by Michele Nachum
Published on 2 April 2013
There are many project management solutions out there and I wouldn't be surprised that anyone looking for just the right one for their business would get a bit confused - because at first glance they can all look very similar.
The truth is I have reviewed over 20 project management applications and the one thing I will say - the best ones are what I call "multi-level." In other words, a business can use the solution to do the basics: track project and task milestones, calendar in meetings and print out a few reports here and there or they can go much deeper. More advanced features might include a project audit log, various apps to calculate success of completion of the milestones; tools to ascertain budgets; and basically provide some "trade-craft" tools that allows a business to take their project management up several levels.
That is what I consider Easy Projects as it is very much a solution that offers a lot on various levels. The nice thing - the software is affordable even if you dive into its most advance features. Let's start our Easy Projects review.
Easy Projects lives up to its name as it is fairly "easy" to use and navigate. The solution is for any type of business - unlike some project management applications that are more industry-focused. Easy Projects is meant to fit the needs of most businesses (small to mid-sized and even enterprise level) and one can certainly customize it to a certain extent to make the product into their own.
That said, while the basic features such as creating projects and tasks and filling in the calendar are intuitive - not every tool was immediately found. I found myself having to watch a few of the Help videos and read the Help sections to find some of the more advanced features such as the Audit Log or where I could locate some of the budgeting and estimating features. I only mention this as a way of saying - the solution is a good one and has a lot to it - but anyone wanting to get the most out Easy Projects will do themselves a favor by signing up for their free orientation and watching a few of the short videos. Easy, right?
The goal of Easy Projects is to have a friendlier interface that is easy to navigate. Therefore, the solution allows you to do a lot on one page without having too many drop down menus in order to find the features you need. For those who use MS Projects - Easy Projects allows you to import and export directly from and to MS Projects.
Before you begin you can go into Settings and add in your preferences such as deciding how many administrators you want (the default is one); invite users that will be on the project teams; and basically customize the application to your liking.
The ribbon at the top will then guide you, and what I like is that it is not a long ribbon - it has just what is necessary to guide you to where you need to go to ascertain the progress of projects, budgets, print out reports and more.
These are the tabs: Projects and Tasks; Tools; Time Logs; Reports and Custom Forms
Walk Me Thru is a cool feature that Easy Projects added to its solution. Anytime you are looking for way to add or find information, you can click on the "walkmethru" icon and it will offer step-by-step instructions. For example, I wanted to better understand how to add in more details about a certain task and the app pointed me to the right place - felt very "taken care of!"
The Projects and Tasks bar in the top ribbon allows you to view the Activity Center where you can take a gander of all of your team's projects and tasks. You can also add in new projects and tasks by clicking in the large square on the top of the screen where it says "Create New Project/Task." When you start to create the project or task you can add in the people you want on the project team, designate if the task is part of a larger project, offer deadlines and more. A shortcut icon at the top left of Easy Projects allows you to add in more detail to each project/task such as budgets, prioritize the project or task and much more.
While viewing the list of activities in the Activities screen, you can see that you will have a hierarchical view mode enabled by default. The mode allows you to view the hierarchy of activities you have added to the database. That said, you could change the view below if you so desire.
If you click on the Project and Tasks icon, you will see a My Assignments option which offers an overview of your projects as well as gain an understanding of where your progress through color coding (red means the project is woefully delayed; yellow/orange means the project is behind and green means everything is on time.) This is called the Activity Center view, where non-administrators will tend to spend most of their time. It is a very useful page for knowing what you need to work on at that moment, logging time, and recording status updates for the tasks.
In addition, Easy Projects has an Interactive Gantt chart that outlines where you are with each project and task. Once you are in the Gantt chart, you can make changes to the projects - rename them, update them, change the dates, re-assign projects and more - and you do not have to leave Gantt to do this. There is also a "drop and drag" function so you can move people or activities around easily. All changes are saved so you can view them in the main Activity Center.
Calendar: Also as a part of Projects and Tasks, you get a project Calendar that will help you keep the team up to date on meetings, deadlines and more.
Projects and Tasks offers the ability to get to the Audit Log which allows you to get a very detailed view of all your projects and tasks, documents, people assigned - anything and everything you would want to know about the project. Actually Easy Projects says it best on its website: "In other words, the audit trail log acts as a 'black box' recording every event or change occurring in a project's lifetime, in fully automatic mode."
Tools: Easy Projects has a few nifty tools such as the Dashboard, which offers a high level overview of your projects. This is helpful if you want to show executives an overview - but not all the details - of a project. That said, within the Dashboard there are additional features such as The Project Health Chart that is based on the Earned Value Analysis (EVA), an advanced technique in project management that provides an analysis that calculates "Schedule Performance Index (SPI)"and Cost Performance Index (CPI) that provide an insight into the "health of a project," according to Easy Projects.
The Calendar tools help you add in projects and milestones and, as with many project management solutions, you can also export the Calendar into iCal, manage team vacations and more.
You can add in Customer contacts (import them or input directly into the system via CSV) to Easy Projects. The solution also has a simple search tool so you can easily locate customers or colleagues within the application.
Time Logs: Many projects are hourly based and as such Easy Projects offers time sheets and even a Timer to track all the hours you are putting against a certain project or task. The timer is literally like a virtual stopwatch that allows you to click on the Timer icon when you start the task and click again when finished. Then it automatically logs the time you spent for that task, which is available in all manners of different reports within the software.
Reports and Customized Forms: Easy Projects provides users with a number of reports that can showcase the progress and health of a project (or multiple projects). Report templates vary from a resources report to milestones, billings and vacations reports that a user can then export to Excel or PDF.
Likewise, customized forms offer users various templates or forms that can help with certain tasks. For example, if one of your projects is to find new job applicants, Easy Projects has a Job Candidate form so for each job seeker you can add in contact information, their resume or CV, notes, etc. When you are finished, you can export the information to an Excel chart or turn into a task/project with one click. There are forms for meeting minutes, marketing requests, leads and others.
Prices range from $15.30 per user per month for up to 10 users to $14.40 per user per month for 25 users (or $4320 per year). The solution is affordable for most companies looking for a relatively robust project management solution.
Easy Projects is a versatile project management solution that can fit most businesses of any size and industry. My sense is that the businesses that will get the most out of Easy Projects will be those that have a significant number of projects they need to carefully and systematically manage.