BrightWork Project Management Review
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- Date Established
- Boston, MA
- Highly customizable
- Collaborative focus
- Steep learning curve
- Outdated design
There are not many groups in the project management world that can claim to have been in existence for nearly 25 years. In the rapidly changing and iterating world of software development, to successfully remain in the field for so long is truly impressive. BrightWork is just such a survivor. In the last few years, that survivability has been on full display, as the developers of this venerable tool have focused on integration with Microsoft SharePoint, making BrightWork the first project management tool for that platform.
Operating within the mantra of “Start, Evolve,” Brightwork aims to not only give project teams the tools they need to get to work, but also the tools that will be needed as the team and company grows. To that end, BrightWork focuses on three areas: Administrative, Project leaders, and Team members. With features designed to help all three of these groups be successful, BrightWork aims to be the best of all worlds; to have the cake and eat it too.
How successful is Brightwork at this goal? Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
Web-Based (SaaS) Or On-Premise
BrightWork is available in both a cloud-based and self-hosted version. It is also available as a template for SharePoint.
BrightWork has three different pricing plans for the varying version of the software. Let’s start with the easy one first:
- SharePoint Template: This one is free! At east, that is, if you have SharePoint (which costs five dollars per month).
- On-Premise Pricing: There are a lot of initial costs when using the On-premise BrightWork, so the most useful numbers to share here are the first year-second year costs. Here is how they shake out:
- Up to 20 users
- Year one: $14,335
- Year two: $1,080
- Up to 50 users
- Year one: $19,875
- Year two: $2,000
- Up to 100 users
- Year one: $28,875
- Year two: $3,500
- Up to 250 users
- Year one: $48,675
- Year two: $6,800
- Up to 500 users
- Year one: $61,875
- Year two: $9,000
- Up to 20 users
- Web-based Pricing: There are a couple of different ways you can sign up for the cloud-based version of BrightWork, but prices start at the same level. Here are the details:
- Up to 100 users: $35/user/month
- Up to 500 users: $15/user/month
BrightWork also offers cloud versions that are HIPAA/HITRUST and FedRAMP compliant, though to find the exact prices for those versions of this product you will have to contact the customer support team.
Ease Of Use
When logging into BrightWork for the first time, you are greeted with an extensive tutorial to introduce you to the app’s intricacies. It is a 4-step process, with many sub-steps and routines that try and cover everything from how to make tasks to BrightWork’s somewhat bewildering project templates. It is a nice gesture from the developers, but unfortunately, it is not the best tutorial I have used. There is a strange delay when you follow the pop-up on-screen directions, and I ran into two bugs where the program could not recognize that I had completed the prescribed steps.
Unfortunately, I found a number of similar issues throughout my hands-on experience with BrightWork. It feels slow, almost laggy. Once you click on a button, you often find yourself waiting for something to happen. More than once, I found myself clicking, then clicking again, just to be sure it had worked the first time. It was more than a little frustrating. Add to these woes a complicated user interface that reveals the DNA it shares with Microsoft office, often in unflattering ways, and you get an app that I cannot call easy to use. I see the potential for greatness here, but it is locked behind an uninspired, cluttered user interface and laggy, buggy code.
Customer Service & Support
BrightWork offers a relatively impressive set of customer service and support materials both in the self-service and direct support categories. Let’s take a look at your options for finding solutions when you run into problems:
- FAQs: Like most software solutions on the internet, Brightwork offers a list of frequently asked questions. In my experience, these lists of questions can often be brief, trivial, and unhelpful. Not so with BrightWork. Rather, the FAQ list available here is expansive and informative with scores of links to helpful answers to common questions.
- Resource Archive: Similar to the FAQ section, BrightWork’s Resource Archive is a collection of explanatory articles designed to help users understand their app. Unlike the FAQs, the archive is considerably more in-depth in the topics it covers. Go here if the FAQ fails you.
- Project Management Handbook: Unlike the first two options, the handbook is not specifically designed to help users figure out BrightWork. It is, however, a general textbook on the concept of collaborative project management. Especially for small teams who have not managed their own projects before, it is a good read.
- Webinars: If you are looking for support and learning more along the lines of a classroom, this is a good bet. You can attend a live webinar or rewatch old ones at the webinar archive.
- Video Tutorials: Like most software developers, the folks at BrightWork have a series of video tutorials that demonstrate the basic functions of their app. This is one of my go-tos when learning new software since (as you might imagine) it is a great way of seeing the app in action.
- Direct Contact: Finally, you can call BrightWork directly, or submit an email ticket. My personal style is to go to the self-service options first, hopefully solving my problems without having to bother anyone. On the other hand, you may find it best to just skip ahead to this option, depending on your own inclination.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
There are not many customer reviews of BrightWork that I was able to uncover, which is odd for an app that serves 40,000 institutions and has existed for almost 25 years (BrightWork was founded in 1995). Despite the lack of chatter on the interwebs, I was able to identify a few weak spots in BrightWork’s veneer. They are:
- Steep Learning Curve: As I mentioned above, BrightWork is not the easiest app to learn. I would strongly encourage taking advantage of the customer support options I discussed previously.
- Buggy: Depending on how you want to use the app, BrightWork may put up a bit of a fight and require extensive modifications. I saw a report that claimed nearly every individual function required troubleshooting. That user was also using BrightWork somewhat differently than the developers perhaps intend, but even so; the amount of bugs encountered is concerning.
And that is all I was able to find based on customer reviews. As I mentioned above, I would level my own criticisms at BrightWork’s user interface, which reminds me far too much of Microsoft Word from 2010. Having said that, it is likely that most users would get used to the clutter and get the most out of it after some time and practice.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Generally speaking, people seem to like BrightWork, though as I mentioned above, it was difficult to find user reviews of any description, either positive or negative. Here are a couple of examples of what people seem to like about BrightWork:
- SharePoint Integration: People love that BrightWork plays so nicely with SharePoint. It is possible that since the BrightWork template is free that people have a somewhat biased opinion; after all, we are predisposed to like things we do not have to pay for. However, I saw enough mentions of the template in a positive light that I think it is genuine appreciation.
- Collaboration Focus: People like BrightWork’s focus on collaboration, the ability for multiple team members to contribute to the success of each project.
- Reporting: BrightWork benefits from the relationship with SharePoint, inheriting a set of configurable, customizable reports that allow project managers and team leaders to drill down into the inner workings of projects and use that data to improve efficiency.
Here are some excerpts from the reviews of satisfied customers:
The BrightWork product features make our project and portfolio management easier and more successful. As manager of our PMO I am able to quickly decide which projects get approved and which ones get rejected. Using their OTB project management templates we can start with the right amount of project management for the project and team in question.
I have to say this is a great set of templates that is worth considering for anyone interested in going from Excel and Outlook to using a process that has been proven and that’s built on top of already existing investments in SharePoint.
Flexibility is very important to me when I evaluate a project management solution. What I really like about BrightWork is that their “Start, Evolve” approach to project management makes it easy for organizations to get started quickly with project management, delivering immediate visibility and control, with the flexibility to mature their project management practices as the needs of a project or team change.
Here are the best, most useful features found in BrightWork:
- Project Planning: This is BrightWork’s biggest party piece. When you create a new project, you select one of several templates, filling in the appropriate information to make the creation of your new projects easy and quick. It is worth mentioning here that both the templates that BrightWork provides and the actual process employed to set up the projects are working to streamline your process…but also restricts user choices somewhat. You have to follow BrightWork’s method here, like it or not. Having said that, the templates are rather customizable, so if you follow the steps correctly, you end up with a lot of leeway.
- Resource Management: Being able to keep track of workload, not only your own but your entire team’s as well, is pretty useful when trying to get projects done. This is one of the things that can really set an app apart as more than just a task management tool. Fortunately, BrightWork has this capability.
- Task Management: Task management is basically the ability to break a project down into steps and assign these out to team members. BrightWork offers decent task management, including Gantt charts with task dependencies.
- Reporting: Many project management apps get by with basic reporting options that don’t allow for much in terms of customization. Not so with BrightWork. You can get almost absurdly granular with the reports here, detailing either your own performance or that of your whole team. Having said that, with great complexity comes potential difficulty. It will take a bit of practice to get everything possible out of these reports, so be ready for a slog when first learning how to use them.
- Dashboards: Another standard project management trope, dashboards give users a birds-eye view of their tasks and projects, allowing them to see and interact with everything all in one place. Brightwork’s dashboard is nothing special, but it gets the job done.
Integrations & Add-Ons
BrightWork does not offer many integrations when compared with other project management solutions. Here are the outside apps that play nicely with BrightWork:
- Microsoft Azure
- Amazon Web Services
In the end, I have to say that BrightWork is showing its age. The app is nearly 25 years old, which in software-years may as well be 2,500. It is true that the amount you can get done in this program is remarkable, from portfolio, project, and task management to resource tracking and incredibly detailed, customizable reports. It is also true that the app is slow, cluttered, and complicated. If you are willing to put significant hours of training into your team members to help them extract everything BrightWork has to offer, this may be the app for you. If you need something your people can pick up and run with more quickly, I would recommend moving on and looking for something else.
As always, before making your final decision, I recommend signing up for the free trial and trying BrightWork out for yourself. If you do, come back and give us your thoughts in the comments below.
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