A Little about ClearDrop BV
ClearDrop BV is a value-added reseller offering business consulting and implementation of Openbravo ERP, the web-based enterprise resource planning solution for small and medium businesses. ClearDrop helps companies reduce costs and increase profits, using Openbravo ERP to make daily processes more efficient and effective.
ClearDrop clients, in turn, are able to focus their attention on the growth of their businesses. To best serve its clients, the company relies on a team of in-house and contract developers spread across the globe. Based in the Netherlands, ClearDrop also works with developers in Germany, India, Poland, Spain and the United States.
As ClearDrop expands, it must juggle the twin challenges of efficiently managing its growing number of customer projects and supporting its global development team. The company currently has 10 to 15 developers – plus a few temporary, freelance developers – working on 13 active projects. Bottom line, ClearDrop needs a project management solution that 1) can scale to handle the company's growth and 2) can be quickly learned and easily used by a hybrid team of distributed developers.
"I like to keep things simple," said Jan Hendrik Mensen, CTO and consulting partner at ClearDrop. "We can't afford to complicate our developers' lives with a project management tool that has too many options and settings. All those bells and whistles are actually user-unfriendly and just complicate things and clutter the screen. We need a lightweight tool that does all the essentials and lets us manage all of our projects with minimum effort."
For ClearDrop, those essential project management features include logging and tracking bugs, tracking project progress, setting and assigning tasks and milestones, and managing the overall project workflow. And those features must be presented in a streamlined, easy-to-use interface.
ClearDrop evaluated several client-side and cloud-based project management solutions including 37signals' Basecamp. Ultimately, the company selected Zoho Projects. In addition to satisfying ClearDrop's list of essential feature demands, Zoho Projects offered other, distinct advantages. It is part of Zoho's broader online application suite that includes Zoho Creator Helpdesk and Zoho Reports, both of which ClearDrop expects to use going forward. In fact, Openbravo recently announced an integration with Zoho Reports whereby data is sent from OpenBravo to Zoho Reports and used to report and publish meaningful company information, in real time, in the Openbravo ERP workspace.
Another key advantage of Zoho Projects, is it integrates with Google Apps. "The Google Apps integration makes it really easy for us to add users and give them access to Zoho Projects using their Google accounts," said Mensen. "And we see that the total Zoho suite has a lot to offer as well. Going forward, Zoho Creator Help Desk is going to be very important in helping us assist our customers and streamline our service to them."
For now, ClearDrop uses the Tasks and Milestones features in Zoho Projects to keep projects and deliverables organized and manageable in a single, easy-to-access location. Project milestones give ClearDrop full control of what its developers are doing and how project are progressing. The company also uses the Wiki, and of course, Bugs.
"We're in software development, so we need to be able to log bugs. That's really important to us, and Zoho Projects is one of the few tools that combines project management with bug tracking," added Mensen. "We didn't expect to use the project wiki, though. That's actually a really good integrated tool that we use to write functional designs and establish an internal knowledge base that's shared with our whole team."
ClearDrop also has people using Zoho CRM. Mensen likes the fact that he can test the application for free yet still access most of the key CRM functions. As the company expands its use of Zoho CRM, Mensen expects to easily scale from the free to a paid version of Zoho CRM. "I like how Zoho enables small businesses to just use a freebie," said Mensen, "and if you grow and have the budget, it's not a big step up to a paid plan."
Zoho Projects Impact
Using Zoho Projects gives ClearDrop better control over its customer projects. Better, that control is exercised with little effort and at a low cost. ClearDrop spends approximately $60 per month to manage an unlimited number of projects and users, complete with time and bug tracking.
"Software development projects can really be a pain, especially when you're working with offshore teams," said Mensen. "As a manager, you need to feel that you control the situation. You need updates. You need visibility. And Zoho Projects gives you all that. I can go to my dashboard and see the latest updates, so I know what's going on and what my team is doing. Now, we don't have to worry about being in control. With Zoho Projects, we're in control."