Have you ever wondered how we collaborate on projects when our team is scattered all over the globe? At MakeUseOf, we use an online project management platform to track progress, assign tasks, maintain discussions and stay on deadline. It’s especially important for us, since we don’t work in a physical office, to have an overview of each team member’s tasks from a central location.
Today, we’ll look at Bitrix24, a cloud service that will allow you to create a social intranet for your company within minutes. Bitrix24 provides the tools to interact with your fellow colleagues, assign and manage tasks, assign tasks, share files, collaborate on projects together, and in doing so, glue the entire company together.
We’ll be giving away 25 Startup accounts (anexclusive, customised plan), each valued at $1200/year for a total giveaway value of $30,000! Plus, we’ll also be giving away a 16GB Slate iPhone 5 to commemorate the launch of their new mobile application. More information about the giveaway after the review.
Bitrix24 Startup Account
As previously mentioned, this is an exclusive account, designed specifically to allow small companies to experience all of the features that Bitrix24 has to offer. It’s actually a hybrid between their Basic and Professional accounts (have a look at their plans). Here’s are the included features:
- Up to 12 users
- 5GB of online storage
- Social communication tools
- Task and project features
- Calendar tools
- Files & documents sharing features
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Time management tools
- Meeting tools
- The ability to use your own domain name
In fact, go ahead and sign up for the free Basic plan to get started right away. Extranet, time management, meetings and reports features won’t be available; but it’s certainly good enough to go on, and is perfect for small teams.
After the first year, winners may elect to either revert to the free Basic plan, or subscribe to any premium plan with a 50% lifetime discount.
The Activity Stream is the first point of contact after signing in. It’s essentially a feed of everything that’s going on with the company i.e. conversations, new shared files, new projects, etc. Think of the Activity Stream as the virtual “water cooler” where colleagues chat and share news.
The Activity Stream can get easily quite noisy during crunchtime, and if that ever happens, filter the stream to only view tasks essential to your workflow, or updates from a particular employee.
On the left hand side, jump straight into work mode and easily create new tasks, calendar events, start a new conversation or upload new files with the Create button.
Bitrix24 includes a convenient time recording tool right at the top of the page, where employees who are paid hourly wages will be able to clock in and out, and describe the tasks they’ve been working on.
Moving on to the core function of Bitrix24 — task management. As a team leader, assigning tasks to the right people, setting appropriate deadlines and reminders are vital to making sure jobs gets done.
Creating and assigning tasks is quite a streamlined process with lots of optional features. Bitrix24 allows administrators and team leaders to set the priority of the task, assign a deadline, add tags for searchability, and can even require their approval before the task can be marked as done.
Reminders can be sent out via on-site instant message or email; and multiple reminders can be scheduled if the task is urgent.
The default task list only displays those assigned to the logged in user, along with other pertinent information such as deadlines and the person who created the task. In addition to that, by using the filters on the right hand side of the page, team leaders may view tasks they’ve created for others, or all of the tasks in general.
The Gantt chart view enables any administrator to obtain an overview of the current tasks, their progress and deadlines; again, an essential tool to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
Calendar and Events
If you’ve noticed, we release several manuals every month, alongside giveaways, cheat sheets, and “Best Of” pages. How do we know when to schedule these events every month? Using calendars, of course!
Bitrix24′s calendar is no different. It will allow any team member to easily schedule upcoming events, set reminders, list attendees, and colour-code them.
It can also automatically schedule recurring events, send reminders for upcoming events, and assign CRM items for specific events (memorise those names before the meeting!).
When working on projects that involve documents, images and other files; an invaluable tool to have at your disposable is convenient file sharing. Many companies would recommend using third party solutions purely because they don’t have the resources to host a file sharing service. However, Bitrix24 provides a secure online file sharing service which is really easy to use, and these files can be embedded right into relevant conversations or project files.
Using the file manager, files can be arranged into appropriately named folders. 5GB of online storage is available with the Startup account, and individual file sizes must not exceed 300MB.
Some file manages are pretty cumbersome to use, but not this one. It’s agile and very fluid. Bitrix24 provides both single and multiple file upload options. It also supports version histories for every file. And by using a supported browser (either Internet Explorer or Firefox), documents can be opened and edited directly in the browser. While this is happening, the file is locked so other employees won’t be able to access it or interfere with the editing process.
The most impressive feature is definitely the ability to map any folder as a network drive. By doing so, users can instantly connect to their company’s file server and add or remove files conveniently, without accessing the web interface. Bitrix24 provides easy-to-follow instructions to set this up on every operating system.
Connect to the file server using any suitable application, in this case, Mac OS X’s Finder.
And the network drive will be mapped and available locally.
The main reason for utilising a service like Bitrix24 is for its excellent project management tools. Projects or workgroups are essentially a team assigned for a specific goal. The project can host its own subset of tasks, calendars, conversations and files; so referencing them and gauging progress is much more streamlined.
Team members, their progress and recent development are visible from the project overview page.
Depending on the project, individual features can be enabled or disabled, and access can be restricted to group members only.
Bitrix24 also provides the use of an Extranet, where external parties can be invited to join projects/workgroups and restricting their access to those projects. This feature is especially useful when the company requires assistance or collaboration from third parties, and provides a convenient platform for discussion and task tracking.
Bitrix24 is a very comprehensive project management and social intranet suite. We won’t be able to review all of its features. If you’d like to learn more, browse through their feature list here, or sign up for a free Basic account to experience it for yourself.
Overall, we’re quite impressed with Bitrix24. It’s comparable to the project management system we’re currently using for MakeUseOf, and in some aspects, it’s much better.
To complement the web interface, Bitrix24 provides free mobile apps for both iOS and Android platforms. Their iOS app has just recently launched on the iTunes App Store, while the release of the Android app on Google Play is imminent.
With these mobile apps, you’ll be able to manage your team and projects just as efficiently as you would using the web interface.
iPhone 5 Giveaway
To celebrate the launch of their iOS application, Bitrix24 and MakeUseOf are organising another iPhone 5 giveaway! We’ll be giving away a 16GB Slate iPhone 5 to just one lucky winner. To be in the running to win the iPhone 5 (as well as a year’s subscription to Bitrix24′s Startup plan), join the giveaway below.
Read our review of the iPhone 5.
How do I win a free Bitrix24 account and the iPhone 5?
Step 1: Fill in the giveaway form
Please fill in the form with your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner. MakeUseOf giveaways are open to readers worldwide.
Step 2: Share!
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Alternative entry method: Use your points!
Exchange your MakeUseOf points for an entry into the competition. First, create a MakeUseOf account, earn points and exchange your points for an entry! Learn more about our Game system and Rewards program.
By participating in this giveaway, you agree to the giveaway rules.
This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, November 9th. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.
Spread the word to your friends and have fun!
Interested in sponsoring a giveaway? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via the form at the bottom of this page.