After using Zoho for an upcoming project, I can say with assurance it is one of the best available.
Zoho Projects competes with industry favorites like Smartsheet, Wrike, and Teamwork and offers workflow capabilities that are applicable to any team. With affordable plans in addition to the robust features, Zoho’s PM solution is worth your consideration.
- Review methodology
- Zoho alternatives & competitors
- What is Zoho?
- Zoho overview
- Zoho features and capabilities
- Zoho use cases and audience
- Pros & cons of Zoho
This review is based on my experience registering, configuring, and executing a project in Zoho Projects. The sample project I built in the tool is a three-month application development timeline with six sprints and over 20 core tasks.
Below is the sample project (Figure A). The columns listed include task name, start and end dates, assigned contact, status, duration, completion percentage, and notes. Meanwhile, rows organize sprint tasks and subtasks into sprints. Two sprints contain multiple subtasks.
To add additional context, I familiarized myself with Zoho’s product documentation, demos, industry reviews and recognition and a comparative analysis with alternative software applications. I ran a free trial of the Enterprise plan to test this tool.
Zoho Projects alternatives & competitors
*in alphabetical order
What is Zoho Projects?
Zoho Projects is a part of the Zoho One online services suite and offers teams observability, collaboration, and productivity capabilities to upgrade project management workflows.
Launched in 1996, Zoho—then known as AdventNet—started as a network management software vendor before moving into software geared towards small to medium sized businesses in the 2000s. As the India-based company’s online office suite, Zoho, grew in popularity and features, the company changed its name to Zoho Corporation in 2009. As of 2021, Zoho Projects serves over 75 million users across the globe competing with other office suites like Google Workspace and Microsoft’s Office 365.
Since 2006, Zoho Projects has become one of the leading choices for project management software. Individuals, teams, and entire companies can use Zoho Projects to manage tasks, automate processes, track and integrate critical data, and collaborate across multiple projects.
Zoho Projects Overview
Zoho Projects is a cloud-based project management software available as a 10-day free trial, free tool, or commercial SaaS subscription.
Start with the Zoho desktop or mobile application
The Zoho platform is available via web browser, desktop application, or mobile application available on the Apple or Google Play stores. I was able to quickly register with our company name, a portal name, email, and password.
This will redirect users to a “Welcome to Zoho Projects!” page and prompt them to select language, time zone, contact number, and enable a free Enterprise trial. For industry selection, Zoho shows how wide its audience is with almost 50 to choose from.
Zoho Projects features and capabilities
Import existing project data
After selecting your industry, users can check out the product tour and sample project, or get started by importing or creating a project. As we have an existing project (Figure B), I went with import. Users can then choose between importing from Basecamp, Jira, or a MPP in another format like XLS, JSON, or CSV.
Upon selecting the file type, users can upload or drag and drop the file into the Zoho import engine. The next step (Figure C) shows how Zoho reconciles differences between its list of pre-set columns and column values found in the imported spreadsheet. Note, any default column values will be applied to mismatched fields and mapped to none before continuing.
The third step has users map the new statuses for fields, and then an opportunity to leave tasks “Unassigned” or map assignments based on the users found in the imported XLS file.
Whereas other PM tools struggle to include all rows of imported data, Zoho offered plenty of reconciliation options to ensure existing data made onto the platform. Zoho additionally outdoes most PM tools by allowing for the assignment of tasks based on file data. Unfortunately those users still need to be on the platform to select them, however, still a convenient option relative to other PM import configurations.
With no existing users, I had to choose the first option to leave tasks “Unassigned” before confirming the import. The buffering prior to finalization was several minutes, so I went back a step only to run into the same problem. I took my lunch break and an hour later it still hadn’t finished. I nixed this import, and instead tried again from the Setup menu.
Conducting the import from the Setup menu, I was able to complete the same procedure, this time using a CSV file of the same project. Though not immediately clear I did receive an email informing me of the successful import. Figure E shows the existing project data in Classic view where all tasks sit under the project name with corresponding row data.
As with most PM import processes, I needed to conduct some adjustments to ensure Zoho’s presentation of data reflected the existing project, including assignees and subtasks.
You can also see an error in importing the start and end dates of tasks in Figure E, with the year showing as “0022”, instead of 2022. During the reconciliation part of the import process, it’s clear I selected the incorrect date format based on the format used in our Google Sheet.
Tracking and managing project data
With imported project data in a single row, I organized or labeled the tasks within their planned sprints. While other platforms usually provide a handful of different ways to view project data, Zoho offers three options:
- Classic: A familiar spreadsheet feel
- Plain: A list of all tasks separated in a single line with corresponding rows
- Kanban: A board featuring tasks as cards divided into different conditional lanes
On the left-hand side of Classic and Plain views, each row has a visible empty box and two additional icons (gear and dots) when hovering over a row. By checking the box on multiple items, you can perform bulk actions or edits like changing the due date, status, or assignment.
As seen below in the Classic view (Figure F), I have three rows under Sprint 1 selected and a menu at the top of the dashboard gives me the options to move these to another project, delete them, or add other significant data. I started by giving these rows a label of “Sprint 1” before realizing how easy it is to create sub-tasks.
The six dot icon to the right of the checkbox can be clicked, dragged, and dropped wherever the user wants to move the task. The icon on the left (gear) opens a submenu to delete the task, create tasks above or below, add a subtask, or copy the task link.
To create a subtask, users only need to drag-and-drop a row into another row. I found this incredibly intuitive, however, the option to select multiple rows and make them subtasks would be ideal. As seen in the Sprint 1 row, users can expand and collapse parent tasks to view subtasks as needed. Zoho Projects was additionally able to handle making subtasks for subtasks as prescribed in our project.
Plain view: Your list of tasks
Some may appreciate the simpler view of all tasks, but I for one don’t. Reviewing the Plan view, it differs little from the Classic view except removing the distinction between parent tasks and subtasks.
Kanban view: Cards and lanes
Finally, the Kanban view (Figure G) is similar to industry alternatives with the ability to drag and drop cards horizontally (across lanes) or vertically (within a lane) to show task progress or priority. Users have the option of filtering the types of tasks by status and how tasks display for an expanded look at task details.
Configuring portal, user, and workflow settings
From the top right corner of the Zoho Projects platform, users can access their account and portal settings from the “Setup” menu. The other buttons featured (Figure H) are also valuable as users can:
- Search for items across all or a designated project.
- Open the running timers window to see tasks and issues with active timers.
- View all notifications or filter by flagged, unread, and mentions.
- Add a new task to a project and fill in needed task details.
- Access the subscription menu with themes, shortcuts, and links to applications.
Opening the Setup page allows users to change personal preferences and profile information, notification settings (Figure I), and a handful of other options including:
- Portal configuration: Manage portal data like date, time, budgets, tasks, and timesheets.
- Customization: Create a task list template or web tab, and access layouts and fields options.
- Task automation: Modify blueprints, workflow rules, webhooks, and email templates and alerts.
- Issue tracker: Manage client permissions, web to issue forms, and business rules for issues.
- Marketplace: View and change connections, installed apps, and Zoho apps for integrations.
- Developer space: Manage functions, extensions, API access, service hooks, and a ZSC key.
- Data administration: Track storage and imports; protect data with backups and an audit log.
- Manage users: View and modify portal and client users, teams, profiles, and roles.
The top PM tools all have considerable features but I have yet to see this level of configurability from a single menu. Section after section, I was impressed with the extent of granular additions and changes I could make to fit the team’s objectives and workflows.
Other Zoho Projects features
Zoho Projects offers lots of features that help speed project work and give teams different insights into their work. These features extend the usability of the project management tool for IT teams and make it easy for other departments to communicate and collaborate on company priorities.
- Blueprints: Zoho’s version of mapped workflows
- Charts and reports
- Issue tracking
- Gantt charts
- Project timesheets
Zoho Projects use cases and audience
Zoho serves more than 75 million users and 200,000 businesses globally, including notable customers like Dell Technologies, Stanford University, and Tata Consultancy Services. Below are some of the core use cases and types of clientele Zoho serves.
- Agile software development
- Campaign and client management
- Creative production management
- Event planning and management
- Issue, request, and bug tracking
- Project and portfolio management
- Remote work and team collaboration
- Resource, time, and workload allocation
- Automobile, aviation, engineering, logistics, and travel
- Creative, design, and digital marketing
- Construction, manufacturing, and commerce
- Gaming, electronics, IT services, software, and website development
- Non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and students
- More including finance, environmental services, and real estate
Pros & cons of Zoho Projects
Zoho Projects advantages and benefits
- Familiar interface and user experience for Zoho users.
- Affordable pricing relative to other top PM platforms.
- Easy to zoom in and out on the platform for magnifying details.
- Access and collaborate with project data across web, desktop, and mobile applications.
- Track and analyze time spent on tasks to inform workload and sprint management.
Zoho Projects disadvantages
- The import finalization took an extended period of time, and required trying elsewhere.
- Making sub-tasks requires separate actions for each change.
- Enterprise-level features from a reputable software vendor for teams.
- Easy to bundle and add-on for teams with existing Zoho One deployment.
I found Zoho Projects is worth almost any team’s consideration for enhancing collaboration and process management. No matter the industry or use case, Zoho Projects has a range of features to deliver an enhanced project management experience.