Interview with Clarizen CEO and co-founder, Avinoam Nowogrodski

The mid-market project management software arena is becoming much more competitive. Clarizen (click here to see my review of their software) is another player. I spoke to Avinoam Nowogrodski in Israel to find out what sets Clarizen apart from the competition.

You’re the CEO and co-founder of Clarizen. Tell me about the company.

Clarizen is a leading global provider of collaborative online project management software that allows businesses to easily manage all of their projects and resources in a single environment. Clarizen’s online project management tools facilitate true team collaboration and project execution, ensuring data is always up-to-date and aligned with business objectives. No complex software or hardware  installations are required due to Clarizen’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) structure, resulting in immediate business impact as teams and projects get up and running instantly. Clarizen’s
intuitive user interface and innovative e-mail integration capabilities ensure quick and smooth adoption by users, keeping everyone on track with up-to-date project data.

We released our product late last year in beta version, and launched version 2 this April. We have about 40 employees and hundreds of customers already. The average customer has 5-8 seats, but some go over 30. Most of our customers are based in the US, with some in the UK, The Netherlands, we have operations in Taiwan, and we have started doing business in Japan. Customer satisfaction is overwhelming, and customers have been providing requests and ideas for going forward.

Ah, management by email. How does that work?

Clarizen has leveraged the fact that people primarily use email on a daily basis to communicate. The objective is simple: the user does not need to see the Clarizen GUI. Users use email to communicate about their project – we released an innovative way to work with Outlook as part of a project management system. This enables users to create tasks as an email by writing an email and making it a Clarizen task, associated to a specific project by clicking on a button in Outlook, not in Clarizen. It is managed and controlled and the recipient is able to report completion on email too. If they don’t complete the task on time they will receive an alert.

Does it integrate with anything else?

This month we have announced that we are the first vendor to integrate project management and computer-aided design. The integrated environment enables distributed design and engineering teams, including suppliers and customers, to manage and track the project’s progress within their CAD tools to ensure teams are synchronized in terms of schedule, progress and accountability. The integration with Solidworks was developed to enable designers to get their project tasks on top of Solidworks.

So how else is Clarizen different from other project management software tools?

Clarizen is an online project management space. We are coming at it with a totally new approach, after all project management is something that people have been doing since day one. The question with project management is not what to do, it’s how you are doing it. Everybody does it, but not necessarily using a tool. In mid-sized companies, management comes up with the request to use a tool, but they find that users reject it as it is often overkill for the role they are doing.

Clarizen focuses on the huge market between team collaboration and PPM, which is built for professionals and has a limited market. Clarizen is for the gap. We are basically focusing on managing a distributed project team, which is where most of the pain is in project management.

The biggest pain is in those mid-sized companies. They are not small enough to run without tools but they don’t have the resources or mindset of bigger companies to go beyond planning: not only having an Gantt chart but also following up the execution. Clarizen gives them the ability to execute their projects and follow up too.

It can be a project in itself to implement a project management system. We have made huge progress in solving the issue by developing a tool for a new type of user, the non-professional project manager, someone without ‘project manager’ in their job title.

One of the advantages is that users can share their plans with people outside their own company. Each company can run their projects securely and share what they want to share. It’s community project management for businesses. The main thing in project management is really in the area of distributed project teams and the ability to collaborate and communicate in a way as if they were in the same room.

You said your customers have put forward new ideas. Where are you taking Clarizen next?

We are going to expand the processes in the organisation related to projects, and most of the activities are related to projects. Service companies often charge on a fixed cost or time and materials basis. We are now developing timesheet functionality to link this to time reporting on tasks. It provides the ability to link tasks to timesheets, and at the end of the day to bill customers according to tasks employees did and what deliverables they completed. This will give companies the ability to bill in a more credible way.

We are looking at integration with other web-based tools that people use on a daily basis.

Finally, we are also intensifying the integration with Outlook and CAD systems, and it will probably be the MCAD industry next.

Thanks to Avinoam, and to Kate for organising the interview. This is the last post in the Software September theme, so I hope you found something useful this month.

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