5 ways to manage projects online

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If you’re like us, you juggle a lot of projects in your day-to-day life. These projects have to-do items, reference materials, important contacts, and deadlines. Team members may work across the hall or across the country. The bottom line, though, is that things need to get done to move the project forward. Having a good project management system that anyone on the team may access is critical to a project’s success.

The good news is that a lot of software developers have recognized this need, and as a result there are many, many web-based project management solutions from which to choose. Below are five examples. Most of these services have a free trial period, after which there is a monthly fee based on the size of your team, the number of projects you have to manage, and other various factors. I know many people–especially educators–cringe at the thought of paying for online services, but when you consider the fact that you’re (a) getting software, (b) someone else is dealing with the cost and hassle of maintaining a server for it, and (c) the ability to share calendars, to-dos, documents and communications in a common space makes up for the potential of lost time resulting from misplaced e-mail or poorly-communicated deadlines.

1. Basecamp

Basecamp from 37signals is arguably the gold standard of web-based project management tools. Its clean interface and feature set make it popular with teams that need to get things done without the overhead of traditional project management principles. Kellogg’s, adidas, National Geographic, and other companies and brands use Basecamp to keep teams organized, informed and on-task. Small groups can use Basecamp for $24 per month.

2. Central Desktop

Central Desktop is feature-packed and also has an impressive user base, including the likes of CBS and Netflix. If you’ve got a small team (two projects with five team members per project max) you can even use it for free. I also like that data encryption using SSL technology is standard across the board–some other services charge extra for this important option. Check out the quick tour of Central Desktop and watch the demonstration video on their website to learn more.

3. WhoDoes 2.0

WhoDoes 2.0 is a relatively new player on the project management market. It’s currently free while they continue to beta test features and determine a pricing structure. Like Basecamp, the interface is very user-friendly, and focuses on communicating and getting things done more than it does traditional corporate structure and project management mechanisms. Check out a series of videos to explore WhoDoes 2.0′s feature set.

4. 5pm

5pm is a little more traditional in its approach to project management–this may be preferable if you’re familiar with project management principles or established software like Microsoft Project. An overview of 5pm outlines its features; prices start at $18 a month.

5. Google Apps

Although it’s not strictly a project management tool, Google Apps for Business is an affordable way to share documents and calendars, outsource e-mail service without giving up a custom domain name (for example, e-mail to and from addresses @stratepedia.org go through this service), and even host a basic website for your project. It’s a little more involved in terms of setup, but worth the effort. The standard edition is free; a premier version with additional features and capacity is $50 per user per year. Discounts for non-profits are available.

This list is by no means exhaustive–everyone’s got their own take on how online project management tools should work (heck, I’ve written several myself, dating back to the mid-90s), so if one of these doesn’t quite suit your needs, something else might. PM-Sherpa has a much larger list of online project management tools for your perusal.

Photo: petahopkins on Flickr

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Aaron Sumner

Aaron Sumner is the Director of Technology for Research and Development at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. He has worked in web development and instructional technology since 1994.
  • http://www.expertprogrammanagement.com Expert Program Management

    Right then… that's 5 new apps I've not used before to check out :) Only thing is, the more project management I do the more I'm starting to think its about the people not the processes

  • http://www.aaronsumner.com/ Aaron Sumner

    Good point, but that's a little beyond this little education technology blog :-)

  • Sal

    You should also check out DeskAway (http://www.deskaway.com) – a simple yet powerful tool that focuses on project communication, analytics & tracking. Do check it out if you have the time!

  • http://www.santexq.com SantexQ

    Great list! I’ve tried many of these apps and they all work well. Another worthy online project management tool is SantexQ (http://www.santexq.com). It focuses on task and time management, very effective.

  • http://www.santexq.com SantexQ

    Great list! I've tried many of these apps and they all work well. Another worthy online project management tool is SantexQ (http://www.santexq.com). It focuses on task and time management, very effective.