"I'm hesitant to touch anything that archaic," Wachman said in an interview. While there are plenty of other people in his company using Microsoft Project and other tools--and perhaps Project is more suitable for managing large-scale solar power engineering projects--Wrike.com is a better solution for the kind of projects he handles, like overseeing a worldwide Salesforce.com implementation. Wachman is a senior global strategy analyst at Suntech--a business analyst, rather than an IT person or a professional project manager. A project like the Salesforce implementation is "not all that technical, from our side," he said, but it still involves a long list of tasks to be executed in the right order, including some that require coordination with outside consultants.
"If you look at the trends, it's really the business side driving the adoption of a lot of IT projects these days," Wachman said.
[Social project management is becoming big business. Take a look at VMware's offering at VMware's Socialcast Strides Into Social Project Management]
Wrike is a software-as-a-service tool for project planning and coordination that is most popular with small to midsize businesses, although it also boasts some large customers such as Kraft Foods and CBS Interactive. On Wednesday, Wrike will announce at the JiveWorld user conference that its software will also be available through the Jive Apps Market.
Wrike CEO Andrew Filev said he doesn't so much target the corporate project management office--although he counts some PMOs among his customers--but rather tries to help companies apply a little bit of project management discipline, more broadly.
"Traditionally, project management discipline was born out of industrial projects, these monstrous industrial projects where the cost of a mistake was really high," Filev said. Many of the most important projects organizations manage today revolve more around creativity and iterative experimentation, he said. "They're not planned ahead two years. They're very ad hoc."
At the same time, these projects still have deadlines and require coordination. Wrike takes care of "a lot of the secretary work" of tracking project status, so that when team members meet they can focus on more productive management tasks like leadership and coaching, he said. Wrike still puts more emphasis on structure than a tool like Basecamp that is more purely collaborative, he said.
Tasks can be displayed in a Gantt chart showing overlapping project schedules, with drag-and-drop editing of start and stop times and milestones. Wrike organizes tasks into folders, and some large customers have more than 100,000 tasks in over 10,000 folders, Filev said. Wrike can handle that kind of scale, while still giving users the ability to filter all the projects and tasks in the system to those they care the most about. One idea adapted from social media is a "follower" model that lets users tag projects and tasks for which they want to be alerted about new developments.
Project management is one of the most active areas of innovation in social software, attracting interest from both project management vendors who have been retooling their offerings, while enterprise social software platforms are sprouting additions like Socialcast Strides.
Filev said his approach has been the same all along, "although the language I use to talk about it has definitely changed" as social software use has exploded.
Wachman said Wrike is simple enough to be used by project team members who are not particularly technically savvy. "If they can get to the Gantt chart, often that's all they need to see, and that tells them something," he said.
One of the most important features is the ability to ignore features, Wachman said. "A lot of the people I'm working with don't need to use, nor do they care to use, all of the features Wrike has. The people at Wrike do a good job of splitting off the simple half of it."
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