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Celoxis - Web Based Project Management Software

Franco Martinig, Martinig & Associates, http://www.martinig.ch/

Celoxis offers comprehensive web based project management features along with integrated tools to manage your resources, collaboration, time sheets, expenses and workflow.

Web Site: http://www.celoxis.com/
Version Tested: hosted version 5.0.1, tested with Firefox 3.6, period from February to March 2011
System Requirements:
For hosted version: Firefox 3.5, IE8, Safari 4 and Chrome
For installed version: Windows 2000+ or Linux, SQL Server 2005+ or Oracle 9i or Postgresql 8.x, Sun JDK 6.0, email server that supports SMTP and POP3 or IMAP4
License & Pricing: Commercial, US$ 14.95 monthly per user for the hosted version
Support: Help Desk

Installation

For the hosted version you just register with basic information and then you have a 30 days trial account already filled with a sample project data that will help you evaluate the product.

Documentation

A comprehensive user guide (402 pages) is available on-line or in the PDF format. There are also some videos in flash format that presents the main features of the product.

Configuration

The "Settings" area allows you both to configure you personal preferences and the company settings. Many settings can be configured for specific local conditions (currency, work calendar, etc) which makes the product suitable for distributed international teams. In this area, you can also manage your company structure, users, clients and security. Celoxis is an open system where you can allow your customers (clients) to access reports with a fairly sophisticated and granular authorization system.

You can also configure which modules of the applications you want to use. A contact module allows recording the names and e-mail addresses of the project internal and external stakeholders. Specific project's settings (type of working calendar, etc.) are defined when you create the project

Features

When you start a trial account, you have already the data of a sample project and thus you can already validate the different features that are understandable in an intuitive manner. The first screen you see when you login is a dashboard that is fully configurable for each user. You can therefore add reports and charts that will be relevant to each different user: project manager, developer, tester, and client. This is not only used to monitor, but provides an instant access to all needed functionality.

Figure: User dashboard with projects and task information

Project Planning

Project Infrastructure

A new project can be created as a blank project, using a pre-defined project template or importing information from a Microsoft Project or a csv file.

Tasks and Resources

The creation of tasks using a spreadsheet-like interface is easy and quick. You can attribute to each task the usual project management information. Custom fields let you to manage your own project or task data. You manage the task hierarchy or the order of the tasks on the screen using and drop features. When you want to assign resources to a task, Celoxis will tell you if the resources are already overloaded. You will also be told if your allocation will cause a resource conflict before you save the allocation. Resource conflicts and off-times can be managed directly from a load chart screen. As in Microsoft Project, you can base your scheduling on either fixed work, fixed duration or fixed units. The calendar module allows managing the availability of resources and events that may impact it. Once you create the project plan, Celoxis will automatically show you the estimated cost, thus helping you to define or validate your budget.

Figure 2. Task management screen

Tracking

Updating progress

Users can see in their dashboard which tasks are attributed to them and then update or document their status. A notification system sends e-mails to team members and clients when a specified event occurs, like the new task assignment or a delayed task for instance. A task timer allows recording the exact time spent on a particular task. Project managers can also request updates on tasks. Task assignees will get an email to which they can reply to file their progress update.

Time and Expenses

As an alternative method to the task screens, project members can fill their worksheet for the week in the "Time" module, linking time spent with existing project tasks. This time reports can then be submitted for approval to the project manager. In a similar way, expenses related to the project can be recorded in the system. Time and expenses can be marked as billable and/or costable for finer control of costing and billing. The project financial information, like the actual cost, is automatically updated based on time and expenses reports.

Discussions and Documents

These modules allow you to run a discussion forum and store or share documents. Beside the documentation purpose, you can also have a central point to track formal communication between project stakeholders, including clients, and create a documentation trail of the project activities, like meeting reports for instance. You can follow project updates through a RSS reader using a cross-project RSS feeds that include task, document, discussion and workflow activity.

Workflow management

You define and track your business processes like bugs, change requests, risks and client approvals in the workflow module. You can assign these items to users and manage their status from start to end.

Reports

Celoxis has a wide choice of around 40 pre-defined reports to visualize your project progress on every perspective: time completed and remaining, resources usage, budget, etc. In fact, almost everything you can view in the system is a report. This means that you can customize the data as well as the display to suit your requirements. You can perform actions on report, for instance selecting tasks and requesting progress update in one go.

Reports are visible in the report section, but they are also directly available in their domain area, you will find the "Incomplete Timesheet" report in the "Time" section for instance. You can also "bookmark" a report in the menu for one-click access. For each report you can define who can access it, either inside your company or outside (clients). Reporting capabilities also include multi-level grouping and sorting, sophisticated filtering options on regular and custom fields and drill down charts.

Additional features

Celoxis offers interesting Project Portfolio Management (PPM) capabilities. In addition to fields like risk, benefit or budget, you can create custom fields to track your portfolio of projects. For example, you can create a formula field called 'PPM Score' that calculates a numeric score of a project based on your organization's methodology.

Celoxis can be accessed from mobile phones like the iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Symbian. This is a comprehensive mobile application not just a way to 'view' data. Managers can view any report that they could run from a browser, including clickable charts. Team members can update task progress and fill their time reports.

To interact with Celoxis from an external system, a web-based API allows using specific functions and running SQL queries on the Celoxis database from any programming language.

Conclusion

Overall the product has solid project management capabilities and is reach in features. The user interface is intuitive and lets you to use the system quickly and intelligently. The fact that almost all the data is visible through reports means that you can customize what you see and how you see it. The mobile interface is especially helpful for those on the move allowing you to do a lot without access to a PC. You can also easily use the API if you have other systems that you need to pull/push data from or to.


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This article was originally published in the Spring 2011 issue of Methods & Tools

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