Project Management System (PMS)
Online software makes our lives easier. Managing projects, contacts, documents, files, tasks, and milestones plus being able to share this information with a client so they can see progress and participate is invaluable.
So why not use it? Actually we do. Basecamp, which is an amazing web app by 37signals, has plans starting at $24/month. That’s really affordable if you’re juggling around 15 projects at a time.
Here in Paragonland, we might have as many 25 active projects, 5 projects in client limbo, 15 on the way, plus a massive archive we’d like to keep handy for reference. The plan to fit our needs is around $149/month. That’s still pretty affordable, but we’re always on the hunt for a $0 option if one exists.
So what’s a boy to do?
We started a few years ago with a tool we built internally. We called it ‘Admin’ … original, I know. It helped us through those first few years when our voice started to change.
We then did a major overhaul to it a little over a year ago to create “Manager” … we’re king of names.
We thought building our own tools would be the best option as we could add to them as we needed. Using Admin and Manager made us more efficient so we were able to take on more work. Taking on more work however, meant that we didn’t have time to upgrade or modify these little guys. Somewhere in there is a moral.
So, we began looking at open source alternatives. Like I said before, if there’s a cost-free option that works, we’re all for it! And there are a lot of options out there (some decent, some not so much). Plus we’re designers, so finding a simple and elegant solution was a requirement.
Solution 1: WordPress MU is the multi-user version of WordPress. How does a bunch of blogs help? It’s pretty simple actually. Create a new blog for each project, password protect it (with help from a few handy little plugins), and then grant access to only select users. Then handle all project updates with posts. Clients can use the comment feature for feedback. Milestones and time lines could be pages added to the blog. Sweet and simple.
WordPress MU worked pretty well in combination with our Manager. Then we found Project Pier. Aha! The plot thickens!
Solution 2: Project Pier is written in PHP, open source and free to download. Right out of the zip you have
- Ugly-ass interface
All that and the usual dashboard. With a little patch job you can add time tracking and with a theme (I recommend marine) you can knock the ugly off. We’ve been banging on it for a few weeks now and so far we like it. True, it’s not exactly Basecamp but it’s working really well for us, and of course you can’t beat the price!
Results: We’re slowly moving to Project Pier as our internal manager in combination with WordPress MU for client reviews. Admin and Manager will quietly drift somewhere to the back of the sock drawer.
Everyone has different needs and these are the tools that we’re playing with. What about you? What do you use and what are the results?