Managing all the aspects of a collaborative task tends to take some serious management skills, and with the advent of project software in the cloud, it’s becoming a lot easier to obtain useful tools for supplementing these skills. Zoho Projects, an SaaS service that’s devoted to project management, is a contender for the use and admiration of working teams among such competitive giants as Google Docs. With a large list of features, a number of perks, and a few flaws thrown in here and there, Zoho Projects might not be the perfect solution for project management, but depending on a given team’s needs, the service could prove highly beneficial. Zoho Projects offers a basic free version that’s limited to a single project with various other restrictions. This membership level is certainly crippled compared to paid subscriptions, but without the need for a credit card, it’s easy to dive in and take a look around. Getting started with Zoho Projects is largely a matter of sifting through the provider’s various modules and options.
The Lowdown on Zoho
Zoho’s inclusion of module initialization screens and occasional videos that explain different functions is likely to help new users feel more comfortable as they get used to operating with the software, but the sheer number of options and work areas may be overwhelming. Zoho Projects attempts to help users get everything done in one comprehensive service, and some modules –such as forums and chat– may seem redundant and cluttered for those who like to keep things simple. On the other hand, users with a love of the highly flexible and abundant are sure to appreciate the opportunity to configure Zoho Projects in various ways and to play around with scores of features. For projects involving lots of people, planning an orientation session may be necessary to make sure everyone is on the same page with module usage –a need that may prove difficult to fulfill for remote teams.
Basic collaboration and organization modules are at the heart of Zoho Projects, and the range of features such as an adaptive calendar, document handling, and meeting scheduler are poised to help groups keep track of what’s going on and where various team members are in terms of their duties and tasks. There are numerous ways to organize information as a project progresses; project wikis, a time tracking system, and various visual reports allow users to get a quick and accurate feel for the status of given tasks, as well as the project as a whole. Bringing the basic concepts of social media to the project management arena, Zoho Projects will probably be more intuitive and useful for those who are familiar with services like Twitter and Facebook. Users accustomed to traditional management routes may need some extra adjustment to get used to the veritable swarm of small bits of information shared between team members in the cloud. Both working solo and collaborating live with others are functions supported by Zoho Projects, though complaints about disabled options in collaborative mode exist. Functional but not flawless, Zoho Projects’ basic functionality has a lot of promise, with follow-through fluctuating depending on the type of project –and the type of team members– involved.
An Interface Disgrace?
Borrowing heavily from the look and feel of Google’s UI, Zoho Projects has been criticized for its lack of imagination in terms of interface and visual presentation. While various modules and features are acceptably organized and labeled, there’s nothing special about the design itself, and the atmosphere may feel outdated to fans of sleeker, more streamlined systems. With a simplified dashboard feature, the interface does allow for useful and quick views of various updates and operations within the project, but going deeper into the interface may give new users a fair challenge as they sort through various menus, tabs, and sub-tabs. While the overall design of the interface certainly leaves some personality and focus to be wanted, it nevertheless has the right ingredients for getting stuff done, an achievement that makes the service at least competent for a majority of teams.
Bringing Out the Bells and Whistles
The options for adding extra functionality to basic Zoho Projects operation are quite ample, letting users expand the reach of their productivity in various ways given the particular needs of their project. One of the service’s most hyped-up add-ons, called the “Bug Tracker,” is available with the highest level of subscription and features options for creating new tickets and visualizing their progress through any number of resolution processes. While critics suggest that this feature has been severely overestimated in value by Zoho, some users, especially those with bug-prone projects at hand, may appreciate the specialized area for handling specific issues. As part of the over-arching Zoho suite of services and applications, Zoho Projects can integrate with several other programs such as office productivity software, accounting modules, and other potentially useful extras. It’s not easy to take advantage of all of Zoho’s options without a full subscription, but for users who plan on making a solid investment in project management software, the options menu is nicely fattened.
A Mixed Verdict
Getting a feel for the ultimate effectiveness and viability of Zoho Projects will likely require a bit of time spent browsing through the service’s various modules and moving past the veneer of introductory videos and checklists. The service’s complexity is at once both useful for large teams with long-term, demanding projects and difficult organization tasks to handle, and potentially too much for smaller outfits or for those who find that too many options leads to team confusion. Respectably powerful at the premium subscription end and somewhat impaired with lighter packages, the service tends to cater to larger corporations and teams. Worth checking out as a leader in collaboration in the cloud, Zoho Projects may be a lifesaver –or a time waster– depending on the specific attributes and expectations of its users.
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