Zoho Projects Review
Zoho Corporation, creator of Zoho Projects and a suite of other online office management software, is a privately-held company based out of Chennai, India. When it was originally founded in 1996, the company went by the name AdventNet, Inc. It was renamed in 2009 after the success of Zoho Office Suite. Zoho Corporation has now launched over 25 separate online applications, including Zoho CRM, Zoho Invoice, Zoho Reports, and – of course – Zoho Projects. This company, which is headquartered in the United States but runs most of its operations from the Chennai office, currently provides services to nearly 20 million customers throughout the world. Zoho Corporation has received numerous awards, including PC World’s 25 Most Innovative Products Award (2008) and TechCrunch’s Best Enterprise Start-up award.
Zoho Projects is used in a wide range of businesses and is especially suited for small to medium-level companies. This web-based software’s bug tracking features make it especially relevant to the software development industry. Because of its parent company’s large and diverse customer base, Zoho Projects itself is supported in 16 different languages (English, Spanish, German, French, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Swedish and Turkish).
Web-Based (SaaS) or On-Premise:
Zoho Projects is web-based software; no on-premise version is available.
Zoho Projects offers four distinct pricing plans. It’s worth noting that if you choose to pay annually instead of monthly, you can save 35% (and also gain access to unlimited projects).
- Free forever
- Unlimited users
- 1 project
- 10 MB storage
- Includes basic task management tools, Google Apps integration, document sharing, and portal customization
- Best for small teams
- $25/month or $249/year
- Unlimited users
- 20 projects
- 10 GB storage
- 8 project templates
- Includes all features from the Free Plan as well as time tracking and a sync with Google Tasks
- Timing feature
- Best for start-ups/creative groups
- $50/month or $499/year
- Unlimited users
- 50 projects
- 100 GB storage
- 10 project templates
- Includes all features from the Free and Premium plans as well as subtasks, task durations, Dropbox and Zoho Reports integrations, and a few other perks
- Best for medium-level businesses
- $80/month or $799/year
- Unlimited users
- Unlimited projects
- 100 GB storage
- 20 project templates
- Includes all features from the three above plans as well as a cross-project Reports Tab.
- Best for large, enterprise-scale businesses
In addition to the standard features offered in each plan, Zoho Projects allows users to purchase add-ons – such as wikis and bug tracking – for an extra monthly fee. More information about add-on pricing can be found here.
Zoho Projects offers a free, 15-day trial of their paid plans. No credit card is required, either to access the free plan or to sign up for a trial of the paid plans. The sign-up process is remarkably quick and painless, and does not require you to submit overly personal details like your phone number, a fact that I appreciate very much. Since Zoho Projects is a pay-as-you-go service, users are able to upgrade, downgrade, or cancel services at any point in time. Zoho accepts payment via Visa, MasterCard, American Express and PayPal. Customers with annual subscriptions can also opt to pay via bank transfer or check transfer. For further details about pricing, you can contact Zoho Projects directly by emailing email@example.com.
Ease of Use:
Zoho Projects is by no means the most difficult project management program I have ever used, but it does lack somewhat in simplicity and ease. At first, I found it very confusing, but thing gradually began to make sense as I explored a little. New users should be aware that it is more complex than competitors like Basecamp, Redbooth, or Trello – maybe needlessly so. Some of the more user-friendly aspects of Zoho Projects include:
- Native Mobile Access: Zoho Projects has wisely provided their customers (even those on the Free Plan!) with access to native mobile applications. The iOS app allows users to create new tasks, view existent tasks, change task status, check updates, log time, and record voice notes. The Android mobile app also enables you to create, view, and alter tasks, view your activity feed, and log hours. Both apps have received passable ratings – nothing spectacular, mind you – but the majority of users find that these apps are at least somewhat helpful and have been able to get support assistance when necessary. In my experience, the iOS app loads quickly and easily. I was able to use it right away, though I did have a bit of trouble using the screen to update task progress. My verdict? The app tends to be somewhat touchy, but overall it works well.
- Project Organization: Projects can be organized according to specific criteria and requirements or grouped by clients and individual users. Sorting projects in this manner keeps things neat and orderly and allows you to segregate disparate projects and “efficiently manage your project groups.”
- Calendar: Zoho Projects provides a user-wide calendar that is an “easy way to securely and quickly organize meetings, events, schedule appointments, manage deadlines and more – all with a browser from your desktop.” This shared, online project calendar makes it possible for entire teams to communicate about upcoming events, keep one another accountable, and stay firmly on schedule. Administrator and manager-level users are able to see and edit the calendars of all other workers, making it simple to keep people in the loop. The calendar can also be synced with MS Outlook and iCalendar. Although useful, I found it confusing when I clicked on items in the calendar and I was transported away to a new page. Though feature-rich, the user experience with the calendar could certainly be improved.
- Scheduling Meetings: All that is needed to schedule a meeting in Zoho Projects is to enter the name, location, and time onto the shared calendar. If you like, you can also set a specific duration, choose participants, and customize reminders, or add useful notes about the meeting agenda. Best of all, should you or a coworker happen to miss an important meeting, Zoho Projects allows users to check out “Elapsed Meetings” and see any logged details, notes, blog references, and so forth.
- Document Editor: Formatting the contents of your discussions, chats, and wiki pages is a simple matter with the Zoho Projects What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) Editor. This tool functions like a word processor and offers rich-text formatting options. It allows you to bold, italicize, strike through, or underline text, and format with bullets, numbers, or indents. You can also align text in any manner you chose (left, right, center and justified), insert links and images, add colors, fonts and styles, and alter contents via cut, copy, paste, undo and redo options. While I can see how a feature like this could be useful, I also wondered why anyone would choose to use it over a tool like Google Docs.
- Importing Users: Admins have the option to import users and/or accounts from Zoho CRM, Mail Suite, and Google Apps. This saves time and effort and eliminates the need to manually enter multiple new users.
- Email Integration: Zoho Projects provides full email integration. This means that via regular email channels – and without having to login to their Zoho account – users can add task notes, file bugs, post comments, and attach documents to tasks, forums and bugs. There are detailed instructions on how to perform these functions here.
Customer Service and Support:
At the risk of damning too harshly with faint praise, I will say that Zoho Projects has an adequate support system. Customer service is not the primary thing this software does well, and many complain that the service is slow. In my experience, dealing directly with service reps was a mostly positive undertaking, but the written, educational materials certainly left a lot to be desired. For better or worse, Zoho Projects offers its users the following support tools:
- Direct Support: Although there is no phone support hotline available to Zoho Projects users, it is possible to email the support team (firstname.lastname@example.org) and request a call back to personally discuss major issues and concerns. If you’d rather not send a direct email, you are also given the option to fill out a support request form. This form asks for a few simple details about your problem, allows you to attach screenshots or error messages, and also requires you to identify your business’ specific Zoho Projects URL. After signing up for the Free Plan, I received a very nice message from the Head of Customer Success welcoming me to Zoho Projects. He informed me about the email support system but added that I could also pose questions to the support team by messaging them via Skype (their Skype user name is zohoprojects).
- Getting Started Guide: This guide provides written tutorials and screenshots to help new users navigate through Zoho Projects’ many features. I found the guide to be mostly helpful, though it has been poorly translated into English and can be confusing at times.
- Help Videos: Zoho divides their video section into two categories: “Help Videos” and “Tips and Tricks.” I found the videos I watched to be, frankly, sub-par. The organization was a little haphazard, and they seemed to jump between topics with little to no explanation. Part of the problem here was the length. The videos I saw were quite short: just over 2 minutes. If they had been a little longer, in the 4 or 5 minute range, the pace might have felt a little more natural.
- Blog: Zoho Projects provides a variety of blog articles to address a “wide range of topics… and news from the Zoho Projects team and our user community.” There’s some good information there, but like all of the Zoho support material, the blogs suffer from awkward grammar mistakes and can be difficult to read.
- User Forums: You can search through these forums to find answers to common complaints and interact with other Zoho Projects users. I read through several of the posts, however, and while the majority of questions are answered directly, users are frequently shuttled over to the support desk for answers to their questions.
- Webinars: Zoho Projects offers a beginner’s webinar every two weeks. It fills up quickly, so if you’re interested I would try to register as soon as possible after signing up for your trial or your plan.
- Social Media Engagement: The Zoho Facebook page is updated on a regular basis with press releases, articles, updates, and the like. Customers occasionally use this platform to lodge complaints, and Zoho seems to respond quickly. The Twitter feed, also updated with admirable frequency, is characterized by an impressive amount of customer involvement; Zoho often retweets users and responds to questions/complaints. However, not all of the tweets on these accounts are related to Zoho Projects; these account is for all Zoho products. As such, it can be a little hard to find the information you are looking for.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
In general, users complain about these negative aspects of Zoho Projects:
- Cheaper Plans Lack Key Features: Many of the most useful project management features, like bug tracking, time tracking, and Dropbox integration, are available only in the more expensive plans or by paying an additional monthly fee.
- Slow Support: Some users have complained about the length of time they have to wait to get support, as all support request must be first routed to the India branch of Zoho; the common consensus in online reviews and forums seems to be that service is frequently slow. This has not been my experience, however, and I received an answer to my support request within an hour.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Zoho Projects is popular among users and boasts many excellent qualities, such as:
- Cost-Effective, Flexible Pricing: Because it does not rely on pesky, per-user pricing, Zoho Projects is remarkably cheap, even when factoring in the add-ons. Also, this software offers a good range of pricing options for any budget. It’s hard to beat free!
- Long-Distance Collaboration: Smart, social-oriented features like forums, project wikis, and built-in instant messaging help to nurture open lines of communication – even across large distances – and allow teams to “discuss tasks and solve problems together with ease.”
- Bug Tracking: Several of the customer reviews I encountered mentioned Zoho Projects’ bug tracking feature in a favorable manner. Many similar project management programs do not offer this feature, but it’s nice to have the option to track bugs, even if you’re not in the software development business.
- Great Integrations: Thoughtful integrations have become more and more important to project managers, and people love that fact that Zoho Projects is fully integrated with Google Apps, Dropbox, and other file sharing programs. Having said that, some of those integrations are only available on the higher subscriptions.
- Responsive to Customer Feedback: More than one customer has raved about the fact that Zoho Projects both listens and responds to complaints and feature requests. It’s refreshing when a company actually pays attention to their client base and adjusts their product accordingly.
The following are excerpts from positive customer reviews:
…Zoho has solved many of our urgent problems: we can keep each other updated on the progress, schedule meetings, divide tasks, share documents, work together in real time and, thus, steer our progress much better. The Zoho platform is functional and intuitive, so that the whole team can use it easily. And the best of all: the Zoho team is always helpful on the spot, responsive and super-friendly whenever we have an issue.
Very tight integration with Google services makes this a stand-out app. Very reliable and easy to use and get others to use. While there may be other programs out there with more bells and whistles, nothing beats the functionality and reporting reliability of this program…
As a multinational corporation running various different projects simultaneously, we strongly rely on proper planning, communication and reporting tools. Zoho Projects helps our quality assurance to continuously oversee ongoing projects and immediately address upcoming issues on a weekly basis. Smart functionality, continuous updates, integration with other ZOHO tools, generic application interfaces and a sympathetic developer team make ZOHO Projects our first choice cloud computing project management tool.
We have used their product for many years. I would say our productivity increased dramatically with our migration to Google Apps and use of Zoho Projects. It is now possible for our teams and clients scattered around the world to work seamlessly. It is possible to convert a Google email to a Zoho project task with just a click of a button. I think it is a fantastic time saving, productivity improving feature. Great job. One more thing – they are very responsive to our suggestions for new features or enhancements.
Zoho Projects offers quite a few practical project management tools, far more than the usual online task management solution. It’s worth noting, however, that many of the following features (date formatting and time tracking, for example) are only available in the more expensive plans or as add-ons (namely bug tracking and wikis).
- Time Tracking: In Zoho Projects, you can use timesheets to capture hourly data, record the start and end date of tasks, and log important details (like billing status). Conveniently, Zoho Projects allows admins and managers to enter a week’s worth of data for an entire team, rather than having to log time each day for each user. Once completed, timesheets are all accessible from a single place, and admins can use the information to create custom reports based on individual users or user groups, billing status, or time period. Invoices containing timesheet data may also be exported to xls or csv format and sent to clients and other stakeholders, either for reasons of accountability and transparency or for billing/payroll purposes.
- Bug Tracking: The Zoho Projects Bug Tracker module is a valuable add-on that makes it possible to submit, track, and address bugs and issues. Bugs can be named, classified in many different ways, assigned to specific users, and labeled according to severity and status. According to Zoho, “by being able to clearly analyze the life cycle of a bug in the form of different stages, project members are motivated with a sense of awareness in fixing the issues.” Bug tracking software is typically of most use to software developers, but the Zoho Projects Bug Tracker can also be adapted for customer service applications and used to track complaints or support tickets.
- Task Views: Tasks are at the heart of every project management program. To that end, Zoho Projects has provided users with four different ways to manage individual tasks and view task lists. The default task view, or “classic view,” is pretty standard; it allows you to arrange tasks by owner, priority, start/due date, and % of completion. The “plain view” is extremely simple, and shows all tasks in order of due date. A newer addition to the task views is the Dependancy view, where you can assign tasks as “dependant” on others. There is a fourth, “Kanban view” in which tasks are ordered based on their status and displayed as cards to create a higher visual appeal. While I found the classic view to be the most practical and appealing, I think there are many who would appreciate the variety offered.
- File Management: Zoho Projects supports file uploads from Zoho Docs and other cloud-based document management programs like Google Drive, Box, OneDrive, Dropbox, and Evernote, as well as from computer hard drives; there is a maximum of 10 files per desktop upload. Users can actually upload almost any type of file as well (including .jpg, .png, .doc, .docx, .ppt, .xls, .csv, .mpeg, .zip, and .wmv). Zoho Projects supports file versioning, and any documents, spreadsheets, and powerpoints can be edited online, directly from your account, via wikis.
- “Home” Page: As the name implies, the home page is the easy place to find a chronological list of changes made to your tasks, projects, calendars, and all other aspects of Zoho Projects. Here you can post “status updates,” which other members of your group can see. You can also create new tasks, milestones, documents, forum posts, and events, right from the home page.
- Interactive Forums: One of the best social features of Zoho Projects, these interactive, online message boards provide an ideal location for coworkers to communicate and collaborate outside the context of individual projects. They are a perfect venue to “discuss critical ideas and help capture the knowledge in a central place.”
- Chat Feature: To eliminate the need for slow email communication, Zoho Projects offers a built-in text messaging system where users can instantly pose questions, post files or images, and discuss problems. All chat transcripts are saved for future reference, and can be archived or downloaded at any time. Each project is given a default chat room, but based on the nature of each new discussion, users can also create private or public chat rooms and invite anyone on the account to participate.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
Zoho Projects offers a good number of useful integrations. Note: Some of these are only available for an additional fee or to users on more expensive plans – see the pricing page for more details.
- Google Apps
- Zoho Reports
- Do.com (Salesforce’s Do.com users can transfer project data directly to Zoho Projects.)
Zoho also offers an open API, which you can learn more about by clicking here.
Zoho Projects protects users in the following ways:
- Secure Facilities: Zoho Projects facilities are guarded 24/7, every day of the year, with security procedures such as video monitoring, fire/flood/theft monitoring systems, and biometric access. Additionally, the company’s network security system employs “the latest encryption and intrusion detection/prevention technologies.”
- EU Safe Harbor Compliance: Zoho complies fully with the EU Safe Harbor framework (as set forth by the US Department of Commerce).
- Two Factor Authentication (TFA): To obtain an extra measure of security, you can opt to enable TFA on your Zoho Projects account. When TFA is activated, any person who tries to login from an unrecognized computer is required to provide additional authorization.
Though there are a few reasons why this is not the best project management software currently available, overall you could do a lot worse than Zoho Projects. The most compelling qualities of this software, in my opinion, are its flexible and inexpensive pricing structure, rich variety of integrations, and communication tools.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest downsides of Zoho Project is its customer support network. If you’re not naturally technically oriented (or come from a small company with no tech support of its own), learning how to use this product may be a challenge. The educational material provided is confusing and hard to decipher, and many users agree that support requests can take too long to resolve. My other major problem with the software is that the best features are only available with the most expensive plans.
In the end, I personally would not choose Zoho Projects. I don’t feel that it offers enough unique features to warrant learning the oft-confusing interface. Having said that, there are plenty of people out there who feel differently. My recommendation is the same as always: give it a try! If you want access to the more advanced features of the higher subscription levels, there is the 15 day trial: otherwise, the free version is available as well.