Project Management Software
April 14, 2005 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Our small web development company is looking into project management software. I've been looking around, but can't seem to find something that really suits our needs.

After doing a ask.mefi search I found that someone else had already posted almost exactly the same question, and in the answers a few people had suggested Basecamp.
I'd already been looking into basecamp, and it's pretty good, but just doesn't quite do all that we want.

So, here are some of the features we're looking for:
Extended features on tasks such as due date, percentage completed, and a priority rating of at least 0 - 10.
Multi-project and -client support (of course).
Multi-user support for assigning things to one or more different people.
Task and message categorization via tagging or labeling or whatever you want to call it, so things can be applied to a variety of categories.
A To-do page that uses several of the properties like priority and due date to determine what needs the most attention.

I'm increasingly getting the feeling that we're going to end up having to build this ourselves, but I'd really like to avoid that. Does anyone have any suggestions?
posted by frufry to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've been doing the project management thing for about fifteen years now, and many companies use Microsoft Project or perhaps Microsoft Project Server to do what you describe.

Take a look at this and see if does what you need it to do.
posted by dabradfo at 11:36 AM on April 14, 2005

Microsoft Project? Visual Intercept?

If you are a small company, I would say you should steer very clear of building this yourself. It's only going to waste a lot of time (and money.) There's nothing strange on your list of features, you should be able to find something to meet your needs.
posted by drobot at 11:38 AM on April 14, 2005

Thanks for the suggestions.
Correct me if I'm wrong, though, but I don't think either of these handle my last requirement very well (the to-do page thing).

All the project management software out there seems to a good job with projects, which isn't too surprising, but they're not so great with task management.

I bet it's not too confusing to manage tasks if you, say, throw 10 people at a single task like integrating with a legacy database. There wouldn't any confusion at all about deadlines or who should be doing what.
It's the opposite end of the spectrum for me, though. I'm one person who has to simultaneously manage dozens of tasks across multiple clients and projects. Simply adding a task that's buried underneath some hierarchy isn't really good enough. I need something that will do some logic to figure out what's most important.
posted by frufry at 11:58 AM on April 14, 2005

Give FogBugz a try, one of the cheaper alternatives, and should match you more easily than just about anything else.
posted by patrickje at 12:01 PM on April 14, 2005

Another vote for FogBugz...I'm using it as the sole programmer in our small company. It's really helped me get on top of my mile-long TODO list and slowly start checking things off.

Also, be careful about trying to automate priorities too far. If you've read Getting Things Done, one of his main points is that once you have your list of things to do organized and in front of you, deciding what's most important right now should be a quick and intuitve decision.
posted by jacobsee at 12:27 PM on April 14, 2005

One way of looking at Microsoft Project, or most project software that performs some kind of work breakdown structure is that your project becomes a task list at some point.

As the project decomposes from big thing to little tasks, the project becomes exactly what you are talking about - tasks. These tasks can also be priortized, etc... and then sorted every which way you would like.

Sometimes it helps to look at this kind of software as a much glorified Excel Worksheet with bonus features.

To reinforce my point (particularly about the "to-do list" aspect, take a look at the to-do list question in the Project 2003 FAQ.
posted by dabradfo at 12:57 PM on April 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

It's been a while since I used Intercept, but I seem to remember that it would actually send assigned users outlook tasks based on the project list, which the users could then 'accept' into their task lists. It's been five or six years since I used it though, but worth taking a look at.
posted by drobot at 1:17 PM on April 14, 2005

Echo dabradfo. MSProject does it all. I have the 2000 version so I don't know how well it emails tasks (if at all). But even 2000 handled to-do reports handily.
Also, dotproject is quite good, easy to set up, is project-aware and has a live demo before you attempt implementing it (to do's come up as calendars). You could go for Scarab, which is easy to customize but does not have the built-in project intelligence you require.
posted by nj_subgenius at 1:33 PM on April 14, 2005

PS: what drobot said too. Better you get 90% of requirements met with an off-the-shelf solution than spend opportunity cost on DIY software. That's just wrong.
posted by nj_subgenius at 1:36 PM on April 14, 2005

Take a look at Trac. It's not exactly what you want, but it provides a lot of what you need for free and is extendable. I installed it at work (45 person web dev company) and have tweaked a little functionality to fit business rules, but not much. In the interests of full disclosure, our project managers use MS Project for a lot of their part of a job; Trac is for the keeping track of code deliverables (not that it has to be that way).
posted by yerfatma at 2:36 PM on April 14, 2005

check out projux - i use it, it does all the project manager things - the killer feature, though, is the invoice maker. You can input your billable hours directly (or use their timer) and then compile invoices automatically.
It rocks in that way.
posted by muddylemon at 3:49 PM on April 14, 2005

Clients and Profits. Try that, it is heavily oriented towards web design / marketing / advertising firms.
posted by banished at 4:20 PM on April 14, 2005

Another free choice - Open Workbench. I know it has some of those features you needed and it is flexible, so maybe worth a try.
posted by rjd at 11:28 PM on April 14, 2005

« Older How to spend my thesis grant?   |   Looking for best cookbook for "light" cooking... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.