May 30, 2014

(Video) DeskAway Project Management Review – Is Less Still More?

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Developed in 2006 and launched in 2007, DeskAway is part of a number of project management applications launched in the early to mid-2000s in the wake of Basecamp’s release in 2004. In fact, DeskAway’s brand seems inexorably tied to Basecamp, and comparisons between the two are common. However, while it is undeniable that DeskAway does employ much of the same functionality as Basecamp, it’s far from a simple clone.

DeskAway chose their tagline well: the phrase “Simplify Work” seems overwhelmingly appropriate when you browse through this software’s interface.

Here’s our walkthrough of the software:

In theory, DeskAway’s focus on simplicity should eliminate any learning curve associated with the platform, which encourages user adoption. Additionally, the ability to upload and assign documents to specific projects is useful, if commonplace at this point. Similarly, the reports tab supplies users with tools for visualizing productivity and progress, albeit in appropriately simple fashion.

Perhaps DeskAway’s most unique feature lies, surprisingly, in its text editor. Users can manipulate text in many of the ways they would with a normal word processor, with bolding, italics, underlining, and inserting hyperlinks all done without hassle.

To get any real value out of this platform, businesses will need to choose one of the three subscription plans, but DeskAway also offers a free version, though in severely limited form. Users who don’t want to subscribe to use the software can manage two projects, but cannot collaborate with anyone else on the platform.

Additional features not covered in our video review include integration with Freshbooks, GoogleApps, and OpenID. Users can also subscribe to RSS updates, and utilize DeskAway’s mobile app to access the project management platform from their iPhones, Android phones, and yes, even Blackberries.

Should users choose to manage their projects on a different platform, DeskAway does its best to part on good terms by providing a full backup of the data on the platform in zip file form.

While DeskAway is incredibly easy to use, the software does have limitations. Inviting team members to the project is, somewhat ironically, not as simple as it should be because sending a request for someone to join the project only invites them to the URL, at which point you have to give them permission to specific projects. Allowing users to sign-up through email would be simpler.

The functionality also remains simplistic. This may work well for some organizations, but more powerful software can be had for around the same prices that DeskAway charges.

DeskAway does pride itself with continually updating its system, which it did well when expanding the details of user profiles to provide a more personalized collaboration environment. In 2011, DeskAway added a social media integration that allowed users to login with social media profiles to comment leave comments about ongoing projects. Interestingly, users can only leave one comment through this medium, with the company justifying the limitation as a safeguard against spam. Understandable, perhaps, but it still eliminates the possibility of having a true conversation about the project through social media.

So the question remains: is DeskAway’s mission to “Simplify Work” still enough some seven years after its launch? Share your thoughts in the comments.