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softwarereview04-16-30-33

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softwarereview04-16-30-33

  1. 1. 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 autumn. 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 Clarizen SOFTWARE REVIEW 251
  2. 2. 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 conditions. 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 later). 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 assignment. Clarizen uses four calendar levels. The organisational calendar defines the work patterns but can be overwritten by the group, project and individual resource calendars. A project approval process is available and, when the project goes live and work starts, progress can be entered via the SOFTWAREREVIEW251 The Project view The Project Tracker view
  3. 3. 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 Excel. 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. SOFTWAREREVIEW251 The Apps Marketplace
  4. 4. www.pmtoday.co.uk | April 2016 33 The same system can be used to trigger actions within Clarizen - an email can be sent with alternate choices and when one is clicked, it triggers the corresponding action. The apps marketplace is an area where you can download and install (on the account, not on the desktop) package configurations. At present there are around 100 available. Some have been developed by Clarizen and some by customers. Some have a cost but many are free. All can be disabled or uninstalled if necessary. One of the free, downloadable applications available contains a basic new project request function that lets you capture the data required to open a project. When a request (which can be tailored to the organisation’s own requirements) is created it goes through an approval life-cycle. A basic life-cycle, which includes an approval process, is included. Another free app brings in a resource manager portal whereby project managers request resources from a resource manager rather than resourcing the tasks themselves. The resource manager can check the loading and assign resources. There’s an Excel add-on, which is a database query engine, and an Outlook add-on which lets you view your tasks and record time against them. You need to install these add-ons to use these products with Clarizen. Clarizen includes an “integration hub” that provides an interface for working with APIs and web services including JIRA, Salesforce.com, Box and Intacct and will support full synchronisation between them. Clarizen’s configure option allows you to tailor any object in the system and also on the links between objects. You can configure and create fields, validation rules and workflows. You can set up alerts with conditions attached. Almost anything done manually can be automated, with actions activated by a trigger. In reality this is a sophisticated and powerful relational database management system, extensively preconfigured for project management but usable for almost anything. I’ve been told of one organisation that configured a client relationship management system, alongside their project management system, entirely within Clarizen. Clarizen’s future plans include improvements to portfolio and resource management functionality, enhancements to existing extensions and the introduction of new packaged solutions and integrations and work to improve the end user’s experience and productivity. How much does it cost? The principal difference between the available pricing plans is the amount of user customisation available. Professional Edition – work execution software for small to medium businesses - $30 per user per month. Enterprise Edition – with the ability to customise business rules to meet enterprise requirements - $45 per user per month. Unlimited Edition – allowing unlimited customisation - $60 per user per month. The above prices are based on a 36-month plan paid in full in advance. For a full explanation of pricing, see http://www.clarizen. com/project-management-solutions/pricing-comparison SOFTWAREREVIEW251 Contact Details Clarizen 48 Warwick Street, London W1B 5AW Tel: 0203 411 4044 Email: info@clarizen.com Right to Reply First, we would like to thank Steve for his thorough review of Clarizen. It is a great representation of how our collaborative work management platform can provide extensive, real-time visibility at any level of the enterprise, so that organizations can work more effectively to successfully achieve their objectives. Clarizen’s vision has always been to deliver an innovative service that solves our customer’s problems and provides immediate value. One component of that is Clarizen’s ease of use, as highlighted by Steve. We have worked hard over the years to maintain Clarizen’s integrity as a solution that customers can configure themselves without an army of consultants. In line with our mission of delivering continuous innovation, in 2015 Gartner named Clarizen a leader in the 2015 Magic Quadrant Cloud-Based IT Project and Portfolio Management Services based on our ability to execute and completeness of vision. Please contact us for a copy of the report. Most recently, Clarizen was listed as a leader for large enterprises in Info-Tech Research Group’s PPM Vendor Landscape, recognized as a top performer for each use-case scenario. If you would like to learn more about how Clarizen can help reduce communication overload, and simplify your work, please take a product tour by visiting www.clarizen.com. Paul Roberts GM Europe, Middle East and Africa www.clarizen.co.uk ©2016ProjectManagerTodayAllrightsreserved.Bydownloadingthispdffiletherecipientagreestousethisinformationforpersonaluseonlyandmayprintonecopy. Thispdfmaynotbecopied,altered,ordistributedtootherpartieswithoutthepermissionofthepublishers.FirstpublishedinthisforminProjectManagerToday.

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