WorkZone is a web-based project management platform that strives to hit the sweet spot between a complex tool like Microsoft Project and the simpler Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based social task management tools. The good folks at WorkZone arranged an evaluation of their platform so I could review it for TechRepublic.
Project workspaces in WorkZone are well laid out and designed; I especially like the ability to filter views by Dates, Project Responsible, and Project Category. One thing that’s missing that comes with many other platforms is an activity stream.
By default, workspaces open to the Project To-Do List (Figure A), making WorkZone all business. I know of teams that would find the Project To-Do List more than a match for their project management needs because they require simplicity not a complex Gantt chart. The Project To-Do List is central to WorkZone workspaces, yet it’s not necessarily where you track projects — there is a separate Project Tracker. I wish the integration of the To-Do list and Project Tracker was more obvious; the WorkZone user interface treats them as separate entities, which feels a bit unnatural.
I don’t like that you have to go under Settings and to the Setup menu to set up a new workspace vs. being able to create a workspace directly from the Select Workspace drop-down list. Granted, this is a minor nitpick, but it’s a common feature in many of today’s project management and collaboration platforms.
I do, however, like the ease with which you can pull up other useful views, including:
- Projects By Responsible
- Completed Projects
- Active Projects 100% Complete
- Activity: Last 7 Days
The Project Tracker (Figure B) is where you can track larger and more complex projects within your WorkZone workspace. Project Tracker has filter options that help you change your views of project information (Figure C).
Document management and sharing features
Documents are broken down by project, and you have the option to create folders within the project. You can only upload documents from within a project or a folder.
The Document Manager tools (Figure D) are an example of how simplicity works in the platform’s favor.
Figure E shows the available WorkZone document management features.
WorkZone’s document sharing features are basic but sufficient for simple document sharing and collaboration.
One item on my technology writer bucket list is to write a post about the end of the Microsoft Word status report. I’ve worked in the federal and commercial sectors, and the Word document status report always seems like more a tool of bureaucracy than project tracking.
To that end, I’m happy to see that WorkZone has a number of project reports available to track activities, including:
- Dashboards that offer a quick view into recent activities, upcoming items, recent documents, approvals, and completed tasks.
- Project views that offer status by project.
- Workload by the responsible party and by category.
- Usage summary and activity logs.
Figure F shows the Recent Activity dashboard.
The project reporting options should be attractive to organizations with moderate to high reporting requirements. Distributed project teams can also use the WorkZone reporting features to give their management team more transparency into their projects and tasks without taxing team members with unnecessary levels of status reporting or communications.
The Setup menu governs all WorkZone workspaces. Unfortunately, a “Please select a link from the left menu” message greets you when you open the menu. In 2013, this message is a cheap out when they should have found a better use for the screen real estate.
Setup gets confusing when you click Setup at the All Workspace level, and then it sends you to a site level menu. If you’re inside a workspace and click Setup, you’re taken to a Workspaces level setup, which might baffle some users and even administrators. I think better delineation would help usability.
A hidden gem amongst the Setup options is Partner Firms. This feature enables you to set up secure access to partner firms for exchanging information with them. Check it out if you work for an organization that partners with other firms, contractors, or freelancers on projects.
While WorkZone’s design has a few rough edges and it’s missing social tools like an activity feed, I find its simplicity ideal for some project delivery organizations. WorkZone is a definite option for project teams that want a solution that fits between social task management and more complex project management platforms.
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