There was an interesting conference in San Francisco last week called Office 2.0. I was sad not to be able to go, for one because every attendee got a free iPhone (the obsolete 4 GB sadly), but more importantly because they had a specific session on Project Management.
The goal of the Office 2.0 conference is ‘aimed at discovering the future of online productivity & collaboration.’ They still claim it’s in an experimental phase, which probably makes it a lot more interesting than your average conference. If you want screw ups and snafus to go along with your push the envelope kinds of ideas, I think they had all of those in spades.
Disappointingly there is very little information about what went on during the Project Management session and they didn’t even bother posting an abstract. Given the conference motto of ‘discovering the future of online productivity & collaboration’, nothing screams project management as much as that line. Project management is all about teams collaborating on a collective goal and productivity is key to achieving that goal in your resource and time budget. If anyone out there reading this happened to attend I’d love to hear back what was discussed.
It was an interesting lineup of speakers however. I know Marc O’Brien and he has been around the Project Management world for some time. His new product, Projity, looks like a Microsoft Project killer. (OK, that’s a bit dramatic but it’s an excellent alternative)
One very useful link provided however was a laundry list of online tools for project management. As I scrolled down the list there were some familiar names and some not so familiar. Basecamp has been getting a lot of press lately, and Projity that I mentioned earlier, but many of the names were new to me. In total there were 27 different companies linked as an online project management tool! I’m sure this isn’t even a comprehensive list of all of the competition out there. I was surprised that eProject and @Task weren’t on the list. Maybe the fact they’re more established than the majority of the companies at Office 2.0 means they didn’t want to lend credence to the viability of the smaller players. Or Web 2.0 isn’t their ‘gimmick’.
I started drilling into some of these smaller upstarts however to see what is it that makes them all think they have the next killer app for project management. After getting through several of them, I was impressed and also disappointed at various times. While each of them bring a slightly different feature set to the market and target a niche they hope will set them apart, the offerings aren’t all that useful, especially from an enterprise standpoint. (Remember my bias? Read my 411 if you forget!) In some cases they just webify (webenize?) tools people have used to track projects for a long time – ie. Excel and email. Yes, of course online collaboration is much more efficient, but how many of these companies are really going to be able to find enough customers and be able to charge enough to pay the bills? There will likely be some consolidation going on in the near future. That might be the best answer for some of the incomplete offerings to survive anyway – partner up with another vendor who complements your features.
Ideally each of these products will be used by small teams or individuals that can work alone as an island, not in a highly integrated enterprise setting. And if that’s what your small company is, or your small team inside a big corporation, then these tools might just solve some of your day to day headaches when trying to track projects and work in a collaborative environment. There is certainly no shortage of good ideas that even enterprise software companies can look to borrow.
In my next few blogs I’ll start to document some of my favorites.