The author of this article is currently a certified QuickBooks Pro Advisor. However, outside of this designation he is in no way affiliated with Intuit or the QuickBase product line.
Effective (and cheap) project management software solutions are hard to find these days. The market is filled with highly functional, yet highly priced programs that can take weeks to configure and set up for your projects. Often this extra functionality is wasted because the teams you're working with require just a few components of the software. Another downside is the extra boost in hardware often required to run the programs. On the flip side are Web-based options that offer access and storage for projects on an "as needed" basis. One such solution is QuickBase for Corporate Workgroups from Intuit.
Intuit into everything
So, what is a financial software firm doing in the groupware market? Apparently, back in 1999 a small software company created a Web-based database service called oneBase that caught the attention of Intuit executives. With an eye toward the future, the firm's software was quickly bought, updated with additional features, repackaged, and sold as a monthly subscription product called QuickBase. The product serves teams as small as 10 to as large as 200 who have specific information management and sharing needs. Its selling point is its ease of use and short learning curve, but perhaps the most interesting aspect for cost-conscious clients is the subscription aspect of the product.
Monthly payment plan
When contemplating project management software either off the shelf or internally customized, a large upfront sunk cost automatically becomes a concern. While some projects can last a long time, often this upfront cost is not justifiable when short term (and small group) projects are the standard M.O. for an organization. For these situations a monthly payment option makes more sense. The purely Web-based solution of QuickBase dovetails nicely into this market; once the project is completed and you no longer need the service, the payments stop. The base price for the basic package is $249 a month, which includes:
- 10 users per application
- 15 standard application tables (approximately 20 columns by 2,500 rows)
- 3 large application tables (approximately 20 columns by 50,000 rows)
- 250 MB total attached file storage (approximately 5,000 five-page documents)
Add-on packs are available in various increments. For instance, five additional users can be added for an extra $15 a month. In addition, you can add:
- 15 additional standard application tables at $50 a month
- 1 additional large application table at $100 a month
- 500 MB additional storage at $100 a month
The Project Management section
QuickBase has many application solutions, but IT consultants will recognize the Project Management section as the most relevant. While each template is completely customizable, a core set of standard project management applications is included:
- Project Manager—Use it to centralize all the documents and data of a project, as well as to keep track of upcoming deadlines. A reporting feature is also included.
- Project Manager (Time & Expense)—Includes the same attributes as Project Manager with the added feature of a time and expense tracker.
- Multi-Project Manager—Also similar to Project Manager with the added ability to manage multiple projects.
- Task Manager—An application for tracking all the tasks associated with your project.
- Task Manager (from MS Project)—For those using Microsoft Project to schedule a project. Using a CSV-formatted file, you can import existing data from MS Project into QuickBase.
- Issues Manager—Helps you follow up on action items and formally close the issue when it’s resolved.
- Document Library—Helps with versioning of existing documents so you can easily see changes as well as share documents with the team.
While not having to invest in hardware to run project management software is a plus, allowing your information to coexist with another company's data is a legitimate concern. Intuit claims QuickBase data is secured because it uses the same data center as the one entrusted to handle all its TurboTax income tax return customers. Some of these security features include:
- Physical security protection using video surveillance and alarms
- 128-bit SSL on data transmission, as well as file encryption
- Smoke detection and fire suppression systems
- Advanced intrusion detection software and hardware
- Permissions controlled by the project leader
- Required registration access
- UPS and multiple back-up generators
- Advanced firewall software
- Daily backups of all data
This center also has a separate redundant data center in case of natural disaster.
Full version free trial
Nearly all software vendors offer some sort of limited free trial version of their software. Often these trials are missing a few elements necessary to experience all the software's features. However, QuickBase actually allows a full-featured trial version without having to give a credit card number to access the program. You can invite up to nine other team members to work with the product, and you can access all the application templates. The account setup is fairly unobtrusive, with just a few standard questions asking for a company name, e-mail address, and phone number. The only annoying part of starting the free trial was a standard questionnaire that pops up after you've completed the registration. Give it a try and let us know what you think.