Clarizen: Project Management for Non-Project Managers (Free 1 yr. Subscriptions!)

clarizen-logo-smallMany professionals I know are not project managers by profession and yet most at some point or another have had the dubious pleasure of battling it out with a project management (PM) application—MS Project typically the nightmare of choice. It begins with lofty ideals of planning and running an organized project (for once). Yet what usually happens is that they end-up managing the project management tool, rather than have it manage the project. Granted, PM tools have made progress in recent years, with Basecamp from 37Signals leading the charge with a Web-based subscription model that sports a user-friendly interface. The fact remains though that there’s a long way to go before non-project managers can put a hand on their heart and claim that the benefits of using a PM tool outweigh its overhead.

This was that I had in mind when Israeli startup Clarizen approached me, explaining theirs is a project management and collaboration tool specifically aimed at non-project managers. There’s no question Clarizen is a latecomer to the space, but they seem to have the right ingredients: A fairly convenient interface, a smidgen of unique differentiation, and friendly pricing to boot—and $15M in funding doesn’t hurt either, of course.

Clarizen is making two great offers available for TechCrunch readers:  First, Clarizen is auctioning off five (5) FREE one year subscriptions to TechCrunch readers. All you need to do is explain in the comments why you need and want Clarizen and how you intend to use it. The Clarizen team will select the 5 winners. Make sure to include a valid email address along with your comment!  Second, anyone who mentions this TechCrunch post to Clarizen’s sales team when making any purchase will receive one additional free subscription for the term of their purchase.

Clarizen was designed as a PM tool for operational/functional managers (think: department heads). This is a good move because the biggest failing point in project management is probably during the set-up stage which requires the project be planned out to the “T” before it can be rolled out. This is a process that requires a high level of familiarity with such methodologies, so it’s no surprise why non-professional project managers bail on it so often.

Clarizen deals with this basic problem by allowing the project participants to assist in the planning, even if the project has already begun. The collaborative planning and execution can transpire among teams working within the same organization, or among those whose resources are dispersed between two or more companies.

Here’s an example: Let’s say my project is the creation of a Facebook app and I own entire the project. I can delegate my R&D manager to set and manage the in-house development process and its dependencies. When it comes to the user interface, though, I’ve gone with an outside contractor who obviously has his own work processes and dependencies. With Clarizen I can have the contractor enter and update all the relevant info independently, while I maintain a unified view of the project at large. As a side note, Clarizen includes with each company subscription a single free license for a partner.

One of the things I like about Clarizen is that it puts reality above methodology. Even if the full scope is unknown or the whole plan is not complete, projects can be kicked-off by activating only the parts that are ready to roll. At any point, any portion of the project can be switched back to draft mode, be paused, re-planned and reactivated. So if the graphics designer goes snowboarding for a week unexpectedly (something far too many of us can relate to), no problem, the task can be reactivated when he/she gets back. Other PM tools provide similar functionality but in a version control paradigm that involves the project’s “baseline”. Basically this creates a new version of the project each time an “anomaly” (i.e., delays caused by the real world) occur.  Clarizen, in contrast, treats delays as a normal occurrence.

Another feature I found useful is that Clarizen allows projects to be updated without having to log into the application. Using the Facebook app example above, the contractor would be sent an email notification (screenshot below) with a link to a form in which the task statuses can be updated. No login is required, no subscription has to be purchased. Very convenient indeed.

Clarizen has been selling its solution for a year now with the bulk of its customer base considering it an alternative to heavy-duty enterprise solutions such as Clarity and Primavera. The company did not reveal the amount of actual subscribers it has, but did share with me that it has over 200 customers and that current contract closures are predominantly for 12-month terms.

Clarizen Email Notification

Clarizen Planning