Simple is a Relative Word

John Reeve | June 30th, 2009 | , ,

It seems that the holy grail of any web-based project management software app is a state of consumer nirvana collectively coined as “simple.” The word has become so popular — and mis-applied — that compound superlatives are becoming more commonplace; “absurdly simple”, “unbelievably simple”, and so on. Yet, it is difficult to objectively define simplicity because it is entirely based on the perspective of the small business using the software. Before you adapt any web-based project management software into your small business, cut through the hype by considering which of the perspectives below might define your needs best.

From nothing to something: Getting your business online the first time

New small businesses spring up every day. Others have been running for years using Excel spreadsheets for their project management needs (not to mention, time tracking and task management). Both of these businesses have one thing in common. They need very little to get by at first. Although many of the “silo” apps out there will work in this scenario, there is always the likely possibility that you will outgrow these applications. If you find yourself using a hosted project management app for the first time, there are a few factors to consider.

  • What exactly do you need from an online app?
    Time tracking, task management, document sharing, invoicing, expense tracking — these are all features to consider.
  • How much do you expect to grow in the next year?
    …and will the application grow with you? Will it be around in a year?
  • What is your budget?
    Can you afford to use several applications as your needs grow or does it make better sense to start out with a more comprehensively featured app that you can grow into?
  • How portable is your data from one app to another?
    If you decide to move on, can you get your data? It is, afterall, your data.

Scaling down: Ditching bloatware for fresh alternatives

Many of us, including Pelago at one time, have been saddled with MS Project for numerous reasons; it was free, the PM knows it best, corporate really likes those Gantt charts, etc. The truth is that MS Project, along with many other Enterprise level applications, are overkill for most small businesses. Many of them have been around for years and have recently entered the online marketplace with web-based versions of their project management software. Don’t assume you need to migrate from one to the other. It is in your best interest to research web-based alternatives that don’t have a traditional desktop-based business behind them. Perhaps you are a small design firm using the industry standard software and find its web-based counterpart to be lacking, or you just need a cheaper option. These hosted alternatives are usually built by smaller companies with fresh ideas and very little vulture-ish corporate overhead and are targeted toward the lightweight needs of a small business.

The even trade: Moving from one medium another

The move to online productivity tools, and project management software in particular, is becoming more commonplace among small business. Many security concerns are being addressed and the idea of storing sensitive data on remote servers is becoming more practical. The company culture of modern-day small businesses is becoming one that is becoming increasingly more comfortable with using software over the web. And so it makes sense that many small businesses are looking to ditch their desktop apps in favor of online options. In addition to the benefits of using a centralized web-based app that can be accessed from anywhere on the planet, you have an effortless and responsive productivity tool without the IT and licensing worries that plague desktop software.

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Intervals Blog

A collection of useful tips, tales and opinions based on decades of collective experience designing and developing web sites and web-based applications.

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Intervals is online time, task and project management software built by and for web designers, developers and creatives.
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John Reeve
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Jennifer Payne
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Jennifer Payne

Jennifer is the Director of Quality and Efficiency at Pelago. Her blog posts are based largely on her experience working with teams to improve harmony and productivity. Jennifer is a cat person.
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Michael Payne
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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