HyperOffice has integrated project management tools and features into its web-based document collaboration, email, shared calendars and contacts, web conferencing and collaborative productivity apps.
"Previously, we had features like shared tasks lists designed to synchronize with Outlook tasks," said Shahab Kaviani, HyperOffice's executive vice president, marketing and product marketing. "Last year, we added interlinking, letting you associate documents, like blueprints to a building project. We now feel we have enough features to also call HyperOffice an online project management tool."
New project management-oriented features in HyperOffice include milestones, notifications, drag and drop, mobile task management, Gantt charts, task dependencies and interactive Gantt chart. "When you go to your To Do or My Tasks list, we only show shows the ones coming up, not ones contingent on things, and you get notifications, like when somebody finishes a task that one of yours depends on," noted Kaviani. "And we can now bring shared project management to mobile workers. Shared Tasks will synch up with iPhone, Symbian, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and other mobile devices in real time."
This provides SMBs with an alternative, said Kaviani, to having to buy and run Microsoft Exchange, Blackberry Enterprise Server or Apple MobileMe, "or having to look through Google Apps Marketplace to find the one you like." Additionally, Kaviani noted, "Google Apps hasn't yet integrated this information at the data level. HyperOffice can link an email message to a task, Google Apps can't."
Companies using HyperOffice range from five to 200 users, with the average in the 10 to 50 range, according to Kaviani. "We're seeing a lot of construction companies, and architectural design firms. For example, one company in San Francisco has nine construction projects happening concurrently, with a few dozen users, employees and others. They are using HyperOffice for delegating tasks, putting documents up, and using the calendaring to check meetings and availability. HyperShare for Outlook, our Outlook plug-in, makes Outlook shareable, and lets companies do project based collaboration in an extranet environment."
One company using HyperOffice's task and project management tools is San Francisco-based architecture firm DNM Architect. "We use HyperOffice's shared tasks to assign work and keep track of activities of employees and independent contractors," said company owner David Marlatt. "Task dependencies are a huge enhancement because my 'to-do' lists are now an automated and interactive project management tool for the entire team. I can set up projects and tasks of any duration, and anyone in my group can be informed when their task is due or when another task is complete and theirs can begin."
Also, noted Marlatt, "I love the interactive Gantt charts, because they really speed up setting up and managing my projects. Now, I can just drag and drop to get activities in the right order and drag the task bar to adjust the schedule."
Do SMBs need project management? "It depends on your business," commented Laurie McCabe, a partner in analyst firm SMB Group. "If you have activities that aren't cookie-cutter in terms of tasks, or with varying people on the different projects, project management tools like these are applicable. We're seeing a lot of great solutions. People are realizing that emailing things around all the time, and using spreadsheets to organize, isn't very productive for project collaboration and management"
For SMBs, the combination of cloud access for IT simplicity and affordability, and remote access, and mobile devices for flexibility, matters. The cloud approach is good for working with groups not all in the same office, and McCabe notes, "Small businesses don't want IT infrastructure if they can avoid it."
McCabe's advice: "You should try and compare two or three project management tools. Many offer free trials, or you can subscribe for a month or two and try a small project. You'll quickly see what feels like the right answer for your company's needs, without having had to buy hardware or install and uninstall -- there's very low risk. If your business is project oriented, you're likely to see the advantages, as a boon to productivity."
HyperOffice's new project management tools are available now, at no additional cost. The price depends on the number of users. For example, according to Kaviani, a 25-user plan without email would run about $8 per user per month.