Pushing project management to the collaborative Web

Demo Fall 2008: New apps promise better control, communication across groups

The increased use of the Web for collaborative activities, from music sharing to restaurant recommendations, is beginning to creep into business for useful things. At the Demo Fall 2008 conference in San Diego, several companies demonstrated collaboration systems for project management designed for workgroups of various sizes.

All were under development, so the final quality of these applications is unknown. Still, they showed possible options for Internet-delivered project management tools that could be useful both within IT and across the business.

Online collaboration from soup to nuts

The broadest in scope was Qtask, founded by serial entrepreneur Reichart von Wolfsheild. Qtask provides a hosted application for managing not just work products, such as Word files, project code, and Excel spreadsheets, but also for assigning people tasks, tracking their progress, managing approval, and coordinating the chain of ownership as projects go through the various experts who need to work in it. The app has several roles, including that of a watcher, which lets executives and others track a project without being the direct manager. And every action -- from who worked on what when to who last read a file -- is tracked. The goal is universal visibility, for both accountability and easier ability to adjust the project based on its actual state.

Qtask also manages the communication across team members so the discussions, e-mails, and so on remain available to all participants, as well as for use later on, such as when starting up a similar project. It does not integrate with e-mail systems like Exchange and Lotus Notes, other than being able to send and receive messages via POP or IMAP. The assumption is that people work on and communicate about their projects within the system, not use Qtask as merely a tracking tool.

Von Wolfsheild noted that the repository of communications associated with each project also lets new team members have the discussions history available to get up to speed faster. Because the communication and various versions of the work products are stored, he said, companies could recover more easily if a contractor decided to pull out mid-project because the contractor couldn't take its work with it.

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