ManyMoon offers collaborative task management that project managers can love

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What's the relationship between task management and project management? As we build up project management systems for our web-based company, that question is never far from our minds. We talk about project management, but our suffering -- our need for systems and tools -- is mostly focused on task management.

That's why I was thrilled to discover a new, hot, collaborative task management app this week: ManyMoon. It's the first web app I've found that provides team-centric task management without falling off the ledge and into the bottomless pit of project management. You can get a demo of ManyMoon, plus my summary of its pros and cons, in this screencast.


ManyMoon demo & review from Social Signal from Alexandra Samuel on Vimeo.

I happened onto ManyMoon in the midst of our latest project management experiment, which has been our adoption of Central Desktop. We like it a lot more than Basecamp, since it provides us with the ability to set due dates for tasks (a persistent, deal-breaking irritation for us as Basecamp users) . We FINALLY have a task management tool that actually lets us manage our tasks effectively, track progress, and organize even very complex task sets into manageable milestones; and as a team manager, I love the reports that let me see what each person on the team is working on. We're delighted with the customer service (a shout-out here to Cohry Osborne, who has answered ALL my questions within 24 hours and generally been amazingly helpful in thinking about how to use CD for our specific needs).

We love the level of customization possible in Central Desktop (being able to define your own set of task status terms for each project, for example). We're excited about the possibilities of CD's new workflow feature (which will let us create pre-defined task lists with dependencies, so we don't have to create a set of tasks from scratch every time we launch a new project or project phase). And we're also interested in advantages of CD's integration with Salesforce, which we expect to start using this year.

But for now we are really ONLY using Central Desktop for its task management features, since the other tools it offers are handled better by other applications we use already. We like Google Docs much better than CD's spreadsheets and docs (which don't update as quickly when collaborating). We like Google Calendar better (perhaps because it's more obvious how to integrate with other tools). We like Harvest MUCH better for time tracking and invoicing (because Harvest lets you quickly enter your time usage in chunks -- by looking back at your past few hours -- rather than requiring you to log your time per-task, as you go).

And as a task manager, CD feels like overkill. The biggest factor is price: it's expensive ($132 per month for us to get as many workspaces, i.e. projects, as we need). It's cumbersome: you have to navigate to a specific project before you can add a task to it, and it's hard to navigate among projects (though I created my own set of browser bookmarks to make this easier, and CD does make it pretty easy to move a task between projects).

Once we noticed we're only using CD for collaborative task management, I couldn't help doing YAGS (yet another google search) for "collaborative task management". And this time, there was a new contender: ManyMoon.

From what I can tell, ManyMoon launched in December, and just got its first big public showing last week at SFTech. But this is a new kid worth watching: ManyMoon has most of what we've been looking for (vainly) in a simple but powerful task manager, including a clean interface, snappy design, and a team-centered take on task management. All in all I'd say that ManyMoon is the most promising collaborative task manager I've tried. And I've tried a LOT: we've given a decent try to ToodleDo, HiveMinder, RememberTheMilk and OmniFocus, along with briefer forays into ToDoist and Hi5, tried many other tools that include task management (Basecamp, DeskAway, Huddle, Central Desktop, IWantSandy, Jott, Stikkits, Daylite) and peeked up dozens more.

I have spent the past few days getting to know the software really well, and compiling my own list of kudos and requests -- some of them, requests that could determine whether or not ManyMoon becomes our next project/task management tool of choice. An overview of the tool, and of my comments on it, is in this screencast.

ManyMoon's genius is in offering what I'll call "task management plus". Task management is the key collaborative challenge for many teams (it sure is for ours!!) so a collaborative tool that focuses on task management makes sense. But most task management tools suffer from three key problems: (1) they are primarily oriented towards individual users, and are only partially or awkwardly usable for team-based work, (2) they have some kind of ideological commitment to how tasks should be managed (whether that's to Getting Things Done or to the "no due dates" philosophy espoused by 37 Signals), and (3) they treat tasks as detached from the broader picture of project management.

There are lots of tools that address that third problem -- the need to integrate task management with the broader challenges of project management -- by offering an integrated solution. But as per our experience with Central Desktop, that involves making lots of compromises, because it's hard to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution when you're offering such a range of functionality.

Another kind of answer -- the answer we've been looking for -- would be a robust, collaborative task management app that could be integrated into our larger toolkit of specialized project management tools. (Like lots of people, we keep hoping Google will come up with something.) In ManyMoon, I see a very loveable task management tool that just might be the missing task management link in our project management solution.

But for that to work we need to be able to integrate it, to roll our own combination of task management (ManyMoon), document sharing (Google Docs), time tracking & invoicing (Harvest), file sharing (DropBox) and collaborative calendaring (Google calendar). Then we'll need to fill in some gaps to create a per-project, client-facing portal (maybe via Google Sites), a shared contact management/CRM solution (Salesforce, if it's not overkill), and project-based email threading (some kind of Gmail/Firefox plugin or Gmail/Google sites magic?)

A useful, useable task management program has beem the core app we've been waiting for before digging into the roll-your-own-project-management-software challenge. And ManyMoon is the first tool that offers the level of functionality, the user experience and the performance we need. All that's missing are the integration hooks: so far, there's no outbound RSS, iCal or API.

So for now we are testing out both ManyMoon and Central Desktop. In principle a full-featured tool like CD may be right for us: we certainly need just about every tool it offers. But as it stands, CD demands that we accept less-than-ideal functionality for each of the tools we need, in order to get overall integration.

And in practice, we are demanding users who have very particular expectations for each and every tool in our collaboration toolkit. And since we're tech junkies, we are happy to embrace the challenge of brewing our own mashup of collaboration tools so that we get exactly what we want.

What remains to be seen is whether we CAN make that mashup. ManyMoon will have to offer some options for outbound integration, and while the team told me (via very rapid Twitter response!) that they are working on a team edition with API, there's no e.t.a. on RSS or iCal. Even when integration is available, we have to find the right thing to integrate it into: Google Sites is our leading contender, but our previous experiments with it have been less-than thrilling, partly because you have to start from scratch every time you set up a new project/site.

Has anybody else got feedback on using ManyMoon as the primary task management system in a small (but not that small) business? Is it ready for prime time?

And how about the experience of using Google Sites as your internal (and possibly also client-facing) alternative to Basecamp? How much trouble is it to reinvent the wheel for every project?

We'd love to hear from you in comments below.

Comments

Lauren says

January 19, 2009 - 6:45am

Alex, thanks so much for this -- we have been testing many of the same apps over at Raised Eyebrow, and coming up short again and again. Would love to hear more about your plans vis-a-vis Salesforce, too...

Jodie says

January 19, 2009 - 5:17am

Bless your soul for keeping on this Alex. We are in a very similar situation. I am just about to step into configuring and using Central Desktop for task management. It has taken longer then expected because I needed to fire/hire to get someone in place who has the skills and fortitude to be able to work virtually with me. I just made my hire on Friday so we are ready to step in. I am looking at using Drop Box as well. I would love to chat with you briefly... can share what I know bout Salesforce. Love you dearly sister. xo

Josh Sommer says

June 5, 2009 - 11:39pm

Alex,

We think identically! I run a small cancer research nonprofit called the Chordoma Foundation. we are in a hury, our team (mainly volunteers) is distributed, and we operate on a small budget. therefore the need for seemless and efficent collaboration and data sharing has led us down much the same path you describe. In November we started using salesforce for CRM, then in January started using Central Desktop for task and project management (in part because I thought it would integrate nicely with SF - this is only available with enterprise subscription so was out of reach for us) and document sharing. We use google calendar, and sync it with SF using appirio calendar sync. Central Desktop (CD) was not meeting our needs for file sharing so in May we started using dropbox (i'm head over heals in love!). now, like you, I find that we're only using CD for project/task management. it does seem like overkill, and as you point out it is somewhat combersome. I just started exploring ManyMoon, but it seems like it will be a great missing link in our cloud collaboration toolkit.

You propose an incredible mashup: gmail+google calendar+dropbox+salesforce+manymoon. I hope someone reading this will decide to make it!!!

Please update us with any news about the mashup and as your thinking evolves

Thanks so much for putting these thoughts on "paper"

@sommerjo

Isabel Walcott Draves says

February 12, 2011 - 12:12pm

Looks like you got your wish! Salesforce just acquired ManyMoon (long since integrated with Google Apps) this month!  And at the end of 2009 DRopbox hired a Salesforce guy, so maybe that is next.

Google profiles Social Signal's project management says

December 10, 2009 - 2:10pm

[...] combination of project-management upstart Manymoon and Google Apps. (You may remember Manymoon from such blog posts as this one, and such podcast episodes as this [...]

Ed Parry says

December 14, 2009 - 5:41am

Hi Alexandra

What a fantastic review you did

I see this was almost a year ago. Did you make any progress since then?

What are you uisng now?

Did you ever manage to get a good mashup together? If so  which toools did you use

Forgive the questions But I owuld be very interested to know

Bests wishes

ed

 

Megan R. says

January 8, 2010 - 11:29am

I'd be interested in your followup on this as well!

Dave K says

January 13, 2010 - 6:06pm

I've been developing a mashup for Meal Exchange (geographically dispersed charity), starting with Google-Salesforce-Dropbox.  The piece I'm just adding now is ManyMoon, and the piece I'm having trouble figuring out is whether you can sync tasks/calendars from ManyMoon with Google Calendar.  Right now it doesn't look like they sync...wondering if anyone else has figured this out?

Nice to see I'm not the only one working on this dream mashup...hope to hear from you...

Dave

Nagesh says

February 13, 2010 - 12:23pm

Hi

I have been doing pretty much that (testing that is), and Manymoon seems to be amongst the less complicated.

I am just wondering why they havent come up with a CRM solution as yet.

Cheers

Nagesh

JP says

March 10, 2010 - 5:19pm

I have been giving Manymoon a test run myself and find this article extremely helpful. I am curious of an update on the blending of products experiment. I enjoy the simplicity of Manymoon, but do wish it had a good CRM sibling and google contacts just does not do it for me. I would enjoy feedback from anyone on this note for my small projects. I realize this blog is old, and maybe it has moved to wave by now. Which I feel has tons of potential and would love to see Manymoon integrate it.
Look forward to anyones advice.

amyjoyates says

March 29, 2010 - 9:59am

Just started using ManyMoons and like it for many of the reasons you have stated here.    Been also looking for a better CRM to use with Google Apps.  BatchBook, TimeToNote, and Tacgtile all look promising, but some of it would make MM redundant.  If any of you spot a low cost solution that brings them together, please post!

 

Julien says

September 23, 2010 - 3:36am

Hello Alexandra,
as a new freelance, I'm looking for the best tool (online) for managing my projects, tasks, todo lists etc.

I wrote a post here: http://julienbayle.net/2010/09/11/project-managements-toolproject-management-features-needed

I tested:
- Deskaway
- Basecamp and other highrise, backpack 37Signal's ecosystem tools
- ClockingIT
- ActivCollab
and a lot of others.

I CANNOT make my choice.
Maybe, you could help me a bit.

I have many different type of projects and I'd need to build templates :
- music festival application
- workshops/lectures application
- interface software design
- interface hardware design
- courses/training project (I mean, making of courses)

I'd need todo lists linked AND unlinked (independant of) projects.

I tested them for these purposes but sometimes, 37Signal's ecosystem tools seem to fit well, sometimes they seem a bit redundant (there are tasks in highrise, in basecamp etc), or un-sufficient.

You, the "compulsive adopter', can help me for sure :)

all the best,

Paul Erb says

February 5, 2011 - 5:25am

Thank you so much for this review. We are a small school about to launch a collaborative project with many moving parts, and most of us get through the day by managing our own personal task lists in GoogleApps for education. So your orientation to tasks as the atomic level of work helps me see that Manymoon is probably what we need. Two years later, and still adding value!

Lucy says

March 15, 2011 - 9:52am

I work in a small company and we've started using Dooster.net which my boss brought in about a month ago. It's made a real difference to things. Less panics. Really noticeable.

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