Harvest is a project management tool whose foundations lie in time capture. Today, I am covering Harvest & Forecast, its scheduling add on, together. Harvest’s biggest strength is its flexibility of time capture. After all, the application started as an exclusively time capture tool in 2006. Since then, they have expanded their horizons to cover most aspects of project management and, to a lesser extent, CRM.
Not our first choice for pipeline management
The most notable limitation of harvest is its business development functionality. In Harvest you build Estimates, which once accepted, can be turned into an invoice. What the Estimate module doesn’t provide however, is any form of lead pipeline visualization to provide you key information about incoming work. You can see the full list of leads and filter by client, but if pipeline management is important to you, Harvest will underwhelm.
Additionally, there is a disconnect between an estimate, and the project. You can’t turn an estimate into a project, only directly into an invoice. If you put the effort into building an estimate to list out service line items for time to be tracked, you will need to duplicate that effort to create the project if the estimate is accepted. If your quoting process is simple and the client only cares about the total value of services, you should be safe, but this disconnect between estimates and projects is something to consider.
Straightforward progress tracking
However, once you have built your projects, Harvest lets you maintain their progress against budgets with ease. The projects view lets you see at a glance how your work is tracking against budget with a colored project bar that stands out in the interface.
Within the project’s main view, you get a unique bar chart tracking the progression of the budget month by month, and another tracking your teams logged time week by week. You also get the key metrics tracked by Harvest (time, remaining budget, internal project cost and amounts to invoice).
As Harvest is built on the foundation of tracking time and expenses, you won’t find much additional project management functionality such as milestone tracking or to-do management. You can build tasks, but these are where time gets logged, so think twice before creating a task for every to-do item within a project.
Flexibility with invoicing and rates
Harvest does give you some invoicing flexibility, which can be determined at a project’s creation. You can opt for a time and materials project, with or without a set budget. A useful feature is the flexibility around rates. You have the option to work off your staff charge out rates, a custom rate for the project, or even a specific rate for each task within that project. This allows for a flexibility of WIP management that caters to the requirements of a variety of clients.
The core strength of Harvest is undoubtedly in its time capture functionality. Time is tracked against tasks, billable or non-billable, that are created within a project. When using Harvest, you are given multiple avenues to add time. You can start a timer, add time to tasks within the project, or compile time against a daily or weekly graph. You can opt to have time approved, send reminders for approval, and as a manager you can easily visualize the time entered by your team.
The reporting module provides further flexibility around time and associated Work In Progress, and can be viewed by client, project, task or staff. Like projects, key metrics are displayed in an easily digestible format to not only view time entries but see the impact of your staff’s time on your business.
Where does Forecast fit into Harvest? Forecast is an additional application that directly integrates with your Harvest projects and tasks. Essentially an integrated gant chant for your projects, Forecast lets you create project milestones (critically missing from the Harvest project module) and assign project tasks with a drag and drop interface.
You can view the gant chart from either a project or team perspective, and usefully both options can be exported to csv. The team view gives you some additional flexibility around capacity, viewing staff availability and designations for either a day or a week. Forecast lets you visualize capacity for the future and recognize tight deadlines across your full project list.
With the integration of Forecast, Harvest upgrades from a time tracking tool to a more flexible project management tool where you can schedule capacity and track project milestones. The disconnect between estimates & projects, and the lack of to-do list management does, however, keep it from succeeding as an all in one project management solution.
We’d be happy to answer them or take you through features of Harvest & Forecast in more detail. Or, if you’re wondering if another solution might be better for you, we’ve also done the hard yards for you and taken a look at other project management platforms, including: Xero Projects, Streamtime, ActiveCollab, Zoho Projects, WorkflowMax, Scoro and Accelo.