Citrix Podio Review
Podio vs. Wrike vs. LiquidPlanner


Having outgrown the features of our trusted project management software, we began to explore options to allow for the sustained growth of SIX AD.

Taking Stock

Having identified that Basecamp no longer met our needs as a practice, we began a process of defining what we needed from our project management tools, what was available to us, and whether any third parties had used this software as we intended to use it.

If you haven't already, please read The Shape of Things - Project Management - Part 1 before reading any further.

Our initial approach to moving forward on a Basecamp replacement, was to form a shortlist, read related reviews and then undertake a trial, whereby we’d set up a single active project and run it in parallel to the Basecamp counter-part. We were looking for a solution that met the following criteria:-

It must offer a functional but attractive interface, as Basecamp had previously provided.
The features on offer (as item no. 3) needed to integrate seamlessly with one another, offering an intuitive and layered interface, allowing respective team members to access the information they need, without being exposed to distracting and unnecessary data.
The chosen software needed to cover the features spread across our previous suite of Basecamp and third party apps, i.e. (a) project management, task tracking, including percentage completion, (b) task allocation / prioritisation (c) time recording / tracking, (d) Gantt chart views, including project milestones.

We had also recognised that we needed a simple CRM (customer relationship management) solution. We think of this more as ‘contact relationship management’, but we needed to consolidate information in a number of locations in to a single database, accessible to our team.

Podio

The first solution that we explored was Podio. Our first impressions of Podio were positive. It has a feel of Facebook in terms of strong ‘intranet’ social media integration and the simplicity of layout. The icons and general appearance are attractive, which was important for us, as Basecamp had also offered an attractive user interface.

Going deeper, the project structure seemed to offer what we needed. A considerable benefit of Podio however, was the modular approach to structuring the features. The internal app store allowed us to download and then customise the name and function of pre-built apps, but also provides an interface in which you can create new apps and share them with other Podio users.

At first glance, there was only the Gantt chart element that was missing from Podio and we were hopeful that this was something that we could add by creating an app from the constituent parts in the toolkit. In trying this, it became clear that we were trying to overcome a gap that would require regular maintenance and after a few days, we decided to look for another solution to our practice needs.

Interface 4/5 looks good, but screen space could be better used
Functionality 4/5 easy to use, but some server lag time
Features 4/5 great apps, but don’t have time to build from scratch
Scalability 3/5 apps allow for expansion; unsure for large projects
Value 4/5 $9 / month / person – good value for features
Podio Total 19/25

Wrike

Our second trial was with Wrike. Having established the functions that were important to us with Basecamp and Podio, the full feature set of Wrike was immediately obvious. The project / task organization structure allowed us to go deeper than with Basecamp and it’s possible to apply several tags to the same task, meaning that it can be indexed in several places (i.e. project, team member task list) without the need to duplicate the task. The Gantt chart view was a huge step up from anything possible in Podio.

The negatives for Wrike were largely in terms of our perception of it. After we’d used it for a few days, phrases such as “can you just add that note to Wrike” slipped in to meetings, but it felt like a very alien term to us, whereas Basecamp seemed to make sense and even Podio sounded friendly – Wrike sounded too much like ‘Reich’.

The other aspect that we were at first willing to overlook, but subsequently came to be less popular, was the user interface. The hierarchy of the projects are ordered in panels from left to right, so project list, project tasks, task details as you look over the screen. The elements that require attention are brightly coloured, but the rest of the screen is neutral. It seems that there is a balance of function / aesthetics that in this case was a little too stark. There was no single reason why we moved on from Wrike – it didn’t let us down in terms of useability, there was just a perception that it wasn’t quite the right fit for SIX AD.

Interface 3/5 this is the main area that lets Wrike down
Functionality 4/5 easy to use; feedback not always applicable
Features 5/5 covered all of the areas that we needed
Scalability 3/5 simple for user, but not as easy for manager to track
Value 4/5 $49 / month up to five people – worth it for features
Wrike Total 19/25

LiquidPlanner

It was surprising that it took more extensive searches to find LiquidPlanner. The core feature of this option, is that the database is fluid (hence the title) and is constantly updating itself according to priorities across all projects, team members available to undertake work (it accounts for holidays and part-time staff) and the estimated hours left to complete a task.

Amongst the many things that we liked about LiquidPlanner, was the fact that once data is entered, the software considers the task ‘live’ until you tell it otherwise, so the Gantt charts keep updating, as opposed to other options where the charts become out of date unless they’re regularly maintained.

LiquidPlanner allowed us to easily replicate templates, create a basic (and searchable) CRM system, prioritise workload and track time spent on projects. We like the name, we like the interface and we’re confident that it’s scalable in terms of managing additional team members and growth in project values / numbers. Although other solutions would allow additional features, such as allowing external contributors to access specific projects or work stages via the internet, LiquidPlanner allows us to create a web-portal that we can brand with our own practice logo, as well as the relevant third party logos, creating a stronger sense of cross-discipline ownership and collaboration.

As a bonus, LiquidPlanner is launching a feature in May 2014, called ‘Card View’. This will take us back to the days of our wall mounted cork board, only this time the ‘task cards’ will be part of the same database we currently use, but we can track them through the various work stages, from left (just started) to right (completed).

Interface 5/5 relevant info on view; consistent & legible
Functionality 4/5 complex; steep learning curve, but all relevant
Features 5/5 covered everything; would score higher with 'card view' feature
Scalability 5/5 re-packaging necessary for large projects, but possible
Value 4/5 $29 / month / person – a little high, but good value
LP Total 23/25

Summary

We considered LiquidPlanner to be the most suitable solution for our needs as a practice. As all of the features of our ‘wish-list’ are incorporated in one web portal, we find we’re getting much more out of the data that we input at our weekly review meetings, as well as the information that we feed in over the course of the week. It’s worth considering this in the context of our cork board and Basecamp, i.e. what we had available to us before the move to LiquidPlanner.

Cork Board
Interface 2/5 simple; upgrades unlikely
Functionality 4/5 simple; no learning curve
Features 1/5 print it, pin it; a lot of maintenance required
Scalability 2/5 only suitable for simple projects
Value 5/5 pay once; use ‘in theory’ forever
Cork Total 14/25
Basecamp
Interface 5/5 relevant info on view; consistent & legible
Functionality 4/5 simple; minimal learning curve
Features 3/5 covers the basics well
Scalability 2/5 only suitable for simple projects
Value 2/5 $50 / 40 projects – high for features and cost of third party app add-ons
Basecamp Total 16/25

It should be noted that the scores that we’ve applied are very much geared to our needs as a practice and how we anticipate we would use, or actually have used the software.

Originally posted here.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.

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