Project Management Applications For Small Businesses

If you manage a small business or project, using email communications, Excel spreadsheets and company hard drives for managing and storing project information might be okay on a temporary basis, but as the number of your projects grow (and your number of collaborators grow with it) you’ll need to consider a more sophisticated system to incorporate in your business processes.

In fact, it has been proven that for small businesses having a collaborative tool providing multiple features including task assignment, time tracking, CRM, document management, mobile connectivity and third party invoicing can make a huge difference in company’s bottom line.

For large organizations, systems like Primavera, MS Project or SharePoint are the most popular software programs for project planning, reporting, document sharing, progress updating and tracking. They are used worldwide and have their own benefits and disadvantages.

On the other hand, for small businesses or small projects (such as creating new websites, new software programs, new mobile apps or even a minor manufacturing projects) Primavera and MS Project might not be the best solutions, the most important disadvantages being higher costs, heavy platform environment, learning curve, the need for sophisticated support team and unavoidable staff training.

Deciding which project management application or software to incorporate into your small business processes can be a daunting task as there is quite a wide selection to choose from and they are all continually evolving and advancing. To make matters more difficult, each software creator provides different packages to choose from, depending on the number of projects, the number of users (collaborators) and the storage space offered.

On the lower end, developers seem to categorize their packages based on one of these two choices:

– Unlimited collaborators, but limited number of projects

– Unlimited projects, but limited number of collaborators

But, they also offer unlimited projects/collaborators packages at much higher monthly rates.

Even if you select a low-end package to start with, as a growing business the high-end packages should be an important criteria for your selection because in a few years when your number of projects/users grow you would want to be able to keep the same platform, and avoid having to transfer all your files to a less costly solution.

Storage is also another differentiator for choosing your package. Depending on the type of projects your organization is managing, and the size of files your team members share on a daily basis, this could become a make-or-break factor in your selection.

The ability to use the software on your mobile smartphone or tablet is another factor to take into consideration, if that is indeed important to you or your organization. Some applications are just web-based, others use HTML5 code that fits and adapts to any screen size, and others provide their own iOS, Android or Windows Phone apps for the most popular devices such as iPhone or iPad.

Another factor to consider is whether you want (or need) to work with Gantt charts that are simpler versions of MS Project and Primavera. Some project management apps offer visual Gantt-based (rather than a task-assignment based) software.

To make your selection a little bit easier, outlined below are some project management apps we briefly examined for small businesses (in no particular order):

Product Name: Basecamp (Web-based + Mobile App)

– Lower End Package: 10 Projects, Unlimited Users, 3 GB Storage, $20 / month

– Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage, $150 / month

Basecamp keeps all your project documents and communications in one place. You can control who sees what on the projects and who can communicate with whom. The user interface is quite user-friendly and provides quick access to the latest project progress, communications, To-Do lists, etc. Basecamp also provides iOS and Android apps for mobile phones and tablets.

Product Name: Mavenlink (Web-based + Mobile App)

– Lower End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 20 GB Storage, $25 / user / month

– Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage

Mavenlink is fully integrated with Google Docs, Tasks and Contacts. It allows you to centralize your project information, files and communications in a shared environment. Real-time messaging ensures your team members stay on the same page. You can also stay connected using your mobile smartphone as the software offers an HTML5 mobile version as well.

Product Name: Apollo (Web-based + Mobile App)

– Lower End Package: 18 Projects, Unlimited Users, 5 GB Storage, $23 / month

– Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 75 GB Storage, $148 / month

Apollo helps you keep track of what’s happening on your project, tasks, and calendar using interactive timers. In the activity screen you can see who did what, and even communicate with other people. Files can also be kept within the platform. Mobile versions of the software for iOS and Android are also offered.

Product Name: Wrike (Web-based + Mobile App)

– Lower End Package: 5 Users, Unlimited Collaborators, Unlimited Projects, 5 GB Storage, $49 / month

– Higher End Package:: 50 Users, Unlimited Collaborators, Unlimited Projects,100 GB Storage, $199 / month

Wrike is another project management software providing task management, time tracking, document sharing, and real-time news-feed. It also provides Gantt-chart integration as well as Outlook and email integration to facilitate communications.

Product Name: Projecturf (Web-based only)

– Lower End Package: 20 Projects, Unlimited Users, Unlimited Storage, $40 / month

– Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, Unlimited Storage, $120 / month

Projecturf provides a user-friendly web environment giving instant access to various projects using tabs. It allows you to grant and change access permissions in every section, and even remove some section if they don’t apply to a project.

Product: Project Bubble (Web-based only)

– Lower End Package: 10 Projects, Unlimited Users, 5 GB Storage, $24 / month

– Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage, $99 / month

Project Bubble allows you to assign tasks and sub-tasks to team members, as well as define user permissions. It also allows you to enter the amount of hours you expect a given task should take (planned) and compare with the amount of hours is actually took (actual) to compare your actual costs with your planned budget. A timesheet feature is also offered for team members to help track the hours

Product Name: TeamGantt (Web-based only)

– Lower End Package: 5 Projects, 5 Users, 1 GB Storage, $10 / month

– Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 20 GB Storage, $79 / month

If you like using simplified Gantt charts, then TeamGantt might be the solution for you. The software also incorporates simple task commenting (by team members) directly in the Gantt chart. You can still take advantage of sharing documents and many other resources, and even view multiple projects’ Gantt charts in one screen to help with your resource planning.

In a nutshell, if the essence of project management is the breaking down of multi-faceted projects into smaller tasks and milestones assigned to various collaborators, then project management applications and software should assist you in organizing and breaking those complex operations and individual tasks down into specific data available at your fingertips; thus, providing more efficiency into the process than contemporary paper documents and spreadsheets offer. Therefore, your decision to purchase a project management software for your small business should be a long-term strategy for your organization:

1- Make a list of features you need today (and maybe in the future)

2- Assign weights to each feature based on its importance to your business

3- Review each software platform (start on their website)

4- Use a simplified QFD chart to compare various programs and narrow down your choice to just a few

5- Test the waters by emailing/calling each software provider to evaluate their customer support and agility to respond to your requests in a timely manner.

A final note of caution: Not all these project management software programs will survive today’s competitive marketplace, and one can easily predict that only a few will remain in a few years. So make sure your selection is not just based on price and short-term advantages, but also looks further on the horizon. If you like the content of this article, please share it on social media.

Service Software Dreaming

We are all amassed and amazed in/by technology, as we know it…virtual wired, virtual here or there, virtual wireless, virtual…mobile! When was the last time that you visited/took advantage of the convenience of Pay-Pal, the ATM, the Kiosk, online financials, for example., banking, or HR services – The Submittal of Cvl/Resume(s)?

What about the “Digital Divide”, “Digital Age Dilemma” – where too many citizens are at a loss of access to the world of digitization? Did a robot take your job? Did a computer application make you obsolete? Data Mining, is it alive and well? Is it/was it a dream to wake up and go to work and receive a pink, blue, brown, or/and purple colored separation notice that was dated yesterday and effective now?

It has to be a damned dream! Yeah, I’m dreaming! I wonder…do robots dream?

It all started with the Ethernet, WAN, LAN, and Virtuality – Private Networks…Bell Telephone thrived in the planting of poles and telephone lines, as did the cable companies. What about their underground cables and telephone networked lines of communication? Could we survive without it?

Software As A Service – The Digital Age…the workforce, will it become Saas?

The 411, did you know that SaaS, a software delivering method that provides access to software and its functions remotely as a web-based/cloud service does a multitude of things? Saas allows organization(s) to access business functionality at a cost typically less than paying for licensed applications since SaaS pricing is based on a monthly fee. Because the software is located remotely, users don’t need to invest in additional hardware. SaaS removes the need for organizations to handle the installation, set-up, and daily upkeep and maintenance…defined as hosted applications.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a business management system that integrates all facets of the business environment, including planning, manufacturing, sales, and marketing. As the ERP methodology has become more popular, software applications have emerged to help business managers implement ERP in business activities such as inventory control, order tracking, customer service, finance and, human resources.

SaaS Strategy:

“Of all the Cloud Computing ideas out there, SaaS is the one that needs attention now!” “Many companies treat it Ad Hock!” As evaluated and concurred, a statement by Michael Bidding, CTO of Fusion PPT, Consulting and IT Services.

Vendor marketing, new services, and cloud strategy have caught business technology leaders in a cloud-computing deluge. Business technologists who now use SaaS described their apps as critical to the missions. Ad Hoc is not Saas. Ad Hoc is an autonomous system of routes (and associated hosts) connected by wireless links. Ad Hoc Network Systems (ANS) are complex systems with cross layer protocol dynamics and interactions that are not present in wired systems. Such a network may operate in a stand-alone fashion, or connected to the larger (system) Internet, operating as a hybrid fixed/Ad Hoc network. A polling of several companies and their CIO’s could gain the most from SaaS by incorporating it into or by making SaaS a part of the overall enterprise architecture.

Cloud Computing – the sharing of computing resources rather than having local services or personal devices to handle application(s). Its goal is to apply traditional supercomputing, or high-performance computing power, normally used by the military and research facilities. Cloud Computing Networks are also larger groups of servers, with specialized connection speed.

Data processing chores:

The shared IT infrastructure(s) contain(s) large pools of systems that are linked together allowing data centers to operate like the Internet while computing resources are utilized, accessed, and shared as virtual resources in a secured and scalable methodology.

Although SaaS is not described as being universal, users who were polled, agreed that it has moved beyond customer resource(s), Human Resource(s), Email, Sales Force Automation, Service/Help Desk, Financial (On-Line Banking), and Backup Applications. All of theses apps are used and more… Business Server Apps have used SaaS for nearly 100 % of its services. Billing, inventories, time sheets, sales, email, and pipeline management share in this Software As A Service Application(s). Businesses enjoy the quick setup and reduced capital expenditures. Another benefit is increased power and employee mobility by way of remote offices via a smart-phone or a home computer (PC). “Mobile Access is the name of the game”, says Michael Bidding. Cloud computing is overshadowing the education about Simple Software As A Service (SSAS). SaaS vendors say portability, privacy, and security is the main points of interest for businesses.

SaaS users say IT organization is the primary driver and C Level Managers or the Line of Business is behind the use of SaaS. Developing SaaS Strategy Teams are encouraged to address the selection of the Right Provider, Signing The Right Contract, having a Detailed Exit Strategy, Management of A Good Working Relationship, the Creation of A Contingency Plan, Digging Deeply Into Interoperability and System Integration In/On IT’s role in Supporting and Involvement, and Alignment to the company’s goals and objectives.

SaaS customers agree and are generally pleased with the apps. They say they are performing better with SaaS than conventional applications and will continue to invest in SaaS. When companies integrate, (and/or plan to), SaaS applications into other business applications, it shows a commitment to the product as part of an overall business architecture. The mixing of internally built custom apps, packaged, on-premises combined with customer configurations, SaaS Apps, and other tools, it becomes more difficult for company’s to understand the risks associated with app changes. The IT organization is ultimately responsible for the smooth operation and running of Federated Architecture.

The future promises to do more by way of companies monitoring their own SaaS performance(s). IT Staffing will not, and in most circumstances, do not have the local ability to determine whether the service is up and running, or if a user is experiencing a problem caused by a LAN on Internet failure. Performance problems are called into the IT Help/Service Desk.

SaaS prices are less transparent and the vendor controls reliance on performance data. IT Teams have to closely maintain bandwidth between the user and the server. Bandwidth is a range within a band of frequencies or wavelengths. The amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time;

Digital bandwidth is expressed in bits per second (bps) of bytes per second. Another expression as described in analog, is cycles per second, or hertz (Hz). Bandwidth is the measurement of space and speed, i.e., a fast disk drive can be hampered or slowed by a bus with low bandwidth or space (room). I/O devices are particularly affected by low bandwidth, i.e., an Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) – throughput demands of 3-D Graphics.

An application is a program of a group of programs designed for end-users. Two general classifications of software are systems software and application software. Systems software consists of low-level programming that interacts at a basic level, which includes the operating system(s) compilers, and utilities for managing computer resources. Application(s) software sits on top of systems software because it is unable to run without the operating system and system utilities – (Interface is the interaction between computer and user).

Customer Resource Management (CRM) tops the list(s) of SaaS utilization. Human Resource (HR) applicant tracking, for more than a decade, has grown from the tedious task of hand-to-eye sorting and is poised for more growth as SaaS has proven an invaluable tool in its People Resource endeavor(s), i.e., application(s), testing, benefits, and other personnel record tasks and core functions.

Business Intelligence (BI), Application Program Interface(s) (API) – Windows, Excel, Access, SQL, etc – routine sets, protocols, and relevant tools for building software applications – by providing all of the building blocks, API makes it all easier to develop a computer program. Programmers put all the building blocks together, ergo, a program interface designed for end-user(s).

SaaS offerings are limited compared to most conventional offered in a variety of platforms on premises, or in the cloud. “Microsoft is winning customers to its SaaS-Based Exchange”, says Mr. Bidding. “SaaS is growing.”

IT Organization members will have to learn new skills an craft new strategies that allow them integration legacy infrastructure with fast growing SaaS portfolios.

So the next time you’re taking advantage of the convenient Kiosk(s), ATM’s, Pay-Pal(s), Internet, or Smart-Phone Web Navigation, remember the software dream and its relationship(s) to your life style and/or livelihood.

Have you ever wondered if robots have dreams?

Til next time…

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