Multi-person teams, multi-team projects, micromanaging or, alternatively, too hands-off clients, expanding GBs of project resources and peripherals, and a never-ending stream of email: Project management is not for sissies! Thankfully, cloud-based project management tools can help you take back control.
Here’s our guide to the top of the project management pops.
Basecamp is one of the older cloud-based project management (PM) tools, but here 'older' doesn’t mean out-dated. Rather you can count on Basecamp as being established, tried-and-tested and still growing. It has a user base of millions who use it to communicate, share files and track time.
Richard Frank is the head of sales and innovation for Flow Communications. They use a wide range of cloud services, including Basecamp and Google Apps (see below). Flow staff keep track of project hours with Basecamp’s time-logging tool, so clients always know where their time is going. ‘It makes for a very transparent and collaborative relationship,’ says Frank.
Price: From US$20/month
Slack is a relative newcomer, having launched in early 2014, but it already has a cult-like following. Essentially it is a communication tool – an email killer – that integrates with tonnes of other services, including Dropbox, Twitter and development tool Github.
Raymond Joseph is a Knight International Journalism Fellow and data journalist at Code for South Africa. He raves about Slack, calling it ‘the best communications/ collaboration tool I've come across in years’.
‘We use it as our primary source of communication within Code for South Africa, for people both on and off site,’ he continues. ‘It's simple to use, facilitates collaboration, integrates with Google Drive and makes file/link sharing seamless and simple. It has a direct messaging facility for private chats and you can also @mention someone in a chat so that they are alerted.’
Price: From free to US$49.99
Google Apps is a free, online suite of Office-like tools, including a word processor called Docs, a spreadsheet tool Sheets, and presentation tool called Slides. The bonus is that you can access your documents from wherever, and collaborate on them in real time, rather than keeping multiple versions all housed on different machines. Plus, all changes are auto-saved to the cloud.
‘We use Google Apps to collaborate on projects with colleagues and clients. Docs allows us to work collaboratively because more than one person can be on the document at the same time,’ explains Frank.
Price: from US$5/month per user
Trello is more about the tasks and less about communication, although it offers that too. It gives you a visual way to track the status of projects: Create project boards, then populate them with task cards. These can be categorised by ‘To Do’, ‘Doing’ and ‘Done’. The task cards are dynamic too – so you can add images to them, comment on them and assign them to members of a team.
Price: Trello is free for unlimited project boards and members, but ‘super users’ can sign up for individual or company premium accounts starting from US$5/month.
Asana is quite similar to Basecamp with the added bonus of a free starting point for small companies. It’s not big on storage and instead integrates with other services like Dropbox for that.
Wendy van Eyck is the communications manager for Qhubeka, an NPO. She says she uses Asana ‘like my daily to-do list’. ‘I log in every day and check my tasks. This way I know that nothing has slipped through my fingers. I also use it to create tasks in meetings rather than making minutes that need to be turned into tasks later. In Calendar view I can see all the tasks of my team and see how a new project might impact on other projects which helps me to see the bigger picture,’ she continues.
Price: Asana is free for teams of up to 15 people. There are premium subscriptions from $21/month.
Now that Microsoft has taken versions of their Office suite tools to the cloud – including Word and Excel – their faithful users can reap the benefits of an added bonus of cloud: collaboration.
Yes, the Office 365 account comes with 1TB online storage and easy sharing. Teams will find the online shared calendar particularly useful. There’s even multi-party video conferencing to be done (in HD) for geographically divided teams.
Contact Vodacom Business for Office 365 pricing.
Is there a downside? Van Eyck points out a downside that could easily apply to all the tools: ‘Putting tasks in a project management tool doesn't mean they've been done. So each person still needs to responsible for them and the project leader still needs to follow up,’ she says.
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