Project Management Applications For Small Businesses

If you manage a small business or project, using email communications, Excel spreadsheets and company hard drives for managing and storing project information might be okay on a temporary basis, but as the number of your projects grow (and your number of collaborators grow with it) you’ll need to consider a more sophisticated system to incorporate in your business processes.

In fact, it has been proven that for small businesses having a collaborative tool providing multiple features including task assignment, time tracking, CRM, document management, mobile connectivity and third party invoicing can make a huge difference in company’s bottom line.

For large organizations, systems like Primavera, MS Project or SharePoint are the most popular software programs for project planning, reporting, document sharing, progress updating and tracking. They are used worldwide and have their own benefits and disadvantages.

On the other hand, for small businesses or small projects (such as creating new websites, new software programs, new mobile apps or even a minor manufacturing projects) Primavera and MS Project might not be the best solutions, the most important disadvantages being higher costs, heavy platform environment, learning curve, the need for sophisticated support team and unavoidable staff training.

Deciding which project management application or software to incorporate into your small business processes can be a daunting task as there is quite a wide selection to choose from and they are all continually evolving and advancing. To make matters more difficult, each software creator provides different packages to choose from, depending on the number of projects, the number of users (collaborators) and the storage space offered.

On the lower end, developers seem to categorize their packages based on one of these two choices:

– Unlimited collaborators, but limited number of projects

– Unlimited projects, but limited number of collaborators

But, they also offer unlimited projects/collaborators packages at much higher monthly rates.

Even if you select a low-end package to start with, as a growing business the high-end packages should be an important criteria for your selection because in a few years when your number of projects/users grow you would want to be able to keep the same platform, and avoid having to transfer all your files to a less costly solution.

Storage is also another differentiator for choosing your package. Depending on the type of projects your organization is managing, and the size of files your team members share on a daily basis, this could become a make-or-break factor in your selection.

The ability to use the software on your mobile smartphone or tablet is another factor to take into consideration, if that is indeed important to you or your organization. Some applications are just web-based, others use HTML5 code that fits and adapts to any screen size, and others provide their own iOS, Android or Windows Phone apps for the most popular devices such as iPhone or iPad.

Another factor to consider is whether you want (or need) to work with Gantt charts that are simpler versions of MS Project and Primavera. Some project management apps offer visual Gantt-based (rather than a task-assignment based) software.

To make your selection a little bit easier, outlined below are some project management apps we briefly examined for small businesses (in no particular order):

Product Name: Basecamp (Web-based + Mobile App)

– Lower End Package: 10 Projects, Unlimited Users, 3 GB Storage, $20 / month

– Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage, $150 / month

Basecamp keeps all your project documents and communications in one place. You can control who sees what on the projects and who can communicate with whom. The user interface is quite user-friendly and provides quick access to the latest project progress, communications, To-Do lists, etc. Basecamp also provides iOS and Android apps for mobile phones and tablets.

Product Name: Mavenlink (Web-based + Mobile App)

– Lower End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 20 GB Storage, $25 / user / month

– Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage

Mavenlink is fully integrated with Google Docs, Tasks and Contacts. It allows you to centralize your project information, files and communications in a shared environment. Real-time messaging ensures your team members stay on the same page. You can also stay connected using your mobile smartphone as the software offers an HTML5 mobile version as well.

Product Name: Apollo (Web-based + Mobile App)

– Lower End Package: 18 Projects, Unlimited Users, 5 GB Storage, $23 / month

– Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 75 GB Storage, $148 / month

Apollo helps you keep track of what’s happening on your project, tasks, and calendar using interactive timers. In the activity screen you can see who did what, and even communicate with other people. Files can also be kept within the platform. Mobile versions of the software for iOS and Android are also offered.

Product Name: Wrike (Web-based + Mobile App)

– Lower End Package: 5 Users, Unlimited Collaborators, Unlimited Projects, 5 GB Storage, $49 / month

– Higher End Package:: 50 Users, Unlimited Collaborators, Unlimited Projects,100 GB Storage, $199 / month

Wrike is another project management software providing task management, time tracking, document sharing, and real-time news-feed. It also provides Gantt-chart integration as well as Outlook and email integration to facilitate communications.

Product Name: Projecturf (Web-based only)

– Lower End Package: 20 Projects, Unlimited Users, Unlimited Storage, $40 / month

– Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, Unlimited Storage, $120 / month

Projecturf provides a user-friendly web environment giving instant access to various projects using tabs. It allows you to grant and change access permissions in every section, and even remove some section if they don’t apply to a project.

Product: Project Bubble (Web-based only)

– Lower End Package: 10 Projects, Unlimited Users, 5 GB Storage, $24 / month

– Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage, $99 / month

Project Bubble allows you to assign tasks and sub-tasks to team members, as well as define user permissions. It also allows you to enter the amount of hours you expect a given task should take (planned) and compare with the amount of hours is actually took (actual) to compare your actual costs with your planned budget. A timesheet feature is also offered for team members to help track the hours

Product Name: TeamGantt (Web-based only)

– Lower End Package: 5 Projects, 5 Users, 1 GB Storage, $10 / month

– Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 20 GB Storage, $79 / month

If you like using simplified Gantt charts, then TeamGantt might be the solution for you. The software also incorporates simple task commenting (by team members) directly in the Gantt chart. You can still take advantage of sharing documents and many other resources, and even view multiple projects’ Gantt charts in one screen to help with your resource planning.

In a nutshell, if the essence of project management is the breaking down of multi-faceted projects into smaller tasks and milestones assigned to various collaborators, then project management applications and software should assist you in organizing and breaking those complex operations and individual tasks down into specific data available at your fingertips; thus, providing more efficiency into the process than contemporary paper documents and spreadsheets offer. Therefore, your decision to purchase a project management software for your small business should be a long-term strategy for your organization:

1- Make a list of features you need today (and maybe in the future)

2- Assign weights to each feature based on its importance to your business

3- Review each software platform (start on their website)

4- Use a simplified QFD chart to compare various programs and narrow down your choice to just a few

5- Test the waters by emailing/calling each software provider to evaluate their customer support and agility to respond to your requests in a timely manner.

A final note of caution: Not all these project management software programs will survive today’s competitive marketplace, and one can easily predict that only a few will remain in a few years. So make sure your selection is not just based on price and short-term advantages, but also looks further on the horizon. If you like the content of this article, please share it on social media.

Most Popular CMS Software

Content Management System (CMS) software can store, organize, and publish your online content. Prior to the introduction of CMS software, web owners have to master PHP, CSS, and HTML to manage their websites or hire someone to do it for them. The arrival of CMS software has made things a lot easier. Now, the more pressing question is: what program is best?

When you search for CMS programs on the internet, numerous products will show on the search results. So how do you know which one is suitable for your business? Well, let’s start with the most popular CMS software: WordPress. While WordPress is more popularly known as a blogging platform, it is extremely versatile. Whether you are just starting out your online endeavor or are an experienced web owner, WordPress can be customized to suit your needs.

What Makes WordPress Stand Out?
Because of its initial popularity as a blogging platform, a significant number of publishers know how to use WordPress. It is easy to step up from using this tool for blogging to using it as a content management system. Another feature that works to its benefit is that it runs as an open-source application. Basically, anyone can install it to run their website.

Its open-source nature also leads to a significant benefit as well: the number of developers who are working to create plug-ins, widgets, themes, and apps to make WordPress even leaner, faster, and easier to use. Everything you need to run a fully-functional website can be installed for free or for a limited cost. Add-ons can be found on the interface itself and you just need to click to download them.

If there is a special feature you want to have, chances are, someone has probably thought about it too. You can just search for the feature from developers’ websites and it is likely that you can get it at an affordable rate. This is opposed to building everything from scratch which takes up a lot of time and resources. To give you a more concrete idea, consider the contact form. Previously, each website has to ask a developer to develop or install it for them. With WordPress though, all it takes is several clicks to have that feature on your website.

Compared to other CMS software, WordPress is also good for search engine optimization. The content you post can usually be indexed within the day. There are also numerous add-ons to improve your rankings available for free on the platform. So does WordPress have its limitations? Definitely, yes. It is geared more for end users and web owners who want simplicity and functionality quickly.

There are other CMS systems that are targeted more towards web developers who want to create new applications. Drupal, for example, may not be user-friendly but a lot of professional web developers prefer it because this CMS system gives them control over scripting. In the end, the CMS software you should go for completely depends on the purpose and goals for your website.

Software Applications

Software applications are increasingly evident and crucial in so many aspects of everyday life that many of us would have a hard time getting through a typical day without the use of some of them. Whether they are on a PC, a Mac, or most recently, on our cell phones, these software applications have drastically changed the way that many of us live our lives at home, on the go, and in the office.

Microsoft is world renowned as being one of, if not the best software companies in the world. Their Office suite of products includes software for word processing, spreadsheets, email and calendar tools, and presentations. Word and Excel are two of the most widely used and universally acceptable programs within the business world, and often time, are a required skill set for individuals looking to land a position within a company. These applications have revolutionized the way that we track, analyze, present, and share information with both internal and external customers.

Blogging has become an increasingly popular way for people to share their opinions and discuss just about anything that is one their minds. Applications have been developed specifically to assist with this new style of information sharing, such as Windows Live Writer and BlogJet. This software can prove to be invaluable to its users by providing them with the ability to create blog posts offline and makes the addition of files, YouTube videos, and images exceptionally easy. Spell checking and auto replace can also be run before transferring your completed work to the blog post of your choosing.

Another task that has become a seeming necessity to many is the ability to burn copies of CDs and DVDs from our computers. Applications such as Nero and CDBurnerXP have taken much of the guesswork out of these tasks and simplified the process to the push of a few buttons. Creating high quality CDs, DVDS, and even HD DVDs has become a reality for many users that possess little to no technical skill.

Instant messenger applications have helped to address our growing need for immediate gratification. There are no shortages of quality applications that provide this service, but one of the user-friendliest apps for communication with networked computers is Softros LAN Messenger. It provides all of the necessary features of an instant messaging program without some of the frivolous features, such as emoticons, which may be frowned upon in a professional environment.

Users of the popular Apple iPhone have been blessed with an ever-expanding library of software applications that can do just about anything. The Tweetie 2 application allows users to manage multiple Twitter accounts, translate foreign tweets, and connects Twitter followers to your address book contacts, right in the palm of your hand. The Yelp application connects to reviews of bars, restaurants, and other business and can provide a realistic, digital view of nearby establishments simply by pointing the viewfinder in its direction.

Good, bad or indifferent, software applications have become as much a necessity in our lives as food, oxygen and water.