by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 7 March 2012
As an example, he recounted the tale of an online project management software he had tried out. "It was not scalable, crashed repeatedly, and had very few features we could use," he complained. I suggested he look elsewhere.
This week's review might be a pointer to my friend.
We will review ZilicusPM - a web-based project management software that promises to deliver end-to-end functionality for product management. We will look at its features, interface and see how it can be of use to you.
Designing a Scalable Solution
ZilicusPM was started by veterans of the IT industry. During their time working together at a large product multinational company, Dhan W and Nagin Kothari, founders of the company noted that a good project management solution enabled better communication and collaboration between disparate channels of project management tools.
"We realized that organizations benefit from a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) kind of solution because it reduces time-to-market for new products," says Dhan W, co-founder of the company. However, their research into project management solutions only led to tools that catered to two opposite ends of the market. "At one end, you have simple to-do lists, task management software that are considered as online project management software, whereas on the other end, we have overly complex enterprise solutions that are out of reach of small businesses," he says.
So, taking matters into their own hands, they developed their own solution which would fit into the small business market. According to Dhan, ZilicusPM redefines ease of use of online project management software with desktop-like performance. "This tool has been designed quite thoughtfully with minute consideration given to usability, security and performance," he says.
Dhan adds that ZilicusPM differs from other, similar solutions in the market on three counts: • Comprehensive and useful features that encompass the entire cycle of project management. • Organogram-based access and privileges that enables users to replicate access levels and privileges. • Intuitive interface and speed that enables a rapid learning curve for new users.
Using ZilicusPM to Manage Your Projects
There is some truth to their founders' claims of their solution being scalable. Most project management tools targeted at small businesses tend to scrimp on features due to restricted budgets.
However, ZilicusPM packs essential features for a project lifecycle management cycle into the solution at an affordable cost.
For example, in addition to performing regular tasks such as a work breakdown structure, project schedules, establish tasks dependency, and assigning resources, you can also manage issues, risks, timesheet and project documents. This means that instead of using multiple tools (and managing associated APIs), you can work within the framework of a single tool. What's more, you can generate reports, add multiple projects to your portfolio, and customize it for your need.
In addition, the solutions' cofounders have added their personal spin to the solution.
For example, adding dependencies for each task is a fairly common feature in web-based project management software. However, Zilicus takes this feature a step further by enabling users to get an immediate overview of a task including details, dependencies, and resources.
In fact, high level overview or big picture seems to be the mantra across the system's features. For example, you can add organizational access and privileges based on an organogram of your company. Part of the headache of managing projects is figuring out access levels and privilege. Added to that is the complexity of managing dynamic permissions and access levels that might result in mismatches and errors between a person's offline and system roles. The organogram solves this problem by replicating offline organizational structure into system roles. This can be an especially useful feature, in cases where multiple projects are involved because it simplifies the process of assigning roles and permissions. Based on feedback from users, Dhan says they plan to introduce department budgeting and expense features at the department level in future iterations of the product.
That said the product could do with improvements. For example, enabling imports of data would save time for users. Similarly, the solution could do with additional details and reports related to issue management.
The Interface: What Does It Look Like?
The interface is intuitive and simple.
A global menu structure enables you to create and perform high-level tasks related to this screen. You can create metadata using the left hand side navigation panel. I liked that similar information and tasks are grouped together into tabs to make navigation easier for the user. A tool-tip prompts the user to perform the next action on any given screen. However, the interface could do with a better color schema and presentation.
Supporting Your Portfolio Solution
"We have designed ZilicusPM to be quite intuitive and user-friendly so that users will find the application easy to use and easily find the required controls and buttons," says Dhan. However, I was quite pleasantly surprised that, despite their relatively small size (as compared to large enterprise-focused organizations), they support the solution through multiple media. Thus, you can either read an online user guide, email them, or use Twitter for support from the company.
Is It For You?
The solution promises and packs in quite a bit at a reasonable cost. For small and medium businesses looking for an affordable project management tool, that is definitely a win-win situation.