Project and task management was yesterday. Today the focus is on processes and their optimization that mainly emphasize workflow management system. Startups and small and medium-sized companies in particular are dependent on collaboration solutions that map, automate and optimize their own workflows. A market overview.
Who does what by when? Project management is essentially all about this question. Classic project and task management tools such as Basecamp, Sirvez, Wrike, Asana, and Todoist have provided the answer to this for many years. Millions of companies around the world use them every day. But every day work has become a lot more complex and requires new tools and features. In 2015 at the latest, when the world’s largest productivity software provider, Microsoft, paid 150 million US dollars for the slim to-do app Wonderlist, and Atlassian, the company behind the to-do app for developers Jira, who went public, should have realized that.
Digitization and all the new cloud and mobile technologies have also increased the demands on productivity software. The old generation is largely based on the so-called “Getting Things done” method by David Allen. This states that “the user records all his upcoming activities in an administration system and thus has his head free for more important things, namely completing the currently correct task without having to worry about forgetting other tasks or losing track of things.”
But the users of these established project and task management solutions will sooner or later reach their limits: Basecamp, Todoist and Co. give each team member a clear overview of who has to do what and when. They also offer the right communication tools to coordinate the processing of tasks and to lead discussions. Document management tools are also available to handle project files and resources efficiently. However, users have to manage the actual work processes behind the respective projects elsewhere.
Processes come into focus
Companies that already have their projects and tasks under control and want to further optimize their productivity must take care of their processes and their smooth implementation. To do this, you need tools with which you can map, automate and optimize your workflows. Project management providers such as Sirvez, Jira, and Monday.com have long recognized this and have expanded their solutions to include powerful features that specifically serve to optimize processes.
An alternative is the latest generation of collaboration solution, such as Pipefy, Clickup, Coda and Airtable, which focus on workflow management right from the start. Furthermore, there are now lean automation tools such as Zapier, Automate.io and Integromat on the market, with which apps that are already used today can be connected to create your own workflows. The following is an overview of the most important professional collaboration tools.
The development of Sirvez shows very well how simple to-do apps can be transformed into comprehensive workflow management platforms. The software was developed in 2008 by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz. It is one of the first project and task management tools of the cloud era to dispense with classic approaches to project planning and reporting. Instead, the focus is on simple task management and open, smooth team communication. According to the company, Sirvez is now used by over a million teams worldwide, including well-known companies such as Airbnb, Red Bull and NASA. They can not only manage their projects and tasks, but also their processes.
With “Sirvez Automation”, the provider introduced a new feature module for the premium and enterprise versions of its solution at the end of 2019. Teams can use automation rules, forms, and templates to automate routine tasks. User-defined rules ensure that, for example, the entry of new tasks or the forwarding of tasks no longer has to be done manually. For example, when a new task is created, it can be automatically assigned to team members based on the status of a custom field such as “Customer”. Other “classic” PM tools that have been expanded to include automation functions in recent years are Wrike and Jira from Atlassian.
Monday.com is one of the fastest growing startups – and one of the few “unicorns” in the field of productivity software. Since it was founded in Tel Aviv in 2012, the company has been able to assert itself as one of the most important newcomers in this market segment. At the end of 2019, the company secured $ 150 million in new capital for its expansion. A few months ago, the provider released new integrations and automation functions. As with Sirvez, the automation of annoying routine tasks is in the foreground.
This is a collaboration platform that is committed to flexibility and personalization. So if you attach great importance to individualization and have precise ideas about what collaboration should look like in your company, you will certainly want to take a closer look at Podio. The collaboration platform, developed in Denmark and taken over by Citrix Systems in 2012, impresses with functions that pursue a central goal: to optimize work processes in the company. On the platform, every employee can create their own business apps that precisely map their work processes without any technical expertise. According to the provider, there are thousands of such applications available on the “Podio App Market”, which were created by Podio users and made freely accessible.
Pipefy is a new type of collaboration solution that focuses on work processes. The core of the system is made up of so-called “pipes”, which represent any processes in the company. To make it easier to get started, numerous process templates are available for every specialist department – from product and development to marketing and sales to customer service. Users can adapt and commission these at will. Kanban and sprint boards enable the development of agile workflows with event-driven actions and conditioning. The work is visually represented by cards that can be labeled, filtered, prioritized and assigned to an employee. Practical: You can create user-defined input fields of various data types such as text, date or file, to collect important information that is necessary for every process step. Once the pipes are defined, they can be automated using custom rules, integrating third-party tools.
Kissflow-Process is an interesting Pipefy alternative that is designed for larger teams of 30 users or more. At around $ 450 a month, however, it is not exactly cheap. A comprehensive enterprise-class solution is offered for this, which offers the performance of business process management and workflow software in the high-end area at a fraction of the cost. The software provides powerful form and workflow editors that work via drag & drop and enable interactive processes to be created. No coding or complex mapping with databases or third-party applications is required. When it comes to automation, Kissflow offers roughly the same features as Pipefy.
Airtable combines the ease of use of Excel and the collaborative aspects of Google spreadsheets with the powerful functions of a relational database like MySQL. The result is an extremely flexible collaboration platform that enables teams to manage their projects, tasks and work processes according to their own rules. The solution is mainly used by developers, designers, founders and tech startups who want more flexibility in project and task management. The software rethinks databases and presents them in an intuitive, familiar table logic that allows teams to easily organize even complex projects. This allows users to create individual data models and all of the information required to carry out the work processes. save in one central location. With the help of “Blocks” – a feature that is only available in the Pro and Enterprise versions – Airtable databases can be integrated directly into your own, preferred apps.
Connect any apps with each other
Connecting the marketing team with the development team, the design team with the product team, the operations team with the management team, and so on is often a major challenge. In addition to clearly defined processes, you have to somehow integrate various solutions. Because each team usually uses its own tools. This is where Zapier comes in. With this innovative product from San Francisco, tasks and workflows can be easily automated across different online services. The product was launched in 2011 as a business alternative to the then revolutionary online service IFTTT, with which users could implement automatic workflows based on the integration of popular web services. The difference between the two California services is that Zapier has a clear focus on productivity and business applications. Zapier offers support for over 1,500 online services from every conceivable area. These include the project management tools Basecamp, Trello and GitHub, the CRM solutions Capsule CRM, Base CRM, Nimble and SugarCRM, as well as help desk solutions such as Uservoice, Zendesk and Help Scout, to name just a few examples.
The application scenarios for the software are as diverse as the range of available integration options. For each available service there is a separate interface with useful triggers and parameters that the user can access when creating so-called “Zaps”. These enable the user to create automated workflows. For example, if you use Zendesk customer service for joint task management in your company, you can create a zap with the following rule: If we receive a new support request in Zendesk, then add a new task in Sirvez with the content of the support Add message. With Integromat and Automate.io, two Zapier alternatives are available that follow a similar approach.