When business scales beyond a point where projects can be organized with a simple mailing list or fifteen minute weekly meeting, it may be a good idea to implement a project management (PM) software solution.
But should you go with one that’s open source, or one that is built on proprietary software?
What is the Difference Between Open Source and Proprietary Software
One thing we’d like to highlight from the get-go is that open source and proprietary software don’t represent two different types of software in terms of functionality. Nor are open source and proprietary options even necessarily mutually exclusive: some vendors distribute open source, license-free software packages and also offer a similar, licensed package for-profit.
The real difference between open source and proprietary software lies in its development. Open source code is available to all, often accessible in online communities where developers collaborate to create versions of the software, compatible add-ons, and address bugs. In other cases, the code is available, but remains copyrighted and trademarked, and the original owner maintains some control over the source code.
Proprietary code, on the other hand, is not available to anyone but the organization or individual that owns it, and contributions to the code are only accepted from employees or contractors hired by the owner.
Pros of Open Source Project Management Solutions
Cost is one of the most frequently listed options. Community based open source solutions are completely free from the ground up. Even in cases where the original owner of an open source solution maintains some control over the code, there is usually a free version with relative few restrictions.
Vibrant open source communities provide quick fixes for bugs and often have better security than proprietary solutions due to thousands of different coders testing for holes in security.
Cons of Open Source Project Management Solutions
Overall usability. While there may be plenty of technical support available in the community, that support is generally not geared toward the inexperienced user.
Longevity is another issue. While there are certain open source software vendors and distributors that are financially and organizationally stable enough to depend on as a source for corporate software solutions, you also have to be prepared to adapt if support for the software becomes inconsistent or even non-existent.
Ultimately, whether or not open source project management solutions are the best project management software options for your organization will depend on your company’s resources—not just financial, but in terms of technical know-how.
Top Open Source PM Solutions
Project management definition varies from company to company for obvious reasons—no one organization is like another! Your structure, teams, and projects themselves aren’t exactly like any other single company’s. So, if you do decide to go for an open source solution, you now need to find the right one. Here are a few of the top contenders and some of their defining characteristics.
MyCollab offers organizations an entire suite of BI (business intelligence), CRM (customer relationship management), and document management tools. Their PM solution is one of the most popular, and goes by the sensible name MyCollab-Project. There are three editions, one of which is entirely free to use and offers active, open source community support. It’s a complete PM tool, including milestones, a Gantt chart, and time-tracking. Perhaps its most appealing feature, however, is the remainder of MyCollab’s suite—you won’t have to look far for easy integration.
Odoo, like MyCollab, offers a complete business suite. Its free edition is relatively limited in terms of features, compared to other free options (and to its own paid enterprise solution) but it offers one very appealing point: it’s compatible across a wider variety of platforms than many of competitors, including Windows and several different distributions of Linux. Its enterprise software solutions are used by a number of large and impressive organizations, including Toyota, the World Wildlife Federation, Hyundai, Cox, and Danone, among others.
One of the first things you’ll discover when you start researching ProjectLibre is its overwhelmingly positive reviews. It’s based on Java, and features widespread community support in dozens of languages—a result of its having been downloaded millions of times in hundreds of different countries. The development team remains very active, continually introducing new modular elements and engine improvements.
Of course, these are only three of hundreds of PM software solutions available. Don’t make decision making more difficult than it needs to be. Check out our Project Management Software guide for an easy way to compare your options!