Every business, regardless of size, needs a project management system to help them sort through tasks, keep an active eye on deadlines, share files with team members, and monitor resource efficiency. Sure you could buy a hefty piece of software or build your own, but web-based tools are more sophisticated than ever and offer pretty much anything you could ever dream up to manage projects from start to finish.
The five sites listed here are some of the best online options available to businesses of all sizes. From applications with advanced reporting options, feature-rich gantt charts, document collaboration, and IM integration, to tools that support third-party data import of audio, photos, and text, you're sure to find one that satisfies the specific needs of your business.
DeskAway's advantage over the competition and more well known names is that it provides the project creation, task and resource management, and milestone related features that you need with an intuitive user interface and advanced reporting options for better insight on project, resource, and known issue status.
All tasks, including issues, can be assigned to team members, given priority levels, and time tracked. Project progress reports become detailed information centers complete with data and graphs on overdue, completed, archived, and in progress projects that can be printed out or shared online.
DeskAway supports file management and even document creation, so documents can be created and collaborated on right within the system. And if you and your management staff aren't fans of wiki markup language, then you'll love the fact that DeskAway documents work similar to Google Docs and include a standard rich-text editor, making them function just like typical word processing documents. DeskAway docs include templates, and support sharing, group collaboration, auto-saving, revision tracking, and comments.
DeskAway offers a fantastic solution for start to finish project management and collaboration. The web-based service can be used free of charge, but larger teams and companies will want to upgrade to subscription based plans that start at $10/month and go to $99/month for more features, storage, and unlimited projects.
Peloton is a cycling term that defines how cyclists group together to maximize the efficiency of an individual member’s ride, and Pelotonics, which is based on that concept, works exactly the same way. Pelotonics was built to make web-based project management and group collaboration a more efficient process for both project managers and contributing team members.
The site boasts an extensive feature set, but the most attractive functionalities go hand in hand with third-party integrations, tapping into some of the web's most popular to-do list and note managers to make the site work for all contributors. The idea is to support individual productivity systems with a group productivity layer that makes it painless to pull in external data like Evernote audio, image, and text notes, and Remember The Milk to-do items, add them to a project, tag them, add notes, assign them to a contact, and share with the team.
With Pelotonics users get a Dashboard that includes a view of the global calendar with filter options, upcoming and late deliverables, and recent activity across all projects. Projects consist of a calendar, tasks, milestones, contacts, and files, so admin users can create to-do items, assign them to team members, and set a deadline. Pelotonics also has its own messaging system that makes it easier for team members to organize important messages around projects, categorize them, and solicit team member responses in the form of comments.
Of course Pelotonics also includes time tracking and reporting features so users can stay informed on project status and manage resource assignments. The site will also be adding Google Docs integration to make sharing and collaboration on web-based documents even easier.
Pelotonics has plans ranging from free for limited features to $199/month for unlimited projects, people, and 100GB of file storage.
5pm shakes things up a bit, turning online project management into a two-column experience. The main screen includes two resizable panels with the left panel holding a tree view of projects and tasks, and the right panel showing more specific details, like files and activity, of a selected project.
Each panel has customizable columns with additional information that you can opt to include, and expand if necessary. Columns can be reordered by preference and include a Microsoft Project-like column to show days left, progress, status, deadline, and client name. The side-by-side view essentially provides a convenient way to access project related information when working on multiple active projects.
5pm has a few additional advance features to help users quickly manage and update projects on the fly. From the left hand panel, users can view roll-over hints with project information without having to dig into projects. There's also a handy right-click (control-click for Mac) option to make quick edits to projects. Projects can even be placed into groups, filtered, and sorted by column data.
The interactive timeline is 5pm's newest feature, providing a robust and feature-rich gantt charts view of tasks. This alternative view, accessed from the main view, offers a gantt chart display of projects and tasks with start and finish dates in graphic form. All tasks are color-coded based on status and progress, and include contextual menus to jump to specific projects or tasks from the timeline view. Tasks and projects can even be drag-and-dropped to alter start dates and extend deadlines. Users can select daily, weekly, and monthly views as well as filter by project type to get more specific project timelines.
Additional features include the ability to import contacts from Gmail, data import from Basecamp, time tracking, time report, RSS options, client login, iCalendar integration, export to CSV, and project or task cloning. Pending features like task dependencies, mobile applications, and additional language support are in the works.
5pm combines web-friendly features with desktop application sophistication for a complete project management solution. All subscription options are paid and start at $18/month for 5 users and 10 active projects. For unlimited projects, users, and 10GB of file storage, 5pm charges $175/month.
4. Central Desktop
Central Desktop is designed to be a learning curve-free wiki-style project management tool for business teams that centers around easy to create and manage project workspaces. The web-based application also boasts enterprise grade search so resource-rich projects won't limit your ability to find anything. Central Desktop queries search file repositories, full document text, conversation threads, and multiple workspaces.
Central Desktop comes with standard online project management tools so to-dos, notes, messages, and tasks can be created and delegated to workspaces and team members, given status and deadline constraints, and viewed in calendar form. Each user in Central Desktop has a personalized dashboard overview of workspaces, reminders, and overdue alerts. Plus, since Central Desktop integrates with IM and VoIP clients, users can invite, chat, and call contacts all right within the system.
Central Desktop's winning feature set is the real-time collaboration options: word-processing and spreadsheet document creation, web meetings, and audio conferences. Documents can be created, shared, and managed with Central Desktop, and include revision tracking, import and export to and from Excel, charts, and real-time collaborative editing. Events like web meetings and conference calls can be scheduled, managed, and held right within the application. Central Desktop even integrates with your Outlook Calendar to make meeting invitation and schedule management work with your existing contacts and calendar.
Central Desktop has pricing levels for all needs, so individuals can use it free of charge, small workgroups can pay $25 - $49/month for a limited number of workspaces, and company plans, which include domain and branding customization, range from $99 - $249/month depending on needs.
Basecamp has become the Google of project management, and for good reason. The web-based tool was designed with simplicity and ease of use so it's missing features that normally tend to overcomplicate and bloat project management.
If you want gantt charts, advanced reporting, and great online documents, Basecamp isn't the application for you. What Basecamp does best is make it dead simple to start a project, create and assign tasks and milestones, share files, track time, display conversations, manage deadlines, and keep users informed with a global overview of everything happening across all projects.
As the leading online project management solution, Basecamp's API is being used by a plethora of third-party applications, which means Basecamp users have limitless ways to access and manipulate their project data. Need Basecamp on your iPhone? You can select from Outpost, Projects, Minivan, and Groundwork. Can't live without invoice and billing support tied to Basecamp data? FreshBooks, Simply Invoices, Pulse and 8 other sites can help you with that. Want robust time tracking? Project Recon, Tick, Timepost, Harvest, and Toggl all integrate nicely with Basecamp. Plus, if you need ticket/support issue management, you can hook up your Basecamp info with SproutIt Mailroom. You can even grab dashboard widgets that make accessing projects from your desktop a breeze.
Basecamp's Basic plan is $24/month and includes 15 projects, 3 GB storage, and unlimited users. Additional plans are available and range from $49 - $149/month depending on project and storage needs.