Review: ProWorkFlow

By | May 10, 2016

proworkflow-logo

Overview:

ProWorkflow, a New Zealand-born project management software, was originally intended by founder Julian Stone to serve as “a solution for internal workflow and communication needs.” However, it was so successful after its launch in 2002 that it was soon released to a wider array of customers and eventually made it onto the general market. ProWorkflow was acquired by ProActive Software Ltd in 2003. Though first marketed and sold exclusively as downloadable software, PWF is now primarily web-based. According to the company’s website:

…’ProWorkflow’ came from a very basic premise. From our own past and current businesses we learnt that ‘Professionals need Work to Flow‘ and that ‘Projects need Workflow‘.

As its name would suggest, ProWorkflow’s strength lies in its ability to promote better communication and boost efficiency in day-to-day operations. Over the last twelve years, PWF has been used – mostly by various creative agencies and technological companies – to create over 1,171,315 projects. It is currently employed in 100 different countries, though the majority of users hail from the US and other English-speaking nations. Notable clients include Domino’s Pizza and Heartland Financial.

Web-Based (SaaS) or On-Premise:

ProWorkflow is entirely web-based software, and works with the following browsers: Chrome, Firefox 15+, Internet Explorer 8+, and Safari 8+.

Pricing:

ProWorkflow offers three distinct pricing plans:

Solo Plan

  • $10/month
  • 1 user only
  • 10 active projects
  • 5 GB storage
  • Basic project/task management features

Professional Plan

  • $20/user/month
  • 1+ users
  • Unlimited projects
  • 25 GB storage
  • Comprehensive project management features and time tracking

Advanced Plan

  • $30/user/month
  • 5+ users
  • Unlimited projects
  • 50 GB storage
  • Comprehensive project management features, time tracking, and hierarchical control

You can sign up for a free, 14-day trial of PWF, no credit card required, by clicking here and filling out a few simple pieces of information, including your name and email address. Trials may be extended to 30 days if you find you need more time to evaluate the product. For questions about PWF’s pricing or sales inquiries, you can email the company directly at sales@proworkflow.com or by calling (billing questions must be addressed separately at billing@proworkflow.com).

Ease of Use:

ProWorkflow does not have the simplest or cleanest interface around, but it is extremely intuitive and easy to learn, nonetheless. All tabs, features, and functions are clearly labelled, and setting up a new account is an undemanding process, requiring you only to follow basic directions and fill out a few prompts (confirming a time zone and currency, for example, and setting up email notification settings). Some of the most user-friendly aspects of PWF include:

  • Dashboard: It can appear a bit busy or overwhelming at first, but the PWF Dashboard is an excellent tool once you get used to its appearance and layout. By offering a complete graphical summary of all your upcoming, active, and completed work, the Dashboard saves time and movement and increases organization. To promote more accurate prioritization of your work, overdue projects/tasks are highlighted in red at the top of the page, and all upcoming work is sorted by day. Also on the Dashboard, you can quickly check up on recent time entries, invoices, quotes, and actions. You can even use it to take a peek at which other users are currently logged in (and see what they’re working on). It’s a great place to start working when you log in for the day, as it gives a very clear picture of where you and your coworkers stand.
  • Mobile Access: PWF offers all users a free, mobile optimized version of the standard web app. The mobile version is far most robust than most comparable project management mobile apps, and can be used to view and edit tasks, track time, create new tasks and projects, check and approve project requests, access files and messages, look at reports, and look at contact details. All that is needed to access the mobile site is to add “/m” to the end of your PWF URL. The optimized site should work on most touchscreen mobile devices, but has been tested most thoroughly on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad as well as on Android (OS 2.2+) and Blackberry (OS 6.0+) smartphones. Click here for more information about PWF’s mobile application.
  • Desktop Widget: The desktop widget is among ProWorkflow’s best and most intelligent features, in my opinion, and it is ideal for practical, everyday use. This handy widget allows you to access tasks and projects, view details about your work, attach files, and track time directly from your computer homescreen, without ever having to log in to the PWF web application.
  • Customization: PWF is one of the most visually customizable software systems I’ve ever encountered. Not only is it possible to upload a custom logo for your account (and for any quotes, invoices, or reports that you create), but you can change the entire color scheme, add a log-in link from your own website, and personalize the account URL. These little adjustments are easy to make and create a more professional, tailored appearance for people outside your company – like clients, freelancers, and contractors – who are given access to the site. ProWorkflow can be modified to your specifications in other ways as well. For example, you may select a time zone for each user, specify which currencies you want to work with, generate custom reports, templates, and workflows, and so on.

  • Templates: Templates, a PWF specialty, help users increase productivity by eliminating the time and effort usually spent on creating a new project or task list. Starting a new project from scratch can involve tedious data input, but recreating similar projects becomes much simpler with these easy-to-make templates, which may be programmed ahead of time with “complex and detailed project information such as a mixture of dates, time, resources and scheduling.” Template creation is usually a very straightforward process, I’ve found, but if you run into problems or complications, the ProWorkflow staff is always happy to help with ideas and practical assistance. Once you’ve established a collection of templates, it’s really up to you what you do with them or how often you employ them. New projects can be cloned from just one existent template or fashioned together, patchwork-style, from a selection of multiple other project or task templates.
  • Contact Management: ProWorkflow has developed a very good contact management system which allows you to store basic contact information (names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.) as well as notes, reminders, and other important facts about the companies and contacts you work with. PWF is actually integrated with Google Maps, so you can see precisely where your clients are located and even generate accurate driving directions. You can also add details about each contact’s social media accounts and include direct links to their Facebook or LinkedIn pages. Conveniently, all contact information is accessible from the mobile app. Contacts are exportable to MS Excel, and though there is not yet a built-in importing function, the PWF support staff will personally import your contacts from other locations if necessary.
  • Notification Management: The notification tab, clearly displayed in the ProWorkflow navigation bar, alerts you whenever you receive a new message or assignment, as well as when any changes are made (dates altered, files uploaded etc.) to your current tasks and projects. The tab is so prominently marked that it is impossible to overlook. I also appreciate the fact that the number of new items appears on the tab, so you don’t have to wonder how many items you’ve missed since you last checked your notifications. For those of you who don’t wish to pounce on notifications as they come in, or if you rarely log in to your PWF account, you can stay on top of your work via customizable email alerts or summarized email digests.

Customer Service and Support:

ProWorkflow is celebrated for its quick, friendly, eager-to-please support team, and offers excellent online support services as well, including:

  • Technical Support: For personal, customized assistance, you may fill out a service request on the PWF website’s support page or click the words Contact ProWorkflow Support, found in the top right corner of your account homepage. The support team is located entirely in New Zealand, so depending on when your ticket is submitted (and from what time zone) it is possible that you may have to wait several hours for a response. PWF is looking into installing round-the-clock customer service sometime in the near future, which will effectively eliminate this problem, and most questions are answered within a 24-hour period anyway (usually much sooner depending on urgency). If emailing is not your cup of tea, or you’d prefer to speak with a human being, you can call the support team during their normal business hours, from 7 AM-4 PM NZST (GMT + 12 hours). Click here to see a list of appropriate support phone numbers, arranged by user country.
  • Free, Personalized Training: One of the most impressive aspects of PWF is their willingness to provide personal coaching/training to all customers, completely free of charge. If you want, you can receive advice about anything from creating appropriate task templates to designing custom reports. The PWF team can also help you to import contacts and assist with initial account or workflow set-up, and will even match colors and adjust your company logo so that it appears to best advantage on your account.
  • Support Page: This page contains links to almost all of PWF’s support tools. From here you can sign up for a live webinar, view pre-recorded video tutorials, and directly submit service tickets to the support team.
  • Webinars: PWF offers a variety of free, live webinars each month, covering almost every topic imaginable, from basic account set-up to time-tracking and advanced user settings. Each webinar is only offered one or two times per month, so it is worthwhile to register early for the ones you’re interested in.
  • Video Tutorials: There are lots of brief video tutorials available on the ProWorkflow website, useful for learning how to perform small, very specific functions (like how to add new user licenses, or how to customize the look of your UI). These videos are usually so short that they aren’t particularly helpful for gaining a good overview of the software in general, however. If you want to sit down and watch a more comprehensive tutorial, you can check out one of the pre-recorded webinars available on the PWF YouTube channel, or simply sign up for a live tutorial session.
  • Blog: The PWF blog is a good place to look for information about new features, recent updates, and upcoming additions. In general, the blog articles are well-written and contain relevant links, screenshots, and video links. This isn’t the first place I’d look to answer general questions about the software, but it can be a solid resource, especially if you’re just interested in the world of project management.

  • In-App Help Function: On each page of the PWF app (Projects, Settings, Notes, etc.) there is a ? icon which you can click to search for support information specific to that page. On the tasks page, for example, you would find links to articles or video tutorials about tasks and task functions.
  • Helpful Website: Not every company maintains a clean, easy-to-navigate website, but ProWorkflow has succeeded in that area. Apart from clear-cut pricing information and easy access to the support page, there is an excellent features section where you can go to read about all of PWF’s various functions and check out practical screenshots of the app. I highly recommend exploring the PWF website before making any sort of purchasing decision.
  • Social Media Engagement: The PWF Facebook and Google+ pages are a good place to look for articles, press releases, company news, and the like. I noticed that a few customers even use the Facebook page to pose general questions about the company/software, which are promptly answered. The company’s Twitter feed contains similar information, but is updated with more frequency, and seems to be used more by customers and clients.

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

ProWorkflow doesn’t have any major, red-flag flaws, but users do complain about the following aspects of this software:

  • No Risk, Budget, or Issue Management: PWF is a middle-of-the-road project management solution. While more complex than task management tools like Asana and Basecamp, it does not pack quite the punch as some of its competitors when it comes to intricate project planning and issue management.
  • No Bug Tracking Features: This software was not designed for Agile project management, period.
  • Only Supported in English: Most of PWF’s client-base is derived from English speaking countries, so this isn’t as big of a problem as it could be. Still, it would be nice if down the line the company could add support in other major languages, like French, German, Chinese, or Spanish.
  • Cluttered Interface: ProWorkflow is imminently user-friendly, but it does suffer from a busy, cluttered UI. Some users complain that navigating the software requires too much clicking around, and I agree. The interface can be overwhelming at times and would benefit from a bit of simplification.
  • Limited Integrations: PWF already has great integrations with accounting/invoicing software and offers a solid, open API for do-it-yourselfers, but it would be improved by the addition of other built-in integrations (especially Google Apps)

Positive Reviews and Testimonials:

Customers and reviewers alike appreciate these things about PWF:

  • Outstanding Customer Support: I encountered many user testimonials during the course of my research, but the one thing every review agreed upon was that PWF has outstanding customer service. Quick, friendly, helpful, and deeply personal, the support staff at PWF has helped to create and maintain lifelong devotees. Customers are passionate about ProWorkflow, perhaps more so than is usual for even the best software program, and it’s because they feel respected, assisted, and heard.
  • User-Friendly Design: Though its interface is somewhat cluttered and can appear overcomplicated, PWF itself is fairly simple and straightforward. All areas are clearly labelled, and each feature is self-explanatory. Even the more intricate functions, like template design, are well within the reach of beginner users. And the customer service is frankly so great (and free) that technical problems aren’t much of a hurdle anyways.
  • Reasonably Priced: For a software solution that charges per user, ProWorkflow is comparatively cost effective, especially when you consider the generous storage space that accompanies each plan.
  • Superior Time Tracking Features: ProWorkflow provides an excellent built-in timer which is reinforced by similarly well-conceived timer and desktop widgets. These tools, along with the ability to manually enter time and keep detailed timesheet records, help businesses maintain accountability with both their clients and employees and increase bookkeeping accuracy. PWF’s practical approach to time management is second only to customer support as its most beloved feature.

The following are excerpts from positive customer reviews of ProWorkflow:

…We can not give you enough superlatives on this program. It has brought our productions into a more streamline process and dramatically decreased our blood pressure overall. Just having a detailed and up to date list of all our productions and where they are in the grand scheme of things, is ‘priceless’, and that is what ProWorkflow represents to us. -Stephen Manzi, AdVision Multimedia

 

…Since using ProWorkFlow, the calls from my clients have reduced because they can now see the work is being done by the hours applied, can see the deadlines I am working to and I can communicate directly from the system to the client…This system is a step towards better management of my work and expectations of my clients. -Heather James, Introspect Design

 

…We needed a simple, easy to use, and accessible from various locations tool to provide structure and organization. ProWorkflow provided this and more… -Hiawatha Walker, GBOD

 

…Since using ProWorkFlow, the calls from my clients have reduced because they can now see the work is being done by the hours applied, can see the deadlines I am working to and I can communuicate directly from the system to the client. I’ve branded the page so looks like my branding and it makes me look more professional. I am trying to move away from the ‘work at home mum’ perception as I have over 10 years in designing for some of the largest companies in the world. This system is a step towards better management of my work and expectations of my clients… – Stacey Sawyer, Penton Media

To read more testimonials from satisfied customers, click here. Or, if you’re interested, check out a few detailed case studies to see how other businesses have utilized PWF.

Features:

ProWorkflow has developed a very solid set of standard project management tools, all of which function well together and work in harmony. Some of the most important features include:

  • Projects: In PWF, much of the user’s time is spent on the project dashboard, which displays all tasks, messages, time entries, files, quotes, and invoices associated with a project. From this dashboard you can schedule tasks, edit projects, and manage resources, time, and costs. Additionally, clients who have been given access to the account can directly submit new project requests into the system, which saves time and facilitates better communication.
  • Tasks/Task Management: Each project in ProWorkflow is broken down into one or more tasks. In essence, PWF tasks comprise the basic actions or steps needed to complete the project and can “include start/due dates, allocated times, assigned staff, statuses, file attachments and more.” Tasks are created and managed quickly via the PWF bulk task editor and can be assigned to regular users as well as external clients and contractors. Conveniently, tasks do not always have to belong to a parent project, which means that you can still assign and keep track of random work items (like paying bills, completing payroll, ordering supplies, etc.). The Tasks Page itself is customizable and may be viewed and filtered in a number of different ways depending on how you wish to organize your work (according to due date, status, client, or what have you).
  • Time Tracking/Management: While time can be recorded manually in PWF, each user also has the option to use an excellent built-in stopwatch which automatically tracks and records time on individual tasks. You may also track time with the mobile application or via the Desktop and/or Time Tracker widgets. To further simplify the time tracking process, you can click on the task you wish to record and then drag and drop it onto your timesheet, or even submit multiple time entries at once; these timesheet records are eminently simple to edit and move. Each week managers and admins can see a concise summary of all the time tracked by users account-wide and then generate, print, and/or export customized timesheet reports (via the ‘Summary’ tab).
  • File Management: Most file types, including videos, images, and documents, are supported by ProWorkflow. To include one or more new files you can use the ‘Add File’ feature, or merely drag and drop the files in question onto your task, project, conversation, or project request (there is a 100 MB limit per individual file). The ‘File Space Manager’ allows you to manage and organize all files into custom folders, keep track of how much storage remains on your account, and archive files as necessary; files are still viewable whether attached to an active or archived project.
  • Timelines: Each project is given a ‘timeline,’ which is PWF’s answer to a standard Gantt chart. The timeline represents tasks and projects as bars (which are color-coded according to status) and then arranges and schedules them along a grid. All work items on the timeline are editable, either by lengthening the bars or moving them, via drag and drop, backward or forward in time. Timelines can be filtered to show only relevant data – just upcoming tasks, for example, or only projects that are overdue – and may be exported or printed for reporting purposes. The Timeline page in ProWorkflow also displays planned resource allocation for your projects and tasks, highlights any potential resource conflicts or issues, and help you plan projects accordingly.
  • Resource Management: Project managers are kept abreast of resource availability and activity through live alerts about each project and task, and are also given the option to check resource availability each time a new work item is created. Additionally, by clicking the ‘Activity > Staff’ tab, managers and admins can see which users are currently logged in to PWF as well as what work items those users are currently tracking time on. As I mentioned above, basic workload calculations are displayed below the timeline in each project’s detail page, but the ‘Staff Workload Schedule Report’ also shows you the daily allocated hours for every staff member. This report can be filtered according to user and date (day, week, month, or year) and then emailed to outside sources or exported to PDF or Excel.  ‘Staff Performance Reports,’ on the other hand, allow you to compare billable hours with non-billable hours, evaluate the difference between the actual amount of time tracked and the time that was allocated, or contrast time tracked against the number of days a user has logged in PWF.

  • Reporting: While ProWorkflow has provided a number of built-in reports just “to get you started,” it also offers a thorough and detailed custom reports builder for those times “when you need more specific information.” The pre-made reports are quite well-designed and cover everything from workload, performance, and resources to quotes, invoices, projects, tasks, and time. If none of the existing reports are adequate for your purposes, the custom reporting features enables you to simply select which data you want to analyze and handcraft your own report. All reports, whether custom or pre-built, can be exported into XML, CSV and PDF formats and/or opened up in MS Excel.
  • Discussions: Using ProWorkflow’s discussion feature, you can communicate freely (publicly or privately) about your projects and tasks with team members, contractors/freelancers, and clients. Discussions are rich-text enabled and allow for the attachment of relevant files or links – or even embedded HTML elements – to increase the efficacy and productivity or your discussions. People who have been included in a new discussion will see it pop up in their PWF account, but can also reply to new messages directly from regular email; emailed replies are automatically added to project discussion threads, so there is never a need to actually log in to ProWorkflow.
  • Quotes and Invoicing: PWF offers a few convenient bonus features that can greatly simplify your quoting and/or invoicing processes. Both the invoicing and quotes plugins have been designed to function similarly so that “when you’ve learnt one, you’ll also know how to use the other.” Quotes and invoices, once created, can be sent directly to clients. You can learn more about these add-on features in the integrations section of this review.

Integrations and Add-Ons:

ProWorkflow has invested in several integrations, including:

  • Xero
  • QuickBooks
  • KashFlow
  • iCal

In addition, the software offers a few free add-ons: a convenient desktop widget (see the Ease of Use section above for more information) and a time tracking widget that uses Adobe Air. There are a few other additions available as well, each for $10 a month, including an invoicing plugin (which works with all of the above integrations) and a unique quotes manager, which allows you to create new quotes and send them directly to clients or export them to XML, CSV or PDF for archiving or analysis. You can read more about PWF’s integrations, add-ons, and plug-ins here, or check out the company’s new app store for great free extras like profitability reports, customer maps, or the Chrome time tracker.

PWF also provides an open API for those who wish to design their own custom integrations. For details about the API, including an informational video and FAQs, click here.

Security:

ProWorkflow protects its users in the following ways:

  • 128bit encryption
  • SAS70 Type II compliant data centers.
  • Daily data backups (every 6 hours) to onsite servers.
  • Rolling offsite backups
  • 24×7 staffing
  • CCTV surveillance
  • Biometric access control

For more information about PWF’s security procedures, click here.

Final Verdict:

ProWorkflow is a solid, dependable project management application with many practical features. In my mind, however, the real value of this software lies in the company’s outstanding approach to customer service and very real dedication to user satisfaction. Many software systems claim to care about their customers, but ProWorkflow has really put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, offering numerous tangible proofs that users are important. With free technical support services, free training and coaching, and a boundless willingness to assist and accommodate customizations, PWF sets itself well apart from the crowd.

This isn’t the most comprehensive project management solution around, by any means. ProWorkflow lacks certain features – like risk/issue management, complex budgeting, and so forth – that are necessary for tracking higher level projects or conducting efficient project portfolio management. In addition, though its user interface is straightforward and intuitive, it is missing a certain degree of elegance and simplicity and can appear confusing and cluttered upon first glance. I am convinced, however, that for the majority of smaller organizations and creative agencies, these should not been viewed as prohibitive drawbacks. Because ProWorkflow is relatively inexpensive and well-suited for client-based industries (marketing, graphic design, etc.), and in light of its overall user-friendliness and extremely good customer support network, I have no hesitation or reservations in recommending this software to small and medium-sized businesses.

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