OpenProject and Nextcloud: a strong combination for project management at universities

Temps de lecture estimé: 5 minutes

The FutureWaterCampus is being built at the University of Duisburg-Essen, bringing together scientists and experts from different fields. To make the teams’ work more efficient and secure, a working group has developed an innovative campus information management system. Its foundation: OpenProject and the new Nextcloud integration.

Campus meeting place: The FutureWaterCampus in Essen, Germany

The FutureWaterCampus (FWC) at the University of Duisburg-Essen is a cooperative project of the Center for Water and Environmental Research (ZWU) and the Institute for Construction and Construction Management (IBB). Funded by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the FWC provides a meeting place for teams of experts from different disciplines and companies. Scientists from several universities and practical partners such as regional water associations come together for their projects. Together, the participants research how the handling of water and wastewater can be made more sustainable. Many teams from different universities, chairs and from the private sector - this requires a solid basis for collaboration. If one work group maintains Excel lists in a shared file repository and the other files its to-do lists with an online service, this is impractical at best. If, in addition, documents are sent back and forth by e-mail (and someone may have been forgotten in the CC), then chaos is inevitable. The solution: a common project and file management. The Innovative Campus Information Management System in the FutureWaterCampus (InnoCimFWC) project has developed the Campus Information Management System (CIM) for this purpose.

Innovative Campus Information Management System

The Campus Information Management System (CIM) visualizes processes and goals of the FutureWaterCampus and the connected projects, analyzes and evaluates their implementation. In order to ensure optimal cooperation between all parties involved, the IBB, which is in charge in this case, has noted the following items on its wish list:

  • Professionalize organizational structure (universities and other networks).
  • Make decision-making processes in the network more effective.
  • Improve program management, especially with regard to information and communication technology.
  • Monitoring of goals, projects and processes.

Those responsible were looking for a solution that would take into account goals and implementation (“mission statement”) on the one hand and the paths taken (“vision statement”) on the other. The software they were looking for should support classic, agile and hybrid project management and, if possible, run on-premises. Since team members exchange many documents when collaborating on research projects, connected file management was also important.

A strong framework: Open Source

It quickly became clear that OpenProject is well suited as project management software. It forms the basic framework for the Campus Information Management System because it fulfilled all requirements: collaboration, controlling and monitoring - and it is based on open standards. Privacy and data sovereignty are guaranteed by hosting the software on own servers. What was still missing at the beginning of the project: a connected document management system. Nextcloud as a secure and open source application would be the ideal platform. How about developing a new integration that connects the two open source solutions?

OpenProject and Nextcloud: a strong partnership

OpenProject and Nextcloud, an ideal combination for project management and file management. Both projects are committed to data sovereignty, so it was obvious to implement a new integration together: A Nextcloud integration for OpenProject. Financially supported by IBB, developers from both platforms worked hand in hand. During this time, the development teams were in constant exchange with the University of Duisburg-Essen to ensure that all needs were met.

Specifications, tests, and feedback were transparent thanks to the public administration in OpenProject: All participants always had access to the project, could see the current status and follow the communication. Since the integration is also open source software, the source code is publicly available and can be examined in detail at any time. Many other common users benefit from this integration, such as the City of Cologne, which subsequently offered financial support for the second and third phase of this integration.

This new integration combines the strengths of both open source applications: OpenProject’s classic and agile project management and workflows together with Nextcloud’s document management capabilities. Users can directly link Nextcloud files and folders to work packages in OpenProject. Files can be uploaded to Nextcloud from within OpenProject. This way, project-related data and the current versions are always easy to find. A new widget for the Nextcloud dashboard also displays OpenProject notifications.

Here’s to good cooperation!

The new integration is convincing in every respect: All data is in a central location, secure and compliant on the university’s own servers. Tasks are clearly structured, and all team members can access the required information, such as documents, images, etc. of the projects at any time. For to-dos, users create work packages in OpenProject and assign them to team members. The Kanban board is used for task management. It shows the status of the work packages and provides a good overview and priorities of all pending tasks as well as completed ones.

OpenProject’s Assignee Board is also used; it provides an overview of the team’s workload. If necessary, users can drag and drop work packages from one assignee to another. The University of Duisburg-Essen creates Quality Score Cards to control and monitor research projects. For this purpose, team members use custom fields and customized work packages forms. These Key Performance Indicator (KPI) are used across several subprojects to calculate the progress of the parent project.

And this is not the end of the integration, because the next feature is already waiting in the wings: With version 13.0, OpenProject releases the creation of project folders in Nextcloud with predefined folder structures based on project templates. This allows project admins to directly specify a predefined folder structure per project and thus have less chaos in the files. A strong partnership among open source enthusiastic organizations.

Find out how other universities, educational and research institutes manage their projects with OpenProject.