WorkZone is a web-based
project management platform that strives to hit the sweet spot between a
complex tool like Microsoft Project and the simpler Software-as-a-Service
(SaaS)-based social task management tools. The good folks at WorkZone arranged
an evaluation of their platform so I could review it for TechRepublic.

Project workspaces

Project workspaces in WorkZone are well laid out and designed;
I especially like the ability to filter views by Dates, Project Responsible,
and Project Category. One thing that’s missing that comes with many other
platforms is an activity stream.

By default, workspaces open to the Project To-Do List
(Figure A), making WorkZone all business. I know of teams that would find the
Project To-Do List more than a match for their project management needs because
they require simplicity not a complex Gantt chart. The Project To-Do
List is central to WorkZone workspaces, yet it’s not necessarily where you
track projects — there is a separate Project Tracker. I wish the integration
of the To-Do list and Project Tracker was more obvious; the WorkZone user
interface treats them as separate entities, which feels a bit unnatural.

Figure A

A Project To-Do List that spans multiple workspaces. (See an enlarged view of the image.)

I don’t like that you have to go under Settings and to the
Setup menu to set up a new workspace vs. being able to create a workspace
directly from the Select Workspace drop-down list. Granted, this is a minor
nitpick, but it’s a common feature in many of today’s project management and
collaboration platforms.

I do, however, like the ease with which you can pull up
other useful views, including:

  • Projects By Responsible
  • Completed Projects
  • Active Projects 100% Complete
  • Activity: Last 7 Days

Project Tracker

The Project Tracker (Figure B) is where you can track larger
and more complex projects within your WorkZone workspace. Project Tracker has filter
options that help you change your views of project information (Figure C).

Figure B

Project Tracker (See an enlarged view of the image.)

Figure C

Show only TASKS that match. (See an enlarged view of the image.)

Document management and sharing features

Documents are broken down by project, and you have the
option to create folders within the project. You can only upload documents from
within a project or a folder.

The Document Manager tools (Figure D) are an example of how simplicity
works in the platform’s favor.

Figure D

Document Manager’s clean layout (See an enlarged view of the image.)

Figure E shows the available WorkZone document management
features.

Figure E

Documents as part of a WorkZone project (See an enlarged view of the image.)

WorkZone’s document sharing features are basic but
sufficient for simple document sharing and collaboration.

Project reporting

One item on my technology writer bucket list is to write a
post about the end of the Microsoft Word status report. I’ve worked in the
federal and commercial sectors, and the Word document status report always seems
like more a tool of bureaucracy than project tracking.

To that end, I’m happy to see that WorkZone has a number of
project reports available to track activities, including:

  • Dashboards that offer a quick view into recent
    activities, upcoming items, recent documents, approvals, and completed tasks.
  • Project views that offer status by project.
  • Workload by the responsible party and by
    category.
  • Usage summary and activity logs.

Figure F shows the Recent Activity dashboard.

Figure F

Recent Activity dashboard (See an enlarged view of the image.)

The project reporting options should be attractive to
organizations with moderate to high reporting requirements. Distributed project
teams can also use the WorkZone reporting features to give their management
team more transparency into their projects and tasks without taxing team
members with unnecessary levels of status reporting or communications.

Setup

The Setup menu governs all WorkZone workspaces. Unfortunately, a
“Please select a link from the left menu” message greets you when you
open the menu. In 2013, this message is a cheap out when they should have found
a better use for the screen real estate.

Setup gets confusing when you click Setup at the All
Workspace level, and then it sends you to a site level menu. If you’re inside a
workspace and click Setup, you’re taken to a Workspaces level setup, which might
baffle some users and even administrators. I think better delineation would
help usability.

A hidden gem amongst the Setup options is Partner Firms.
This feature enables you to set up secure access to partner firms for
exchanging information with them. Check it out if you work for an organization
that partners with other firms, contractors, or freelancers on projects.

Final thoughts

While WorkZone’s design has a few rough edges and it’s
missing social tools like an activity feed, I find its simplicity ideal for
some project delivery organizations. WorkZone is a definite option for project
teams that want a solution that fits between social task management and more
complex project management platforms.

For platform pricing, please contact WorkZone.