AceProject Review: Project Management Software
Project Management is something that any small-to-large scale business should undertake by default, but it’s easier said than done and 9 times out of 10 the cost of purchasing a top of the line Project management software solution is too much for a small company to undertake, especially as Microsoft Project retails for nearly a thousand pounds.
This is why the AceProject could be useful for companies with 5 or less individuals. It’s number one benefit is that it’s Free and is solely run via a web browser. Though we have been told that a mobile version is also available so you can access your projects on the fly (works on iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone and Android-powered devices, as well as iPad and Android-powered tablets)..
Why Project Manage
As the name suggests Project Management is essential if you want to keep track of the projects that your company runs, which could range from client specific jobs to a company restructure that needs to be planned.
Project Management helps you focus on the tasks that you need to undertake and also who has been allocated them. Along with expenses and time taken to undertake a given project you should also be able to unveil Gantt charts to support your progress.
AceProject, we are glad to say can do all these things, but as with all Project Management solutions the more effort you put into setting them up, the more benefit you will get out of them.
That said, the software is not the most graphical or user-friendly interface we have used, as the moment you create your account and log in you are sort of thrown into the deep end. For this reason, we recommend you read through the supporting pdf manuals or online help to set yourself on the right track.
The sheer number of options open to you as well doesn’t help to ease you into proceedings either as the main screen is split into tabs at the top and a series of expandable options to the left. When we tried to create a project there are so many factors to take into consideration, such as Budget, Estimates, progress, actuals (real totals) and setting up your client, meaning things can get a little confusing.
With the client, we had to set this up outside the main project screen via the Admin tab. This highlights the problem we were talking above, as you are not quite sure what steps are involved. So if this sounds confusing it is, but we found that by having a little patience and using trial and error we could start to set up a basic Project within 30 minutes or so.
Once you have started your project and assigned all your estimated and actual budgets you can then start to add tasks. These tasks could be to find a particular product for a customer or to ensure that a job is completed in a set time.
In the tasks window you can also add a task type, which can be configured to your required taste and can represent research, marketing or development.
Progress and priority settings can be flagged in the task screen, as can setting the user you want to assign the current task to. However, before you can add a user, you need to head to the admin section and set them up first. Setting up additional users allows for different access rights, so for example they may be able to view projects but not create their own.
The user that is assigned a particular task can then adjust their progress and add comments or their own expenses, though expenses can also be added at the start in the estimated section of the task creation screen. What is useful is that the comments box can include web links and you can also attach documents (pdf’s for example) to accompany the task.
Admins can also keep track of the tasks using the tab option (held directly above the task window). In here you can see the history trail of a task, i.e. when the task was created and when comments were added. Finally in this section you have a dependency option, so if a task has dependency with another task you can join them together via the Successor or Predecessor option (note the predecessor task only becomes available once a task has been completed)
It can be quite daunting to have all these tasks going on at once which is why we liked the option to add a basic discussion forum into the mix. From here we could use the page to chat about various aspects of the project.
Another way for a user to keep track of what tasks are happening at a given time is to utilise the My Office tab. In here you can keep personal notes, read messages sent from other users via your inbox. You can also keep track of your time with time sheets, view your current time spent within projects and view your expenses.
Charts and exporting
No useful Project management software would be complete without some Gantt charts and AceProject is no different. From the Project tab you can view your projects schedule in day, week or month form. Each user has a bar running across indicating the current progress for a given task. You also have various Task and Expenses reports.
Whilst none of these are that graphical to look at they do give you a brief overview of your projects progression. Plus with the ability to print pages and export your projects in Excel or CSV format you have an opportunity to jazz the data up to your hearts content from 3rd party applications.
Limitations of Free version
Of course being free there are several limitations, the first is that the Project management software is tied down to a 5 user account. This number seems to be a continuous factor with the software as you can only generate 5 projects too. 50 tasks and 250MB of storage for your documents is also available, but you will need to spend $24 a month or $240 a year to upgrade to more users and storage. The price range seems to bottle out at $990 a year and this gives you unlimited projects and 20GB of data.
Features in brief:
Project Management: Manage projects with basic and advanced PM features, such as task dependencies, which ensure a by-the-book workflow.
Document Management: Upload documents to projects/tasks and share them with other users. Documents can be locked and even made public.
Timesheet Management: Fill out your time sheet online using our time tracking tool, with a time clock. Send it for approval and generate time reports.
Expense Management: Record expenses against projects and tasks and submit them for approval. Stay on budget by tracking every project's cost.
Collaboration: Communicate, work together & get projects done as a team. Get email notifications and task reminders, among others.
Reporting: Track your users' day-to-day workload with several reports, be it calendars, statistics, Gantt charts and custom task reports.
HR Management: Gather all human resources and external collaborators in one central place, with advanced security and access rights.
Additional: Manage projects from a smartphone or a tablet, import/export data, customize the look and feel, and more!
AceProject is not graphically endowed from the start and there is a learning curve that needs to be mastered before you start creating projects of your own. But once you get the hang of things we found it to be pretty useful at keeping track of project tasks that we needed to do within a given time frame. The fact that we could assign these tasks to different users was a great help too. Mind you the charts are basic, but you can export the data to 3rd party software via CSV and Excel formats. Besides for free, it can't harm you to try it and for small companies it will be ideal, especially if you are in need of a Project management solution with no strings attached.