Project Tracking Software for a Beginner
June 26, 2016 1:15 PM   Subscribe

What's a good piece of non-cloud software to track project completion for a small office?

I found this question but I have much lighter requirements.

I work in a small office (about 20 employees) and have been tasked with creating a means of tracking the projects every employee is working on at any given time. A preliminary Google search yields dozens of pieces of Project Management software that could do this, but I don't even know where to begin.

What I'm looking for doesn't have to be Project Management software per se, but it does have to fulfill the following requirements:

*easy to use
*inexpensive (does not have to be free, but nothing above a few hundred dollars)
*allows users to enter the projects onto a shared timeline
*does not require cloud access (i.e. all data must be stored entirely on a local network)
posted by Ndwright to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
What's your industry?

To be honest it's hard to find a on-premise multi-user system for a few hundred bucks, if you can use a cloud system you are going to find much better options.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:56 PM on June 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Why doesn't excel work for what you want to do?
posted by ch1x0r at 2:17 PM on June 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you have an IT department that can set up a local server for this? Microsoft Project is my first suggestion, in general, but shared editing is likely outside of your budget. So, you're going to want something that is probably an open source project website that has allows you to work the way you want to. Do you like Gantt charts? Kanban?
posted by rhizome at 3:10 PM on June 26, 2016

Best answer: Are you managing the individual projects themselves? Or are you tracking the performance of these projects (e.g. managing the portfolio of your company's projects)? Both?

In both cases, you can use Excel.

However, if you are managing the overall performance of the portfolio (and you anticipate having a growing number of projects and you want to do analysis across multiple years of projects), you might want to consider adding MS Access as well. You can import data from Excel into Access and use Access to track and create automated performance reports. Using Excel/Access can be helpful if you plan to include budget tracking, too.

I use Excel to manage individual projects and Access to manage a pretty large portfolio of projects with big budget and haven't had any problems. Memail me if you'd like details on how this can work.
posted by skye.dancer at 3:54 PM on June 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would say that shared read/write access, timeline, and local storage combined with the budget of a few hundred bucks are an unsolvable combo. A few hundred per user, sure.
posted by zippy at 7:33 PM on June 26, 2016

Response by poster: So it looks like designated software won't be necessary for our purposes, good to know.

Any suggestions of how best to use Excel? I assume when you say "Excel" it's not 'everyone share the same excel sheet on a share drive. And should I buy a template or would it be easy enough to build one?
posted by Ndwright at 4:53 PM on June 27, 2016

Best answer: A lot of this will depend on the answer to skye.dancer's question - are you managing the actual work being done, or are you managing the projects - meaning people are reporting their progress to you and you're reporting that upstream.

Shared timeline sounds like a Gantt chart, and there should be plenty of examples and templates on how to do that in Excel. This is one: Manual Gantt Charting in Excel. However, I can see that allowing everyone access to that could turn into a total nightmare.

Is the "no cloud" thing a requirement for security reasons, or is it just a "we don't do things like that around here" kind of thing? Because the first place I'd be looking is either a shared spreadsheet on Google Docs, or something like SmartSheet. If you're stuck with local network only, I'd set it up where one person (you) controls the spreadsheet, and people report their status to you. After a while that will take up so much of your time and create enough problems and headaches that using a cloud solution will become more acceptable.
posted by ralan at 6:45 AM on June 28, 2016

Best answer: Any suggestions of how best to use Excel? I assume when you say "Excel" it's not 'everyone share the same excel sheet on a share drive.

I think that's exactly what most folks are recommending when it comes to Excel. In order to get shared access you need some server somewhere for folks to collaborate. On-premise servers are the usually the most expensive way to use collaboration or shared services and your budget will generally preclude this option. That leaves a shared server that you already use (like a file share) with Excel. This is why cloud options are cost effective you don't need to install and maintain any server infrastructure.

The dichotomy in your question that you don't have the budget for a decent onsite solution and you can't use a cloud one.

Heck a tool like Trello is basically free and can get you a long way but its hosted.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:46 AM on June 28, 2016

Response by poster: The dichotomy in your question that you don't have the budget for a decent onsite solution and you can't use a cloud one.

Bingo. It's looking like an Excel-based system is the best for what I need given my constraints. Thank you all for your insight!
posted by Ndwright at 7:05 PM on June 28, 2016

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