How do you evaluate project management tools? How many of the tools you find as a PM manage to fulfill all of your needs.
Let’s start with what those needs might be.
Are you looking for a tool that can express your project schedule in a way that you can understand and manage, or do you need to communicate the critical path to people who aren’t trained to read a Gantt chart?
Are you trying to communicate the impacts of issues, or the challenges faced by your resource shortages? Do you want to be able to share status at the press of a button?
Until I can find my holy grail of project management tools, I keep trying the new toys.
When playing with the new toys, I think it’s important to remember that a project management tool won’t make you a successful project manager, the tool makes your job easier, it doesn’t do your job.
One old tried and true tool – Microsoft Project I learned how to use Project at the very beginning of my career. When you get comfortable with it, it’s a great tool for keeping track of tasks, resources, and budget. The upside is that Microsoft does continually upgrade and does as far as I can tell, each upgrade has been an improvement from the perspective of the project manager. The downside is that it has very defined expectations of how you will use it. Project doesn’t like it when you want to schedule the project by dates rather than dependencies and the default settings don’t like it when you add or subtract resources. I always feel like Project is keeping me on the straight and narrow when it comes to methodology.
One I recently checked out, and for the purpose of disclosure, have joined their team of facilitators is Easy Projects. This tool is set up to allow the PM to do the usual things – set up activities, link dependencies, assign resources and set status. I also allows you to assign roles to the people on your project and give them permissions. You can set up notifications when someone adds, alters or deletes tasks. And, it has three types of activity, task, issue or request. This allows you to easily track client additions to the project and see the impact of issue resolution on your schedule. And, it has a dashboard function that works with multiple projects – getting close to status reporting by pressing a button.
Another tool that I haven’t tried but have heard a lot of good things about is Open Project. I’d love to hear about your actual experiences with this tool. From what I see online, it seems very much like Microsoft Project – except it’s free.