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Higher-ed Project Management...Podio? 5pm? Basecamp? Something else?

Here in the Office of Marketing and Communication at Ohio Wesleyan University, we're currently toying around with the idea of moving from a home-brewed paper-and-Excel-based project management system into something more...useful.

Ultimately, we'd like to streamline the entire project process here in our office, from receiving requests for a new project all the way through to delivery, for everything from print to web to media-relations and from the lowest of priorities all the way through to "the president needs this done within the hour!" priorities.

We've done a little bit of searching and have narrowed down our options to three Web-based tools: Podio, 5pm, and Basecamp (but we're still open to other suggestions at this point).

I know there probably isn't one single best solution for managing such a variety of projects/priorities, but is there anyone out there who has had experience dealing with online project management systems and/or the pros/cons of switching to that sort of implementation?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide,

Doug Thompson
Manager of Web and Electronic Communications
Ohio Wesleyan University

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I would highly recommend http://www.teamworkpm.net/index.cfm we have been using it for approx 2 years. We had tried basecamp (the old version) which didnt work well for us and this has worked great.

We really like TeamworkPM as well! I like Basecamp for simple projects, but it couldn't handle task dependencies well, and lacked some other features we wanted. TeamworkPM was a good option in terms of having a lot of features and flexibility without forcing too much overhead on our team. I'm not sure it will do what Doug is looking for in terms of streamlining project intake, but if you created some sort of intake form there are various ways you could put that in and create task lists, etc. based upon it. 

I'm not particularly familiar with Podio and 5pm, so I can't comment on their features. I am pretty much in the pro camp for switching to an online system from your homebrewed one-- it's a lot easier to have most project content in one environment that's built for projects, and our group  found the switch pretty smooth (granted, only 5 people plus occasional use by our Communications partners, and now a few others). That being said, we're still using spreadsheets for inventories and other such materials associated with projects (for example, my big list o' wordpress themes and plugins for upgrades and other projects). 

Another vote for TeamworkPM. Working out great for us.

The larger planned proactive projects might benefit from the tools you are considering, but they will probably be too much overhead for the stream of smaller and essential-but-reactive projects that we all have to deal with as part of our flow.

For these kinds of flow tasks and 'project-lets' I use the brilliant Trello (http://trello.com). It is totally free, has an excellent UI/UX, and is based on the Kanban workflow system that is used in some flavours of Agile.

I'll second this. I use Trello on a daily basis and it's my go-to for project management.

We've been pretty successful with a product called intervals. http://www.myintervals.com. It's very "billable hour" oriented (which we don't really use) and has decent amount of features. The big hurdle for us was being able to track and manage the little updates (as mentioned by Daniel) and also to have a request form feed directly into it (to limit copying and pasting from one system to another). We were able to set up a request form online that feeds directly into the intervals system. We receive notifications and can then assign and track as needed. Intervals offers a limited free plan that we've been using for just over a year. We're looking into the paid version as we're about to outgrow the free plan "four active user" limit. It's been working well for us but depending on your needs may or may not be a fit for you. I also haven't really looked into other products now for more than a year so there might be really nice ones out there that I'm not aware of. It is really hard to find a perfect product that fits everyone's needs.

I just found out about Intervals recently. It looks like it has an interesting combination of support ticket and time tracking features. We need that combination for our IT department and help desk, so I'm considering it as a possible system for use there.

I'm glad to see a perspective from someone who has been using it for a while -- thanks for posting!

We have used an in-house developed and IT supported Sharepoint site for print projects and ActiveCollab (http://www.activecollab.com) for web and development projects. We are currently looking a new options to use one system instead of two. ActiveCollab is about have the cost of Basecamp and most will say the self-hosted version of Basecamp. Our IT team would now like us to move off of Sharepoint as updating and maintenance on custom Sharepoint site is challenging.

There is a challenge with web and development since there can be help desk-like ticket tasks and full blown development projects. We tend to open a maintenance job per year and create tasks for the helpdesk tickets items in order to manage them.

We are looking very seriously at TeamworkPM as it has a lot of features of ActiveCollab and more flexibility in organizing jobs. It also has a better time tracking interface as well as integrates with Harvest (http://getharvest.com) which we use to track our time on projects. Ideally we would not use a time tracking software and a project management suite, but once you start using Harvest it does time REALLY well. So it is hard to stop using it.

I have also used Basecamp at a previous job and for our local AIGA Board. It is a great product, but usually they are not willing to do customization for you and some of the features are pretty basic. I have heard that TeamworkPM accepts suggestions and implements them regularly to test or improve their product.

We're also using Intervals here at the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. We've been using it for just over two years. I looked into a number of project management tools before selecting Intervals.

We use it for everything from large projects to "this little tweak needs to get done now." If it can be captured in an email, it goes in to our Intervals. As a measure of how much we use it, we just recorded task # 2500.

All of our webforms send directly to the Intervals request queue. Some forms, where I know they'll end up in a certain project, are sent "to" the project. This feature saves me a second or two in assigning tasks.

Intervals is project oriented. While much of what we do are regular 'projects', a fair amount falls under standing projects I've created: News, Production, Legacy Sites (updates to pre-CMS sites), etc. These projects have no end date and we assign certain kinds of tasks to the project.

Intervals doesn't do task dependencies. It has milestones, where you can group tasks together, but if you're looking for Task B relied on Task A being done, it's not in Intervals. Nor is there any way to link tasks together outside of a milestone. For instance, we have tasks for articles. We track photography for the task separately (in part for a cleaner comment history). Intervals doesn't have a way to link those together, other than a link in the comments.

Things I love about Intervals:

- it will email task owners, assignees and follows every update to a task. You can reply to that email and it will go in Intervals and back out to everyone else on the task.

- you can track billable and unbillable time. All of our time is unbillable but we track it to show how much effort it takes to make a site (and justify more resources or "no, we can't do that right now")

- searching and filtering tasks is pretty awesome

- comment history, document attachments

- how it handles projects and milestones

- reporting

- how easy it is to customize

David Anderson
Director of Strategic Digital Communications
Office of Communications
School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
University at Buffalo

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