by

Software and Services for Managing Group Tasks


The world of software and online services is a densely populated field of companies who want you to share your to-do list with them. We’ve reviewed some of them here, including Todoist, Gqueues, Wunderlist, Basecamp, and Got Milk?. New options are appearing all the time, but I’ve long been a fan of Omnifocus and have good friends who swear by Things, both of which grow out of the Mac/iOS ecosystem.

However, task management software and services for individuals are increasingly clashing with an equally competitive world of software and services for group collaboration. Software and services that once had little overlap are now offering similar feature sets for managing the tasks within projects. Many of us have had the experience of working together with small groups and finding ourselves drowning in an ocean of emails going back and forth. Isn’t there a better way to manage communication, and especially connect communication to a series of tasks that are assigned to one or more individuals on a team?

Late last year I went on a search for a free and easy-to-use service that can help organize tasks for small groups of colleagues in my history department ranging from organizing conferences and workshops to writing up applications and other paperwork. The huge range of options are bewildering but for now we have settled on using Producteev.

Among the things I like about Producteev are these:

  • a clean interface,
  • a generous free option,
  • its supporting apps for smartphones,
  • its network+project structure, and
  • a host of small features that fit my needs.

To be honest though, for any feature I might describe in Producteev, many if not most of its competitors that offer something similar. Instead of a full review then, let me just suggest some of the things you might want to look for when you set out on your own search for a collaborative task managing software or service:

  1. Is the interface clean and does your interaction with it require a reloading of the page each time you click something? Surprisingly, some services I looked at still don’t use “ajax” dynamic coding so that when you mark a task complete or perform some other operation within the web interface for the service you have to wait while it reloads the entire page rather than performing that operation seamlessly.
  2. Does the service integrate tightly with some other existing service? If your team members are not managing their calendar and their documents in Google, or their friends through Facebook for example, they may dislike it if your choice of service requires them to change their existing workflow for things like calendars and documents, or have a profile on Facebook.
  3. Look carefully at the limitations on the free account for the services you consider. Unless you have a generous budget for collaborative software, you may sign up for a great-looking service only to discover later that there are serious limits on the number of team members, number of projects, or other harmless looking limitations that eventually come back to bite.
  4. Does the service have supporting apps for iOS, Android, etc.? This can improve the experience of using the service significantly, especially on mobile devices.
  5. Is the way that the software or service handles the assigning of tasks work well for you? Can you assign multiple people to a project task? Do tasks have their own segregated mini-messaging board for only those assigned individuals to easily exchange information about the task? Can you assign “followers” for a task who receive notifications about progress on the task?
  6. Are you happy with the way the service organizes projects and the tasks associated with them? Does it offer a way to create subtasks? Does it allow you to create deadlines for tasks? Does it allow you to tag tasks for easy reference later?
  7. How are files handled? If you are uploading or sharing files between individuals or linking them to a Google doc, for example, are you happy with the way that the service handles this?
  8. How are priorities handled within the task management software or service? Are you happy with the way it allows you to move tasks around or indicate how some tasks are more important than others?
  9. How are notifications handled in the software or service? Are you able to fine-tune when you get a notification and whether or not the notification is sent as an email?
  10. Is your data portable? Services like these come and go quickly in a rapidly evolving market. Imagine the service you’re going to use goes out of business a month or two from now, what kind of data are you able to get out if/when that time comes?

What are some of your favorite services and software for managing project tasks with a group of people? How did you choose them? Please share in the comments below.

Return to Top