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Best Collaborative Project Management Tool – Web2Project

August 7th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

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 :)

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  1. August 9th, 2010 at 09:50 | #1

    Have you also tried RationalPlan Project Management Software?
    It is not present in the list from Wikipedia but it is a good project management tool. And with the launch of the server module you also get collaboration.

  2. August 14th, 2010 at 02:18 | #2

    Even though the previous comment is clearly from marketing, I have just had a look at the product and I certainly think the product is very much worth considering, so I’m not marking the comment as spam and will indeed even link the URL properly! To do what I was after you really need to get RationalPlan Project Server as well, but from what I’ve seen in terms of pricing and functionality RationalPlan is certainly worth considering for anyone instead of MS Prject and MS Project Server. If you want a free open-source web-based alternative or a focus on collaborative project management then I’d still consider the likes of Web2Project.

  3. September 16th, 2010 at 00:55 | #3

    Web2project Team Lead here..

    Thanks for the thoughts and for the thorough evaluation. It’s nice to see someone choose web2project, but honestly it’s 100x better to see someone choose it after evaluating the alternatives. To create Tasks a bit more quickly, check out the Project Designer Module. It’s in core and lets you bulk create/update/assign tasks with just a few clicks.

    Can you tell me some of the specific functionality that you were looking for and were happy to find?


  4. September 17th, 2010 at 06:27 | #4

    Some of the key things I was looking for in the tool was a reasonable price (open-source free option is always good, which Web2Project is). The tool needed to be colaborative so that I could manage tasks for others and they could see their tasks (which with MS Project you can’t do this without Project Server, which requires IIS and also costs a fair bit). I didn’t choose any Java based one as I have no desire to setup a J2EE server as I don’t need it. I needed the tool to be on a technology that was easy to setup (so PHP was good for us, as we already have WAMP running on the server). I needed it to support multiple projects and companies, which Web2Project did. I needed something where people could report their projects which Web2Project did. Also it was really important to have something really easy to use and understand, which Web2Project is. I used to work as a project manager and had extensive experience with MS Project, but because of the Project Server limitation and other annoyances I didn’t want to go with it.

  5. L Bilello
    July 12th, 2012 at 23:06 | #5

    Thanks for the blog. Didn’t think redmine was right for what I was looking for and you confirmed it. I’ll take a look at web2project. Also been looking at Endeavour but it’s not very active.

  6. September 20th, 2012 at 17:13 | #6

    It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this subject, but you seem like you know what you’re talking
    about! Thanks

  7. alan2k
    November 14th, 2012 at 22:04 | #7

    thanks for the review, i was deciding between dotproject and web2project, after reading this i lean more towards testing web2project first.

  8. Joe
    April 15th, 2013 at 21:23 | #8

    Hi, the wikipedia link says that web2project does not do scheduling or workflow, can you confirm that?

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