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Microsoft's office productivity software Loop can double up as a lightweight project management tool for teams that don't need the more robust feature set of applications like Jira or Trello.
Analysts and users said Loop, which Microsoft introduced earlier this month, will make it easier to follow a project from start to finish without switching between apps or downloading multiple copies of a single document. It will save time and cut down on inaccuracies while showing the project's progress.
"[Loop] can be used as light project management for those companies looking for a less structured project management platform," said Michael Goldstein, CEO of IT services company LAN Infotech in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "Sometimes, traditional project management products are very structured and too disciplined for the average user."
The Loop software breaks down apps like Excel, PowerPoint and Word into snippets that users can share across Teams, Outlook and OneNote, as well as the canvas-like Loop app. The snippets are updated in real time wherever they are shared, and the Loop app comes with a status tracker that teams can use to see how far along they are on a project.
Employees at managed services firm Synoptek in Irvine, Calif., don't have to worry about whether the latest version of a proposal is in OneDrive, Teams or an email sent last night, according to David Ditsworth, regional CTO at Synoptek. The snippets they need will be in one place and updated in snippet form and the original document.
Ditsworth said Loop falls short as a project management tool because it lacks scheduling and resource management. "That said, someone could leverage it for project management in [a] bare-bones fashion like people use Excel or Word for manually tracking schedule, resources and tasks."
Darrell Webster, a consultant at U.K.-based IT services firm WM Reply, pointed to Loop's status tracker feature as a project management necessity. The status tracker lets a team track progress on a project by designating document owners, due dates and completion levels.
Other project management apps have more features, "but sometimes you want something quick, and you don't want that challenge of [creating] a planning board," Webster said.
Loop addressed many of the challenges companies faced when working on projects with distributed teams, according to Raul Castanon, an analyst at 451 Research.
A 451 Research on challenges to worker productivity found that among 491 companies, 35.4% said finding and sharing information was the biggest problem, 32.6% said it was reducing repetitive types of work, and 29.5% said it was better organizing work.
Those challenges previously necessitated project management software, according to Castanon. But organizing work and sharing it across teams can now be done in Loop.
Similar software, like project management app Notion, has been popular among small businesses for collaboration but doesn't include the tracking capabilities of Loop and project management tools.
Mazin Ahmed, the United Arab Emirates-based founder of cyber security start-up FullHunt, said that while his team uses Notion to manage projects, Loop features like tracking due dates are not in Notion.
"It would be nice to have," he said.
Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.