Project Management tools can be unwieldy beasts, that’s for sure. In some ways, this can be understandable. I mean, managing a project is supposed to be complicated, isn’t it? So many things to track, people to monitor, vendors to liaise with, stakeholders to keep happy. I know that when I first started out life as a Project Manager, I was desperate to find some software that would make the whole process somehow simpler and allow to me a foster a greater level of control over my responsibilities.
Well, Casual.PM is an application that seems to respond well to this need. It’s been designed with one clear word in mind: Vision.
Some people, myself included, find themselves being far more productive when they can visualise their tasks, collaborators and current position within a project. Casual.PM responds to this in a pretty big way. GANTT charts are all well and good (don’t get me wrong, I love them and am a big supporter of them in my work) however they do not suit everybody, or indeed every project. Casual.PM is able to replace these charts with groupings of visual icons which make it easy to ascertain your progress on a particular project by simply glancing at the screen.
Accessible via a web browser, using the application for the first time is incredibly intuitive. Once you have created your account and logged into the web service, you are greeted with a message by one of the app developers welcoming you and providing you with a link for providing feedback. I love this touch and it gave me a great feeling before I’d even started playing with the configuration. This shows you a development team that cares about the product they are offering and this passion carries through the remainder of the tutorial process.
That’s right. You get a tutorial project to work through when you start which is designed to show you the main features that Casual.PM provides. This project is not as detailed as other tutorials you may find in alternative applications, however that is because Casual.PM is not designed to be as complicated as they are. That’s part of it’s charm and it’s purpose, to be a Project Management application that you can just pick up and play with.
Once you have completed the tutorial project, setting up your first project is a breeze. There are keyboard shortcuts for creating new tasks and branches, for grouping sets of tasks together (a very handy feature that all Project Managers will be pleased to see).
You can view all Tasks that have been delegated to yourself courtesy of the My Tasks tab, as well as those assigned to other people in your organisation that have had user accounts created.
The opportunity to upload project-specific files is also there, making this a very collaborative tool. Files can be uploaded from your local computer, Dropbox, Box and Google Drive.
Automatic email notifications are provisioned for as well, which will keep you abreast of changes to the project, modifications to any tasks you have assigned to yourself etc. These are entirely configurable by yourself so you can dictate exactly how intrusive you wish for them to be.
One other feature that I really liked was the ability to be able to integrate the configured deadlines for tasks with Google Calendar. As more companies come to rely on web services such as these, integration is becoming more of a necessity so it’s very encouraging to see this in place. With a clear relationship with Google Apps, it will be interesting to see if any collboration with Office 365 is in the pipeline.
There is an accompanying iOS app as well which, as you would expect, is simple in design and easy to use. I have only really used it though for checking off tasks as opposed to looking at projects as a whole.
Casual.PM is a very attractive looking application, however it is not going to suit every purpose. I have one project I am working on at the moment, for example, where Casual.PM is just not going to be detailed enough to be regarded as an effective management tool. I really need to have the flexibility that floating dates on a GANTT chart will provide. I also need to be able to track the amount of time taken for particular tasks on that project down to a specific hour rather than a day, something which too, is missing in Casual.PM.
However, it’s important to remember the purpose of Casual.PM and that is to turn your projects into awesome visual maps. If this is the goal, then it has to be said that Casual.PM succeeds. With a free trial on offer, I would certainly encourage any aspiring or established Project Manager to give it a try. Personally, I think I will be using it for some simple projects I have in the pipeline and, alongside the more detailed OmniPlan, for mapping out projects with a larger scope.
The developers have done a great job in simplifying an otherwise complicated process and should be congratulated on a job very well done. However, more experienced Project Managers may find themselves looking elsewhere if they only want to use one management tool.