If you are a project manager, or simply want a more efficient system for organising your tasks and your team, there are many options available.
I work part time for the University of Sussex, and have previously worked for the University of Brighton, administering research projects. For my current project, I have investigated a range of project management tools to find one that is suitable for our project. While there is nothing specifically designed for research projects, I settled on Bitrix, because it offers the most functionality.
Bitrix functions as both a website, and includes a desktop app which allows for chat and video phone calls, as well as alerts. You can maintain privacy settings by only allowing access to those on the project, but there is an option to share documents externally too.
Bitrix allows you to create Tasks which need to be done, to give them deadlines, and to assign them to specific people in your team (They all need to be using Bitrix) Each person can see what they need to do, update the task, and give details of the progress. This allows the project manager an overview of what needs to be done. Detailed reports can be set up to monitor progress on tasks. Tasks are searchable, and can be organised by date, or person responsible etc.
Documents and checklists can be attached to any task, which allows all of the relevant information to be kept together. Through task management, it is also possible to track how much time is spent on any task, providing the team check in and out when working on the task.
Where tasks are related to a larger project, you can set up sub-tasks, grouping them. If there is a set of recurring tasks, you can create a template to use, or simply set the task up as recurring.
The task management tool is very sophisticated, which also means it can be a little complex to use.
Each user has their own calendar and a company calendar, enabling the team to know who is available when. The calendars in Bitrix can be synced with a range of calendars, so it is possible to continue using your usual calendar tool.
Events are easy to add, and you can invite people to attend through the calendar event, and again, attach any relevant notes or links. Recurring events can also be set up.
Bitrix includes shared storage space for documents. In the free version, 5GB is provided, and if you need more, you would need to upgrade, or simply store your documents on another cloud site, and put links in Bitrix drive. Each user has their own drive, and access to the company drive for documents which need to be shared among the team.
Bitrix includes a CRM (Customer / Client Management) system. This allows you to collect all of the information about your partners or customers in a single database. You can customize the form, and collect the information you need and also keep notes of your contact with the client. If you are collecting data, you need to ensure that you follow data protection laws and guidelines.
Bitrix offers email addresses, and an email system, but this is something we have chosen not to use.
Bitrix includes some basic reports, and has the capability to set up more complex reports, but this does require an understanding of database structures. Reports can be exported into a Spreadsheet.
Chat and video calls
Bitrix allows you to chat online with those in your team, and if you install the desktop app, you can also use it to video call, much like Skype. One of our team says that the desktop app slows his machine, but I have not found this to be the case on my laptop.
Bitrix will integrate with other systems, and there are additional plug ins and apps to provide greater functionality. As a fan of Evernote, I have used that plug in to link my Evernote account to Bitrix.
There is an extensive range of training materials on using Bitrix, and this makes it a very attractive option. You can view the materials here.
I like the functionality that Bitrix provides, and I have yet to see anything which offers as much as Bitrix does for free. However the level of functionality does make it a bit more difficult to use and set up.
If you would like to explore alternatives, there is a very helpful blog here