Project management can be one of the most frustrating things in the world- especially when trying to manage virtual teams. I was able to get a test account for @task– a web based project management tool. Along with project management, @task boasts time tracking, issue tracking, portfolio management, integration with Outlook and SalesForce, mobile version (including one specifically for the iPhone), and other benefits. I was anxious to check out this app as I manage virtual teams and projects on a daily basis. After taking a look at their web page, I was looking forward to some web 2.0 goodness.
After logging into @task for the first time and accepting the license, I was presented with my demo account which was pre-populated with data for review purposes. My first impression was, â€œWow! There is a lot going on with this page and I feel overwhelmed.â€ There is a lot of information on this page including overview of my projects, problem tasks, and open issues. There were a lot of icons on this page and being as how I have not used the system long, I did not know what they stood for and mousing over them didnâ€™t display a tool tip or even an alt image description. I was also a tad disappointed by the look and feel. It didnâ€™t seem very 2.0- it felt more like web 1.5. It has some nice ajax features, but the design feels a little corporate and dated. Their web page definitely has a different feeling from the product. I think it is good to keep your brand in sync when it comes to your site and your product.
Regardless of the design issues I saw, I was excited to really dive into some of these features. First I tried out the project management section. Like other project management tools, it contains tasks, notes (or messages), file attachments, create issues, and manage time lines among other things. As I got deeper into the project management subtasks, I quickly realized this software is more like a web-based MS Project and not like Base Camp or Clever Tools. It is much more technical and allows for much deeper planning — the tools you would want to find if you were running a very big project, where tools Base Camp or Clever Tools are more for smaller projects and teams and are more centralized around collaboration and organization.
There are features in @task like gantt charts, resource grids, and calendars which are all beautifully done and well executed using Flash. I was very impressed with these charts. Again, these are things you would find in a more technical desktop project management tool like MS Project or OpenProj. One of the features I really liked about the project management tool was the ability to estimate planned costs and planned revenue, track expenses and billings, and see how accurate those plans are.
Another big section in @task is the resource management section. It includes many sub-tools like user management where you can manage your users schedules, job functions, skills, work, and licenses. There is the job role tool which allows you to manage the unique positions people may hold at your company. There is also a time sheet tool for creating your own timesheets and managing and approving other userâ€™s time sheets (for an admin account of course). A capacity planning tool to manage budgets and resources. There are a few others I wonâ€™t mention here. Again, there were many things you could go into at deep depth here and for a user like me, seemed like too much information.
Since I have an iPhone and love it, I was very eager to test out their iPhone interface. This is a feature I could find VERY useful since I am out in the field a lot. I loved the login page, which is trivial I know, but it captured my interest. Once I logged in, I was elated at what I saw. The user interface feels like Apple themselves designed it, which is a good thing. It was very snappy and responsive. From this interface I could view all my projects, notes, tasks, issues, and documents. I wasnâ€™t able to add any new tasks, issues, or documents, but I was able to update their status and add notes to these entries. I wish I would be able to create new entries instead of just being able to modify them. I was finding myself wishing for a â€˜Homeâ€™ button to go to the start page and I actually found one by clicking the @task logo. I think this was a great user interface enhancement that some iPhone web apps I have used have neglected. Over all, the iPhone interface was awesome!
While the interface seems a little dated and could use some improvements, overall @task is a very robust and technical web app. I think it is more suited to larger companies who need to track and control all aspects of a project and since the full name of the service is â€œ@task Enterpriseâ€, I guess that makes sense. They have incorporated many great features like exporting to MS Project, beautiful graphs and charts, powerful reporting, and web based interfaces for the iPhone, Blackberry, and wap2.0 compatible phones.
If you are running a project with a lot of resources, users, and for a larger corporation, @task could be the perfect solution for you. It is far better than MS Project and if I were running a large project that required a more technical and deep piece of management software, I would definitely choose @task. If you run a smaller project and company and want a project management tool that is centered on collaboration and organization, then you may want to look for something else. If not, I encourage you to take @task for a spin. They have a free 30 day trial as well.
Disclosure: I have a new web startup that deals with project management. While @task and my startup cater to different markets and projects types, I thought it was best to let you know this.