There are a wide range of project management systems in the cloud tailored to suit all kind of needs. Last week, we looked at Comindware Tracker, but there are dozens of similar PM tools, all with their own pluses and minuses.
Planbox is a project management system designed for businesses who take the agile project management approach, allowing their staff to work in a highly flexible and interactive manner. They offer a free service for a two-person team, so I signed up and had a look round.
Planbox looks and feels really, really impressive. The interface is clean, unfussy and highly usable. The navigation architecture is very different to most other cloud based project management applications I’ve come across, so it can take a little while to get used to, but don’t let that put you off. Planbox have provided a number of tutorials to get you started. The tutorials work by creating a new project and quickly get you clicking around and exploring the features of the software.
Planbox is structured in a four-tier hierarchy.
- At the top are initiatives, which can be products, events, services etc.
- Initiatives are then broken down into projects, such as a product release.
- Items act as mini-initiatives and are broken down into tasks.
- Iterations are set for each initiative to manage your workload over periods of time. The periods default to two weekly slots, but can be edited to make them longer or shorter.
When you log into Planbox, the default view is the Dashboard.
The Dashboard displays your initiatives and gives you quick access to any tasks that are still assigned to you. You can also view any deadlines in a calendar and review any rejected items.
The Dashboard is also used to set up initiatives and projects. You create an initiative by completing a short pop up form. Click Manage Initiative to finish setting it up.
In the Manage Initiative area, you can add your projects and invite people to participate. People can be given different permission levels depending on the access you want them to have. The Owner and Administrators have full editing access to the initiative, and the Write permission gives access to items and tasks and people can just be granted read only permissions. People can also be given permissions to individual projects rather than the whole Initiative. This helps to keep their items and tasks lists simple and uncluttered.
Managing Items and Tasks
The Items & Tasks area of the application is used to manage your projects through to completion. Each initiative has its own lists of items that need completing in different iterations. You can filter the lists to display only a specific individual’s workload and you can filter to display items for specific projects you are involved in. The list displays a simple overview of the current iteration and the progress that is being made. This is useful for quickly estimating how much work is left to do in the current time period and whether anything needs to be pushed back.
Items can be ordered by dragging and dropping them in the list. You can set deadlines, importance levels, business values, recuring items and more.
The comments section also allows you to quickly send an email to whoever is working on the item. Tasks are created for each item, and these can can be assigned to different people so they can complete and log their time against each section of their work. Items also display the number of tasks and completed tasks alongside its current status. The lists can customised in the manage initiative area, so you can easily create views more suited to your needs.
The application also includes a number of reports which vary from timesheets. These can be exported to a .csv file to estimated and logged time charts which can be printed or downloaded and added to your presentations.
There is also a support & feedback button which allows you to quickly email Planbox from anywhere within the supplication, including sending a screenshot of the page you are viewing.
Additional features include the ability to integrate with the Zendesk cloud helpdesk software and SnapEngage live webchat software. There are no billing features in the application – this is a fairly common ommission in cloud project management applications. There is no available integration with a CRM application.
The price for Planbox is based on the amount of users who will be working on items in the application. Note that you are entitled to have unlimited numbers of read-only users, so you only need to pay for users who will actually be working on something.
Planbox starts with a free package for a maximum of two users, $20 per month for up to 5 users, $40 for 10 users and $80 for 20. This also includes a free 15-day trial. For businesses who need more than 20 users, there is a custom plan available, although prices for this (understandably) aren’t published.
I really enjoyed looking at Planbox. The unusual layout makes it non-typical. It’s well suited to Agile project management, so if you’re not interested in fixed processes, this could be the ideal cloud project management for you. Once you get used to working with it, it’s a nice tool, but perhaps not something a novice could pick up and get into right away.
Competition is fierce in this sector, but Planbox have done the right thing by sticking with a niche. It may be a bit of a Marmite product, but those who love it are unlikely to want to settle for anything less.
About the AuthorClaire Broadley is a technical author and SEO copywriter. She reviews cloud applications and SaaS products for Rated Cloud.
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