Review: Wrike (web-based project management tool)

The context of this review is at the end of this post. Other useful reviews I’ve found, some which echo a few points below, are here (reviewed against LiquidPlanner, 2010), here (reviewed against BaseCamp, 2007), here (comments from 2009), and here (2007).

My main complaint is the inconsistency problem in user experience: between users, within each user’s experience in using the same function, and then our team’s experience conflicts directly with what Wrike says its platform can do. What could this be from? The caching? The firewalls? We already all use the same version of Chrome.

Basic functionalities I expect from a project management platform:

1. Buffering between dependencies is unreliable – sometimes the buffer periods stick, but most of the time they don’t – and you don’t know it until you open those tasks again and see that your timeline has completely shifted. Wrike’s response as of Nov 2010: Wrike dependencies don’t support creating a time-delay between tasks.

2. Viewing your tasks in the timeline –

  • There’s no differentiation between types of tasks (eg meeting, action, appointment) or group levels (eg Output level vs subfolders like Province or Facility) in timeline – The headings have no color coding or font effects etc, making viewing it a bit of an eyeache.
  • The timeline view does not allow user-determined ordering of tasks and folders. I put the folder for Output 1 at the top for a reason, followed by the folders for Output 2, 3, etc. But Wrike’s timeline limits how these folders stack to the chronology of tasks within these folders.
  • The details box for each task doesn’t list its full folder path (eg in “Included in” box on details view)

3. Being able to view or export a list of tasks the user has sorted – This to me seems a critical function – You filter, search, sort all tasks by X person in X facility in X province within a specified date range. You want to see all tasks meeting these criteria across all Output folders. You get a list. But this list cannot be displayed online on the timeline nor can it be exported on CSV so I can view it on excel. Wrike’s response as of Dec 2010: Export function does not take search criteria into account.


4. Batch-edits such as selecting many tasks at once and deleting or moving them to another folder is not possible.

5. Recurring tasks – Changes to the original task does not cascade to the recurrences created from it! eg if you edit / delete a task, its recurrences do not reflect the edit – you must edit / delete all 12 or 300 individually. See #4 above – you cannot batch edit! So be careful using this “handy” function!

6. When editing tasks that are placed in two or more folders, the user is not prompted to replicate the adjustment in the other folders as well eg when the edited task’s timeline is adjusted it does not automatically update in the other folders, even though this is the same task in both folders.

Nice features to have:

1. There is no “undo” button to take you a step back. Folders and tasks have “disappeared” into other folders or deleted by accident because of a sticky cursor or quick clicking, and it’s time-consuming to backtrack and retrieve the item.

2. Creating or editing recurrences – you have no idea if it is working (auto-saving), so you wait. And wait. And wait. And finally you do it again. And it doesn’t look like it’s working. So you make a recurrence again. Next thing you know there are 400 recurrences you have to go back and delete. See #4 above about batch-editing.

3. There is no alert to warn the user that s/he’s about to make a major edit eg dragging an folder or task into another folder. A user can accidentally edit a folder or task’s path very easily.

Issues specific to developing country settings. I mention this because some staff, especially the ones in the field who don’t need to use the computer or internet often, aren’t savvy enough or have the time to explore the quirks of a program and take extra steps to prevent problems later.

1. Being able to download application for working offline  – This makes my work faster as I can do it from anywhere. Also, currently if the internet hangs the program doesn’t take the changes, but sometimes that’s unknown to me until I open my workspace again later.

2. Slow internet stalls the auto-save function (although the internet speed is quickly catching up to what we have back in the US!)

  • Sometimes can’t tell when an action is or is not ‘saved’
  • Sometimes editing the task duplicates that entry

3. DEFER – this function removes the task from the timeline without prompting the user to adjust the dates.

Strengths of Wrike:

1. They’ve got a very responsive customer service team. Is there a forum for users to help each other out? I haven’t seen any and I think that’d be useful.

2. Its best features? Its social/collaborative aspects – overall, I find Wrike to have great potential for collaborative planning by virtual teams.

  • I like the real-time updating of edits from collaborating users.
  • You can create, update, assign tasks to people, upload relevant documents to tasks, get notifications and complete/defer/cancel tasks, all through your email.
  • You can integrate Google Docs and Google Wave.

BUT we haven’t gotten to a point where we can utilize these features as we’re still ironing out some kinks for basic usage for staff.

3. Wrike just opened up its API for third-party developers – so this might result in some useful apps for us in future! Their Facebook page or blog is a good place to get updates on these.

4. On a side note, many people seem to be using Wrike for getting things done (GTD), like this post (also 2007). Worth a look.

The biggest challenges for us in using this platform for project management, and for each person on the team to manage her/his tasks:

1. Inconsistency in user experience as mentioned in the opening paragraphs

2. Exporting the results of a search, to have a physical view of tasks and activities, while making rounds in the field without lugging electronic equipment around.

3. User interface (UI) is not intuitive, use of syntax to filter tasks takes some getting used to for those not computer-savvy

4. Internet speed sometimes stalls the automatic Save function

5. Internet and computer savviness of provinical staff – Clinicians and those who don’t work daily on the computer or internet aren’t keen on using the program and would rather use the tried-and-true very basic Excel worksheet

Context for this review:

I like to think I’m fairly savvy with the computer and internet, and can quickly get the hang of a new program.

I have a fiber-optic 1mb connection in Cambodia and in Thailand I have DSL with an average bandwidth speed of 1000kbps. I use mainly Firefox, sometimes Chrome, on a Mac OS X 10.6.5.

Some experience with MS Project but I’ve not used any project management software as extensively as I have Wrike now.

The team using this currently is part of a development project in Cambodia’s health sector employing over 100 staff, plus consultants and contractors. Around 12 are Westerners, and the rest are Khmer (all of whom have email and internet skills).

Comments

  1. Alex – Yes, the buffer periods are now there. And refining the search criteria functions is a HUGE help, since our team has a complex tasks structure.
    I haven’t had the problem of duplicated folders recently, and haven’t heard anything from the team. This was a puzzling issue for both the Wrike team and for us.
    And I am VERY happy with the assistance (and responsiveness!) of the Wrike team, particularly Nic and Dmitry!

  2. Andy – I mentioned in my introduction that some of our staff have no problems with Wrike, while others (using the *same* username/password in the *same* office) do. We were in constant communication with Nic, Dmitry and the Wrike programmers over this issue and it was never resolved.
    The search criteria for exporting and printing were FINALLY operational in January 2011. Prior to this it was not possible to export or print by search criterias, which our team found odd and very frustrating. Start/end date search criterias were also addressed in this time period. I also mentioned that these are basic functionalities we expected from a project management platform, and so were very surprised to find we could not carry out these simple operations. Apparently others wrote in also, so Wrike did eventually address the issues.

  3. I guess that is the most in-depth review of Wrike that I’ve seen. Great work!
    There are a couple of points that I believe are worth mentioning:
    Wrike does support time delay between dependent tasks now. That was one of the most recent additions.
    They added advanced search function that allows to search for tasks and folders alike. For people who have huge amount of folders it is very important!
    I never experienced a problem with duplicated folders, but maybe its just me.
    Overall, its a good tool, and it keeps changing towards even better.

  4. We’ve been using Wrike for a while now, and we like it a lot, and don’t have some of the problems mentioned here. Eg, there is no between types of tasks, although Flexible structures allow you to create any type or statuses for those tasks etc.
    I feel that it also needs to be pointed out for anyone who read this review that I am sure that Wrike 1) Does take search criteria into account for exporting, printing etc. 2)Start date constraints were added to the timeline.

  5. Thanks–I’ve been looking for an objective review from someone who has used the software a lot.

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