QuickBase helps workgroups collaborate

This pricey but powerful app offers handy tools for managing collaborative business projects

Workgroups in need of help managing their projects will appreciate Intuit's QuickBase. This Web-based program offers a flexible means of coordinating sales, marketing, customer service, and other business projects. I looked at the final version of the recently revamped application and discovered that, while larger companies requiring QuickBase's power will find a lot to like, smaller shops will likely deem the program too costly.

To get you up and running rapidly, QuickBase includes several prebuilt applications--covering project management, sales and customer management, IT management, legal/real estate/professional services, and more--that you can customize to suit your specific requirements. You can import your existing data into QuickBase from a spreadsheet, database, or Microsoft Project. If one of QuickBase's prebuilt apps satisfies all or most of your needs, you could be all set within a few hours. If none of them seems appropriate, you can design your own application from scratch--a process that isn't too difficult for a reasonably tech-savvy user.

Once the application is ready to go, the administrator can quickly set up user groups and assign permissions from the program's easy-to-understand drop-down menus. Users can then access the app from their Web browser, either Internet Explorer version 6.0 or later or Firefox. Depending on their permissions, users can assign tasks, view their tasks, and monitor the progress of projects with reports and charts. Users can also consult the applications overview screen--the Dashboard--which has been redesigned in this version for easier access to tasks that require action, including unassigned tasks and those overdue for completion.

The latest release of QuickBase also includes dynamic forms that change depending on the information entered. In addition, the program has more types of display charts, and allows users to drill down in the charts so they can easily examine data in greater depth.

Since QuickBase is hosted online, updates are automatic. You access your application via a secure 128-bit SSL Web browser; to get the best performance, you should have a broadband Internet connection. Intuit says data is backed up nightly and also mirrored to a second data center.

QuickBase costs US$249 per month--including storage for 5MB of data and 100MB of file attachments--for up to ten users. Additional users cost US$3 each per month; volume pricing is available for groups of 100 or more. Extra data storage is available as well.

QuickBase's price seems prohibitive for smaller groups of just two or three. A less expensive alternative is Alexis Team 2, which, unlike QuickBase, is a packaged application that installs on your PC or Web server. It costs about US$155 per user and has many of the same collaborative features, though it isn't quite as flexible as QuickBase.

If your business needs to better track and coordinate work, QuickBase is adaptable enough to let you develop just the application you need to accomplish the tasks at hand.

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