The increased use of the Web for collaborative activities, from music sharing to restaurant recommendations, is beginning to creep into business for useful things. At the Demo Fall 2008 conference in San Diego, several companies demonstrated collaboration systems for project management designed for workgroups of various sizes.
All were under development, so the final quality of these applications is unknown. Still, they showed possible options for Internet-delivered project management tools that could be useful both within IT and across the business.
[ Demo Fall 2008 focused much attention on Web collaboration, but there are signs that the Web 2.0 trend has peaked, as Galen Gruman reports. | See all of InfoWorld's Demo coverage in our special report. ]
Online collaboration from soup to nuts
The broadest in scope was Qtask, founded by serial entrepreneur Reichart von Wolfsheild. Qtask provides a hosted application for managing not just work products, such as Word files, project code, and Excel spreadsheets, but also for assigning people tasks, tracking their progress, managing approval, and coordinating the chain of ownership as projects go through the various experts who need to work in it. The app has several roles, including that of a watcher, which lets executives and others track a project without being the direct manager. And every action -- from who worked on what when to who last read a file -- is tracked. The goal is universal visibility, for both accountability and easier ability to adjust the project based on its actual state.
Qtask also manages the communication across team members so the discussions, e-mails, and so on remain available to all participants, as well as for use later on, such as when starting up a similar project. It does not integrate with e-mail systems like Exchange and Lotus Notes, other than being able to send and receive messages via POP or IMAP. The assumption is that people work on and communicate about their projects within the system, not use Qtask as merely a tracking tool.
Von Wolfsheild noted that the repository of communications associated with each project also lets new team members have the discussions history available to get up to speed faster. Because the communication and various versions of the work products are stored, he said, companies could recover more easily if a contractor decided to pull out mid-project because the contractor couldn't take its work with it.
One focus on wikis, another on documents
At a simpler level of project management were PlanDone and Doc Center, both subscription-based, Web-hosted services like Qtask. PlanDone's wiki-based app focuses on project management and scheduling. Like traditional project management tools, it lets you assign projects, assign schedules, and track progress. But its claim to potential fame is its integration of instant messaging and other communications into the project repository. That approach retains the conversations around the project development itself so that context is available to all, as in a wiki, says A.J. Wacaser, PlanDone's president -- unlike traditional IM, the messages aren't transitory.