Why a Toronto startup wants to reinvent online project management

After using a range of unintegrated offerings to run its own digital project management and development solutions business, Toronto’s Hardboot decided to write its own project management suite to help its staff manage client projects better. And after working out the bugs internally, now they’re going to launch Swyvel to the world.

Hardboot is led by founder Jeffrey Potvin, who launched online video and photo business Kaboose before its acquisition by Disney, and worked as a senior manager at Loblaw Companies, developing several new lines of business. Potvin said Hardboot was using a multitude of different applications for project management, from Basecamp to QuickBooks, before it launched project Swyvel in August 2011.

“We’d found it was very discombobulated for a project manager to be able to manage all their projects. We could be dropping balls and not be able to update clients fast enough,” said Potvin. “We needed a product to meet our business needs.”

In designing Swyvel, Potvin said they came up with about 50 data points they felt would be useful to their business, and launched a closed beta internally in February 2012, followed by extensive quality assurance and then an open beta last fall that included participants such as AOL Canada, Ryerson Universoty and BixiTO. Based on their feedback, the next iteration of Swyvel, and the first one available to the general public, launched April 22.

While products such as Basecamp have taken “big leaps forward’ since work initially began on Swyvel, Potvin said he believes they’re still bringing something unique to the market.

“The differentiator we’ve come up with is we’ve built this for business people, not for techies. Business people will be the people using this product,” said Potvin.

The first public iteration will include features such as time tracking derived from workback and populated directly into the financial tab, so project managers can keep track of where they’re scheduling and how they’re doing against budget. Down the road, Swyvel will include the ability to API into other products as required, as Potvin noted Swyvel is meant to complement enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, not replace them.

So far, Potvin said Swyvel has received a positive reception from the small and medium-sized businesses that were part of its beta program.

“If they can manage through one application and have everything in one place it allows them more functionality and more time, and it reduces their e-mail foot print as everyone is using the system,” said Potvin. “It gives them faster access to getting projects done and breaking down silos.”

Hosted in the cloud and priced based on a software as a service model, Swyvel is available at three levels, based on active projects, storage and users, ranging from $49 to $299 monthly. Potvin said the company will be marketing the offering online and hiring a direct sales team. A reseller program is also being developed.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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