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TechSoup Battles: The Team Project Management Challenge

Project ManagementProductivityFile SharingDocument ManagementCollaborationCloud Tools

Are you new to TechSoup Battles? Check out our intro and our previous challenges.

Welcome back to TechSoup Battles! We’re excited to be back with more reviews of software for nonprofits... and you’ll notice we really upped the ante in our new picture :).

Do you find that you’re wasting time when working with others - sending files back and forth, looking for buried emails that contain important information, or keeping track of who’s working on what? Maybe this is happening internally, or with your board, or between branches. Since most nonprofits rely primarily on email (or paper), almost everyone has this problem.

In this review, we’re going to take a look at software for team project management/collaboration. Why should you care? This is the stuff that’s going to cut down on the number of emails in your inbox and generally help things to be more organized. So if you are in the .0001% of people who don’t struggle to stay on top of tasks, projects and email, feel free to stop reading :).

What do we mean by “team project management”?

For this review we are referring to software that creates an online space for your project team or department to collaborate. Common features include:

  • Assigning and managing tasks
  • Sharing files related to the tasks/project
  • Having discussions and sharing project info (stuff that used to be only in email)
  • Scheduling meetings

In our reviews, we’ll be looking for tools that have some or all of the functionality listed above, as well as:

  • Cloud-based: you can access the tool from anywhere with an Internet connection, including mobile devices
  • Integration: the tool integrates well with the tools you are already using. This could include your email, file system, CRM and more.

Now: there are many ways to think about collaboration and project management, and many, many tools that fall under these areas. In our experience, choosing the right tool for your organization is about features but more importantly about reflecting your culture. This means that it might take several tries to find a tool that’s a good fit - so be patient, run pilots, manage expectations and don’t give up.

Because there are so many tools in this category, we won’t even try to list all the tools we came across in our research. I’ll cut to the chase - for this review, we’ve decided to investigate Huddle and Smartsheet. We chose these because we have some personal experience with them, we’ve heard good things from others and both scale to small or large organizations.

Having said that, we want to emphasize again that these aren’t the only two good tools out there. Below, we’ve put brief descriptions of a few of the other tools we’ve run across and links to other lists of tools & resources on this topic.

Our Review

 

Jane reviews Smartsheet

Tierney reviews Huddle

Cost $129 - $425/year for nonprofits Unfortunately, Huddle is no longer part of our donations program.
Quick description Structured like a spreadsheet, allowing you to attach documents, add comments, share task lists, and view your projects in list, Gantt chart or calendar form. Structured in workspaces where you can upload, comment on & approve files, schedule meetings and assign tasks.
Might be a good fit if... You like making task lists or Gantt charts in a spreadsheet, and want a tool that looks the same but provides more functionality. You may already be using cloud tools and want something that will integrate. You need to collaborate with multiple locations, external partners or your board. Your project management needs are basic, or you already use another project management tool. You may be using servers to do file sharing and other shared tasks.

 

In our full reviews of Huddle and Smartsheet you can find out more about the features of each tool and how you can use them.

More tools

A few thoughts on some other tools for team project management:

  • Podio: its main strength is customizability. Each workspace can be configured with “apps” (which you don't need to be a programmer to customize) that let you track anything from projects to events to your custom data. Integrates well with cloud file systems such as Dropbox, GDrive, Box, etc.
  • Basecamp: one of the best known cloud project management tools. Features include a task list, writeboard, chat, shared files, and a calendar. See a mini case study of how Aerin Guy uses Basecamp to manage her communication.
  • Asana: I’ve been using this with my website developer to keep track of tasks and post comments so we can discuss the progress of each task. From what I’ve seen so far it’s very focused on the task side of team project management. It has a simple interface but a few features that make it more robust such as subtasks and attaching files to tasks.
  • Trello: while I’ve never used it myself, I’ve heard good feedback from others about how simple and pretty Trello is. The basic idea is that you create “cards” with tasks on them, which can be organized into lists.

Do you have any experience (good or bad) with these tools? What do you recommend? Share your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter (#TechSoupBattles), below in the comments or send us an email.

    Resources (+ more tools and reviews!)