by Michele Nachum
Published on 23 October 2012
When it comes to the cloud, there is this common misnomer that cloud-based solutions may always be "light-weight" versions of on-premise solutions. In many cases that is true. However, when I get a chance to review a very comprehensive online solution like Cobalt Project Manager - I realize how far the cloud has come in the past few years. Nowadays many cloud applications can also be robust and meet the needs of the mid-sized to smaller enterprise -level (SME) companies. Cobalt Project Manager is an attest to that - as this solution is a multifaceted project management application for companies and industries where business models are dependent on juggling multiple layers of complex projects for larger teams.
And the really nice part - Cobalt is also very affordable.
Cobalt Project Manager is meant for businesses that have multiple projects and tasks to manage - think advertising or marketing agencies or IT shops planning a launch. For companies that have one or two projects, a year - this may not be the solution for them. Cobalt Project Manager is an online solution meant for companies that have to bundle and track layers of project portfolios - in other words, while not difficult to use - the tools are meant for more "hard-core" project management teams.
Cobalt Project Management has a sleek look and fairly intuitive interface that allows you to easily navigate the product. It offers the basics as well as a myriad of tools to plan and execute complicated projects. Here are some of the main features and tools:
The Cobalt dashboard (like most dashboards) offers the project team and manager an overview of all their projects, tasks, updates, and more. Cobalt has a very inclusive dashboard that can be both helpful and admittedly a bit complicated at first glance. That said, once you use it a few times, it gets easier to digest all the information in a meaningful way.
The dashboard provides links to your projects as well as allows you to ascertain the progress of your projects. There is a calendar view that offers a nice outline of your schedule and at the bottom of your screen you will see the tasks listed out as they correspond to each project. A Gantt chart offers a graphical overview of your projects.
You can change views of the dashboard to suit your needs and depending on your level (project manager vs. a user) you will have access to certain data that corresponds to your level (as the project manager can stipulate in the Settings).
In the Project section lies the heart of Cobalt Project Manager - the control center if you will. As a manager you will be able to view all projects as well as have the ability to add in new projects and input "resources" (people) on various tasks and projects. You can add in dependencies and possible risks as well as ask for project updates from your team. In this section, Cobalt also allows you to attach documents to your various projects and tasks.
Projects provides views of your projects/tasks at the left side of the screen, and the right side of the screen are a graphical representation of the "critical path" of each project - how they are dependent on each other (think Microsoft Project). This is a graphical interface that most hardcore project managers should recognize.
One of the very nifty features of Cobalt is that it allows several ways to view your projects. You can choose a calendar view to offer a more graphical representation of various milestones as well as "resource view" to ascertain the level of personnel and time they are putting against each project. Projects also offers tools to check on budgets, as well as manage risks and dependencies. You can easily print out your project schedule with the Gantt-chart to share with your team in meetings or to email to your stakeholders.
If you are currently using Microsoft Project you can also import those projects into Cobalt.
Time sheets allows the project managers to better ascertain their resources and how much of a person's time is being put against the project. If you allowed for 20% of their time and you are seeing 50% for example, Cobalt offers that insight so you can rectify the situation. One super cool feature is that once a team member enters in their hours, you can import those time sheet hours into a project schedule so you can better track a team member's time (saves on having to re-key in hours in other sections of the Cobalt Project Manager).
The report section of Cobalt blew me out of the water and after reviewing more than 70 applications - that is saying a lot. There are 35-plus reports that are offered and if one does not suit you - well, no worries. You can make up your own report and customize the data to meet your business needs. Right now Cobalt does not offer graphical reports - more Excel oriented reports. That said, I was told graphical reports are coming soon.
Like many of the solutions we review at GetApp, Cobalt is packed with tools to help you manage your projects and tasks, budgets, team resources and more - that would be impossible to review all of them. Some of the features I have not mentioned are the Settings where you can add users and invite them to view various projects and tasks. In addition, once a week Cobalt will email a status update to each user so they can keep track and remind them of looming deadlines.
Being in the cloud has its perks as you do get all of the features in Cobalt at rather affordable pricing - from $49 for five users to $199 per month for 50 users. Mid-level pricing ranges from $99 to $149 for 15-30 users respectively. If project management is the main business model of your business, then Cobalt may be a good way to go as the pricing is affordable and the feature list robust.
I will say it again - Cobalt is an advanced project management solution meant for companies that have to juggle and manage many projects, personnel and resources. While the pricing is affordable, this solution is generally built for more hard-core project managers and teams. That said, I found the solution still easy to master and rest-assured the Help section and corresponding videos offer excellent tutorials for new users. For those smaller companies that may have one or two projects to manage - there other project management solutions that may be more suited to their needs.
Ratings: ease of use 4/5, features 5/5, value 5/5 and ease of deployment 5/5