Managing projects can be tricky, time-consuming and confusing. It’s easy to lose one’s way when faced by a myriad of tasks, each with its own deadline. Project management requires a manager to be alert at all times. It is, in essence, the art and science of managing everything that is related to a project (be it tasks, team members, deadlines, etc.). When all aspects of a project mesh together without causing any disruptions, we have what we call a successful project.
Managing projects is not an easy task. In fact, the need to use project management software is increasing by the day. The need to structure and organise various projects/processes is become more and more dire. Offline and standalone solutions are just not good enough anymore. However, not everyone (or for that matter, every company) has the budget required to go for Microsoft Project or similar management solutions. And this is where Collabtive steps in.
Collabtive is open source project management software. It is a PHP based (which means it can be run on almost any computer, which has a browser capable of understanding PHP) project management system. Collabtive allows you to manage projects by setting up different tasks and assigning them to different users. The progress of these tasks can then be tracked using the easy interface of the application. The administrator can add multiple users to the application and each user can access the interface through his/her browser. There’s practically no limit to the number of users that can work simultaneously on Collabtive. Although it doesn’t provide advanced features such as Gantt charts, it does provide for a very simple and efficient mechanism to keep track of your projects.
In order to use Collabtive, you need to have PHP support on your system(s). I got that by installing WAMP. The installation process in itself is very simple and quick. After extraction, you just need to point your browser to the install.php file to launch the installer. Once installed, you are greeted with the following login screen.
Once you login with your credentials, you are greeted by what the Collabtive team call your Desktop. The Desktop shows you a list of all current projects, a tasklist, as well as a calendar showing your tasks and milestones.
Clicking on a project name takes you to the project page. This page is also called the Project Dashboard. The Project Dashboard consists of a calendar specific to a particular project. It also consists of a Timetracker, using which you can track the amount of time that you have spent working on the project. There is also an Activity Log, which contains a step-by-step listing of all the activities pertaining to the project.
This page also contains a number of icons at the top, which allow you to visit your Milestones page, review your Tasklists, access the Messaging system, as well as access the file repository for a particular project. There is also a User tab, which shows a list of all the users currently using the Collabtive system for a project.
The tasklist allows you to create tasks, which may be critical to the project. Each task can have an associated due-date and can be assigned to one or multiple users. These tasks, once completed, can simply be “finished” by clicking on the tick-mark next to them.
The Milestones can be looked upon as distinct phases in the project timeline. Each milestone may have a number of tasks associated with it. As and when tasks are finished, a status bar for the project under consideration keeps increasing on your Desktop.
The right hand side pane across all pages provides a search bar, a simple text-based calendar, and a list of users who are currently online. The search bar searches across tasks, milestones, as well as entire projects. Also, each user can fill out his/her profile page so that different team members have ways and means to contact one another.
All in all, Collabtive provides for a very elegant project management system. It may not be as power-packed as its commercial counterparts, but it provides more than a decent feature set to keep track of all the tasks and milestones associated to your project.
Collabtive can be used in a number of scenarios. It can be used to track curriculum progress in schools. It may also be used by manufacturers to track the status of various orders. For students, it can be an ultimate collaboration platform, where they would be able to share notes, homework, even entire assignments and research. And last, it can be used as a simple calendaring application.
If you are a a project manager (and hate the commercial Silicon Valley giants, just like yours truly), making the switch to Collabtive should top your list of things to do.