For our January “Staff Pick” Project of the Month, we selected ProjectLibre, an open source replacement of Microsoft Project. Marc O’Brien, ProjectLibre’s co-founder, shared his thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.
SourceForge (SF): Tell me about the ProjectLibre project please.
ProjectLibre Team: ProjectLibre’s mission is to be the open source replacement of Microsoft Project. Our users can open existing Microsoft Project files in ProjectLibre and you don’t lose any data and it is available on Linux, Mac or Windows.
SF: What made you start this?
ProjectLibre Team: I started the company with our CTO ( Laurent Chreteinneau). We have worked together for many years and had a previous company that we built and was acquired. We were pleased being acquired but it cut short our mission of offering the world an open source alternative to the proprietary offerings like Microsoft Project. The base cost of the product is ~$1,000 but in actuality far exceeds this number. The software stack required to implement for a team requires licenses and CAL’s for Project, ProjectServer, SharePoint, SqlServer, BI and Project Web App. It is costly and complex. Our mission is to provide a free desktop version that can replace their desktop version and a cloud version that is similar to what Google Docs has relating to Word. We are getting ready to launch a cloud version that is simply a login with your browser with collaborative features similar to the Google Apps. Btw, project management is a fascinating discipline with universities now offering Ph.D’s!
SF: Has the original vision been achieved?
ProjectLibre Team: Our vision has been partially achieved. The desktop release of ProjectLibre has been a major success. We have a lot of work to do but ProjectLibre has been downloaded from Sourceforge over 2,000,000 times in over 200 countries. The team is really pleased to see that impact globally. We have organizations like the Clinton Foundation and other NGO’s using ProjectLibre in Africa on projects. There are governments like the Kingdom of Cambodia using ProjectLibre for building out the school system around their country. That brings significant pride to the team as our vision and mission is making a difference! ProjectLibre has been translated into many languages so we are also reaching international users in their native languages. Our cloud version to remove the complexity and cost of the proprietary stack is still a work in progress.
SF: Who can benefit the most from your project?
ProjectLibre Team: Project Management is a horizontal application so it is utilized in a wide variety of industries and governments. ProjectLibre is also being used extensively in many Fortune 500 companies but also globally in many small businesses. We regularly get emails from organizations thanking us for providing open source project management software. The costs for proprietary software in project management is an enormous impact. We give them the opportunity to deploy those costs on core business initiatives.
SF: What core need does ProjectLibre fulfill?
ProjectLibre Team: Managing projects from small initiatives so large complex projects. There are project timelines, Gantt charts, cost management, resource usage and many other items required to effectively deliver a project. ProjectLibre has the full capabilities to deliver comprehensive management of the project to deliver on-time and on-budget.
SF: What’s the best way to get the most out of using ProjectLibre?
ProjectLibre Team: ProjectLibre is similar to Microsoft Project so the learning curve for many people is low. Those that have existing Project files can simply open them in ProjectLibre and keep going. If there are additional training needs there is online documentation and videos on our community website. We also are coming out with a new website this month and want to thank the FFWagency.com and the Drupal community for the assistance! We will continue to have regional community groups on the new website so users can join and participate. Our community is quite active in the groups and discussion forums. We also really enjoy interacting with the community and hearing the user stories.
SF: What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?
ProjectLibre Team: We designed our current and future website in Drupal with a community orientation. There is a global community group with over 50,000 members but also regional groups our users can join. We have a new website and one of our 2016 resolutions is to really continue engaging the community with blogs, emails, discussions etc!
SF: Have you all found that more frequent releases helps build up your community of users?
ProjectLibre Team: That is a great question. We have been completely re-writing ProjectLibre to a modular architecture. That has unfortunately caused less updates to the old code base than we would like. It is a balancing act as it causes a delay in our overall re-write which everyone is looking forward to getting done. We get lots of requests for integrations and other items. It will be nice later in the year to have frequent releases.
SF: What was the first big thing that happened for your project?
ProjectLibre Team: I can think of a couple of items early on that helped ProjectLibre. The SourceForge team has been really supportive from the start. We have been in the open source space for awhile and that helped promote our initial release. We also received early assistance from Red Hat who hosted our website and community on OpenShift. The FFWagency and Drupal ecosystem also reached out to get our community website up and running. This allowed us to focus on the product.
SF: What helped make that happen?
ProjectLibre Team: The open source community including SourceForge and RedHat are so giving and helpful. It is one of the things that draws me into the other open source communities such as Drupal for instance.
SF: What is the next big thing for ProjectLibre?
ProjectLibre Team: It is interesting I sent the community a message when we hit our 100,000 download milestone. That was big as we knew it would be popular. We then have followed up when we hit 1,000,000 and now 2,000,000. Our next milestone will be the upcoming beta release of our cloud version!
SF: How has SourceForge and its tools helped your project reach that success?
ProjectLibre Team: SourceForge has been wonderful to the ProjectLibre team. Roberto, Rich and the other team members have been encouraging and helpful from the start. It has been a long haul! The ProjectLibre downloads are on Linux, Mac or Windows, the detection of OS has been accurate and assists our community. We also enjoy the download map and statistics both by operating system and countries. As a global traveler, it is wonderful to see the download map on SourceForge as we hit virtually the entire world with downloads.
SF: What is the next big thing for ProjectLibre?
ProjectLibre Team: We are rewriting ProjectLibre with a modular architecture. This should provide a much easier codebase to get community contributions. We are also releasing the cloud based solution that we hope generates our first revenue so we can work full time and accelerate the development. The cloud version is similar to Google Apps as teams can see real time changes while working together.
SF: How long do you think that will take?
ProjectLibre Team: It has been frustrating as we had expected corporate sponsorship from our Fortune 500 user friends. It did not happen so we are well behind schedule and from a project management company is frankly quite upsetting. We are looking to release the cloud version in the first half of the year. If we can then go full time it will compress the other work significantly.
SF: Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?
ProjectLibre Team: It has been a struggle as mentioned. I have so much respect for all the other open source projects that people volunteer and contribute. It is a significant professional and personal sacrifice and when you see the amazing efforts. My co-founder Laurent Chretienneau is amazing with his talent and energy. Having Laurent on the team means we are well set to make it happen
SF: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently for ProjectLibre?
ProjectLibre Team: We would have looked at the cloud version initially or pursued corporate sponsorship more aggressively to allow us to focus on ProjectLibre entirely.
SF: Is there anything else we should know?
ProjectLibre Team: The team has been fortunate to have worked together for many years. We have a passion for both project management and making a difference in the world. Our way to help is providing free and open source project management software. We have built and sold previous companies. Our commitment internally is to make this a long term effort so we can fulfill our mission. There will be speedbumps for ProjectLibre and our community. Our commitment long term is to continue delivering!