by Michele Nachum
Published on 16 July 2012
As someone who reviews a number of online project management solutions - and as someone who also should desperately use one (not just try it out) - I will say that AtTask (now known as Workfront) has many qualities I like. It is intuitive, its philosophy is straightforward and in the end - it scales as you need it.
It calls itself a Software as a Service PPM solution which means it has a lot of features to help you plan, keep track of resources, communicate in real time, have different views for managers versus team members versus executives and basically organizes and tracks all your projects. The best part is that you can do it all online so your team can access the information at any time and from anywhere (even from smartphones).
I look at AtTask like a rubber band-it is one of those elegant solutions that can help a team of 20 or 2,000. It provides a number of tools to keep track of your work from traditional project management features to more in-depth resource and portfolio management. Some online project management solutions are derived from their boxed versions but AtTask takes it a step beyond, recognizing the power of being online and therefore utilizing social media features to help work teams do what teams unfortunately do not always do best: communicate before a problem occurs, not after.
AtTask realizes that teams need to communicate and at various levels. Executives need the big picture, not to mention the costs; managers need to keep up with the progress and the basic budgeting of both time and money and the worker-bees need to understand their tasks, deadlines as well as context so everything makes a bit of sense. All of it comes down to the simple function known as "letting each other understand what the heck is going on." So AtTask, while certainly not the first or only project management solution to utilize social media features, does it in a way that allows teams, managers and executives to view progress and remove roadblocks if necessary.
As I said, AtTask scales. But I want to make another observation. It's simple but not simplistic. In other words, it is simple to learn how to use AtTask's many, many features-certainly AtTask has incredible range-but the AtTask team, which is international in nature, can help tailor the solution to your specific needs, size, etc.
Many project management online software try desperately to differentiate themselves with complicated philosophies and methods that are soap boxes for their view of the "best way to manage a project" while AtTask keeps it basic. They know how businesses work and how employees at different levels need different features, views, and milestones. And that is what helps makes this solution a robust and intuitive tool for managing all of your work. Straightforward. No frills. Get it done, makes sure everyone is in the know, stay on budget, track time and basically start to enjoy your work rather than stress out and be "underwater."
AtTask services many industries but for project-oriented businesses in the technology or marketing sector as well as health-care where projects and planning demand multiple levels of reporting and tracking, AtTask provides some critical tools needed. The solution will help teams (large and small) to better understand at-a-glance their tasks, resources, deadlines, next steps, context, end-goals and the budget.
There are many project management solutions out there - it is a fierce space actually. And many are actually quite good. I like AtTask because honestly it has an interface that makes sense and helps you truly understand and organize your work. You look at the ribbon and it is labeled in a way that will help you navigate the solution easily.
For the sake of this review, I will touch on AtTask's main project management/work features.
As we dive into some of the features, I will take the AtTask approach which is designed to help facilitate organization and communications from the executive level to the manager role to the guys and gals on the front lines doing the actual work (of course our managers and executives work too - but hey, let's not forget the incredible value those on lower rungs of management bring to a team). Representing these roles, AtTask has created three typical users: Jack (the executive - perhaps this name was inspired from the show "30 Rock?") , Jenna (project manager - women always tend to be good traffic cops) and Chris (the worker-bee).
Let's start with Chris- the "worker on the front lines." He can go to his AtTask "Team Home" page (somewhat like a dashboard) and see all of his tasks in one place, that also includes milestones, a calendar and get a view into what other people on his team are working on. You should know that working through the different tabs on the AtTask ribbon, Chris can view and communicate with his team. He can see current tasks and future tasks in a calendar-like format as well as view his team's updates. As you will see below, Chris can also see what his team is doing and comment on their progress or ask questions- much like a Facebook-like format. In the middle of his team home page is a work list that he can organize with a drop and drag feature-and also in this area he can provide updates on his projects.
There is also a time sheet feature where "Chris" can log his time on various projects.
Project manager, "Jenna", will have a view into this and can monitor the progress of Chris' work (and other colleagues on her team as well) in real time so that she is able to ascertain how various projects are going and their perceived deadlines. AtTask also provides a Work Request feature that allows managers to provide Chris with assignments that he can accept or provide feedback on his workload and manage expectations about when he might be able to complete the newly assigned project.
AtTask also provides Gantt charts so that managers can see how various tasks, changed deadlines and other aspects can affect a project.
These are some of the major features of the day-to-day work and project management features. Other features include the creation of reports that tell the overall story for the "Jacks" a.k.a executives.
AtTaks is available for viewing on both iPhone and Android smartphones and also has a plug-in for Microsoft Outlook. In addition, if you are using Salesforce.com, AtTask has a Salesforce API. In addition, if you are using any other database features, AtTask can also pull from those so you can populate your AtTask solution easily and not start from scratch when you first sign up.
Pricing for AtTask varies depending on what features you decide to use and how many licenses you purchase and at what level - in other words the Jacks', Jennas' and Chris' levels vary in pricing. You can purchase packages with training features as well. An average license per person will run approximately $375 per year. If you are a company that is heavily dependent on managing projects and workloads, then the investment is probably worth it. For those businesses with less budget, there are solutions that scale lower in price, but remember, you do get what you pay for and these products may not be as robust and social media features may be more limited. The sweet spot for "size of organization or team" for using AtTask is usually about 300 to a 1,000 - but those numbers are averages and the AtTask team will work with you to scale the solution to your size/industry/needs, etc.
Overall I felt AtTask provides a very efficient solution for managing not just projects but all of a company's workload. I was also pleased that it has given thought to the many roles within an organization and provides various views and permissions depending if an employee is a manager or a team member. Like other project management solutions, it provides a number of social media features so that a team can update each other in real time, accept or not accept new work, provide overall reporting to the executives "upstairs" and more. It is a "robust" solution so it scales nicely from basic project management tools to more in-depth portfolio management and budgeting.
If you are a business that is project-heavy and have many balls in the air (what business doesn't?), then you may want to take AtTask out for a spin.
Ratings: ease of use 4/5, features 5/5, value 5/5 and ease of deployment 4/5