Bitrix 24: Project Management SaaS with Employee Monitoring

• April 7, 2013 • Comments (2)

Bitrix24 clearly has a good marketing team. It has its own Wikipedia page, for example, which appears to be curated by a single Wikipedia author, and it has well-populated social media channels. Its online presence is bolstered by many reviews and press mentions, and this is the latest to add to the catalogue.

The company behind the software describes it as a social intranet with a built-in customer relationship manager (CRM) tool. In fact, this is a truly sprawling application that tries very hard to bring several disparate workflows into one application.

Pricing

Bitrix24 is available in two formats. Users can opt for a 30-day free trial of the self-hosted version. The cloud version, which is the one we’ll be looking at, is sold on three pricing tiers:

  • Free, limited to 12 users and 5 GB
  • Standard ($99/ month), unlimited users, 50 GB
  • Professional ($199/ month), unlimited users, 100 GB

The Free and Standard versions are more limited in terms of features. It’s worth looking carefully at what’s included if you’re thinking about trialling any plan, since some of the things you’d expect to be included (e.g. time tracking) are only available on the Professional plan, and it’s quite pricey.

Getting Started

Once the workspace is set up, Bitrix24 gives new users a handy overview – this is a welcome first step, and something that all too many providers miss out or do badly. The software automatically fills in a few tasks to help get new users get started.

The dashboard itself is clearly designed to be open all the time, like a desktop application; it includes a clock, a list of alerts and a search bar, for example. It’s a bit strange the company name (Rated Cloud) doesn’t appear anywhere, but the layout is generally crisp and pleasing.

 

Layout

The application has a clear layout with navigation on the left and a timeline on the right. The drop-down arrows are ‘borrowed’ from Facebook’s timeline. Each one gives you the option of managing, deleting and editing posts on the timeline.

Clicking on a post opens the item in place of the timeline. This is the message Bitrix24 automatically generated in my name when I set up the account – I didn’t write it myself.

Note the phrase “transform the business information flow into an electronic course” here. Odd sentences like this crop up across the application; in  the introduction, the product is described as an “alloy” for example. It’s not a big problem, but anyone whose first language isn’t English may struggle to grasp some of the meaning.

Features

Many of the features in Bitrix24 don’t veer far from the well-trodden path of project management SaaS. There’s an activity stream, task lists, a calendar, a file storage area and a discussion forum. Nothing here will surprise you; for example, the calendar follows the same old Outlook calendar format that most applications replicate.

The file storage area looks uncannily like a Sharepoint Document Library.

 

There’s a separate storage area for photos as well, but this isn’t anywhere near as swish as the other workspace pages. It looks more like a simple WordPress plugin than a gallery tool and clearly hasn’t had the same investment of time put into it.

In the Conversations area, you’ll notice that you can post a Message, File, Poll or Appreciation. Appreciation is a strange idea for a corporate tool – it’s a badge of acknowledgement awarded to another user, complete with an icon. I can see this working in an educational setting, but I’m not sure if it would be used much in business.

Workgroups

Workgroups are effectively teams, and each workgroup gets its own project space within the console. Most of the features here are duplicates of the ones we’ve already looked at. There is one extra – the Wiki – which only members of the same team can see. Most Wiki tools look very similar, but there’s another nod to Sharepoint here nonetheless.

 

The CRM loads within the Bitrix 24 ‘shell’. I don’t have the space to look into it in too much detail, but I did notice that the interface looks quite different to the rest of the application. As an example, here’s the Settings page for the CRM. The basic layout is pretty much unique. That makes me wonder if the CRM has evolved separately and has been bundled in later.

Functionality

I’ve taken a few more screenshots than normal in this review and I still haven’t covered everything. Bitrix 24 packs a lot into one product; to be fair, for the price, it should.

Normally, in order to get all of this functionality, you’d have to subscribe to a few different SaaS products and integrate them. Bitrix24 attempts to keep everything, from tasks to HR, under one roof.

Keeping everything in one application is very tidy, and it will appeal to people who want a cloud-style solution that they can control as though it were on their desktop. However, it does mean that you can’t pick and choose the best service providers for the job – you’re locked into one ecosystem for everything.

Needless to say, there aren’t any integrations with other cloud tools. I can’t foresee a time when there would be.

Conclusion

On Rated Cloud, we review project management SaaS every other week. Every tool faces tough competition, hence we have to be fairly harsh to weed out the differences between them.

Bitrix24 desperately wants to be the ‘brain’ behind your business, but you’ll have to pay a weighty subscription fee for all of its features. I also found that the tool gives away its immaturity in some areas; on its home page, for example, a paragraph was punctuated with a smiley-face emoticon. No big deal, but inappropriate for a product that’s trying to compete with Sharepoint. The clarity of the English is borderline in places as well.

If you’re on the fence, consider the skew this SaaS has compared to other similar tools. Bitrix24 does more than promote collaboration; it promotes supervision to some degree. For example:

  • Time Management is designed to “install discipline in the work schedule”
  • Task Reports allow managers to monitor employees and check up on their work
  • Work Reports give you the ability to automatically remind people to do things
  • There’s an Absence Chart in the HR area
  • There’s a way to reward employees with little medals

Is this relevant? Some business owners will be comfortable with this kind of functionality and feel it adds value. Some may find it inappropriate, or may feel it strays too far from the basics to be worth their time. I can see some value in consolidation, but I personally prefer project management tools with a clearer focus.

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Bitrix 24: Project Management SaaS with Employee Monitoring, 4.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
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Category: Initial Reviews

About the Author

Claire Broadley is a technical author and SEO copywriter. She reviews cloud applications and SaaS products for Rated Cloud.

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  • Dan

    I would recommend checking out http://www.Gtdagenda.com for an online GTD manager.

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote, and also comes with mobile-web version, and Android and iPhone apps.

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  • retind

    indefend is awesome if you would ask me for cloud based employee monitoring, nothing even come close to this,

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