Project Management Software – Issues and Requirements

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.

The Passing of a Visionary – Steve Jobs

I don’t often talk about specific people in posts, but one of my heroes passed away yesterday.  Steve Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011 at the age of 56.  I have written posts about leadership and mentoring for many years – and Steve was someone I would have loved as a mentor.  While not everyone liked him,  he certainly fit the old saying, ” It ain’t bragging if you can do it”!  I only hope that I in a small way can contribute to his dream that technology should make things better for people.

I cannot imagine what computers and technology would be like if he had not been a part of the industry.  I think about all of the ideas and firsts that he championed when the “industry captains” told him he was crazy and he would fail.  I will not begin to recite all of the “blue ocean” industries and ideas that he pushed – but lets say I can’t think of anyone who could match him.

While we will all miss this legend of technology, I think the Apple Web site today captured it well:

Apple Web site

Farewell Steve – God bless and keep you safe!

Some good sites about Steve Jobs:

The Lazy Project Manager's Blog

The Home of Productive Laziness Thoughts

ProjectManagement.com

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

A Girl's Guide to Project Management

Project Management musings for one and all

LeadingAnswers: Leadership and Agile Project Management Blog

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

Project Management Hut

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

Herding Cats

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

beyondcenter

Pushing the Edges Out ...

projectxpert

Just another WordPress.com site