Planbox is a Montreal-based startup focused on providing agile project & product management combined in one software solution. They started working in September 2009, and are now moving past their open beta to offering a paid product to the market. Planbox is a Bolidea “Lab” company, which means Bolidea initiated the project (out of their own need for a tool to manage their projects) and then brought on the team. You can learn more about Bolidea’s model here. Bolidea first brought in Martin Drapeau as one of the founding partners ( CEO / Head Developer ) and then Alexandre Gauthier joined a year later as Product and Marketing Manager.
We spoke with Alexandre about Planbox, what they’ve been up to, how they differentiate themselves in the marketplace and where they’re headed.
NextMontreal: What is Planbox?
Alexandre: Planbox is an Agile Project Management tool that goes beyond software development. It was developed for cross-functional teams with development, engineering, Marketing, Finance, Accounting and Management functions to ensure a full 360º view and grasp on projects.
Our web-based software allows you to turn your entire organization into an Agile business: collaborate on common to-do lists, prioritize, assign tasks, give feedback or log bugs, share resources & documents across products and projects.
NextMontreal: The company used to be called Planio, what happened?
Alexandre: Well… Planio was the name of the software when we were in beta. As we were about to start commercializing, we ran into a trademark issue in Europe, as there was a similar company who filed at the same time we did. We took a business decision and decided on registering another trademark for the commercialization phase.
Plus we really like that name!
NextMontreal: How long has Planbox been in development?
Alexandre: Planbox was used to develop Planbox from the first month of production. We started working on it in September 2009 and we opened a private beta in November 2009.
Our open public beta launched in June 2010 and closed in November.
Planbox continues to evolve as we have a list of features to be released throughout 2011 and beyond. One thing is for sure, we are not running out of ideas any time soon!
NextMontreal: How big is the team?
Alexandre: We are currently six. One Developper, one Designer, a Product and Marketing Manager and three advisors. We’re looking at hiring a 2nd programmer early 2011.
NextMontreal: What problem are you addressing with Planbox that hasn’t been solved with the myriad of other project management solutions on the market?
Alexandre: A few things triggered the launch of Planbox.
The first is that Planbox goes beyond development. There are no tools out there made for anyone else other than project managers and developers. Cross-functional teams have become the norm and allow more creativity and depth to projects, which is why we needed a tool that bridged the gap of cross-functional teams.
The second was the lack of Agile tools that allowed multiple project levels. A lot of tools consider projects as isolated islands making it hard to share resources. We provide a higher level essentially building bridges between islands. You can easily share resources and get a bird’s eye view of progress on multiple projects.
Finally we are building a tool that works both with Agile and Traditional project management (i.e. Waterfall), which is a major breakthrough for the industry, since it allows both short term adaptability and long term planning. Quite humbly, we haven’t completely achieved this yet, but we are working very hard on it.
NextMontreal: What functionality truly differentiates Planbox from other tools?
Alexandre: We introduce many differentiators in Planbox, two of which I’ve already mentioned: multiple project levels and built for cross-functional teams, not just developers.
A corollary on that is our permission system to keep certain “top-secret” projects separate from company-wide projects. You only see and have access to projects on which you’ve been invited to by the project-owner.
We’re an Agile tool. Agile is a project management method that was created for software development and has now gained widespread acceptance for technology development of any kind. A lot of Fortune 500 companies are now becoming Agile.
We also offer an integrated Feedback loop allowing users to send feedback directly to a suggestion box and may vote on past feedback, which then links to your Product backlog.
NextMontreal: How do you differentiate between Project management and Product management?
Alexandre: With Planbox, you can do both product and project management.
Planbox offers two project levels: initiatives (a.k.a product or business unit) and projects. You can have multiple projects within an initiative. And you can have different teams on different projects. But you, as a product manager, always see the big picture at the initiative level.
NextMontreal: How did you come up with the pricing model – one free plan and one paying plan?
Alexandre: In Planbox, one thing we’ve always wanted to avoid is confusion. We wanted people to understand exactly what they were getting to minimize the hassle of having to choose between multiple packages.
Both our packages are full-featured – nothing removed or blocked.
If you want to test our Agile Project Management tool then get the Basic Package – it’s free, but limited to 2 users per project.
If you’ve finished testing Planbox or have a bigger team, you may upgrade to or start immediately with our Premium plan.
NextMontreal: How did you come up with the specific price of $15/user/month?
Alexandre: We noticed that people work on multiple projects, and sometimes for different companies. So in Planbox your account is yours. Project owners can easily add and remove people from the projects they own.
If you are not actively using Planbox, use the Basic package. It’s free! And you always have read-access to projects you are involved in.
If you are an active user of Planbox, use the Premium package. You will have both read and write access to all projects you are involved in.
The Premium plan’s cost structure was determined by evaluating our competitors and the market’s needs. We wanted to introduce a pricing structure that would be attractive to both the users and company. We offer high-value software at very aggressive pricing.
NextMontreal: What will the Planbox team be focusing on for the next 6 months?
Alexandre: Beyond enhancing existing features, we are working on two fronts right now:
Reporting: Allow you to gain perspective and see the big picture on projects and teams. Allow you to extract useful metrics and see the evolution of your projects over time. Extract trends and allow you to predict the future.
Long-term planning: Give you tools to plan long term like Gantt charts. Add milestones and dependencies. Give you customizable project dashboards.
And be assured, our goal is to make Planbox the easiest to use and most useful project management tool. To get there, we listen to our users. So don’t be shy and send us feedback.