Review: pmPoint 7.0

A powerful project management system built into SharePoint

It's not uncommon for a company to roll out SharePoint, expecting a valuable project/workflow management system, only to discover that SharePoint cannot meet all the needs of the company. While investing in significant development is certainly an option, pmPoint offers another option. As a plug-in for SharePoint, pmPoint offers enhanced management, tracking, and reporting features as an out-of-the-box solution.

Structure and Projects
In pmPoint and SharePoint, everything is sorted by projects. You have your high level projects, then the projects below that (probably for each department), then the actual projects, and then the tasks. Confused? Here's an example—let's say your company has three "Project Areas" (the term used for the high level "projects") for product A, product B, and product C. Within each one of those areas, you have projects for design, marketing, logistics, and support. Then, in each one of those Project Areas, you have projects for each team—let's say marketing has create a website, organize an upcoming tradeshow, and market the latest version of the product as its projects. Finally each of those projects will have a set of tasks, which will be assigned to various individuals, so on and so forth.

While at first the projects sorting annoyed me, I can see the value in this. First off, if you have very large-scale projects (just a few at a time), this can help you to stay focused on one project at a time. You can also always create a "Miscellaneous" project that stores all the simple, single tasks, or you can even just have one project for everything, bypassing some of the project layers altogether. The only disadvantage in doing this is that much of the reporting seems to lend itself best when an organization is using this structure.

Templates
pmPoint allows you to create templates to streamline the creation of tasks in your projects. So, for instance, if you are a marketing agency, you probably have a basic number of steps that have to be accomplished to create a new logo for a client (brainstorm meeting, initial drafts, client review, etc.). In cases like these, templates can easily be used and tweaked to take some of the manual work out of creating each individual task for every new project. pmPoint also comes with a number of basic templates.

One excellent feature in pmPoint is the ability to quickly and easily modify an overall project through a datasheet. So, for instance, say I used a template to create a new project for creating a logo for company X. It has all the basic steps already in there, but it's missing two steps specific to this client. I can easily add two new rows in the datasheet and have it update automatically. Also, say I want to change a few of the responsible persons because someone is out sick on a given week. I just click those cells and change the names. Finally, I instantly get a view of what the complete date of the project will be, and I can adjust the days allotted to each assignment to ensure that the project is set to complete at a certain time. And of course, all of the reporting and individual tasks lists for employees will update automatically.

Interface
Users with experience on SharePoint will find the pmPoint interface to be a familiar face. From color to layout, the pmPoint interface is very similar to SharePoint, save for the additional options that it grants. That being said, I found the interface and structure to not be very intuitive. On all of the projects, there are a host of little icons that don't provide details as to what they mean if you hover over them and cannot be clicked on (at least not with the permissions that the trial grants you). This left me to wonder what those icons meant, and it took a bit of poking around to figure that out. Even then, I felt like I needed a key to translate the icons.

That aside, one other frustrating thing was that whenever I would go into a task and change something, rather than simply being taken back to the page I was on beforehand, I would be taken to that overall project. (It was as if the program was saying, "Glad you finished that assignment. Now look at the other 500 ones within this project," but only a handful of those were actually assigned to me the individual!) Also, there isn't an overly simple way to manage completion of tasks, such as checking off a "complete" radio button. The only two options are either to open up the entire task and make edits in there (which is a hassle), or open up a datasheet and make the changes to the cells much like you would an Excel spreadsheet (an efficient option, but some users may be intimidated by the datasheet or accidently overwrite something).

Granted, the interface becomes much easier to use after only an hour so of working with pmPoint. But, coming from the perspective of Betty in marketing, John in finance, and Sue in order management, I can see how the system would be confusing to learn for someone who doesn't already have experience with a similar workflow tool.

After the jump, we'll cover pmPoint's reporting capabilities, pricing, and requirements.

Reporting Capabilities
One of the biggest distinguishing factors between using SharePoint as a workflow tool and adding pmPoint is the reporting capabilities. pmPoint provides a robust set of management views, giving a high-level manager a bird's eye view of the overall success or failure of a project. You can view statistics and charts in terms of:

  • Projected costs vs. actual costs
  • Projected time of completion and actual time of completion
  • Percentage of project that is complete
  • Late and on-time tasks
  • Completion of tasks and total tasks by individuals
  • There is also a calendar of tasks available

The best part is that these reports are highly customizable. You can choose what data to pull, what chart formats to view it in (Gantt, pie, etc.), and create custom reports that you will constantly update and that you can always revisit. So, while it will definitely take some time to get everything set up, you can create specific reports that are specific to given managers, then send out those reports via email or simply let the individual know which report to view.

Price and Requirements
pmPoint is available as both as a hosted Software as a Service (SaaS) and on-premises solution. The SaaS version, pmPoint Online, varies from $5?$24 per user per month, depending on the amount of users. The on-premises solution starts at $5,400 for 20 users, and the price per user decreases as you add more users— $17,500 for 100 users, $45,000 for 500 users, etc. Support is additional and averages about 1/5 the cost of the software.

To run pmPoint on premise, you need some version of SharePoint. It is not required, however, to run pmPoint Online.

Conclusion
Simply put, what differentiates pmPoint from other workflow tools is pmPoint's complexity and high-level management capabilities. At first glance, I did not find pmPoint easy to use—granted, I have very little experience with SharePoint, but users will definitely need time to adjust to the system. The key is obviously to keep things very simple for individuals, providing them a basic task list to work on and little else. The learning curve for the project manager will be fairly steep, and it will definitely take time to build out the reports, templates, and structure to make pmPoint streamlined and efficient.

BrightWork pmPoint 7.0
PROS: High-level, bird's eye view reporting; project sorting system allows for easy tracking of massive, long-term projects; templates allow for quick, streamlined creation of new tasks
CONS: Interface can be confusing; steep learning curve for project managers; significant prep work required to get the system to do the exact things you want it to; likely overkill for small organizations
RATING: 3.5 out of 5
PRICE: Saas solution (pmPoint Online) varies from $5–$24 per user per month, depending on amount of users. On-premises solution starts at 20 users for $5,400.
RECOMMENDATION: If you're a large company with a need for time-sensitive management of individual tasks, have a lot of tasks that are difficult to keep up with, or have few low-level managers on the front lines, pmPoint can be an invaluable tool by providing quick access to reports that tell you the status of projects in terms of time, price, individual workloads, and much more.
CONTACT: BrightWork • www.brightwork.com

However, if you are a large organization that wants to have a well-documented workflow management system that allows a project manager to quickly gauge the success and status of long-term, high-value projects, there is great value in pmPoint. It can also be used in smaller organizations, but aside from the reporting capabilities, I don't find it to be overly superior to using SharePoint or other simple task-management programs.

To try pmPoint for yourself for free, go to www.brightwork.com/pmpoint. Or, register for a free live webcast on May 12.

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