Project Management in the WordPress Dashboard

A good project management system lets you keep track of (and manage) projects within your organization. It lets you relate and assign tasks to contacts, set milestones and goals, and it provides an easy to use interface for messaging other members of your team.

Every organization has unique needs, which means no project management system is perfect for every situation, but the WP Project Manager plugin is a great place to start if you want to bring simple project management functionality into your WordPress Dashboard.

In this daily tip, we’ll give you a quick review of this new project management plugin and a few suggestions on how you can use it to add project management to WP.

WP Project Manager Organization

WP Project Manager is organized around 5 main tabs:
1. Activity
2. Messages
3. To Do List
4. Milestones
5. Files

The Activity screen shows all items posted to the project in the style of most social media streams. It’s a simple status update with links to the individual activity.

The Activity Tab in WP Project Manager shows all project updates system-wide.

Messages are where you post notes regarding the project. They can be related to project milestones, or aimed at specific users.

Messages tab is a graphical display of all project communications

The To Do List gives you the ability to create tasks related to your individual projects, which can also be assigned to specific users.

Tasks are added through the WP Project Manager To Do List tab.

Milestones are important dates or goals you set for the project. The Milestone view will show any related messages or tasks to which it might be assigned.

Project goals are added in the Milestones tab where associated project information is also displayed along with a status bar showing the milestone percent completion.

In this milestone screen, you can get a birds-eye view of the goals set for your projects, and as a manager – can assess how close your organization might be to accomplishing those goals.

The Files tab shows any files that might have been uploaded through individual messages posted to the project. All the files are collected and displayed here in a graphical fashion with associated file details. A link to the message which contained the original file is included along with a link to download the actual file.

Attach and display project related documents in the WP Project Manager Files tab.

Where WP Project Manager Does a Great Job

WP Project manager uses custom relational fields to organize and display your project information. It’s a good tool for organizations that want to integrate a project management system into the WordPress admin area, and keep project functions and website control under one roof.

Where WP Project Manager Can be Improved

While WP Project Management does a good job of allowing access to the major parts of a project management system, it is lacking in a few areas.

User Information

Clicking on the user assigned to activities, messages, or other areas of the plugin simply brings you to the default WP profile view for that user. In many cases, this default view is never modified, and rarely looks like more than a few random settings. It would be nice if the plugin authors could provide a dedicated (and styled) user view that pulls from the WP user meta, and displays relevant project management data.

Message Attachments

Documents attached to the system show up in Files section of the Project Manager, along with filename, the name of any messages it might be attached to, and a link to the area where that file is being discussed.

Files can only be attached through individual messages, which means to attach a file you must create a message. But, when files are attached to individual messages they do not display file names, sizes, or types – they’re listed as blank rectangular document thumbnails, which can be confusing for users. Filenames and details are shown only in the full file tab.

Tab Switching

Switching between the main tabs of the WP Project Management system causes a page reload. This seems like the long way around.

Assigning Users to Records

There is no differentiation between users in the system based on their WordPress profiles. That means Admins show up right next to authors and editors. There is also no separating or organizing users by team or by project. This is standard functionality for many cloud based project management systems like Asana.com, or Do.com.

Therefore, if you wanted to share a message only with admins, you’d have to know which users had admin access and select them by name. No problem for small sites with 5 users, but a big problem for larger sites with 20 or more users. It’s also a problem for membership sites that control members through the native WP user system, or BuddyPress sites which operate in a similar fashion.

Client Attachments and Access

A big part of managing projects is working in the client details. Currently. WP Project Manager doesn’t allow any relation to users or contacts outside the WordPress user list. This makes WP Project Manager useful for internal team based projects only.

Summary

With all its shortcomings, WP Project Manager is still one of the few full-fledged project management systems for WP that actually works as prescribed.

With the addition of the functionality pointed out above, WP Project Manager could become a rival for some of entry-level cloud project management systems. However, it is unlikely to provide the level of complexity needed for those who might be considering systems like Asana, Salesforce, or many of the other premium project management platforms.

Comments (19)

  1. Thank you Craig for nice words and review.

    Regarding “Client Attachments and Access” , we already done this part and will update it very soon .

    another important feature – Billing System also on the way ;)

    and, all the points been taken in to to-do list :)

    Cheers.

  2. I was wondering if there was ever a solution found for when the “Project Management” tab does not show up under the dashboard tab after installation? I am having this problem as well.

  3. There are a handful of plugins doing this kind of thing. None of them are quite there yet – but I would love to be able to ditch Basecamp and other similarly expensive solutions and have our own branded projects app for clients and collaborators.

    • Tell me about it Tim. I’ve been using Salesforce for years, and it works great. Obviously all these high end CRMs can get quite expensive when you start tying in web integrations. I’ve recently started working with Nationbuilder (http://nationbuilder.com), which has some great functionality, but the web end of the design leaves a bit to be desired. As a side note, the developer of that platform, Joe Green, was zuckerberg’s roomate at Harvard and an early facebook developer. He also created and ran Causes for Facebook.

      Back to point – I total agree with your assessment of these project managers for wordpress. They’re just not there yet. For small teams and projects it’s ok, but for anything more than a few people you’ve got to go up to Asana, or a full fledged CRM – which means spending money and investing time in learning the system.

      Thanks for stopping by with the comment.

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