Monday, November 26, 2007

Highrise from 37Signals

I've been thinking recently about coming up with a framework for evaluating the Office 2.0 (or for that matter any other) products out on the market. There seems to be a lot of great efforts out there to make the products ever more usable, but with that comes a challenge of determining exactly what problem them solve and for whom. I've come up with a model that I'm going to try on for a size, let me know what you think.

There are 2 basic types of organizations out there: products and services. There's are lots of variations of each, but basic principles are the same, one is all about products, the other is all about individual attention (services). Within those 2 models there are some variations. Let's take the Service businesses for example. Some of them require a substantial degree of project management (building a house, creating software), and others require general task tracking (realtors, financial planners, mortgage brokers, insurance agents, consultants..). One can argue that task tracking is a variation on project management, and I would agree, but from the systems point of view, I would keep those separate as they require different solutions.

Now, 37 Signals Highrise provides a solution for Services businesses that are not very project-management intensive (realtors, financial planners, mortgage brokers, insurance agents, consultants..) For these folks, a system like Highrise can replace the stone age ACT! or Goldmine, or perhaps even Outlook. The system has a very slick user interface and is very capable at sharing both the contacts and client-related tasks across the office. It's easy to attach notes and coordinate activities on the contact/client basis.

So overall Highrise gets the kudos for a very sexy UI and a very good contact/task management system for client-driven businesses.

If you have a lot of project-based collaboration, I would recommend Central Desktop (see this review) over Highrise.
If you're doing a lot of email marketing, I would recommend Relenta (see review here)
And finally, if you are a product organization (or want to implement a sales funnel), and looking for something closer to, I recommend Zoho CRM (review here)

Update (1-31-2011)
There's a european cousin of Highrise I'd like to introduce you to - it's called Apollo and it's a cross between Basecamp and HighriseHQ, very much in style of 37Signals apps. Seems pretty capable for lightweight database and project management. More details to come.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Central Desktop

I’ve been using Central Desktop for almost a year now for project collaboration purposes and must say that it’s hard to imagine collaborating on projects without a tool like this anymore.

The product is couple steps up from Yahoo and Google groups, as neither of those provide ways to keep track of the tasks (the most important thing in running a project) Google may have one up its sleeve with their acquisition of JotSpot (is that thing still alive? it has been almost 6 month!), but I prefer an independent vendor that is motivated to make things work right and will not subject my data to any kinds of advertising analysis.


  • Very user friendly interface, lots of Ajax (in-place editing, etc)
  • Feature-rich (tasks, documents & discussions, calendaring, database, common project area)
  • Good collaboration functionality (notifications, document revisions)
  • Good outward integration (ical for the calendar, RSS feeds)


  • I can find very few cons with the system as it stands right now.. Little (but never the less, important) things on my wish list are:
    1. add Roles to the system so I don't have to reassign all the tasks every time somebody on the project leaves or if there are several people who could tackle the same task.
    2. Project Management features like time estimation, resource leveling, dependencies are what I think is the natural next step in the product evolution.

Despite a few drawbacks, this is the only product on the market that I found so far that provides this level of functionality for the price. Their pricing I think is fair ranging from Free for small projects to $249/mo for a 100 person team.

I think it deserves 4.5 stars!