I have written about Zoho a bit (see Zoho: A Suite of Many Online Apps for Small to Midsize Business and Zoho Apps Go Mobile). Zoho recently announced a revamped UI and new collaborative features for Zoho Projects. Projects 2.0 is also integrated with Microsoft Office Project, as well as Zoho’s comprehensive suite of apps. I spoke with Raju Vegesna, the Zoho Evangelist about their new developments.
On the UI side they added the capability for multiple portals and multiple projects within a portal. This allows you to have both better organization and better access to the many things you might be working on. There is an activity stream lets you see the latest activities either across projects or for a specific project. It is auto-generated by user activities but you can add manual messages Twitter style. You can also start a discussion on an activity in the activity stream.
The shared project calendar keeps everyone apprised of upcoming deadlines and meetings. You can drill down to a project specific dashboard. Projects also have an RSS feed for updates. The project dashboard includes to following project specific features: tasks and milestones, calendar, meetings, documents, time sheet, reports, forums, wiki, chat and users.
In the project dashboard you can assign tasks and send an email notification. Yu can place a start and end date on tasks, as well as a priority. You can also associate documents to tasks and export tasks to an Excel file. In addition, you can start and stop the timer for a task. Tasks can be integrated into other applications such as Zoho Meeting.
You are able to upload and tag documents. If anew version is uploaded, the old one is saved and you can go back to it. You can also open documents in Zoho Writer. The Time Sheets feature allows you to specify billable or non-billable and export data to Zoho Invoice. The wiki is a new feature for project 2.0. It allows you to create documents within a project. It has all the standard wiki features such as version history and the ability to go back to older versions.
Chat is also new. It can be synchronous or asynchronous. You can leave messages for others to see when they come online. It can be a one on one chat or a group chat. The new UI also allows for color coding projects and supports multiple languages. Plans for future versions include increased integration with more Zoho applications.
We also discussed the recent integration of Zoho Creater with Microsoft Access. This allows you to migrate desktop Access databases to Zoho Creator, a secure cloud computing platform that lets you build and run database applications online. With this migration your entire database structure and data are migrated to Zoho Creator, and an application is automatically created with Forms (Tables), Views, etc. Once the Microsoft Access DB is migrated to Zoho Creator, the collaborative aspects kick in where the entire application (or parts of it) can be shared with multiple users. You can then build new application interfaces using a visual designing capability. Here is a Zoho video on how it works.
I like both of these changes. Introducing more social features to Zoho Project takes advantage of its cloud platform and makes it more aligned with enterprise 2.0 concepts. The ability to migrate content from a desktop database to Zoho Creater brings more content into the cloud where is can also become more collaborative and more in line with enterprise 2.0.