30 www.pmtoday.co.uk | April 2016
Steve Cotterell is impressed by the flexibility and configurability
of this work collaboration and project management solution.
A flexible, configurable collaborative work management
system featuring project management, configurable
workflow automation and collaboration functionality.
Although Clarizen was founded in Israel, it has offices
around the world, with most of its sales and marketing
done from the US. The company was founded in 2006 and
the product, Clarizen, (a merging of the words clarity and
Zen) was brought to market in 2008 and now has more
than two thousand customers worldwide.
Clarizen focuses on project and portfolio management. A
large Geneva-based customer, Clariant, uses it to manage
an IT programme and a French customer, a large producer
of canned fish, uses the system in its product development
area. A large hotel group uses the product to control a
digital change management programme.
Clarizen is an online SaaS browser-based system which is
also available on mobile devices. It’s written using HTML5
so it runs on tablets. A native application has been provided
for iPhones, which delivers about 80% of the main system
functionality but Clarizen is working to improve that. An
Android app, similar to the iPhone app, is scheduled for
The platform has been designed to be flexible and it’s a
configurable product that organisations can tailor to their
own requirements. A series of extensions (modules) is
available that extend the core product.
When a new customer buys Clarizen, the company
provides consultants to configure the system to meet
the customer’s needs. They also train the system
administrators so that they can continue to carry out
further configuration as it becomes necessary.
The main part of this review will be based on the
out-of-the-box version of the system, although I will be
dealing with the extension and configurability aspects in
more detail later. In the meantime, please accept that,
even if I don’t mention it, almost every part of the system
can be tailored.
When logging in, project managers see a graphical
dashboard displaying histograms that illustrate the plan
budgets compared with actuals for their projects. It
also shows active tasks for the week and assigned
risks and issues. There’s a navigation panel on the left,
listing the modules that the user can access. Role-based
and individual permissions are set up by the system
administrator. All system data are indexed and a global
search function is also available in this panel.
Clicking the navigation panel “Project” option opens a list
of your projects. You can switch the view to display this
list as a set of thumbnails, as histograms, as a calendar or
as a grid.
On the grid, you can control which columns are displayed
and sort and filter the data. Grid cells can be conditionally
formatted so that their appearance can be controlled by
the value of data displayed in any cell on the grid.
By clicking a “Share” button on any view in the system,
you can send an email to anyone, internal or external, that
contains a web link to that view. The view is live, with
up-to-the-minute data, but is read-only, can be password
protected, and an expiration date can be set to limit its
viewing time frame.
When received, that URL can be copied and pasted into
whatever location the recipient wishes.
Clicking any project in the list takes you to the details
of that project. At the top of the page are the project
attributes (scheduling, finance, performance, etc.), the
www.pmtoday.co.uk | April 2016 31
information being displayed according to the user’s rights.
Below that is the roadmap, a visual representation of the
work breakdown structure showing key milestones. Other
factors, such as the baseline, can be toggled on and off on
the same display.
Below the roadmap is the work plan, which can be
displayed as a grid or switched to a Gantt chart display. The
Gantt chart is interactive so that drag-and-drop functionality
is available here. Tasks can be moved and extended and
multiple dependencies can be added using the mouse. By
default, a finish to start link is added but this can be edited
at any time to be a different type of link and leads and lags
can be added. Clarizen supports fixed work, fixed duration
and fixed unit planning at any work item level.
When you hover the cursor over a Gantt bar, a dialogue
opens showing the task information. Colour coding rules
can be attached to any field on any work item or any
column to change the display colours according to defined
The Gantt can be shared with other people but, to protect
the data, the project manager can make it read-only.
Also displayed on the Project Details screen are panels
containing attached files, risk and issue logs and a record
of emails exchanged about the project (more about this
The Navigation Panel “New”
menu item gives you access to
creating new projects, tasks,
risks, issues etc. and, when you
select the “New” “Project” menu
options, a dialogue appears. You
name the project and add it to a
portfolio. You assign a project
manager and add other details.
At this stage, a template can be
used, either from a past project
saved for the purpose or one of
a set of out-of-the-box templates
that Clarizen provides, including
PMBOK, Scrum and Professional
Services templates. There are eleven in total but there’s no
Prince2 template - although one can be uploaded from a
Microsoft Project file. A library of template work packages
can also be saved.
When you use a template, you can choose which areas
of data (tasks, resources, etc.) you wish to use. If no
suitable template is available, you start to build your project
by adding the phases to the work plan. You then flesh
these out with tasks. Keyboard shortcuts can be used
to speed up this process and recurring tasks (such as a
weekly meeting) can be created. Dependencies can be
added using drag-and-drop or via a dialogue box and chain
dependencies can be set up. Infinite dependency loops are
detected and advised to you. Inter-project dependencies
can be created, with effort and budget information being
rolled up from the external project into the linked task on
the project you are creating.
When you begin to resource your tasks, if you have a small
resource team, you can start to type the person’s name.
A small dialogue opens which shows you that person’s
availability for the task duration and, if okay, you can assign
the person. Alternatively, you can open the full resource list
and filter items on the resource attributes you require. You
can also ask the system just to list those people available
without overloading them. When assigning more than
one resource to a task, you can specify the percentage
of time to be assigned to the task
for each. People can be sent
emails advising them of their
Clarizen uses four calendar levels.
The organisational calendar
defines the work patterns but
can be overwritten by the group,
project and individual resource
A project approval process is
available and, when the project
goes live and work starts,
progress can be entered via the
The Project view
The Project Tracker view
32 www.pmtoday.co.uk | April 2016
Work Plan screen or a timesheet system can be used.
Users can fill in timesheets on which all assigned tasks
(including future tasks, against which work can be
reported if allowed) are listed. Once progress is entered,
the system calculates the estimate to complete, the
actual cost, billing information etc.
There are three ways in which time entered on a timesheet
can be handled. The first involves automatic approval,
where work is posted directly to the plan at the time it’s
entered. The second way is automatic submission. Each
time a timesheet entry is made, the project manager sees
the details as “pending time not yet approved”. The third
way involves manual submission - nothing happens until
the user submits the timesheet for approval.
An email update request can be sent to users who don’t
then have to log in. The email offers three options - quick
update - which opens a web page on which to enter the
time spent and remaining effort immediately. The second
is “my progress is according to plan” where the entry is
automatically calculated (which could be dangerous in the
hands of some users!). The third allows the user to log in
to Clarizen as usual.
Time reporting can also be handled via the mobile app.
Project managers can produce Project Period and Project
Highlight reports. When producing Highlight Reports,
they set the data to be included via toggle switches,
add a textual summary and send. An email is produced
containing the report which is sent to a predefined group
of stakeholders, who can reply, with the correspondence
being saved in the system.
When producing Period Project reports, they define
the period, specify the recipients and enter explanatory
text. The report can be linked to a Word, PowerPoint or
other XML supporting application and a Word template
is included. The Clarizen data is used to populate
the external system’s template report, which can be
scheduled for automatic production at defined intervals.
The set of reports so produced is
stored to build a project history.
Files can be added to the system
and links can be created to files
held externally, including Google,
Box and SharePoint files. Pictures
taken on a mobile device can be
uploaded onto the system. Risks
and issues can be added at any
level (project, task, etc.) and action
items can be added and assigned
to individuals. Considerations
like severity and proximity can be
scored and reported upon.
Clarizen enables collaboration
within the context of the work
item as well as in free standing discussion groups. At
any system level, from programme down, you can start
a threaded discussion with other users. Messages can
refer to other system objects via hashtags, which can be
clicked to open the item. Any external object (documents,
videos, etc.) can be referenced from the discussion by
entering its URL. The recipient gets an email with all the
links back to the Clarizen thread and to all the attachments
mentioned in the message and emails sent in return
are added to the threaded discussion. Copies of all the
correspondences are retained in the system.
At a cost, external collaborators can be created and
corresponded with, but their access to the system is
controlled so that they can only see what the organisation
allows. However, emails can be exchanged with externals
at no cost.
There are almost ninety reports included in the
out-of-the-box package, a set for each module, and you
can create folders to accommodate your own reports.
Reports can be scheduled and can be output to PDF and
Any report can be inserted into a dashboard and you can
create any number of dashboards. You can click on a
dashboard diagram, go into the report and drill down to
get specific data.
A report builder is included. You define the main area of
the report, possibly including additional data to analyse,
maybe apply filters and specify the report format (pie
chart, histogram, etc.). Out-of-the-box reports can be
tailored and saved as new reports.
Clarizen incorporates an email engine (patented in the US)
that allows it to capture data from emails and trigger any
business logic defined in the system. So, for example, a
web form can be set up to collect data. When this form
is completed and submitted, the data is sent, by email, to
Clarizen and is used to populate fields without the need
for the external user to log in.
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