Q and A: User Friendly Document Collaboration

Question

I received a question from Richard:

What’s a user friendly online project management tool that we can use to share documents, and record discussions and comments.

Answer

Well, the answer to that question is, it depends. There are so many “user friendly online project management” apps out there that it is really hard to narrow them down without knowing more requirements. Some of the requirements I might ask you for are:

  • What type of projects do you want to manage? (many tools are suited for IT projects).
  • What type of organisation is this for? Eg, if it’s for a government or large enterprise, then I would be saying, hmm, talk to your IT department about this first, they may not like you having an online project management tool, or  you may need to integrate it with enterprise systems like doing single sign on.
  • What other fields do you want to track about the project?
  • Do you need or want a Gantt chart view of your project?
  • Do you want to collaborate on creating the documents or collaborate about the documents, or both?
  • Who is involved in the project? Are they all from your organisation, or do you want to collaborate with clients?
  • Can everyone see all projects, or must projects be separate with different people involved in each project?
  • Do you want to have access to your project from every conceivable device? (web, desktop, iPhone, iPad, Android Phone, Android Tablet, Windows Phone, Windows 8… the list goes on).

However, here is a few tools that you might want to start looking at. With this list I have focused on apps that are document centric – there are many more apps that are more task centric:

  • Basecamp – cheap, functional, flexible and some very nice features to integrate with it via email. Great for external clients and just keeping everyone on the same page.
  • Google Docs – Free. Limited functionality for chatting about documents that are not actual google docs (eg PDFs), but great for collaboration whilst creating the documents. Could be a headache in enterprises however, and it works best when everyone has a Google Account.
  • Office Online – This one, similar to Google docs is about collaborating to produce the document, not chatting about a document, so it really depends on your requirements.
  • Zoho Projects – it’s on the list, but not one that I highly recommend. I would use Basecamp over Zoho any day, but it has a different feature set – eg if Gantt charts are a must then this may be worth looking at.
  • Evernote Business – a new-ish entry to the field and worth looking at if you have ever used Evernote. The document handling is nice, and the OCR and searching of the documents is great.
  • Confluence On Demand – the top end of the pricing scale, but it has the functionality to match. It is way more than a place to collaborate around documents, and you will end up using it for more than you start out using it for.
  • Google Wave – oh, I wish… luckily a lot of the collaborative editing features of Google Wave are now similar in Google Docs.

So that’s my pick of a few of the tools. If I had to pick one to start with it would probably be Basecamp.

Comments

  1. Steve Remington says

    You may want to add LiquidPlanner (www.liquidplanner.com) to the list.

    I have used it for a number of project and find it very useful for projects that have a highly dynamic schedule. I also like that it has a realistic approach to task duration estimate by allowing a range of time rather than a single point to be entered. The scheduling engine automatically uses the range estimate in conjunction with resource availability to determine when the project will be completed.