SaaS, or software as a service, which is often referred to as ‘on demand software’ is defined on Wikipedia as “a software delivery model in which software and its associated data are hosted centrally (typically in the Internet cloud) and are typically accessed by users using a thin client, normally using a web browser over the Internet.”
So SaaS, in its most basic sense, is referring to cloud computing. And the question this article begs to ask is this… for project management software…. why go the software as a service route? What’s wrong with desktop? What’s wrong with MS Project? Isn’t that what everyone is doing? Is that what everyone has always done? The answer, of course, is a big “NO!” and should be followed up with, “Where have you been?”
For professionally trained PMs, MS Project is often still thought of as the norm in the project management software world and may continue to be considered the standard for a while. But organizations are no longer left with the inflexible option of selecting Microsoft’s expensive offering as their primary project management tool. Smaller organizations, inventive new PMs looking for something more readily available to them, and the growing business Mac-user community are fast adopting web-based SaaS project management software alternatives for their project management needs. And even if your project customer uses MS Project, that doesn’t mean you have to… or vice versa… because so many new offerings interact seamlessly with MS Project files.
So, once again, why SaaS project management? Here are a few reasons…
Selecting a web-based SaaS project management software tool as your PM package of choice can be a green PM option. No software to buy and install means no packaging, no dedicated data storage needed, and less staff in your own organization is needed for support. And less staff – if your organization is large enough where that makes a difference – can mean a smaller carbon footprint.
Going the project management SaaS route means your organization is spending less money on the PM software they use. MS Project licenses are expensive. And if you want document sharing and collaboration, you need to also have SharePoint, adding more software, hardware and administrative costs. In contrast, the many web-based project management software options available are far more cost-effective. Most hover in the $15 – $30 per user per month price range with other options for large groups of users or per year prices.
With MS Project, you know what you’re getting. However, many of the innovative web-based SaaS project management software tools have come forth with scores of flexible features like more custom reporting, collaboration, creative dashboards for viewing cross-project information as well as resource utilization and budget info, and the ability to create many different views for the same project information. The ability to tailor what you see and how you see it can be a nice plus for users looking to adopt something less expensive, new, and different from the standard fare.
The ability to collaborate with your project team is critical in these times of remotely-managed projects and geographically dispersed project resources. While MS Project is usually a tool utilized by the trained project manager who provides information to his team through reports, etc. and is generally not seen as a true collaborative tool (unless the organization has spent serious money and time on a Project Server installation),many of the SaaS project management software offerings available are highly collaborative. Not only does this make the PM’s job easier through task delegation and reliance on team members to update their own tasks in real-time, but it also ensures that information is always up-to-date as long as the project team is being diligent and timely with their updates.
Organizations – both big and small – are migrating to web-based project management software offerings. The costs are small, the risks are small, and the roadblocks to adoption by and interfacing with holdout users of MS Project are few. In many cases – especially in smaller organizations with limited IT budgets – it’s a low cost and no-brainer choice.