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Cloud Apps and Project Management Tools

There are many Cloud based project management tools out there on the market. However, not all are designed equally. Your requirements and eventual acquisition may provide some interesting insights about your own business.

Some were early adopters of the Cloud, while those that came to the party later on, benefited from watching all the action that went before, picking up the good ideas that were useful and ignoring everything bad that didn't work.

Desktop based applications seem to be where the major benefit lies. At this stage, Mobile apps is a bit of an after-thought for most developers, with some useful features found on Android and iPhone, but mostly lacking when compared to the desktop version.

The key to a good project management tool is two-fold:

- unification of services, and
- ease of use

Unification means not having a multitude of applications, where just one application could do the trick. Easier said than done, but if you undertake extensive research, you'd be surpised just what's out there on the market.

Ease of use mostly means 'buy-in from the user base'. The easier it is to use, the better the feedback will be. This not only includes internal staff, but external clients as well.

There are some other important things to consider when looking at project management tools.


Many businesses get caught in the corporate shuffle of information being passed through traditional delivery systems like email, phone calls and staff meetings. Sometimes these are not the most efficient way of handling information which require timely decisions that triggers the next event. In the modern age, 'The Office' is not just a premise in the downtown CBD. 'The Office' could be 'on the road', or it could be remote staff living and working in different parts of the world. The office paradigm has changed.

An efficient business requires systems that can turn decisions into a quick turnaround, rather than taking days or weeks due to indecision or ineffective communication. Channelling business into a project management system means:

- decisions can be made faster
- those that belong to the group are in the loop and can contribute where necessary without having to go or look elsewhere within the corporate quagmire.
- if the dialogue is within the group, there is no need for an email trail in Outlook for instance, or any need for chat-apps like Slack.
- file attachments, URL links, voice apps (such as a smart-phone message) can be bolted into the group, adding rich data.
- Everything is is one place, and there is no need to replicate the dialogue to other delivery systems, not sift through a multitude of different systems, as mentioned above.
- If working on a desktop, message notifications can be enabled so that any activity you need to monitor out of your project management system can be visualised as a pop-up notification.

All businesses will run their operation according to what the main focus is. The context could be: corporate/management, human resources, finance, customers, products, sales, marketing, research, transport, distribution and delivery, technology, or it could be some or all of these.

An example of a context group (or what is known in the project management world as a 'Workspace') could be something as simple as designing a website for a new client. This will involve a number of people, perhaps from different parts of the business, and they get added to the workspace as required, because they will have some form of input into the design project.

Tasks are added, tasks are assigned to staff, a timetable is created based on the due dates of tasks, the timetable can be viewed visually on a weekly/monthly matrix. Maybe there is a time/labour factor as well, which is required by the Finance team for billing purposes. There are many elements which can be added into a workspace, but the key thing to remember is that all information pertaining to a workspace is kept in one place. It's not scattered throughout Share-point or Outlook, which makes unification at a project management level - impossible.

The trick then, is finding a project management tool that can do all of this in a unified fashion.

Most cloud apps have their own storage facilities, usually back-ending into an encrypted storage space, say on an Amazon Web Server (AWS), Google Drive, Dropbox, or some other similar utility. Your only concern as a business is to safeguard your data from a risk incident, or an intellectual property incident. It doesn't matter whether you run your own software or your own servers, or whether somebody else does. Management of risk needs to be ensured internally (by your own organisation), or externally through an outside provider (preferably with some sort of service level agreement in place).

Cost is also a consideration. Most smaller businesses will be looking to save their pennies, while larger organisations won't worry so much, as the cost to deploy a modest Cloud based app is far cheaper than deploying a Sharepoint system, for instance.

As an example, a typical cloud based project management app might cost anywhere between US$8 and US$12 a month per user. In some instances you can invite other participants into a workspace without there being an additional cost for a user seat. Obviously those users won't have the full privileges that some staff on a cloud based plan might have, but sometimes, external participants may only be working on one specific thing, and have no need to see all of the project's other details.

Running multiple cloud apps though good in practice, is also costly. Some cloud based environments like Google, Dropbox and Evernote offer free accounts with hefty storage, which is a good thing. If you are using connector/integrator apps like Zapier or PieSync, then that will cost money, and whatever app you are connecting to (assuming that app is also on a plan), is costing you dollars as well. This can all add up.

Auditing the cost of your work-flow within and between apps should be undertaken, before any further decisions are made to the business. If you can avoid having to use multiple apps then all the better.

Judging from what I've seen on (Freelance/Gig Community), Asana is a popular PM app, so too Trello, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Others like Capsule, Hygger (previously Atlaz) and the excellent Redbooth are PM platforms also worth looking at.

The Cloud comparison website Capterra is a good place to start if you are looking toward the introduction of a cloud based Project Management application for your business.
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