ZohoProjects challenges Basecamp on project management

AdventNet’s online productivity suite Zoho has added a project management system to its already long list of offerings. ZohoProjects is now accepting new signups and there’s a demo account you can use from the front page. The Zoho team told me that if Basecamp targets “the less is more crowd,” ZohoProjects will be feature rich. It’s not there yet, but it sounds like a good strategy. Once a single sign-in is available across all the Zoho services – there’s twelve in all – this could be really powerful.

At $5 per month for 3 projects and $80 for unlimited projects, ZohoProjects undercuts Basecamp on price; Basecamp charges $12 and $149 for 3 or unlimited projects. Upstart alternative ActiveCollab is free and can be hosted for you through a number of hosting companies, but is unlike both Basecamp and ZohoProjects in that its software needs to be downloaded and put on servers other than the company’s.

How does ZohoProjects look so far? There are a number of features that stand out, including a time clock for individual tasks and a calender. To do list items can be reordered by drag and drop. There are forums for discussion of projects. There is some support for tags, more than Basecamp, less than ActiveCollab but not as much as I’d like. Documents can be tagged but not tasks. I imagine that will change when the service starts getting used.

There are also no RSS feeds in ZohoProjects- Basecamp has feeds and ActiveCollab does not. Limited permission options are available and there’s no internal message sending – just direct access to users’ emails. There’s very little information tied to individual users in fact; you can’t look at a user and see what they are responsible for, for example.

File transfer and storage limits haven’t been determined yet.

The company says it is putting the final touches on a single sign-in system to work across all of its services. Hopefully that will make documents created with ZohoWriter, ZohoShow and other Zoho services easy to work with in ZohoProjects. One big advantage that Basecamp has is the CampFire chat program. Zoho has ZohoChat, which could be integrated into the project management system as well.

Future developments for ZohoProjects will include more extensive reporting and the ability to generate and track bills and invoices.

If the company can nail down single sign-in and integrate a successful chat service things could really get moving. Then the Zoho services would be far more powerful together instead of feeling like a series of disparate services that each work passably but are ultimately disconnected. ZohoProjects is really what ties all the services together; combined with the company’s free online word processor, presentation service and spreadsheet maker it’s a pretty powerful package for a relatively low price. Watch the Zoho Blog for an announcement when it’s available for regular use.