can select to view related data in specific ways to track progress. For example, the Budget category includes the following report options:

  • Progress against cap on hours
  • Progress against time
  • Progress against expense
  • Project estimates at completion

The variety of reporting options allows project leaders to forecast costs and time to determine if projects are on-track and within budget. Projux can also display timesheets so project leaders can see how much time team members are spending on various tasks.

Invoices simplified
Projux also streamlines the process of generating invoices. Because the time and billing data is linked in the system, generating invoices can take far less time than having to manually calculate them and complete the forms. As long as members have entered time and expense data correctly, the process is largely automated. Users can also modify the content and format of invoices to account for invoicing practices.

Childs said Projux can reduce the amount of time required for preparing invoices from days to merely hours.

Another useful feature that international organizations can appreciate is the support for different currencies. Projux can track expenses in any currency and translate the amounts into the billing currency. Projux receives a daily feed to keep up-to-date on currency exchange rates. Users can also set a fixed exchange rate.

The application’s online agreement engine allows users to define the terms of contracts at the start of projects and gives them control of changes with a system that ensures that proposed adjustments go through an approval process. Projux also supports the management of subcontracts as well and integrates the data into the expense and billing process.

Online tracking
Projux seems to offer just about everything an organization might need in a project-tracking system. The features cover the typical project management needs, and the convenience of being able to access the data through the Web makes the process that much easier.

Future features will make the tool even more useful for managing projects. Projux plans to allow users to import data from Microsoft Project and Microsoft Excel and to export data in XML format. Projux also plans to allow users to access project tracking data while offline.

The Projux online tracking system is offered on a subscription basis, and the fee varies depending on the length of the subscription and the number of project members involved. A 12-month subscription for 10 people, for example, costs $1,377. You can find more detailed information on the Projux Web site. You can sign up for the free trial to determine if Projux meets your needs before actually subscribing.

In the long run, Projux has the potential to enable users to track their projects more efficiently and to improve coordination and communication between members.