Project Management Showdown: Do More Beyond the To-Do List

Cohuman

CoHuman project management
Whereas 5pm allows users to indicate dependency relationships between two tasks, Cohuman also evaluates the information associated with each task, and automatically identifies those dependency relationships.

Cohuman assigns each new task a score that determines its priority in relation to the other tasks in a project. Each team member receives a Cohuman-generated smart list of all of his or her tasks, organized by importance. Simply put, no matter how many tasks are associated with a project, Cohuman makes it incredibly easy for each team member to separate the mission-critical tasks on their to-do list from the rest.

Using an earlier example, if my Web developer were to enter “Finalize home page layout” into Cohuman, she could indicate that this task is due tomorrow, and that she needs the task called “Upload graphics assets” to be completed by our graphic designer first. Cohuman would immediately move “Upload graphics assets” to the top of our graphic designer’s to-do list, and the designer would receive an email notifying her of the change. Our graphic designer would then know that she has to complete the “Upload graphics assets” task promptly, because that task is holding up another team member’s work.

Entering tasks in Cohuman
In this way, Cohuman prevents one team member’s long to-do list from delaying the entire project. With, say, 30 tasks on her list, the graphic designer may not have gotten to “Upload graphics assets” for weeks. In the meantime, without Cohuman’s smart prioritization system, our Web developer would have been unable to move forward on her tasks. In addition, users can manually change a task’s priorities, and send “pings” (gentle reminders from Cohuman) when a task is overdue.

Lastly, Cohuman’s email-integration features are extensive. Cohuman makes it easy to keep up with project activities without ever logging in to the Cohuman Web application. For example, if I receive an email message from my website host, I can assign it as a task to my Web developer and leave a comment on the task simply by forwarding the email to Cohuman.

Pros: Smart dependency system; clean interface; excellent email integration; robust free edition; iPhone app and third-party apps for Windows Phone 7, Android, and Palm Pre

Cons: Lack of contact-management features

Best use: Look to Cohuman if your project includes many moving parts, or if your team has no project manager.

Pricing: Free edition; Professional edition $20 a month

Asana

Asana project management
Although Asana doesn’t have the bells and whistles that 5pm and Cohuman offer, it emerged as the most versatile project management program in this roundup. Asana is essentially a very customizable to-do list with a few tools that, when used intelligently, can bring order to a variety of projects.

For example, you can use Asana to track job applicants in a recruitment search by creating a new project for every open position with each applicant as a separate task. Using Asana’s tagging system, you can indicate which applicants have submitted a résumé, have scheduled a phone interview, or have completed a round of interviews. Later, you can track how many applicants are in each stage of the application process, using Asana’s metrics system.

Asana offers customizable to-do lists.
Asana is the one program in this roundup that I kept going back to with more ideas of projects that I could manage using the built-in to-do lists--including Christmas presents I need to purchase, holiday events I have to plan, and home-improvement projects that I’d been meaning to undertake. While I would never sign up for a 5pm or Cohuman account unless I was working on a complex project that involved multiple team members, I would open an account with Asana and share it with my family and friends to coordinate our personal projects.

Pros: Excellent interface; customizable tags and to-do list headers; generally enjoyable to use; iPhone, iPad, and Android apps

Cons: Lack of dependency tracking; lack of contact- and progress-management capabilities

Best use: Asana is great if you are managing simple tasks and you want an interface that is cleaner than Google Spreadsheets, or if your team has an excellent project manager who will assign and follow up on task dependencies.

Pricing: Free

Worketc

WorkEtc project management
Unlike the other applications in this roundup, Worketc is a full productivity and small-business management suite that includes customer relationship management features, billing, sales, and project management. The sheer number of work-related tasks that you can do in Worketc made setup a little painful. (The "Getting Started Guide" alone is 33 pages long.)

Worketc’s project management features are very similar to the features in 5pm, including Gantt-inspired charts to manage task dependencies and mission-critical tasks. One nice feature lets you post a comment on a task and make it visible to only one or several team members. This function is especially useful if you’re working with vendors, subcontractors, and outside clients. For example, if one of my clients posts a comment on a task regarding costs, I want the option to discuss the matter privately with my team members before posting a response.

Worketc offers a helpful project tree.
Although the Worketc suite offers many useful project management tools, I wouldn’t use this program unless I was planning to use the other features too. Worketc’s main advantage is its integration of project management with customer relationship management, sales, and billing. From establishing a lead to invoicing a client at the completion of a project, Worketc is its own ecosystem of tools linked so closely together that it's difficult to pick and choose what to use.

Pros: Excellent integration with email; integrates contact management, sales, billing, and project management; functions as a central repository for documents, tasks, invoices, timesheets, email, and other items related to your work

Cons: Price; not suitable if you don’t already use Worketc to manage your contacts and billing, or if you don’t plan on using Worketc for those purposes

Best use: If you’re already using Worketc in your business, its project management features are a good option.

Pricing: $39 per user per month for up to ten users; discounts available for multiple users

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