Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Project Management Software: a Help or a Hindrance?

By Christopher Stainow

"Project management is like juggling three balls - time, cost and quality. Program management is like a troupe of circus performers standing in a circle, each juggling-three balls and swapping balls from time to time." - G. Reiss

As with so many things in life the use of technology can either make things so much simpler, or that much more complicated. Project management in and of itself is a multi-faceted, intricate process that doesn't need any further difficulties. As such the central idea behind project management software is to facilitate the operation.

Common attributes of Project Management Software

Techopedia provides a good list of the primary functions of project management software:

  • project planning (mapping project tasks)

  • task management (the creation and allocation of tasks)

  • document sharing and collaboration (a central document hub increases productivity)

  • calendar and contact sharing (meetings, activity dates, calendars etc)

  • bug and error management (notifies users of erroneous reporting)

  • time tracking (tracks the time taken for completing tasks)

  • Of course each function is far more complex than just the examples listed here and TechSoup provides a more in-depth look at each component.

    What to Look for

    As each project is unique so too most kinds of management software is tailored towards meeting specific needs / fulfilling certain roles. When purchasing this kind of software the first, most important consideration is what you need it for. If, for example your project only requires programming that will control the flow of documents, it won't help to source software that aids with complaints management. An obvious example to be sure but, the point remains valid; getting bogged down with an elaborate package when your project needs a simple solution defeats the purpose.

    The Best of the Best

    There is a wide variety of project management software available today. The following are some of the most well known and most highly rated:
    A good comparison of most current project management software products can be found here.

    How it Can Help

    Once you've selected the type of software that will deliver what you need, a few additional considerations also come into play; cost, number of users and user-friendliness. Some software packages are limited to one computer or user - which may not be what you need. Others might be web-based and even fairly inexpensive but, far too difficult to operate. Luckily most of these programs offer free trials so that it's possible to really get to grips with the software before committing to it.

    Finding the right package is like hiring the best person for a job; it can increase efficiency and promote team work.

    How it Could Hinder

    At the end of the day the efficacy of project management software really depends on how it's being used; when its limits are known and it's used correctly by all involved, the software can save valuable time and money. When using the wrong software or, using it badly it can hamstring a project, leading not only to frustration but potentially to delays and a loss of revenue as well.

    Make use of the free trials offered when shopping around for project management software and make sure everyone on your team knows how to use it - thereby increasing the likely hood of completing a successful project.

    About Christopher Stainow
    Christopher Stainow is the founder and CEO of Lennox Hill, developers of online quality management and document control software tools.

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