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Software Review: Clarizen

Clarizen is an online, ‘software as a service’ project management tool that has integration with other desktop applications.  It’s aimed at small and medium sized companies that can’t justify the investment in all-singing-all-dancing project management software, which costs a lot to implement in hardware, licences and training.  Clarizen has no hosting costs.  Licences start at $21.95 per month, if you sign up in advance for two years.  I haven’t really got my head around SaaS.  Surely if you are using it for the long term eventually it works out cheaper to buy and host yourself?  You can’t buy on line either, you have to print out a .pdf document and fax it to them.  So, would you want to buy it?

The user interface is very easy to use, with logical keyboard shortcuts.  If you’ve read my reviews of Easy Projects .NET and Viewpath you’ll know that I’m interested in the ability to schedule tasks of less than one day and I’m pleased to say that Clarizen lets you do that.  The downside is that you can only link two tasks at a time, so can’t do ‘chain’ dependencies.

The Highlights feature is good, as it provides a complete audit trail of who changed what when, and because it is web-based you can click an item to see it in situ in the project itself.  It also handily tells you if tasks were completed ahead of time, but no comment on whether that shifts your critical path.  The tool is not aimed at people who do project management for a living, so maybe critical path analysis is a less important feature to them.

Management by email is a good feature though.  It means users never have to look at the Clarizen interface.  You can prompt the system to send out an email asking for a progress update.  The recipient has three options:

  • My progress is according to plan (with the plan at the end of the email so you can see what you promised to do
  • Manually update my progress
  • Log in to my account

The risk is that users will just click the first option every time, but that’s no different from asking someone and them saying the activity is 80% complete.  You can personalise the emails with your own logo to make it feel like it is really a corporate system and not a web page.  The same goes for much of the interface: the admin options are extensive, and I could change the dates to display dd/mm/yy!  You can choose how long Highlights are kept in the system and whether to include them on email notifications, so the ability to tweak to make it suit you is good.  Although you’d need someone in the administrator role who understands how the system is in use in your organisation to make the most intelligent choices.

Clarizen screenshot

There is a good selection of pre-formatted reports.  As an individual I can also view all my ‘work tasks’.  Wherever you are there is a multitude of filtering options and this page is no different.  It is particularly helpful to be able to filter by ‘tasks in the works’ which includes current, upcoming, on hold and draft tasks.

Draft tasks are a good feature for a package that relies heavily on email communication.  You wouldn’t want hundreds of emails bouncing around while you are trying to sort out exactly which order things go in.  I didn’t use the email feature much in my test, as I only had one resource in my plan.  You can get deeper email integration with the Outlook add-in, which is downloadable from the Clarizen website.

Clarizen screenshot

I did like how this software looks on the screen.  The response times were excellent, it didn’t open any additional, pointless windows, and it was easy to navigate.  I do think that the more time you spend with it the better your experience of it would be.  There are plenty of features here that only activate as time progresses so in my test I didn’t get to use those.  This is a more feature-rich product with more customisation options than the others I have looked at so far this month, and that is reflected in the price.

I also interviewed Clarizen CEO and co-founder Avinaom Nowogrodski, which will appear here on Tuesday 30 September.

*Update, 22/10/09*

You can now buy Clarizen online, which makes it easier to get hold of.

See all project management software reviews.


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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.

Comments

  1. Anna Smith says

    I have found a Project Management Tool which Shares Microsoft Project schedules with team. Includes Project Portfolio Management, Issue Tracking, Risk Management, Timesheet Management, Document Management, Calendar Management, Forums, Reports and Project Dashboard.

    A good hosted Project Management software that suits my EPM needs is called valleyspeak project server, which I found at http://www.valleyspeak.com. One of the main reasons why I like the software is the fact that I could continue to work in Microsoft Project 2007 while sharing my Microsoft Project plans with my teams.

    ValleySpeak Project Server is a hosted project management solution which can be used by Project Managers to publish, control and execute projects in real time, while continuing to make full use of Microsoft Project 2007.

    Because it is a hosted service, I did not have to buy expensive software or deal with installation and maintenance headaches. The functionality that I have with valleyspeak to manage my geographically dispersed teams works well for me. We also evaluated Basecamp and some other solutions but were not impressed. I would say “Just go For It”.

  2. Sty Liskit says

    SaaS with such tools is regarded as the next best thing because of lack of maintenance costs. If you bought shrink wrap software, you end up paying once, say $100. However, PM is moving so fast with cool new tools making current tools obsolete that in a few years you would have to shell out another $100 for a newer shrink wrap software. However in SaaS tools there is no need to worry about updating, about maintenance. This is why such tools can be a great option.

    Also consider with medium sized companies, as Avinoam mentioned in your interview, that paying the upfront price of a shrink wrap software plus its installation plus its customization can be a major block to using a tool for PM. SaaS tools can stretch out that initial cost so it isn’t so scary in the beginning, and it can be paid from revenues later on.

    This was a long comment!

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