A project is an attempt to complete something based upon predefined goals or objectives. It usually has characteristics such as a beginning and an end point, a scope, time, quality, resources and a budget. The concept of project management is beautiful in principle.
I am a great believer in some of the principles of project management. The idea of breaking one large goal into small pieces and assigning these pieces of work to team members is one of the key aspects of making business progress. Often projects have similar recurring elements and the use of an effective, well defined and tested project plan greatly helps in measuring and executing projects. This concept is often referred to in project management as work breakdown structure.
The world of project is a huge one. There are a vast array of courses, accreditations and vendor based training. Project managers can almost speak a different language that they only understand between each other. The process of project management can be something that is relatively simple and requires the use of basic linear logic. On the other hand, it can involve vastly complex mathematical equations calculating utilisation, resource allocation and delivery expectations with allowance for errors based on project management formulas. The complexity of project management exponentially increases with the quantity of simultaneous projects.
Microsoft Project and Primavera have been major players in the project management software industry. In 2009, I was working in a ship construction company. There we implemented a intermediate installation of MS Project server and around 10 client licenses. The cost was significant at around $10,000 just for the software. We invested several more thousands in the installation, configuration, training of both project management methodologies and server and workstation application use. Transforming from a non-project oriented company to a project driven one was by no means easy. Getting buy in from team members, managers and workers alike was not so simple either. Constructing the initial work breakdown structure was also complicated and time consuming.
As SaaS makes progress, there has been a plethora of online project management software hit the market that deliver similar functionality to MS Project and Primavera. Internally, we have used Copper Project which was ok. Certainly for $499 a year it was better value than trying to suffer through the Microsoft proposition. We enjoyed most of the features however getting lost as to where you were and the software not functioning properly with certain web browsers made us give up our subscription.
Since our decision to leave Copper Project behind, we thought it would be appropriate to change methodology and started using Basecamp, SaaS from the USA company 37 Signals. It focuses on the concept of to do lists and tasks. We have found it simple to use and effective for the purpose of goal oriented, small projects. The ability to allocate tasks and set timelines is easy. We also invite external people to participate in projects which works neatly. There is no user limit in Basecamp. It is licensed by the number of projects. If you ever use it, you will recognise what a smart business move that is. Overall, it’s easy to attach files, create discussions and follow the threads. Usability is excellent and the time required to get it up and running within the company is minimal. Just watch out for the number of notifications you will start receiving as people create, update and complete tasks (you can unsubscribe from any notification).
There is no doubt that project management software can be incredibly valuable in saving time and driving progress. However, managers not interacting daily with the application are going to need incredibly good project managers in order to communicate meaningful information on the progress of a project.
On the other hand, most of our organisations aren’t running enormous projects that require a great depth of analysis and deep planning. A simple task management software will probably do the job.