Hi there! If you’re a fan of online project tools, you may have heard of Gatherspace for project management. Gatherspace is an excellent online tool for requirements documentation and project management.
It started out more as a cloud-based requirements tool - but it has some excellent features for project management too - including group discussions, online comments and status tracking.
In this article, let’s take a look at some of the salient features of Gatherspace so you can assess if it makes sense in your project environment.
Let’s first try to understand why Gatherspace is good for project management.
I've written about good project management software over here. But what really sets Gatherspace apart from other packages? I think it lies in its capability in three critical PM areas - requirements, discussion and audit trails. Let's understand these in turn.
It has been shown that requirements are a very critical part of any system implementation project. If you get requirements right, your chances of a successful project are significantly increased. If your requirements are messed up - there’s a very high statistical chance that your project will fail.
You can simply log on and key in requirements captured from stakeholders - using the common use case methodology. In case you’re not familiar, use cases are a requirement documentation approach to capture system requirements. They showcase the user-system interactions that will occur in an application, so that the designers and programmers are very clear on what the system has to do.
The business requirements screen in Gatherspace
Ok, besides being able to capture requirements really well, the other reason why Gatherspace is good for project management is the fact that it encourages discussion amongst team members. If look at some of the good online project management tools out there (e.g. BaseCamp and 5 pm are worthy mentions) - you’ll notice that they generally excel at commentary and discussion around project tasks and activities.
The same is true for Gatherspace. You simply log on, then bring up the requirement in question and you can add comments, change its status or do updates very easily. If I’m a project manager and I see that a requirement still has not been signed off after several weeks, I can easily go in to check its comment trail and see what’s going on.
The final point here is that Gatherspace has a solid audit trail capability. This is tremendously useful in project management. I recall that I once had a question about scope for a particular requirement in a health care system we were rolling out in a hospital. The software vendor insisted that it was out of scope but I distinctly remembered he agreed to take it in scope.
Fortunately, the requirement was audited in Gatherspace and we saw the vendor’s comments where he agreed the requirement was in-scope. That shut up the vendor pretty fast and moved the project along.
First, Gatherspace is cloud-based. This means that you have no client software to install, no hardware or operating system to deploy. You simply register online and log on to the tool, then start using it. It’s as simple as that. This saves IT departments a HUGE amount of cost - and you can thus understand why CIOs are all so excited about cloud technology.
Gatherspace is cloud-based project software
Next, Gatherspace is very easy to use. The interface (just like BaseCamp or 5pm) is very well attuned to the Web 2.0 mindset - think big fonts, drop-dead simple interface and attractive web page themes. Very often, there are AJAX based controls, meaning that you can do a lot of fancy drag-and-drop actions without needing to send requests back to the web server. Which all translates to great ease of use.
Thirdly, Gatherspace is really cheap. It costs $29 per month per user. Compared to enterprise software from the likes of IBM, HP and Oracle - this is a very, very low price point. Enterprise software from those vendors cost an arm and a leg - easily reaching levels of a few hundreds or thousand per user per month.
We’ve seen some of the advantages of Gatherspace. But what about its shortcomings? Well, I think there is one major disadvantage - data privacy issues. This is not restricted to Gatherspace alone - it extends to all sorts of enterprise cloud solutions in the market.
You see, many countries in Asia (including Singapore) are still not comfortable with having confidential client and financial data stored on the “cloud”. I think that in the US and Europe, cloud solutions are much more accepted - but not so here in Asia. In fact, the Monetary Authority of Singapore has not yet approved the usage of cloud-based technology for storing banking clients’ private data.
Hence, the likes of Salesforce.com are selling their sales force automation software - but most of their clients are not banks or insurers. Most of them tend to be in the other industries like technology, telecommunications, consumer goods, etc.
So if you are intending to roll out Gatherspace, do be sure you check out your company or jurisdiction’s view on the cloud-based software before rolling it out.
I want to touch a little on where Gatherspace may be considered useful. Gatherspace is particularly useful in small, agile projects.
As a project manager or business analyst, I would certainly suggest you try the solution out on a small project first. Get comfortable with it, understand its peculiarities and then deploy it to larger projects in the future.
In project management terms, “agile” projects are very well suited for Gatherspace. If you’re running a traditional waterfall or iterative approach towards project management, then Gatherspace may not be so good.
That being said, I HAVE seen Gatherspace being used in huge, core banking implementations to much success. So it really depends on a case-by-case basis.
I hope the above has helped you understand more about Gatherspace for project management. While it has been created as a requirements documentation tool, Gatherspace has features that lend itself very well to project management.
If you’re new to the tool, I’d suggest you give it a spin on a small, agile project first - before moving on to larger ones. Also, always check if your company and jurisdiction are ok with the cloud-based approach before you commit to buying loads of Gatherspace licenses!
If you're interested, you can click here to find out more about Gatherspace and its features.
And that’s all I have for now. Until next time, here’s to project management succcess!
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