Product Review: ActionPlan ties together disparate users

Project managers often face the difficulty of distributing up-to-the-minute project information to teams consisting of geographically dispersed individuals working on different computing platforms. Traditional project management software can't handle this problem because each user requires a proprietary client.

The solution lies in the Web, and in using a browser as a client. Netmosphere successfully addresses these difficulties with the latest version of its project management software, ActionPlan 3.1, a Java-based project management system that consists of three components: the ActionPlan server, ActionPlan client, and HotSheet client. The ActionPlan client provides the project manager with full access to all aspects of a project plan, and the HotSheet client provides team members with a concise list from which to view and update their project tasks.

Both of the client applications provide real-time access to project plans via intranets or extranets. The HotSheet client allows team members the option to receive daily, weekly, or monthly task updates via e-mail.

All the functionality of the ActionPlan and HotSheet clients can also be accessed using a Java-compliant browser. The well-designed Java applet worked without crashing.

Netmosphere recommends using the ActionPlan client for best performance, instead of accessing the program through a browser. However, I used both the client application and Internet Explorer 4.0, and I did not see enough of a performance gain to justify the ActionPlan client's $US200 price tag, especially for a large number of users.

ActionPlan provides a quick and easy out-of-the-box solution for sharing project information across intranets and extranets. Project managers and team members alike can be up and running quickly with the application, with minimal training. However, those willing to spend $25,000 for the enterprise version may be disappointed by ActionPlan's lack of high-end features found in other project management software.

Chad Hammond is a systems integrator at LeadTrack Systems, in San Mateo, California. He can be reached at chad@ltsales.comThe bottom line: VERY GOODActionPlan 3.1This application provides managers and team members with quick and easy access to project schedules over intranets and extranets.

Pros: Cross-platform client and server; easy-to-use interface; easy installationCons: High price tag; lacks some advanced featuresNetmosphere, San Mateo, California; +1 (650) 655-2031; fax: +1 (650) 655-2032; www.netmosphere.comPrice: From $10,000; $25,000 for 2,000 users and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol support. $200 for ActionPlan client. $50 for HotSheetPlatforms: Server: Windows NT 4.0 or Sun Solaris 2.5.1. Client: Recent browser on various platforms

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