KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

May 19 2010

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A perfect collaborator

I’m now sure that there is some sort of obsessive piece to my personality. Forget the 200 roses in my garden. Forget the endless design options I offer my clients and forget my collection of 170 Scandinavian design magazines. Those are manageable. My latest obsession has been to find the perfect (drumroll, please) online collaborative project management system for my business.

I’ve actually been delaying this post because I’ve been falling so quickly in and out of love with various systems. I know that I’d be in real trouble if I were as fickle in other areas of my life as I am with my “pm” (abbreviation for project management) systems, considering all the trials I have taken and deemed to be “the one.” I wanted to be in the cloud. Accessible from everywhere. And as business is now being conducted in new and different ways, the pm system needs to be accessible to my employee, who lives an hour away but works remotely. I will soon be adding another employee who will also work remotely. And, yes, in the middle of the night, I do reach over for my laptop and take a look at this or that “workspace.” In addition, I’m leaving for Paris today for a week and although I have projects in the pipeline, I will not be bringing that job folder (or two) with me, as the information is online as I need it.

As I began to immerse myself in the world of pm, I WAS obsessed with finding the perfect system. As typically happens, the more you delve into the world of any interest or discipline, the more you form AND change your opinions on what your needs might be. Then, of course, comes the second-guessing of those opinions, and back around again. Here are some of the features that are very cool about pm in the cloud:

• Ability to have remote employees-intranet
• Ability to access your “job file” anywhere/anytime
• Set up shared databases (I NEVER used databases…now, I’m all over them)
• Selectively invite employees to projects
• Keep a personal area if desired for notes, calendar, tasks
• Set up tasks by priority, due date, project
• Use of milestones as a guidepost to deadlines
• Use a shared calendar (selectively giving access) with tasks/events/milestones
• Use as an extranet for clients who have selective viewing permissions
• Have online discussions with employees or clients
• Make company announcements/start a company blog
• TAGGING……yay!!
• “Pages” or a “wiki” for collaboration on anything..ideas, marketing, etc.
• Calendar in iCal format (feeds entries into my google calendar)

I knew I would need a pm system to grow with. Other details to consider are the number of users allowed under a plan, number of projects included, general interface and COST. I’ll admit this: The interface—its intuitive nature and looks (I like color)—was near the top of the list. If I’m going to “live” in the cloud, the cloud needs to be attractive, very versatile, logical and easy to use. It’s funny too…as I flipped through probably close to 100 systems and probably did trials for about 40, I found myself quickly clicking on the blog of the site to see when it was last updated. I put more weight on those sites who had updated blogs. Other top contenders were Smartsheet, Projectspace, and Goalkeeper. I had previously used Basecamp, the granddaddy of pm systems for close to five years, but I needed more features.

I ended up with Central Desktop. It’s a program I can grow into. It’s not inexpensive (I’m paying $100 per month) but I find it extremely flexible, as detailed as I want…and pretty.


Would you like to go crazy yourself? Check this out for 20 pages of pm sites, but that’s not all! Google: “online project collaborate” or any combination of those words or similar ones and you will quickly get immersed in the black hole of pm, I’m sure!—Susan Serra

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