eProject – Improve Team Management

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For a while now I’ve been looking for a good project management and collaboration system, to no avail. With all the fuss that’s surrounded the recent launch of Macromedia’s SiteSpring, I thought I’d try it out myself. But this certainly didn’t last long, as I didn’t have the proper OS to meet SiteSpring’s requirements. Fortunately this turned out to be only a minor setback, as my search quickly lead me to eProject.

As I’d promptly discover, eProject Inc. of Seattle, WA, has two great versions of its management and cooperation software: eProject Express for beginners and those who want to test out the service, and eProject Enterprise for accomplished professionals.

eProject Express

I recently signed up for the free Express version, and so far I have only good things to say about it. This introductory version of eProject is a great project management tool for small teams. Among other things it allows you to:

  • send messages to each other,
  • post files and documents (up to 50MB),
  • display tasks along with their status,
  • post important dates in the calendar, and
  • organize team members by groups.

In short, everything a small team needs. As a bonus it also offers vCalendar and vCard support.

One of the best things about this version of eProject is that it works and looks a lot like Microsoft Outlook (which comes to no surprise — Microsoft is a major partner) — the only difference is that it’s geared towards team management. This similarity significantly reduces the learning curve. And my only complaint about the no-cost edition is that it’s a bit scarce on powerful features, but that’s what Enterprise is for!

eProject Enterprise

Apart from being visually more appealing, the Enterprise version boasts greater capability than its free counterpart – it brings eProject Express to a higher level. It also contains added functionality, allowing users to:

  • hold discussions,
  • have polls,
  • store your team and personal bookmarks,
  • see a timeline view of your tasks (very similar to MS Project),
  • manage team issues,
  • complete ad-hoc reporting,
  • connect to eProject via your Palm or WAP enabled phone,

…and more!

eProject also includes three other nifty features in their charge model, the first of which is the "Executive Dashboard". Here, company leaders can quickly get a snapshot of all their projects, filtered by status, budget, group, and project manager.

The second feature stems from eProject’s partnership with Microsoft. The latest version of Enterprise (currently at 3.6) offers expanded integration with Microsoft Project. Project managers can now maintain their schedule in Microsoft Project while using eProject Enterprise to request status updates from team members.

The third feature is the one I like the most because it fixes a problem my team (and most teams) always seem to suffer: eProject Enterprise offers improved document management, which includes version control, check in/check out status, version history, and commenting.

Enterprise also allows greater customization than does Express. Your capabilities are virtually limitless: add your company logo to modify the user interface, integrate Enterprise to your corporate portal, and you can even add custom functionality!

Pricing and the Bottom Line

Just like Express, Enterprise looks and functions a lot like MS Outlook and MS Project, but again, it’s geared towards a team environment. Licenses for this model are issued for 25, 50, 75, 100, 250, 500, and 1000+ users, and, depending on what package you choose, can range anywhere up to $17,023 for a complete onsite system (which includes the computer running the software). While this sounds pricey, it’s still acceptable when compared to SiteSpring’s price — from $1,999 for 3 users, to $7,499 for only 10 users.

eProject Enterprise is more of a competitor to Macromedia SiteSpring than is eProject Express, but nonetheless, for small teams and groups with a limited budget, the lite edition might just be the right solution.

Unlike SiteSpring, which must be installed on your server, Express and Enterprise both reside on eProject’s servers, which is great if you have limited space on your own server. It also dramatically reduces setup time — it only took me five minutes to sign up, set up my project, and invite my team members to join.

eProject also offers better platform compatibility, as it’s platform independent, unlike SiteSpring (which requires either Microsoft Windows NT or 2000 to run). If, on the other hand, you would like to host the package on your own server, you have the option of using eProject’s onsite version; however, for this you’ll need Microsoft Windows 2000 Server and Microsoft SQL 7.0.

The only down side to Express and the two hosted versions of Enterprise is the lack of proper backup facilities. Currently the only way to backup your projects is to use their ‘CD Archive’ ordering form. It’s a handy tool, but at one project per CD — and a cost of $29.99 per CD — it’s on the pricey side, especially as you’ll usually have multiple projects.

The bottom line: Whether you’re in need of Enterprise’s ‘big guns’, or Express’s low cost, eProject is definitely something to look into if you’re in need of better team management and cooperation.

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