Online Project Management Tools

NetSquared
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Like any organization working on big issues, nonprofits take on complex projects that require careful management. Luckily there are a number of web-based tools that enable team members to coordinate and communicate with one another as they accomplish their tasks and complete their projects. Let’s look at some of the free and low-cost options that nonprofits can use for project and task management.

Project management software helps organizations manage the complexities of large projects through scheduling, budget estimation, team collaboration and communication and resource organization. They equip project leaders and team members with the tools they need, from Gantt charts to web conferencing, to coordinate the various pieces of the puzzle. Check out this TechSoup article on figuring out which type of project management software fits your requirements.

Cohuman is one of several project management platforms that offer free accounts to nonprofits. It was acquired earlier this year and looked to be shut down. In the eleventh hour, they announced that Cohuman would continue full operations, assuaging the fears of the users who rate it highly. Cohuman’s project management approach uses assigned tasks to make it easy for everyone on a team to see what everyone else is working on. It allows users to create tasks, automatically prioritizes them, makes files accessible from anywhere and it is fully integrated with Google Apps. For more information about Cohuman’s features and to watch a couple of videos demonstrating how it works, visit their Learning Center.

Manymoon is available through the Google Apps Store. It integrates across Google Apps, a nice bonus for users who are already using Google Mail, Documents and Calendar. They also offer hosted versions with more capacity for a monthly fee, starting at $19/month for 10 GB storage. Christopher Dawson on ZDNet suggests that even this basic level may be overkill for smaller organizations. Manymoon was bought by Salesforce recently, but will supposedly continue, in both free and paid versions, as a separate product.

Teambox takes a social networking approach to keeping your team synchronized. The creators hope that the result is not only simpler, but more “fun to use”. Teambox combines Twitter- like status updates with the usual tools for organizing and assigning projects. It can be used as a mobile app on smartphones, too. They offer a free plan that includes three projects and 50MB of storage and paid plans with more capacity. The best part, though, is that it is open-source, so anyone can host it on their own server and have unlimited capacity and full customization.

DreamTeam is a plugin for Salesforce that adds project management and collaboration capabilities to the constituent management software. The software allows for document sharing, project workflows and Gantt charting as well as a host of other features. Best of all, nonprofits can get up to 10 licenses for free.

Microsoft Project is a venerable player in the field of project management software. It was developed to serve medium and large size organizations and it has the powerful range of functions you might expect from an enterprise-grade product. It is available from TechSoup for a discounted rate for qualifying organizations. Despite the discount, Project may be too much horsepower at too steep a price for smaller nonprofits or those with occasional or informal project management needs. Peter Campbell, the IT Director at EarthJustice, describes five free tools for taking on projects of a much smaller scale.

Basecamp is another option for project management that focuses on collaboration. It’s what the NetSquared team uses to stay on task. Basecamp allows for sharing files, setting project milestones and using collaborative whiteboards. It is rich in features, but users in most cases will have to pay for them (although there is a free option). ActiveCollab is an open-source alternative that is based on many of the same principles that make Basecamp so effective. You can learn more about Basecamp from this review from Nonprofit Online Tools or the discussion in TechSoup’s forums here and here.

Huddle provides project management and collaboration tools within a full-realized online workspace. Huddle allows users to create discussion forums, whiteboards and presentations while keeping all of the text in a searchable format. It has mobile connectivity for smartphone and iPad users and you can log in through some of the more popular social networks. They offer special nonprofit pricing, especially to UK-based charities, through the Huddle Foundation charity program.

The range of project management, collaboration and task management tools out there can be staggering, but it also means that there are options for all levels and varieties of organizations. What project management tools do you find work best? What features are most important in making your selection—price, open-source, cloud-hosted? Drop your suggestions in the comments.