Project Management systems galore

With an image for the blog entry–for which I have no idea how much trouble I’m in–now I am ready to talk about it.

When my director told me his website requirements, I went into a bit of a tizzy being overwhelmed and the web design companies wooing for our business started drooling at the amount of customization that we would require. Then fellow Dal alum, Karen, set me off looking at project management systems with the recommendation of Basecamp and I didn’t look back (at those aggressive salesmen, er, web design consultants).

What followed was the most fun time I’ve had at work evaluating many of the major online project management systems.

I started looking at Basecamp, of course. It’s a beautiful-looking service that is 2009-looking and functioning. One feature glaringly lacking is a Gantt chart module but since I’m not a full-fledge PM or anything, I hardly miss it in my use of Basecamp. Our projects cannot be placed on a hosted service so I don’t consider it for work but, of course, I signed up for their free, one-project account.*

When you Google “alternatives to basecamp”, one particular trend stands out and those are links pointing to active collab. For a very short time, active collab was open source, a brilliant and elegant alternative to Basecamp. The price of a perpetual license is insignificant compared to the power and utility of the system you get.

I read tons of reviews of the above systems and it was in forums and comments that other systems were mentioned: Project Pier, Open Atrium, 5 pm web, Comindwork, etc.

Project Pier is the group that spun off active collab and remained an open source project–great! It meant I could install it easily on my shared hosting server and manage my work projects (one “project” for my perpetual RA tasks and separate ones corresponding to each of my projects). I’m not sure if it’s the code itself or my hosting that is making my PP system slower than desirable–I’m tempted to think it is the hosting…. Oh, and I wish Project Pier had a built-in calendar module.

I nearly collapsed fawning over the interfaces of Open Atrium and 5 pm web. Wow, they are so kawaii!! 5 pm web was quickly tossed because of it being hosted but I was able to download Open Atrium. It’s a Drupal-like install that I haven’t managed to get working. I’ll try it again later and convert from PP so fast.

Finally, I evaluated Comindwork. I wondered if that was the solution for work since you could also host it on your own server. It reminded me strikingly of Basecamp and of all the PM systems’ Twitter accounts that I followed, Comindwork has been the most interactive. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the 21-day install I downloaded for evaluation except I think I needed a Microsoft server. So I pitted my Basecamp account against the one-project free account Comindwork also offers.

Unfortunately, Comindwork has also been tossed primarily for the reason of being too busy-looking. The UI is far busier looking than active collab (the work solution). When evaluating Basecamp versus Comindwork for use by me and NPY, Comindwork lost out as well. It is impressively powerful but I made the judgement that all the bells and whistles would hinder rather than promote its adoption by NPY. Finally, there are iPhone apps to access Basecamp but not Comindwork, a final deciding factor.

* When you only have one project available, I named it, of course, “My Life” and the unlimited number of milestones I can create correspond to upcoming events, like our upcoming friends trip and my Christmas trip back home. I have lists going associated with the milestones: packing list, tasks to complete in Halifax, and preparation items before I leave. I keep my list of everyday-to do’s in a Google spreadsheet, despite the availability of so many other reminders/lists web services.

On this day..


  1. PM Hut says:

    Have you actually noticed any difference between Basecamp and the others, besides aesthetics. They’re basically all the same, in my opinion, what you should look for is pricing and support (some I think over 24 hour support), and of course, reliability (make sure that your data is being backed up constantly).

    Since I’m heavily involved in Project Management I thought I weigh in and give you my opinion.
    .-= PM Hut´s last blog post ..Agile Myths Debunked =-.

  2. Arturas says:

    Thanks for considering Comindwork. I agree that at first look Comindwork looks a bit heavy weight, but apart form that Comindwork can be completely customized to your needs and unnecessary tabs and features switched off leaving you with only for example task management and to-do lists if you don’t need anything else. And as for iPhone app – we are currently alpha testing our app it will released soon. None the less thank you for your opinion, we value our users feedbacks highly and most of the system is developed by user needs and recommendations.
    .-= Arturas´s last blog post ..COMINDWORK/BLOG: External Login widget *new [pas created] =-.

  3. John Harisson says:

    When overwhelmed with projects, the best way is to get an all-in-one tool that will help you manage your business in a breeze. I used comindwork before but what enticed me to switch to web crm is its integrated features that help me from lead management to billing and customer service (thru its helpdesk feature).

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