Best Collaborative Project Management Tool – Web2Project
We’ve got quite a few projects on the go at work and it’s become quite difficult to remember all the projects, the tasks needed in each project and more important making sure that the team is working on what they should be working, so I set out to find a better solution than just using Excel. The result was Web2Project. This is how I came to that choice…
We decided that we need to formalise our project management so that everyone knows what they’re doing and everything is co-ordinated. Actually the problem initially also started because we had massive todo lists and everyone was doing everything differently and it was a real pain to remember everything. Anyway, basically besides the simple todo lists we needed something to plan and co-ordinate everyone in doing the projects and making sure that people are clear on what they should be doing. So we decided we needed a project management tool of some sort that was better than the ad-hoc way of using Excel which is what we’ve been doing.
I decided that before choosing something I would analyse the different options available. The options I initially came up with:
- Excel – What we used now on an ad-hoc basis.
- MS Project – Which I’ve used before when working in the corporate world as a project manager.
- Redmine – Which is our issue defect management tool.
- Pen & Paper – Ouch, don’t go there.
- Other Project Management Tool
After doing some analysis, one of the biggest shortcomings with Excel and MS Project was that they didn’t support a collaborative environment, so it was really difficult to communicate to everyone what they should be working on and we didn’t exactly want to fork out for MS Project Server, let alone go through the pain of installing and managing it. I thought initially Excel might be alright, but as nice as Excel is, it’s a general tool that isn’t designed for project management, and although you can certainly use it, it’s a little short on features and I’d hate to have a massive Excel spreadsheet across all projects. The thing for us is that Projects are planned on a per-project basis, but people perform work on a per-person basis. i.e. you need a Project view of the hierarchical tasks when planning and managing a project (and need to see across projects as well), but for people they need to see their task list across all projects. I’ve used MS Project to manage multiple projects before using linking and so on, but it was quite a pain as it’s quite complex and you really need to know what you’re doing in MS Project (and you need to pay for it too). As nice as MS Project is it also doesn’t let you track what everyone’s doing without using Project Server or Excel with MAPs, but that’s also not seamless. Either way, I decided that neither Excel nor MS Project would really fit the bill as nice as they are, so I set out to see what other Project Management Tools were available.
Google searches revealed that people have already done some work and aggregated the information for me on Wikipedia in Project Management Software wiki page. So I decide to go through and see what open-source tools were available. Initially I looked at eGroupWare, phpGroupWare, Project.Net, Project-Open and Web2Project. I also considered Mantis and Redmine, but they’re not really designed for project management per-se, so decided to not really look at them much futher as my experience with Redmine told me it wouldn’t be quite up for the job as nice as it is for Issue management (and the one I’d recommend to anyone).
Anyways, I started evaluating the various tools. I found that with egroupWare and phpGroupWare (which together with Tine are all just forks of the same project) it was more of a full suite and not quite suited to what I needed, because the actual project management capability was lacking a bit. Project.Net seemed like an awesome solution, but it’s written in Java and requires an Oracle database and an J2EE Application Server to run… It’s a fair bit of effort to get both of those up and running if you don’t have them setup already and aren’t using them actively, so I decided to shelf them as options as well and was down to dotProject and Web2Project… searching revealed the two were once the same and Web2Project is a fork of dotProject which seems to have not been maintained of recent, so I decided to only look at Web2Project.
I downloaded and installed Web2Project on my local machine, on which I already have WAMP installed (Web2Project runs on an AMP stack (i.e. Apache, MySQL, PHP)). Installation was easy and took me only a few minutes. Once I got the product installed I started going through and playing around with it and to my surprise it pretty much did exactly what I was after and was nice and simple to use, which was also a big bonus. Furthermore, as it’s written in PHP I would be able to modify or extend it without too much fuss if required.
So I implemented Web2Project in our production environment and now we’re all happily using it. It allows us to create hierarchical tasks within projects assign them to people and they can log their activity against tasks and so on. It’s pretty much doing everything that I wanted it to do and I havn’t had any issues with it so far. I did find that creating tasks is a bit of a pain and probably not quite as nice as in Excel or Project (in terms of how quickly you can do it), but there is a MS Project import tool available and if anything I’m confident I can write a little CSV importer too. Anyways for anyone looking for nice simple collaborative project management tool, I’d recomment going with Web2Project. Hope this help someone when going through the same process