Zoho Adds Twitter Feature, Visualization Tool to Zoho Projects 2.0

Zoho Projects 2.0 adds messaging and collaboration functionality to the project management suite. The suite is a cloud computing package delivered via the Internet, competing with software from Microsoft, Intuit and startups such as LiquidPlanner and Clarizen at a time when managing projects online has become a popular practice.

Zoho on July 1 released a new version of its Zoho Projects project management software, adding a Twitter-like user status tool, a project visualization tool and the ability to create a project in Microsoft Project and import it to Zoho Projects.

Zoho Projects 2.0, intended to compete with Microsoft Project, Intuit QuickBase and suites from startups LiquidPlanner and Clarizen, includes traditional project management features such as tasks, milestones, reports, time sheets, priorities and dependencies. Similar to all Zoho products, Zoho Projects 2.0 is SAAS (software-as-a-service) hosted on Zoho's servers and delivered to customers via the Internet, or the cloud.

The Project Dashboard provides a quick view of tasks, milestones, meetings and other project happenings, while a multiple reports feature lets project managers evaluate the progress against the plan. The timesheet allows teams with external customers to log and track time spent by individuals on specific tasks. Projects 2.0 is also integrated with Zoho Invoice makes.

However, the upgraded suite also provides more team collaboration features. In Zoho Projects 2.0, users can post files in one place, tag them and search them; use integrated group chat for quick decision making; create and publish Web pages; and embed videos.

The Project stream is a visual representation mapping tool that lets users see the latest activities around their project. The user status tool is a Twitter-like tool to let users publish their latest update to their entire team. The Project wiki allows users to house project content in one repository.

There is also interactive discussion forums and a shared Project calendar to keep knowledge workers up to speed on deadlines and meetings. The software also integrates with Zoho's Office suite so users can create and edit documents through their browser. See a video demo of Zoho Projects 2.0 here.

The addition of social team collaboration tools signals a key shift in the project management software niche. Just a few years ago, project teams had to flit back and forth between a number of disparate applications to get their work done.

Workers might keep their files in one content management repository; conduct discussions through Microsoft Outlook e-mail; and chat with other team members via AIM or Jabber instant messenger, all while keeping their project plan in Microsoft Project. This made recovering project information highly impractical.

Zoho's idea with Projects 2.0 -- letting workers complete tasks and achieve goals using wikis, status updates and visualization mapping tools -- is to modernize project management through cloud computing. Google, Microsoft and hundreds of others are all leveraging SAAS to meet customers' current computing requirements.

View the pricing plans here. Briefly, Zoho Projects 2.0 is available now in a free version, which covers one project for 100 megabytes of online storage.

Those who need to do more work can pay $12 per month for the standard plan, which covers 10 projects and 2 gigabytes of online storage, or $80 per month for the enterprise plan to conduct unlimited projects with 25 gigabytes of online storage.