Last week, I talked about trying out Basecamp for freelancing project management, and how disappointed I was with what it could do. Well, I continued my investigations, and I have found two alternatives – both stronger, cheaper and more usable than Basecamp. In fact, I tried out a dozen basecamp alternatives, and two rose to the top like cream over milk.
Now, I am a great fan of automation – I have my servers which deal with emails, document storage/access, customer support and a host of other things. Then I use Freeagent – the wonderful small business cloud based accounts system, which deals with all my accounting needs and automates the process of invoicing, doing Vat returns, year end figures, PAYE, time tracking, billing, expenses and even chases late payers. Both my servers and freeagent are really like having extra staff work for me – they both get on and do their things, keeping my company running whilst I am out generating revenue.
Well now, to add to my collection of indispensible tools, I have started using a cloud based project management application. After the shortcomings of Basecamp, I did a lot more investigation and narrowed the choice down to two products – TeamWorkPM and SkyLiteIT.
TeamworkPM is very much like Basecamp – it allows the setting up of projects, tasks, milestones, resources, and the sharing of documents. Customers can connect to your portal, see the progress, see overdue or upcoming tasks, read comments or documents, and can even subscribe to project feeds (RSS or via email).
Projects can track time, resources, people, statuses and current activities. If you want, it can even track costs (currently in beta testing), and conversations.
It is slicker than Basecamp, cheaper than basecamp, and the team behind the project have published a development roadmap which when complete, would blow Basecamp out of the water. If you are a basecamp user, it even has a direct import of all your basecamp data.
Now, it’s not a complete product – again, it has no direct integration with Microsoft project (would still love to upload a MPP project plan, and software to auto generate tasks or update task dates), and it does not do task level Gantt charts. However, both are listed on the roadmap, so it will become one of the best cloud based project management systems out there.
The other system which came out top of my investigations was SkyLiteIT. Again, compared to basecamp, a very strong player with a multitude of features. In terms of functionality, it has almost the exact same functionality as TeamWorkPM. However, SkyLiteIT also provides accounting functionality.
SkyLiteIT includes the ability to generate quotations, invoices, track profit and loss, do accounting reports on projects. It even has a limited CRM functionality included, allowing you to track activities with contacts.
As with TeamWorkPM – it provides functionality for the setting up of projects, tasks, milestones, resources, and the sharing of documents. Whilst TeamworkPM saves and shares documents of any type, SkyLiteIT is more geared around integration with google docs – so if Google is your thing, this may be the PM solution for you. Again, customers can connect to your portal, see the progress, see overdue or upcoming tasks, and read comments or documents.
Which one I chose… and why
So, after evaluating both products, it was actually a very difficult choice. They are both very good products, both will save a massive amount of time in terms of customer and project management, and will improve communication with customers. But in the end I have picked…. TeamWorkPM.
For me, I have all my invoices and quotations covered by Freeagent (which then does all the VAT and year end processing) so I don’t need SkyLiteIT to do this for me. Also, I use MS office more than GoogleDocs, and whilst SkyLiteIT can store office documents, TeamWorkPM works better with this type of document.
I liked the openness of TeamWorkPM and their product roadmap. Also, there were small things that TeamWorkPM did that SkyLiteIT didn’t (such as multiple resources on one task). I have also given their development team some ideas for further development, and they have come back to me with communication – and I like a company that takes its customers seriously (I am sure that SkyLiteIT would do the same giving a chance)
It was a personal choice, and TeamWorkPM fitted more with what I do, but for others (those that work with GoogleDocs more or need to track invoices/quotes), I am sure SkyLiteIT will be a better fit.
But, at the end of the day, both TeamWorkPM and SkyLiteIT are far better than Basecamp. Both products are recommended, and I suggest that if you do any form of project work with customers (and who doesn’t), then you give one or both of them a try.