David Tebbutt, SmallBizPod blog

As a journalist, I used to spend about seventy percent of my time on the ‘bleeding edge’ of the IT world. When PCs, the web, social computing came along, I was there. (Before that, I had a fairly normal IT career for 14 years.) However, as an analyst, I probably spend about seventy percent of my time considering what’s going on among real people. Which brings me to today’s theme…

A SmallBizPod reader, Alexander Deliyannis, had been reading my various posts about social/collaborative software and services but none of them fitted his current challenge, which was to provide an online web-based workspace for a diverse group of people working in different countries of the EU. He was less concerned with the social aspects of the services and much more concerned with simple project-related collaboration.

He approached me for my views and we spent a fair amount of time looking at and rejecting many of what you might call mainstream collaboration software because it was either too social, it lacked a project management feel, it would take too long to implement or, frankly, it cost too much.

He wanted something that he could start up instantly, recruit members from wherever and be productive straight away. And, as he said, “there will be quite a few people in the project that have never heard of, or want to hear of, social networking. This is a game spoiler for us.”

If you’re trying to get strangers to work together, the last thing you want to do is ask them to adopt new working habits. Whatever he chose for the EU project would have to easily slip into their lives and be usable with minimal effort and maximal comfort. He admitted, “If it were for a project performed exclusively in the country I come from I would have taken an altogether different approach.” (In this respect, he is quite seriously looking at Huddle, a service that has been mentioned in SmallBizPod a couple of times.)

Anyway, Alexander’s trail led him to Cork-based Teamwork Project Manager. Slogan: “Project Management Made Easy”. We both fired it up and started loading our own project stuff and it looks as if it will fit the bill. As Alexander remarked, “I find its layout very clean and straightforward to use, though the power is there. It seems to be very well thought out altogether, including small things that an SME would indeed want to do, such as discretely brand the environment for its clients.”

As with any software or service that expects to survive, TeamworkPM is being improved all the time. “Our small team is working flat out adding features and replying to customers.” I usually cringe when I read ‘adding features’ but, having looked through the ‘road map’ and read a lot about the company’s responsiveness to customers, it seems they’re not features for features’ sake. And anyway, because TeamworkPM is an online service, updates are applied at the centre, the users don’t have to do a thing, apart from adopt them if they like them. (The company does have a ‘host-it-yourself’ option, but this post is about the online service.)

The company provides a range of pricing options, starting with free. Yes, you can have two projects and endless sub projects (task lists) and tasks, with unlimited users, for absolutely nothing. The restriction is the number of projects and the amount of memory you use. The ‘Free’ version gives you 5MB, which means that you will probably not be uploading and sharing too many large files. However, for 12 Euros a month the ‘Personal’ version gives you up to five projects and 100MB of memory. These two entry level prices exclude a couple of things that are unlikely to bother the ‘Free’ or ‘Personal’ user.

For 24 Euros a month you can have up to 4 gigabytes of memory and up to 15 projects. The maximum is 50GB and unlimited projects for 149 Euros/month. Pay annually and you pay for only eleven months. All versions are supplied on a 30-day free trial.

This need-based pricing makes a refreshing change from user-based or other artificial pricing mechanisms. It is more transparent and it gives you the freedom to attach new users without a second thought.

Any pre-written software is going to come with compromises. With online stuff, it’s always a toss up between power and usability. The TeamworkPM developers are widely experienced in project management and other online offerings and they chose the elements that best fitted these constraints. You won’t find a billing element to go with the time recording, for example. And they have always had reservations about Gantt charts but user demand – 56 requests in two weeks – means that it is being added as I write. I know this because the team and product blog keeps everyone in the picture.




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