Genius Project Review
Genius Project, the flagship product of Genius Inside, was originally created “to address a need for project management software for the IBM marketplace.” According to the company’s website:
Genius Project is not only a powerful project management software but also provides customers with the necessary expertise in project management best practices…Genius Project’s mission is to make project managers’ lives easier by improving project selection, planning, staffing, execution and tracking with easy-to-use and powerful project management capabilities.
Heavily focused on advanced project portfolio management (PPM), Genius Project is feature-rich enough for even the most meticulous project managers. This versatile and complex software, though founded in 1997, has been available in both SaaS and on-premise forms since 2008. It is employed by 700 customers (and 65,000 end users) throughout the world (including Vodafone, Acadia Insurance Company, Bentley Motors, the United Nations, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Dwyer Instruments, and the Indonesian Stock Exchange), and is currently available in English, German, and French. Oft recognized by IBM, Genius Project has been the recipient of multiple certifications and awards and was recently named a 2014 SIIA CODiE finalist.
Table of Contents
Web-Based (SaaS) or On-Premise:
Genius Project is available in both web-based and on-premise options, and it can also be installed on IBM’s Lotus Notes. The SaaS version of this software requires connection to the internet and access to either Internet Explorer or Firefox.
There are three primary pricing plans available; the latter two require a minimum one-year commitment.
- 10 users
- Basic project management features
- Basic support services (access to the online database and email support)
- $29.95/user/month for a mandatory one year subscription (two and three year subscriptions are $27.95/user/month and $24.95/user/month, respectively)
- Minimum 10 users
- Standard project management features
- Unlimited workflows and custom fields, and custom configuration and setup
- Premium support services (Bronze, Silver, or Gold packages) available for a fee
- $39.95/user/month for a mandatory one year subscription (two and three year subscriptions are $37.95/user/month and $34.95/user/month, respectively)
- Minimum 50 users
- All features of Standard and Professional Plans
- On-premise option
- Premium Support (Bronze-level) included. Silver and Gold support packages available for a fee
You may request a free trial of any of the plans by clicking here and filling out an extensive form with your company name, phone number, how many users you require, and a corporate email address; Genius Project will not accept email addresses from free services like Gmail or Yahoo, which is an old-fashioned policy and a bit ridiculous in this modern age (many freelancers, small companies, and start-ups – myself included – use Gmail for business purposes). Subscriptions for both the web-based and on-premise versions of Genius Project must be cancelled at least one month before the contract ends; you may order a back-up read-only database, if necessary.
American and Canadian users can receive more information about Genius Project’s pricing by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1-866-877-4364. International users must contact Genius Project via email@example.com or by calling +41 21 310 70 00.
Ease of Use:
Genius Project is much too complicated and feature-rich to seem immediately accessible to the untrained eye. I eat, sleep, and breathe project management and even I found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of functions available. However, while it could never precisely be described as “user-friendly,” this software does have a few key features that are simple and intuitive:
- Project Definition Wizard: Genius Project takes the hassle out of creating new work items with its handy “project definition wizard,” a form that allows you to quickly and accurately input everything from a project’s name and due date to a specific billing mode. The “wizard” walks you through each step of the project creation process, and it is therefore almost simple to set up complex budget requirements, identify potential risk factors, and lay out ahead of time the scope and complexity of your planned project. It also allows you to associate your project to a specific client, choose a client representative (either internal or external), and name a project leader and a project leader substitute.
- Genius Live!: One of Genius Project’s newest and most practical additions is a social application known as Genius Live! It is a one-stop location where users can easily view updates and documents, access tasks and to-dos, input time, look at project history, deal with pending requests, and check out the activity of their coworkers. Regular users (non-managers or administrators) tend to spend 80-90% of their time using Genius Live!, as it offers a simple, single-page view of all pertinent work items, somewhat “akin to a social media wall or timeline.” The page is divided into right and left-side panes: the right pane displays all current tasks and to-dos, while the left contains an activity stream with comments, action requests, alerts, and other notifications. Genius Live! can be viewed in personal form (to show everything you’re involved with, account-wide), project form (which contains all tasks, updates, etc. about a single project), and record form (includes all actions, notifications, and communications sent to you regarding a particular record). The real brilliance of Genius Live!, in my opinion, is that it provides a welcome respite from the heavy, complex interface used for more heavy-duty project management functions. The majority of Genius Project’s features are comprehensible only to a seasoned project management professional, but in Genius Live! you have a tool that everyone in the office will feel comfortable using on a daily basis.
Customer Service and Support:
Genius Project offers these support services:
- Basic Support Package: Genius Project offers a few basic support services for free, primarily email support, software updates, and access to the online help center. Emailed questions and concerns receive responses within 24 hours during regular business hours. For my part, I found the support representatives to be courteous and knowledgeable.
- Premium Support Packages: For a fee, you can purchase additional premium support services in any of three packages: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Premium packages come with basic support tools and bonuses like implementation counseling (8 hours for the Bronze-level package, 32 for the Silver, and 64 hours for the Gold), software customization, dedicated support representatives, and unlimited email support (for general questions about how the software operates). On-premise users who purchase the Silver or Gold plans are also given access to server maintenance services from Genius Inside. For more details about the specific support packages available or to learn more about premium support services, click here.
- Help Center: Via the online help center, users are given full access to tools like a beginner’s guide, video tutorials, and user manuals. Besides being a one-stop location for educational material, the help center is also a place where you can directly submit support requests (or keep an eye on the status of pending support requests), view company-wide announcements, and search through the entire Genius Project knowledgebase for specific information.
- Beginner’s Guide: The Genius Project beginner’s guide is a PDF document that takes new users through the first steps of creating a new account, setting up projects, using the navigation panels, etc. It is a long document, but well written and worthwhile as a reference tool, especially for the account owner or administrative-level users.
- Video Tutorials: These on-demand tutorials are dry and badly recorded (think awkward narration, odd pauses, and general breathy-ness), but can actually be useful for learning the ins and outs of Genius Project, especially if you’re a visual learner. Tutorials are available on everything from simple functions, such as creating new projects and tasks, to higher-level features like issue management and report customization. If you want, you can even request a live, customized demonstration of the software by clicking here.
- User Manual: The user manual is an extremely thorough guide to Genius Project and all of its many features. Generally well written, each article is accompanied by one or more screenshots and instructions. This isn’t something you can read through in one sitting, but it is a practical reference if you want to find out more about a specific feature/features.
- Social Media Engagement: The Genius Project Twitter feed is fairly basic and not particularly useful for support purposes. It is not updated with frequency, and does not seem to be used to interact directly with customers. The company’s Google+ account and Facebook page – nearly identical – while not specific to Genius Project, are much more relevant, and contain links to press releases, articles, and announcements. Genius Project also has a blog, if you’re interested in general information about the world of PPM.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Genius Project does not suffer from any obvious, fatal flaws, but users have remarked unfavorably about the following issues:
- Support: Some users are unhappy that they must pay extra for premium support features (like phone support and unlimited email support), and claim that the basic services offered are slow.
- Overly Complicated Interface: Due to its complex range of features, Genius Project has an extremely high learning curve and is best suited for professional project managers. More than one customer has commented that the time investment required to learn this software is more than they would like.
- Too Powerful for Small Operations: Essentially a high-functioning project portfolio management solution, Genius Project is ideal for enterprise-level organizations, but not as well suited to smaller businesses that don’t handle multiple projects at once.
- Mandatory One Year Commitment: People tend to get freaked out by long-term commitment, both in relationships and with their project management software. Enough said.
- Limited Mobile Services: Genius Project is currently only available (in a very restricted capacity) for iOS systems.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
In general, Genius Project has been received quite well. Users are most pleased with these features:
- Multiple Deployment Options: People really like the fact that Genius Project can be deployed in more than one way (SaaS, on-premise, and via Lotus).
- Flexibility: Genius Project is imminently adaptable for a wide variety of different business structures, and can be used for anything from basic task management to complex PPM or Agile.
- Full-Featured Project Management: Offering everything from Gantt charts to task dependencies, time tracking, invoicing, budgeting, and advanced resource management, Genius Project is one of the most complete project management solutions available today.
- Complex, High Quality Analytics: Users are incredibly impressed with the high level of reporting and risk/issue assessment features offered by Genius Project. With more than custom 500 reporting options available, this software has become an essential evaluative tool for many businesses.
The following are excerpts from positive customer reviews of Genius Project:
With Genius Project it is so easy to find the perfect person for a specific function because you can filter your search by factors such as experience, skills and availability. You will receive a reduced list of candidates and you can make the final selection. Genius Project is also a good way to maintain communication with your team members. Since we use Genius Project everyone is involved in the project and is able to stay in touch from any computer or mobile device. Most of this web based online project management system is intuitive but a little bit difficult to navigate. But once you are familiarized with all the features and tools it is a well-rounded application.
I like this software because you can do anything with it. It has a complete array of features and it is easy of use. Also, the collaboration platform is very useful to share information with your colleagues.
We selected Genius Project due to the vast amount of pre-built reports and superior dashboard and reporting capabilities, along with Genius Inside’s flexibility allowing us to start small at an affordable price point and scale as we grow.
Our company has been using Genius Project for a couple years now, and we are really satisfied with all the capabilities and the features the software offers. If you are looking for a complete PPM software, don’t look further. I use it daily to track all my projects, my budgets related and to estimate risks linked to new projects. The incorporated Gantt Chart is very useful as well, giving you immediately a view of all tasks and resources allocated.
We selected Genius Project due to its ability to deliver deep and complete project management functionality including interactive Gantt chart capabilities, resource management, risk management, and executive dashboards, along with an intuitive interface that is aligned with our project activities. In addition, Genius Project provides us a powerful workflow engine and the ability to integrate with our third-party systems (such as Jira) to meet our overall enterprise project management needs.
Click on this link to read more testimonials from satisfied customers.
- Projects: As you might guess by its name, Genius Project is heavily project-oriented software; while using the application, people will spend most of their time on project pages. Each individual project is broken down into smaller work units: phases, deliverables (which generally mark the end of each project phase), individual tasks, assignments, and to-dos. Once created (using the project definition wizard), projects may be converted into handy templates or outright copied for future use. They can also be “initialized,” a feature which allows you to basically bring all project settings and definitions back to zero. If necessary, users can even combine an unlimited number of project templates to form entirely new projects. Projects are officially complete when all of the tasks and deliverables within have been finished; however, users are also given the ability to manually mark a project as complete before all of the tasks/deliverables have been checked off. This is a unique feature I’ve rarely encountered, and well-conceived, I think.
- Tasks: In this software, tasks are given nearly as much attention as projects, and are just as likely to be complex and detailed. Each task can be distinguished with a title, start/end dates (initial, planned, and actual), a billing mode and billing status, assignees, activity type, priority, range (which indicates whether the work should be done in the morning, the afternoon, or throughout the whole day), a workload (initial, planned, actual, remaining and EAC), and a budget. You may also attach or link documents to your tasks at any point in time. Depending on their complexity, Genius Project tasks can stand alone or be made up of individual assignments.
- Gantt Chart: Most work items in Genius Project are managed from the Gantt chart – a graphical representation of tasks, activities, milestones, deliverables, and project timeframes that displays the critical path of individual projects. These adaptable charts are Genius Project’s most powerful scheduling tool, and can be used not only to view your existing work but to create and define new tasks, milestones, phases, and other deliverables. While it is possible to generate new work items from other parts of the interface, the designers of Genius Project recommend doing it from the Gantt chart when at all possible; project managers are encouraged to edit work items from the chart as well. Most projects have only one Gantt chart, but you can actually use more than one chart per project in special situations, or even combine charts to create multiple-project Gantts, complete with milestones and tasks. Via simple drag-and-drop technology, dependencies (end-to-start, end-to-end, start-to-end, and start-to-start) may be created between tasks and/or deliverables; it is not currently possible to create links between project phases, except in special situations.
- Resource Management: Genius Project’s resource management features allow managers to quickly “drill down into the details to identify which resources allocations are causing problems, track usage patterns and make adjustments or resource substitutions.” The ‘Team Planner’ tool gives a color-coded view of each resource’s current workload, and can also help to coordinate resource requests and keep track of planned activities, new requests, and availability definitions. Additionally, with this software’s powerful filtering capabilities, you can perform account-wide searches for users with specific skills and availability – even taking into account different time zones, vacation days, and scheduled absences – to find the best people for each project.
- Time Tracking: In Genius Project, time is tracked for each task and marked as billable or non-billable; a single task can involve a combination of billable and non-billable hours. According to their skill or position in the company, resources are assigned different billing rates. These rates are then applied to weekly timesheets, which include specific details about the number of hours logged, how those hours were occupied, requests for additional work time on the task, and any other pertinent details or comments. Once they have been manually logged (Genius Project, alas, provides no stopwatch timer to track hours), and provided no approval workflow process has been initiated, it is possible for workers to mark their own timesheets as complete. More commonly, in situations where a workflow approval system has been set up, they are sent automatically to the appropriate manager, who has the power to approve or reject them; timesheets may still be edited or altered until they have received a formal approval.
- Issue/Risk Management: Issue reporting and risk management are two of Genius Project’s most valuable and robust project management tools. The sleek and well-designed issue reporting module “provides users with the ability to track unexpected obstacles and issues, such as budget, delay or quality that may impact the progress of their projects.” By filling out simple ‘Issue reports,’ people can directly call attention to problems encountered during the lifecycle of any project and then send their findings directly to a superior – usually the project leader – for review and/or approval. The project leader has the responsibility to examine each issue, assess its type, priority, and impact, and decide what actions are required to counteract perceived threats to the bottom line. Risks are treated in much the same way, but unlike issues, risks are usually identified during the creation of a new project. Using the software’s project definition wizard, it is possible to account for potential risks ahead of time and make plans to mitigate the effects of these risks.
- Document Management: Genius Project provides very decent document management tools which allow for sharing, versioning, and automatic organization of new files. Every document is accompanied by a detailed, recorded history to help users keep track of version or status changes. Individual projects are given their own document storage files that can be organized into smaller, sub-files if necessary, and filled with anything from meeting reports to specifications, letters, or contracts. Additionally, Genius Project provides self-definable, customizable document templates to help businesses structure information in a uniform manner, so that “all data is presented in the same format regardless of who created it.” Files that have been attached to work items (like tasks or discussions) can be opened in their original format (Word, Excel, etc.) by double clicking. By clicking the ‘Eye’ icon, however, it is possible to open and preview certain kinds of files without having to download them to the system.
- Request Management: Genius Project allows for the collection, organization, and management of multiple kinds of requests, including requests for new projects, scope change requests, and incident issue reports. Managers are able to set up in advance common criteria for any incoming requests, and then track all new requests through a special central repository. To save time, and since obviously not every request is worthy of being made into an official project or task, Genius Project’s configurable workflow feature lets you “define project request review cycles to sort out which projects meet your key business goals.”
- Help Desk Feature: This software’s unique workflow engine, apart from streamlining approvals processes and simplifying request management, can also be used to set up IT help desks. The help desk feature makes it easy for users to both create new IT tickets and closely track the status of these tickets during all stages. Best of all, in order to give help desk managers “the best information possible to produce actionable statistics,” Genius Project provides detailed dashboards and reporting views.
- Expense Reporting: Because most serious users set up complex budgets for their projects, Genius Project provides comprehensive, weekly expense reports to help track non-labor costs. Each expense recorded is identified with a single project and can be given a name, a type, a date, and a currency. You can also indicate on the report whether there is a receipt associated with the expense, and whether it is billable to a client. Expense reports, once completed and approved, are converted into useful expense detail records which can be referenced later to show costs either by project, time period, or resource.
- Invoicing: The Genius Project invoicing module allows for the creation of MS Word-formatted invoices, which can also be exported directly to Excel. Users can actually streamline their regular invoicing processes by scheduling the generation of automatic monthly invoices for labor, products, and/or merchandise, a feature which comes in quite handy for client-based businesses. Genius Project keeps detailed, historical records of all invoices for reference and reporting purposes.
- Reporting: Reports (think dashboards, graphs, charts, and other analytical tools) are the true metier of Genius Project, and the feature which separates this software from the multitude of other project management systems available. Reports, in Genius Project, can be constructed from almost any subject or criteria; with a host of over 500 built-in options, the possibilities are almost endless. You can track practically every aspect of your business or client base – no exaggeration – and examine anything from the probability of eventual project success to budgets, workload, alignment, ROI, and resource allotment. Once created, reports are exportable into Word, Excel, PDF and/or Crystal Reports formats.
- Agile/Scrum: Genius Project is an inherently flexible tool, and as such, supports straightforward, chronological project management techniques as well as Agile and Scrum methodologies (with backlogs, iterations, etc. – basically the whole software development enchilada).
Integrations and Add-Ons:
While Genius Project offers only a few built-in integrations, others can be easily created via Genius Connector, a platform that uses iBolt technology to synchronize the software with a number of enterprise solutions, including:
- MS Project
- MS Office (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc.)
- Microsoft Dynamics
- Lotus Notes
- IBM i (AS/400)
- Google Apps
To learn more about the Genius Connector platform, click here. In addition, Genius Project offers a open REST API to customers who wish to design their own 3rd-party integrations.
Genius Inside protects users in the following ways:
- Strong firewalls
- Constant system monitoring for unusual activity
- Secure server farm
- Automatic document encryption using unique keys
- Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements required for all employees
- Frequent, encrypted backups to offsite locations
- Information stored in Europe with SafeHost’s Swiss Datacenter (SGS’s ISO 9001 certified) and in North America with Digital Days (SSAE 16 certified)
To learn more about Genius Inside’s security procedures, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.
There are very few tools available today with as much sheer power and capability as Genius Project. If programs like Basecamp and Asana could be likened to a single match – quick, simple, and effective for some purposes – then Genius Project is more akin a military-grade flame thrower. It is far and away the most complex, feature-rich project management system I have ever encountered. In fact, some might say that it is too powerful for practical use. After all, you can’t use just one match to start a blazing inferno, but neither is it particularly prudent to use a flame thrower to light a birthday cake. Genius Project is overkill in many ways, more suited for seasoned project management professionals in an enterprise setting than for small (or even medium) sized businesses. It is extremely complicated and intricate, and takes quite an initial time investment to master.
That said, Genius Project’s wide array of features and inherent flexibility make it one of the best investments around for large and/or portfolio-driven organizations. Recent additions like Genius Live! bring the software down to a manageable and comprehensible level for most employees, while trained project managers find themselves in PPM heaven, equipped with all the charts, reports, and evaluative tools they could ever hope for. I’m generally a bit skeptical of older software companies like Genius Inside (which has been around since 1997), because they tend to be stodgy, arrogant, and resistant to change. But the mere existence of Genius Live!, which operates in surprisingly modern and refreshing manner, has heightened my respect for Genius Project as a brand. The interface is a bit old-fashioned, to be sure, but this company has striven to remain relevant in a fast-changing technological environment and succeeded, for the most part. For that they earn my respect and my recommendation. If you’re just starting out or don’t require much in the way of project management, then Genius Project isn’t for you. But basically everyone else should give this software a try. I think, if nothing else, you’ll be suitably impressed.