Online Project Management Systems: Fired and Hired

Quick Backstory:
This is a finicky evaluation of online project management systems, taken slightly out of context. I originally published it a few weeks ago via “Dopp Brain“, my email newsletter, which I’m writing for more often than I’m blogging right now. If you miss hearing from me, go sign up for that. I’m working on some infant/sensitive projects right now, and am preferring to talk about everything just a little less publicly for a bit.

But somebody just asked me about this overview, so I’m making it public now.

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When we last heard from our hero, she was neck deep in trial accounts for online project management software…

Man, that was not a fun game.  But it was absolutely worth the digging.  Here’s what I learned (besides the fact that I am the Donald Trump of Project Management System Evaluators):

FIRED

Basecamp: It’s everybody’s golden child, but damnit, I can’t stand it.  Something about how the information is laid out just doesn’t fit how my brain works.  The Writeboards, which should be a centerpiece, are so far out of the way and take extra time to load that they feel like a disconnected afterthought.  The dashboard and calendar views are unreadably cluttered, and the task lists are clunky.  Fired.

Wrike: Oh, this one had so much potential, it broke my heart.  Completely fresh layout — they organize everything by Folders and Subfolders rather than Projects and Clients, so you can decide how your own work needs to be structured.  They also allow you to record the same task in multiple folders, so it’s cross-referenced against what it needs to do.  The only downside? It’s all about tasks.  And it takes a few too many clicks to enter a task to warrant that single focus.  There is a space for notes and discussions, but those are hidden away and hard to find — which is bizarre and completely unecessary.  I thought i was going to strangle it for that, so… Fired.

DeskAway: This one and I almost got married.  I had loaded up all my projects and we were halfway to the chapel (my tux looked great) when I realized that its Dashboard view of the All Tasks Due Today doesn’t let me mark tasks as done.  SERIOUSLY!  It’s just a summary — you have to click through to each task in this weird convoluted way to mark a task as done — so there’s no homebase area that you can hang out in and just be productive.  The other thing that bugged me was that the list of “Overdue” tasks included Today’s tasks.  You don’t get to tell me that something due today is overdue. And by the way, I lied, I don’t really like Bob Dylan and I don’t want to live in your stupid house with the stupid white picket fence and look at your stupid face all day long and this engagement is OVER. Fired.

Pelotonics: By this point, I was jaded.  I knew my standards were too high, and I was a little too familiar with the ejection button.  There was no passion here.  Just a bland dinner, a glimmer of hope (integrating with Evernote? Sweet…), and a quick dismissal based on a flat excuse.  I can’t add a new task from the Dashboard view. There. I said it. None of the other systems would let me do that either, but it seemed as good enough an excuse as any to end that date before we got any further.  It’s not you, it’s me. Let’s just be friends.  Trust me. You don’t want to get involved with me anyway. I’m bad news. I kill systems.  Just ask the others. Go. Now. Before we do something we’ll regret. You’re fired.

After I drowned my system incompatibility sorrows in several regrettable rounds of Chat Roulette, I got back on the horse.  I’m a reasonably attractive, successful consultant — I have a good personality, damnit!  There are plenty of fish in the sea!  Maybe I’m just using the wrong pickup line. Should I change my soap?

To cut to the chase, I put on my best “fine, i’ll be more agreeable this time” face and put together a hybrid solution:

HIRED

Remember the Milk for task tracking.  But not all tasks.  Just the tasks that aren’t part of any scheduled projects and still need to get done by a certain day.  I added the widget to my Gmail sidebar and configured it to only display tasks that are due today or are overdue.  I can check things off as I go, and I can add new things super-quickly when they come up. It works fabulously.

PBWorks Business Edition for project notes and collaboration.  It’s a wiki built for project management, and it’s yummy. I can have a different wiki for each project, and pull in guest collaborators for specific spaces only.  Bonus features: it has task lists (though they’re not any better than all the other system tasks lists I fired), and I’m using those to keep track of project requirements.  It also has this really sexy conference call feature, where it will call as many people as I want to have a meeting with on their telephones and bring them into a zero-hassle conference call.  And the best part about a wiki is that it has all the content I need, and none of the content I don’t need.  Win.

Google Calendar for scheduling work sessions. I’m blocking out time on my schedule for working on different projects. Old school, I know, but it works.

Emma, aka “Girl Friday,” aka “Queen of the Wikis” for tying it all together. (*joyful choirs erupt in praise*)  Emma’s a kick-ass project organizing consultant who is keeping the wiki and calendar updated, and making sense of new projects as they come in. You might also know her from KinkOnTap, the weekly webcast about culture, sexuality, and politics that she co-hosts and organizes.  She’s an awesome one, she is.

And there we have it.  That, plus some Gmail and Freshbooks is the organizational ground I’m standing on.  So far so good.

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7 Responses to “Online Project Management Systems: Fired and Hired”

  1. Daria Says:

    Sarah,
    Thank you for having tried Wrike and for your feedback! Have you tried the new Wrike version? It’s available in beta: https://www.wrike.com/beta. Please try it, if you have a minute. We’d be happy to find out what you think. :)

  2. Sarah Dopp Says:

    Ooh! Thank you so much for letting me know about this, Daria! Checking it out now…

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