It seems like everyone is using Google these days – and not just for personal purposes. According to the folks at White Stratus, one in five U.S. companies use Google Apps. Surprisingly, the bigger the company, the more likely they are to be leveraging these tools. The most commonly used applications are those that come standard with the basic product suite (Docs, Calendar, etc.). However, as businesses get past the pilot stage they are branching out and adding more functionality with niche solutions from companies that build web-based products to interface with Google Apps. Project management is one area where such specialty applications are coming into their own.
There are dozens of PM apps on the market. Each one has its own blend of features ranging from basic collaboration and document sharing to more comprehensive solutions with project reporting functions. Here are details on a few applications:
This application focuses on the scheduling aspect of project management. As the name suggests, you can use it to generate bar charts showing progress. The developer claims that the product integrates fully with Google Docs and that MS Project files can be imported.
This product centers around team management. It allows users to share files and gives the project manager the ability to assign tasks. These functions are interfaced with Google apps such as Gmail with single sign-on. You can create projects from a basic template and track milestones. However, Gantt chart-style reports aren’t available.
This app offers both communication capabilities and chart generation. The newest version of this product also gives users the ability to create sub-tasks and define logical relationships. It also tracks changes to promote better decision-making.
This application puts a lot of emphasis on customization. You can brand your “portal” with your company’s look and feel. Unlike many Google integrated apps for project management, this one includes time tracking and billing functions.
Pros and Cons of Using Apps
The most commonly mentioned benefit is that many Google compatible PM apps are free or very low cost. Sometimes, apps are rolled out in a free version because they are still in the testing phase and will eventually be billed on a pay-per-use or similar basis once all the kinks are addressed. In the meantime, be prepared for a lot of revisions as the app is being developed. If frequent changes affect the end user’s experience, this could negatively impact a project.
On the other hand, if your current software tools aren’t serving your project management needs, you might test drive a few apps to see if they work for you. Here are some questions to ask in your search for the right fit:
- What functions currently being handled by other software does this app fully replace?
- Will I need separate applications for time tracking, reporting, billing, etc?
- Can I import and export data to other applications as needed?
- Is real-time data sharing with other back-end software possible?
You may find that it takes several overlapping apps to get all the functionality you need from these cloud-based niche products. While Google Apps may be making significant inroads in large businesses, it doesn’t appear that there is currently a comprehensive project management app that could be deployed on the enterprise level.