Thinking about PM tools

I’ve been thinking about Project Management tools a lot lately.

One step I took was to try out a bunch of the new breed of lightweight tools:  Basecamp, GoPlan, ActiveCollab, ProjectPier, Wrike, etc.  I wasn’t really satisfied with any of them.  While lightweight tools are a breath of fresh air for those coming process heavy organizations, I doubt they really satisfy.  The market for simple tools is really for those who’ve never quite figured out how to implement process.  The “some process is better than no process” argument.

But a spreadsheet beats most of those tools hands down in every aspect except distributed teams.  Sharepoint will usually handle that problem, but so would a web interface that implements the spreadsheet almost exactly.

I’ve also tried heavy process tools such as the Rational Suite and e-Project (whatever they’re called now.)  Come to think of it, the real weight in these tools is the tools themselves.

Clearquest’s web interface is miles better than it’s rich client, something I acknowledged a couple years ago (and the rich client hasn’t gotten any worse.)  But it’s still no fun, and you have 10 screens you need to step through to ignore 90% of it.  And integration wit Cleacase is a pain.

The other tool,  e-Project could probably improve with a facelift, but you end up spending alot of time overriding default behaviors to allow it to be useful at all.  It’s the proverbial webified spreadsheet, only it doesn’t have the spreadsheet functionality.  Some AJAX could really help it out, but it might be too heavyweight, espcially with hundreds of tasks.

So of course I’m thinking of a middle ground.  You want a simple enough model, but you also want tools for power users too.  You just want them to stay out of the way until needed.  The problem here is you end up bolting stuff on and it looks bolted on.  You can’t start with every feature, but starting with a good model and a reasonable (streamlined) process is important.

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