Project Management Software – A Project Managers Perspective

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Project management tools can be very useful, but what is the right one for you? Which one will fit your needs? Brian Cleere gives his recommendations based on his experience

Software tools used to assist with the delivery of projects are very popular these days. These tools range from sophisticated software such as Microsoft Project and Primavera P6 to simple to use tools such as Monday.com.

There are lots of online reviews, but this is a project managers perspective. This is based on my experiences of both using and knowing a Project Managers’ requirement of a project management support tool.

It is important to remember that these tools are not a replacement for project teams. They do not deliver projects. They are support tools only. People delivery projects.

The review assesses the products on 2 criteria

  1. Project Manager Needs
  2. Project Size and Characteristics
  1. Project Manager Needs

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the core elements of any project are:

  • Scope
  • Schedule
  • Budget

However, in my experience Scope is better defined as Requirements, Scheduling is better described as Tasks and Budget is better defined as Resources. I would also add Communications as a core element of any project because 70-90% of the project managers time is spent communicating.  So, the key aspects of a project to ensure success are:

  • Requirements gathering
  • Tasks management
  • Resources
  • Communications
  1. Project Size and Characteristics

Before deciding on a tool, an early decision is the definition of the project size and characteristics.

To help define each I am referencing Axelos Prince2 and PMI project management guidance.

Small project characteristics: does not require experienced project manager to manage – clear requirements – few stakeholders – one delivery stage (4 – 8 weeks) – single work stream – low risk – insignificant organisation change result

Medium project characteristics requires experienced project manager to manage – requirements need elaboration – several external stakeholders – several delivery stages (8-16 weeks) – several workstreams – result includes organisational changes

Large project characteristics requires professional project manager to manage – ambiguous requirements – multiple influential stakeholders – multiple delivery stages – many workstreams and external suppliers – high risk – results in significant organisational change

Functional Classification of Tools

I have categorised these tools into three distinct functional classifications

  1. Collaboration tools
  2. Scheduling tools
  3. Project management tools

All these tools can assist you deliver your projects, and some have additional useful features. My recommendations are based on the above outlined criteria of assessment. Scroll down to find a quick view table.

Asana

Overview – Asana describes it as a workflow management tool not a project management tool. If you are looking to manage workflow in a project this is what it is designed to do. Asana is easy to use has good chat capabilities and is visually impressive. On the negative side it has weak reporting capabilities and its integration with other tools leaves something to be desired.

Project Characteristics

  • Requirements – this is a good tool to assist with scoping a project, including a Kanban approach and collaboration capabilities. However, integration with other tools is average making external stakeholder engagement somewhat complicated
  • Task Management – easy to use features, based on a collaborative approach to task management, visual and uncomplicated
  • Resourcing – Being a workflow management tool, Asana has good resource management capabilities primarily centered on a calendar which can be shared. Its basic but for most projects it will do the job
  • Communications – includes discussion forums and a Kanban view for simple and effective communication flows. There is also multiple project views to assist the project or programme manager with communications

Project Suitability

  • Small Projects – very suitable
  • Medium Projects – suitable but may struggle with some aspects of projects including task management and communications
  • Large Projects – not suitable, will struggle with complicated task, dependency, constraint management and resource allocation

Basecamp

Overview – Basecamp describes itself as a workflow management and project management tool. It does a lot of things well. If you are looking to manage workflow with many workstreams, with good file management capabilities, then Basecamp might be of interest to you. On the downside in my view Basecamp doesn’t do Gantt or Kanban very well, has a somewhat unfriendly user interface and its ability to integrate with other tools is limited.

Project Characteristics

  • Requirements – this tool has limited use for assisting the project team scope a project. Its Kanban feature is weak, and its limited integration capability may hinder the project team
  • Task Management – it has limited Gantt (bar chart) capability which is a core requirement for any project manager. If you are willing to use third party applications, this will enhance its capability with calendars and timesheets
  • Resourcing – limited resource management capabilities. You will require third party applications in order to manage your resources effectively
  • Communications – remote working, group chat and message boards are very usefuland will help the team and project manager greatly

Project Suitability

  • Small Projects – very suitable
  • Medium Projects – suitable but may struggle with task and resource management
  • Large Projects – not suitable, will struggle with complicated task management, dependencies, constraint management, resource planning and allocation. It has poor Gantt capabilities.

Full article: Project Office.ie, Project Management Software – A Project Managers Perspective

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