In my last two posts (here and here) I discussed free, open source software and Kanban and today I have a service that, while it isn’t FOSS, takes Kanban into a much bigger project management context.
As I wrote in my last post, Kanban is a simple idea; it provides a visual methodology for tracking projects but, by itself, Kanban is only part of the services required for comprehensive project management. Today’s focus, Projectplace, uses Kanban integrated with traditional Gantt charts, document management, and multi-user interaction and social interaction all wrapped up in a secure environment all of which makes for the bigger context I mentioned above.
How much do real world projects need this kind of bigger context? According to a survey of over 200 business professionals by Appleseed Partners:
- Over half of the respondents waste over seven hours a week (two months a year) because of collaboration issues
- 40 percent noted making project information easily accessible to team members is a top obstacle
- Over a third of respondents cite project collaboration difficulties as reason for projects being delivered late and over budget
- More than 40 percent of respondents said that email is their top collaboration hurdle.
Projectplace’s Kanban boards are drag and drop enabled and can have customized column names. “Cards”, which are personalized with the owners photo, can be commented on by any team member and used by the owner to solicit feedback and help with updates being notified by email. Projectplace’s social aspect is one of its great strengths.
Cards in Projectplace’s Kanban can have work estimates, due dates, and files attached to them. In place of Kanban’s traditional “swimlanes”, Projectplace provides color-coding to visually group cards by whatever classification scheme makes sense for the project.
Where Projectplace makes Kanban cards a different beast is in the ability to link them to a project’s Gantt chart as project steps so that you can manage both the tasks and their relationships. The small squares in each task bar in the screenshot above each represent a Kanban card and completed cards are denoted by the square being filled in.
Document sharing can be private and optionally public so external stakeholders can access project files. There’s a built-in approval workflow that tracks when reviews are done and what changes the reviewers requested. The document management system also integrates with Dropbox and Google Drive.
Other Projectplace features include extensive reporting, add-on applications that enhance document management and project planning, support for online group meetings with screen sharing, templates to simplify defining new projects, and iOS and Android applications that support all of the same features as desktop browsers.
Finally, Projectplace provides a set of RESTful APIs that allow external interaction with most aspects of the system including Kanban boards, documents, users, and calendars.
Pricing starts at free for Projectplace’s ToDo service which provides only Kanban boards for one team with up to five members. For the Pro version of ToDo with up to three teams and up to 25 members, pricing is 3€ per user per month (support for more teams and members is on request). I don’t really recommend ToDo because its user interface is weak and not completely intuitive. Given how polished the full Projectplace UI is and how slick it is in use I’m surprised that ToDo is left as the company’s red-headed stepchild.
Be that as may, the full product in terms of presentation and functionality is outstanding albeit with a pricing scheme that's a little eccentric. For one project with all of the basic features the cost is $29 per user per month. Pricing for more projects and enterprise subscriptions is on request.
By combining Kanban, Gantt charts, document management, online meetings, and social features in one coherent system makes Projectplace one of the most interesting and impressive project management systems I’ve come across and it gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.
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