project management for joomla developers

The last two years we used the web based project management software 5PM at Chill Creations. We primarily developed extensions and websites for clients, and the extensions cciDEAL and ccNewsletter which where available for a broader audience.

In the last months we started focusing on (commercial) extension development for the Joomla! community and our project management needs have changed because of that. Read on to see what project management systems we considered, what our wishes where and what system we will begin to test.

When you are looking for new software, always make a list of wishes first. Our list:

  • Projects and sub projects
  • Tasks and sub tasks
  • Threaded messaging (to replace e-mail)
  • In-line document management or wiki (to replace Google Docs)
  • Time tracking and reporting
  • Modifications to the software possible

Most important wishes
The main reason we wanted something else after using 5PM was the lack of a documentation system in said software. We are using Google Docs at the moment, and that looks like this: I create a document for a new project (example: ccInvoices 1.0 Plan), I add a note in the 5PM project, the developer checks and replies to that document, and adds a note that he has replied etc. During development we need to have a look at the document now and then, and therefore load and search Google Docs. The switching between applications was not ideal.

Another reason: threaded messaging! Now we would use instant messaging and e-mail to communicate important issues or changes, and whenever we needed to see what we talked about last week, we had to dive back into the logs of that chat/e-mail. And the information was not directly available for our other developers or managers.

It would be a huge time saver if our documents and other communication would all be handled in the project management system itself, and it's a huge plus to know everyone is instantly up to date because of the built in communication.

Project Management Software we considered  included:

Basecamp Project Management SoftwareBasecamp
Like 5PM, Basecamp is a Saas (software as a service) solution, meaning that the software is hosted on their servers, and you don't get code access. Basecamp looked really promising (and is extremely popular) but there was one issue: if we wanted to add more functionality we had to not only pay for a Basecamp account, but a Campfire account (chat, messaging), a Writeboard account (documents) and so on. And then we wouldn't even have the possibility to do any custom modifications....


ProjectForm Joomla! Project Management extensionProjectPier and ProjectFork
We dropped ProjectPier and ProjectFork early on, because they were missing the in line document management. If you don't need that functionality, have a good look at ProjectFork. It's a PixelPraise project and a Joomla! extension!

activeCollab Project Management SoftwareactiveCollab
activeCollab used to be the "free and open source" Basecamp. It still has resemblance to Basecamp, and is open source but now commercial. Its comes with a price tag of $249 or $499 depending on the version. It's a PHP project, so custom modifications should not be a problem for a Joomla! developer. Johan from JoomlaTools told me they are switching from Basecamp to activeCollab.

Redmine Project Management SoftwareRedmine
Last but not least, Redmine. Open source (GPL) and written in Ruby. So you need Ruby (on Rails) installed on your server. One drawback for us: we dont know any Ruby so custom modifications will not be easy. But, Redmine has great reviews, looks good and complete, and has all functionality we need. It also has a really nice user experience and batching possibilities for tasks. It's also used in the Joomla! community by at least the Virtuemart team and Dioscouri.

So, activeCollab or Redmine?
If Redmine was written in PHP, this would be an easy decision. But the fact that it's written in Ruby bugs me. One benefit of Open Source is you can do custom modifications, but you do need to know the programming language used... So, I have decided to start using Redmine for one of our new projects (probably ccInvoices) and see how that goes. If the fact that custom modifications will not be easy, gets to me, I think we will go with activeCollab in the end. It's just a big price difference between the two options!

In conclusion: both Redmine and activeCollab are really complete and should have most of the functionality we (or anyone) would require. The big difference is the programming language they are written in and the price tag. Redmine is written in Ruby and free as in beer, activeCollab starts at $249 and is written in PHP.

I'll keep you posted!