Though many businesses use project management software, a sentiment exists in some circles that successful project managers often achieve results in spite of their software tools, rather than because of them. The claim that project management tools provide an effective way to boost productivity is disputed by others, citing the large amount of money spent every year on software that quickly gathers dust on a forgotten shelf. There are even heated debates about, “what exactly is project management software?”
In my opinion, any tool—including project management software—must be used knowledgeably and correctly for its benefits to be realized. I find that some project management tools are vastly superior to others in productivity improvement, either because they are streamlined for a PM’s job tasks or simply because they support a greater range of processes and data collection possibilities. That having been said, I can also report that I have seen effective project management done with only Excel®. The point is to select tools tailored for your job and learn how to use them.
One important thing to remember in choosing project management software is that something like 80% of the PM’s job is communication. For this reason, the primary functionality a project manager should look for in his or her PM software is seamless integration of data that facilitates rapid understand and response. PMs need software that assures timely and accurate information that is sufficient to identify if a project is running as scheduled or an employee is keeping up with tasks.
A potential problem area created by some project management applications involves the software making unwarranted predictions or presenting myriad unnecessary options. Though these suggestions may be valid or the options may provide more flexibility, it can often result in the project manager becoming confused or completely sidetracked away from the original project requirements. Again, effective project management software provides tools for data collection, analysis and distribution. The software should not attempt to take over those tasks completely nor determine the best course of action. If the software was that good, we would not need to train project managers – right?
Another issue that arises in the use of project management software is the ambiguity of the information presented. For example, even if the software presents the seemingly simple prediction that a project will take 100 hours to complete, difficulties can arise in the interpretation of this information. A novice project manager might be unable to see other aspects of this task that affect hours-to-complete. For example, will these 100 hours be spread over days, weeks or even longer? How will the human element of the team affect this estimate? Every time an employee takes time off, calls in sick, falls behind in their assigned task or is pulled to work another project means the schedule needs to be adjusted. In my experience, good project management software is powerful enough to track these human elements and show remaining work or effort. Smart PM tools can greatly increase the effectiveness of a project manager’s resource and schedule management.
The lack of software integration is yet another difficulty that frustrates even the most skilled and efficient project manager. Regardless of the proficiency of PM software applications at completing a given task, failure to integrate with existing data from other organizational systems often means the project management program’s results cannot represent the current situation accurately. It is not enough for PM software to provide the option to integrate with other well-known programs. PM software should be designed to seamlessly integrate with other organizational software-based systems.
My conclusion: While software cannot replace effective management or make important decisions, PM software helps project managers spent time in an optimally efficient manner on those tasks requiring his or her expertise.
October 14, 2011 at 4:58 am
Thanks. This is very true. In many cases simplicity is more valuable than functionality. Having a few functions that are being used 100% is much more valuable than haven lots of functionality used sloppily.
October 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm
Great article. A while ago I was tasked with finding the best ‘Project Management Software’ for a decently sized creative/pre-press department to use that fit in with our company structure and workflow. I quick learned that everything claims to do the same thing but none of them actually do what you need. I recommend Workgroups ( http://www.metacommunications.com/products/workgroups ), as it was a solution that enabled us to develop and customize workflows that integrated with the tools of all our departments and track everything. Thought I’d mention it, as your article touched on the key issues I set out to resolve when I began the process.
October 19, 2011 at 8:29 am
I agree that software tools are useful (particularly on bigger projects), but as ever with software, are only as good as the information that is put into them. On my recent projects I feel that we have earned more value out of collaboration tools (e.g. basecamp) than project planning tools.
My blog at: http://www.quickbut.com
October 21, 2011 at 10:43 pm
thanks for this article, it provide me more knowledge about it,i agree to rapsli said, simplicity is more valuable than functionality.
October 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm
Great article. A PM software’s flexibility and ability to integrate with other systems is very important. Easy integration and flexibility saves project managers a lot time and pain in implementing the system. One PM system I found very useful and easy to implement is Workgroups (http://www.metacommunications.com/products/workgroups/features).
November 3, 2011 at 6:07 am
Totally agree with all have said. First, you need to be a good PM, no matter what tools you are using. If you choose a piece of software, it must meet your needs. You will NEVER need all the features, but you must know how to optimize the program you have and make it work for you. I use Clarizen http://www.clarizen.com/ProjectManagementSoftware.aspx and one of the main tools that I love is the ability to collaborate easily with other people working on the same project.
November 4, 2011 at 4:47 am
A project management software becomes essential as it provides an effective work management solution for individuals, teams, and enterprises. The Microsoft project management software (professional as well as the standard version) is a scalable and connected platform which functions with the help of familiar and connected tool that can be beneficial for tasks being performed by the project manager.
December 14, 2011 at 1:27 am
Unleash is an integrated solution for managing projects, collaborative Gantt scheduling, real-time reporting, bug tracking / QA, document management etc. The tool is fast, easy and builds on principles of team empowerment, increased communication, transparency, and collaboration.
Thanks & Regards
January 27, 2014 at 11:13 am
“The point is to select tools tailored for your job and learn how to use them.” I agree, but it goes beyond that too. Not only do you have to select the right tool, but you have to make that tool conform to YOUR workflow. You shouldn’t ever bend the project to conform to the software. Rather, choose software that will work with the people and workflow you already have. Otherwise, you’ll end up swamping your project’s flow with Yet-Another-List-of-Things-To-Do. These guys did a great job explaining what I mean: http://www.reddit.com/r/software/comments/1wad0y/software_for_team_management_why_it_doesnt_work/