Most businesses I’ve worked for have had monolithic enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that include project management modules. In only one situation can I remember actually using the project management tools, and that was because company policy dictated that we use it.
The systems were always cumbersome and required more work to use than the work involved with the project. Plus, none of the systems had a way for clients to access the project and input requests or comments. Instead of bungling through the ERP, I would create my own system or turn to web-based solutions if it didn’t violate company policy.
If you’re looking to manage a well-organized project and want to do it simply, here are a handful of programs that I recommend. All of them are web accessible and allow for some type of client interaction, something that I see as an important aspect of managing a business relationship. All of these programs have free trial versions available for download.
Basecamp: This system leaves a lot to be desired, but it does the job. I’ve never had a client or co-worker say that they didn’t know how to use the interface. All of the basic features are present (to-do assignments, timelines, client interaction, etc.) and the system is stable. Basecamp is the workhorse of project management systems.
5pm: New to the market, this project manager was brought to my attention by reader Disarea. It has all of the standard features, and the benefit of being able to generate reports. The reports are what make it stand out from the others, in my opinion. It also has a nice interface that can be customized for your needs. It’s a nice addition to the market.
@task: I’m not the biggest fan of @task, but I like that it has an iPhone widget so that you can manage projects from your cell phone. It generates reports similar to those on 5pm, but a little less snazzy. If you’re an iPhone loyalist, though, you’ll want to check out this program.
Teamwork: I have only a little experience with Teamwork, but everyone I know who uses it sings its praises. The one thing that it does very well is interact with Microsoft products. You can import and export to Outlook and Project and a slew of other PC products easily. So, if your company is engrained in Microsoft systems, then Teamwork might be the project management software for you.
What project management system do you use? Do you feel that it helps or hinders your work? Tell us about your experiences in the comments. I’m always on the lookout for better ways to organize work, so I’m eager to hear from you.