not a sexy topic — not gonna hide it

Spring

Spring by just.Luc

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the web-scale discovery implementation project that has taken over my (work) life.

Following a conversation with Bill Denton at the Great Lakes THATcamp this past weekend, I was convinced that some sort of project management software/ system would help us to monitor our progress and manage the details of our work. Thus began the search. I’ve explored a few options & thought I’d share my thoughts so far (organized chronologically: what I looked at first, next, and so on).

For the record, I’m a little peeved to be spending time and effort selecting a PM system, when I’d rather be doing the bleepin’  project … BUT I want to be thoughtful before investing much more time in populating a PM system & imposing it on my eight team members.

And yes, this is a far-from-sexy topic. So, maybe this is just an utterly self-serving post in an attempt to help me make a decision. But any input is more than welcome!

Basecamp:

Pros:

  • This is the one Bill recommended & used in their implementation of VuFind at York. Other colleagues have used it or heard about it & reported only good things.
  • It’s slick & pretty darn intuitive.
  • Makes it easy to capture detail & attach tasks to individuals and deadlines.
  • I like it because it seems to involve little-to-no learning curve (ideal since we are in knee-deep in the actual work right now).
  • It’s web-hosted and simple: (almost) everything is displayed on one page.

Cons:

  • 45-day free trial, then costs the project owner $20/month for the basic account (10 projects, 3 GB storage) & unlimited team members. This is not in the project budget. Can it be justified? Is it necessary? I can’t be sure unless I’ve explored the options, so…

One-Page Project Manager:

Pros:

  • Our library systems department currently uses this, so I have access to some help in setting it up.
  • While it is completely confusing at first, once you’ve sorted out how to translate it, it offers a really nice way to see your project’s progress over time.
  • I appreciate the use of a simple, one-page Excel spreadsheet.
  • It’s free — the creator sells books on the process, but I don’t feel the need for it (is that bad? Sorry Clark Campbell , I promise to credit your copyright on every spreadsheet).

Cons:

  • As mentioned above, confusing at first! Not self-explanatory at all, and will require a bit of time investment to bring team members on board, and any external folks we share this with.
  • Doesn’t capture detail such as issue-tracking (we’d have to find another way to do this).
  • I don’t love the idea of using an Excel spreadsheet & dealing with issues around version control & difficulty opening a document if someone else is viewing it. I don’t think Google Docs could handle this crazy spreadsheet :(
  • Likely because of copyright concerns, I can’t find much online to help me learn how to apply this process. The creator has some free templates for download, but no explanation or support (makes sense, he’s trying to sell his book). I did find one presentation on Slideshare that helped me make some sense of it all.

SharePoint:

Pros:

  • We already have access to this software in-house, web-hosted.
  • It will do a decent job managing the organization of tasks & deadlines.
  • It plugs in neatly to existing institutional systems for all team members (ie/ Microsoft Exchange Calendar, Outlook etc.).

Cons:

  • It’s a complex, powerful tool that is not made *just* to manage projects, though I can see how you can make it work.
  • Learning curve: Due to inexperience and said complexity, it will require more time and effort for the team to sort it all out.
  • Clunky in contrast to pretty Basecamp.
  • From what I can tell, there’s not much in the way of online resources for learning how to use SP for PM :(

Project.net:

I just learned that Brock’s IT department uses project.net to manage their work & it looks like I may be able to get an invite to check it out. So, I haven’t gotten in yet, but will update when I have more info. Here are my thoughts thus far…

Pros:

  • Available in-house without additional project costs.
  • Interface looks pretty clean and straightforward.
  • Open source with user documentation on their wiki.

Cons:

  • Similar issues to SharePoint around complexity.
  • Learning curve?

Will let you know when we’ve made a decision. I know, I know… the suspense is too much :)

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The promised update:
Project.net : No luck getting a response to get in and try it out, grrrr.

But, I just must share the great ideas coming from folks on Twitter:
http://www.redmine.org/
https://github.com/teambox/teambox : an OA basecamp! but too demanding on my Systems people i fear…
https://trello.com/ : i actually *really* like trello. it takes a bit of a mind-shift but i like it. i only worry about stability?

What about ASANA? I’ve started to use it with a colleague to track and make transparent projects and tasks for a departmental committee we are on. It is cloud-based, and free so long as IIRC there are less than 30 users.

Jeff, thanks! I didn’t come across http://asana.com/ in my hunt for PM options. It looks like a neat solution (and the team is around 9 members right now, so definitely feasible).

This project is possibly too far along for me to bring it in at this point. We ended up not really finding a solution, and instead somewhat attempting to use SharePoint and an OPPM. In reality, as the project chair I used neither and just made do with email and to-do lists :(

BUT for my next project, Asana it is — thank you!

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