This is the final installment of the 3 part blog on cloud PM tool. In the previous blog I classified the tools in 5 categories and addressed the first 3 categories. In this blog, let us visit the last two categories and summarise our findings.
These are the categories:
We covered Portfolio Management, Collaboration and Scheduling in the previous article. Let us continue with “time tracking” which is a subset of the third category “scheduling and tracking”.
Time tracking is one of the tricky things in Project Management. If you are managing a Time and Material project, the term “billable time” can mean different things to different stakeholders. Some Project Managers get to see the project cost only on a monthly basis. No need to say, they will be running around to sort out the extra hours that was billed into to their project without their knowledge.
Ideally the time tracking should be integrated into Project Schedule. It is easier said than done as many organisations use different systems – MS Project for planning and SAP/Oracle for time tracking. Of course, it is possible integrate the systems but at a cost.
SaaS providers offer solutions that integrate the time tracking and billing aspects of Project Management.
Some of the features provided by the tools are:
- Time tracking: The providers offer you desktop timers. Using the timer stop watch, one can accurately track time spent on each project activity.
- Expense tracking: Again using a desktop application or mobile app, the expense can assigned to each task
- Billing and invoicing: The tools offer multiple billing situation including daily rate, hourly rate, combinations.
- QuickBook integration
- Reporting: Client reporting is generated within seconds.
Tool 5: Bill4time:
The name tells it all. Bill4time does everything with time tracking. The features are:
Track time and expenses:
- Conveniently track time and expenses from your mobile phone, desktop widget or online. Make missing time entries a thing of the past!
Create professional invoices:
- Customize the layout and design creating professional invoices in minutes. Email invoices and accept payments to assist in getting paid faster
Manage clients and projects:
- Keep up with your clients and projects and everything that makes them unique. All your information is now in one easy-to-access, secure location
Monitor your progress:
- Generate reports with one click and easily export to other programs. Cross reference your records and documents to stay on top of your business
Full features can be obtained from:
Tool 6: 5PM:
Project Managers are notorious for staying late and fire fighting the project issues. The tool 5PM intends to change that!
5pm™ is an online project management software that makes team collaboration easy. Keep and share your projects, tasks, notes and files, track progress and time, send alerts, generate reports – all in one place.
The tool looks like a general purpose PM software unlike Bill4time which is a dedicated “time and billing” tool.
5pm provides a desktop widget (on-off stop clock) to track the time.
Full features can be obtained from:
In the previous example, the SaaS solution “bill4time” provides templates for legal and accounting professionals who use “time and material” as the primary method to charge the customers. It makes sense to provide custom templates for these industries. I have also seen examples of custom templates provided by “smartsheet” for event management, campaign management etc.
Do we need to create a Project Management tool for each industry? Not necessarily. I came across one example where an industry specific tool is created for Construction, Infrastructure, and Energy and resources sector.
Strictly speaking Aconex should not be featuring in the list of Cloud Service providers. However, many vendors are moving to SaaS delivery model due to market pressure. I want the readers to be aware of industry specific project management solutions.
The industry aligned solution offers:
- Workflow management and approvals
- Bids and tender management
- Field inspection module
- Automation for Operations and Maintenances manuals
- Relationship management
- Documents submission management
Agile project management:
Agile project management is built on the concepts of adaptive planning, evolutionary development and delivery, a time boxed iterative approach. The underlying principle of Agile methodology is to encourage flexibility in development. The Agile Project management is built on the Agile Software Manifesto. (Agile Manifesto 2001). The Agile method values:
- Individuals and interactions
- Working product
- Customer collaboration
- Responding to change
Though there is no need for software tool to execute an Agile project, the collaboration features of cloud software makes it attractive. The following examples illustrate specialized project management tools for Agile.
Tool 8: Planbox:
Some of the features of planbox include:
Perfect for Agile workers and suitable for most, Planbox is a To-do list on steroids!
- Manage and assign tasks
- Drag&Drop your priorities
- Get visibility on your team’s status & progress
- Flag items as blocked and request help from your team
- Multiple Item statuses allow you to review your team’s work
You can access the full list of features here:
Free upto 2 users, $20/month upto 5 users.
Tool 9: BrixHQ:
BrixHQ is a relatively recent entry that provides Agile Project Management capabilities. It has cool features like “the wall” . Free for up to 3 users.
Free upto 3 users, $20 month. Annual pricing discounts are available.
Here is the quick comparison of the tools.
I started the blog with the reference to the security breach in DropBox. You should understand that if you are going to store sensitive data, you cannot choose a product based on features alone. If you need help in conducting a risk assessment, please contact me.
On the benefits side, the cloud offerings open new doors to SMEs and cash constrained Government, NGO organisations who could not afford expensive PM tools. Most of the tools we have reviewed have free or a nominal licensing cost $20/month.
|1||Psoda||Portfolio Management||$20/month||Good fit for organisations with formal methodology, Portfolio Management features|
|2||Glasscubes||Collaboration||Basic features available for free for any number of users.
The standard package with support starts at $49/month.
|Main focus is collaboration and communication. Will suit small projects.|
|3||Tom’s planner||scheduling||Free for 1 user
Professional starts at $12.5 month for 20 users
|Web site lists impressive user base and clients.|
|4||Smartsheet||scheduling||Free 30 day trial. No free licenses. Licensing starts at $15 a month||The user interface looks very intuitive. Has many standard templates.|
|5||Bill4time||Time tracking||Free for 3 users;
20 users starts at $20 a month
|Will suit Accounting firm and lawyers. Any business that uses time and material.|
|6||5PM||Time tracking, Generic||No freebies; licensing starts at $18 for 5 users||Though I classified under time tracking, it has got generic features. Will fit nicely for any medium project.|
|7||Aconex||Industry specific||Not available||Construction and Engineering industry specific. Not available as SaaS.|
|8||Planbox||Agile||Free upto 2 users, $20/month upto 5 users.||Canada based startup. Features for Agile development.|
|9||BrixHQ||Agile||Free upto 3 users, $20 month. Annual pricing discounts are available||Formed in 2010. We need to get some client references.|
Kloudax is a portal that provides an overview of the cloud market that enables the business to see “what is out there”. Kloudax provides a categorized service directory and additional tools that empowers to take informed decisions. It also includes an introductory e-learning course complete with audio and self-assessment.
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