The global digital market calls for competition between companies to win projects with the goal of finding and keeping clientele, thus expanding. This goal of expansion requires project management tools. For these tools to work, project managers must have a firm grasp of when and how these tools are utilized.
Project management tools enable project managers to reign in the complex — and sometimes convoluted— nature of projects. A solid understanding of these tools is necessary for project managers to implement them successfully.
The following project management tools follow existing industry standards. Hands-on practice is recommended to learn the standard practices and utilize them appropriately.
PM Tools: How do you choose the right Project Management Tool?
There are so many tools available in the market today, that it’s no wonder project managers have a challenging time choosing the right PM tool. The expectation is for project managers to know a variety of PM tools. Also, they’re expected to know these PM tools well enough to know which tools fit the project the best.
Aspects that Determine Which PM Tools Are Necessary
Certain factors affect the need for specific PM tools. The most common factors include the following:
- The nature of the general project
- The needs of the customer
- PM tools utilized by the company
- Suited for the specific industry
- Use of open source tools and particular requirements
- Virtual or remote teams
The following sections provide a brief review of the most common factors. However, remember these factors are the most common, but other elements can come into play.
The Nature of the General Project
Project methodology defines the roadmap the project will use, making it the core of any project. Managing methodologies through the use of project management tools can define tasks and establish deliverables.
For example, if you’re integrating a predictive life cycle like the Waterfall Model within your project, you can opt for tools geared towards PM activities that support the predictive life cycle ( for instance, Primavera and Ms.Project). In contrast, if you are integrating a scrum project you’ll require PM tools that work with scrum methodology because scrum methodology calls for the following:
- Team Velocity
- User Stories
- Burnout Charts
- Scrum Board
- User Stories
You can choose from a number of project management tools that work specifically for such projects, like Jira.
The Needs of the Customer
There will be times when a customer requests a specific project management tool to complete the project. Some companies may even state the required tool they want used for project completion, stated in their Request for Proposal. A specific PM tool is typically requested by large enterprises who may outsource multiple projects to multiple vendors. By outsourcing projects to a variety of vendors so that the overall progress can be organized, monitored, and reviewed.
PM Tools Used By the Company
Consulting organizations provide highly specific services, therefore, they may have a set of tools built in (Project Management Information Systems). These organizations use these PM tools to facilitate the adoption and integration of enterprise applications.
Suited for the Specific Industry
Based on their niche, some tools add more value than others depending on the specific industry they’re targeted to. These PM tools offer specific templates to help project managers. Primavera, for example, works especially well for the construction industry.
Use of Open Source Tools and Particular Requirements
Many PM tools are available free of cost, which do not possess any license restrictions. These project management tools can save on costs. Due to a boom in open source communities, there are many open source PM tools to choose from. Because of their easy availability, project managers may want to consider these tools for use whenever applicable..
Virtual or Remote Teams
Project teams that are not in close proximity to each other should utilize the project management tool that supports the collaboration and global availability offered through web-based applications. As web trends grow, the expansion places more onus on team collaboration and communication, especially over the internet. Virtual teams operate in virtual workspaces that require specific PM management tools geared towards remote work. As a response, many vendors provide cloud-based solutions to accommodate the needs of virtual and remote teams.
Widely-Used PM Tools
By using the right set of tools, project managers may gain a variety of functions aside from their expected benefits. The functions of project management include the following:
- Creating and delegating tasks
- Managing Costs
- Monitoring Progress
- Reporting Status
- Managing Risks and Issues
As a project manager, one of your most essential tasks is choosing which project management tool fits your needs and requirements the best. Making a choice is not easy, as there are many project management tools that have a good reputation for success and are highly regarded in their industry. Below are the highlights of the most commonly used project management tools.
PM Tool Option #1: Microsoft Project
Microsoft’s project management software program, Microsoft Project, assists in a variety of project management tasks. This program is designed to help project managers with scheduling, resource assignment, monitoring progress, workload analytics, and managing a budget. Consider enrolling in a Microsoft Project training if you’re seeking to elevate your MS Project skills.
MS Projects simplifies creating a schedule. With MS Project, you create a project first. Within that project, you can easily create tasks and sub-tasks. By creating a tier of tasks, you can establish the work breakdown structure (WBS) of your project. Each WBS item allows you to define the duration and prerequisites.
Calendars can also be managed through MS Project, either at the project level or at the resource level. Additionally, you can define any of your resources. For example, your resources can be material, human, or equipment. MS Project also allows for various built-in templates, which gives project managers the freedom to change schedules to best fit their current project management needs.
Cost and Duration of the Project
Using MS Project, you can calculate costs based on the resources assigned and the tasks created. Thus, these cost calculations can offer a cumulative overview of the expected project budgets for each task.
After the costs are determined for each task, the overall cost and duration of the entire project can be assessed as a whole. When reflected at a higher level, viewing and assessing the viability of the project constraints becomes clearer. By letting a project manager view project constraints at such an expansive level, they can set the parameters in accordance with their scenarios.
Views for Project Managers
MS Project offers different views, enabling project managers and stakeholders to evaluate the project progression in a timely manner through task evaluation.
A project manager can determine the dependency among the tasks. Furthermore, project managers can see the overall duration of the project through the use of a Gantt Chart and Network Diagram. In addition, there are other views that can assist in identifying the allocation of resources. The Resource Sheet, Resource Graph, and Resource Usage enable project managers timely identification of resources.
Progression and Baselines
Microsoft Project’s most important feature is its ability to let a project manager create a schedule baseline. Using a schedule baseline, a project manager may make time and cost comparisons at a later stage. The schedule baseline lets project managers control more of the project, improving the chances for success.
Easy to Use
Most people are already familiar with Microsoft Software. Therefore, MS Projects can be used easily by anyone who knows how to use Microsoft software — which is most everyone.
Collaborating with Others
For every project, collaboration is the key for a seamless project completion. MS Project facilitates collaboration by allowing each member to quickly share files with other team members. Sharing files easily helps ensure that all members have current information and can synchronize their efforts.
MS Project provides a variety of reports to choose from. These reports can be generated at any point in the project timeline. Topics that these reports can be utilized for are resources, costs, schedules, and dashboards. Additionally, the MS Project reports can be customized and adapted to any unique needs.
PM Tool Option #2: Primavera
Another excellent project management tool used throughout the industry is Primavera, a product marketed by Oracle. Primavera contains a number of features that work well with project management, particularly for management, planning, and project monitoring and control. Used by planners, project and program managers, and schedulers, Primavera is a dependable option for project management.
The ideal project types for Primavera are larger scale projects, like aerospace, telecoms, and the civil sector. Planning, managing, and controlling big projects is much more manageable when using Primavera.
Features of Primavera
Primavera excels at defining project schedules for project managers. The program seamlessly breaks down projects and activities.
With Primavera, defining and assigning resources is simple. This program enables the user to set task prerequisites, including for sub-tasks. Primavera also allows the user to set milestones, constraints, and dependencies for tasks.
Additionally, Primavera includes the following features:
- Improved document support
- Ability to search multiple columns
- Customization of column names
- Provision of a default web page configuration
- Enhanced collaboration between users
- Capability import and export
The features offered by Primavera offer granular control over global data. Participating parties may include the supplier, contractor, and subcontractor. The imported data allows for effective collaborations amongst a variety of participants.
One standout feature of Primavera is its cut over date. This feature enables efficient forecasting linked with WBS’s, assignments, or to-do’s. Furthermore, progress update and monitoring are must-use project management functions.
Another vital function executed excellently by Primavera is baselining. This project management tool helps you easily spot the differences between project baselines. Lastly, Primavera assists with identifying the project’s critical path.
PM Tool Option #3: Other Online Project Management Tools
The project management tools mentioned above are well-known PM tools, but there are also a number of advanced online solutions along with other simplified tools. What makes these tools worthwhile is their varying price points, depending on the users and scale of the need. Online tools may also have this benefit of being free. The following are a few examples of project management tool alternatives:
Agile Project Management efforts are ideal for Jira. Jira is a potent project management tool for agile projects.
Jira’s strengths include all the features necessary to manage agile projects well. Features like creating and projecting stories, creating a sprint backlog and product backlog. Through its ability to define estimates for stories using user points, Jira can identify the speed of the team’s progress.
The program’s collaboration system works by linking activities, tools, and colleagues, enabling integration and collaboration. Teams using Jira find that the program excels at capturing and organizing issues and assigning work.
GitScrum is designed specifically for project management, making it a powerful project management software tool.
GitHub is linked directly to GitScrum, therefore its approach is agile. This makes GitScrum preferable agile projects. Suitable for business and large organizations, GitScrum is ideal for projects that are delivered continuously. GitScrum includes a Kanban board feature, allowing you to define specific tasks. These tasks can be moved from column to column to better reflect your project’s progress.
A highlighted feature of GitScrum is that it allows you to define workflows in your preferred method to better manage your team. GitScrum also performs well when utilized for user stories, product backlogs, issue management, and sprints.
If you’re seeking a task management app for project management, Trello offers a visual overview of what tasks are being worked on and who is assigned. Like GitScrum, Trello uses a Kanban Board system. Special features of this project management tool are:
- Card : A basic and fundamental core of a project, like a software bug, research items, or element of a project.
- Board: A product or task that is currently under development or worked on.
- List: Divides a board into select categories. The list typically reflects a stage of the project.
Cards are moveable and have the ability to travel between lists on the board as the project moves forward. You can also include images, files, comments, and tag colored labels onto the cards. Furthermore, you can also divide assignments among members using cards.
Unlike the above project management tools, Asana utilizes a more task-oriented focus. This task-oriented approach is a good choice for projects that include an extremely rigorous process. Perfect for streamlined teams, Asana is ideal for small-team projects. Additionally, you can utilize Asana to organize work and share projects. The shared project can be smaller portions of the larger projects, which can be subdivided into smaller tasks.
Lastly, these smaller tasks can be assigned to owners who are accountable for completing these tasks. Because Asana uses the board, stages of the tasks can be monitored by introducing workflows.
Project Management Tool: Using Project Management Templates
During the course of managing a project, it may take more than a project management software to fulfill all the requirements of the project. Often, project managers must utilize different tools to accomplish various project management processes. Therefore, PMI calls for using the appropriate tools for the requirements of the management process area.
Organizations may focus their knowledge systems using historical records. They may also develop templates and guidelines to use the historical records appropriately and effectively. The templates and guidelines allow management teams to create and use project artifacts in a way that moves the project forward. Additionally, using these templates synchronizes the organization and fulfills any requirements unique to that organization.
One other primary advantage for these organizational templates is that the project team can hone in on content generation instead of rebuilding templates and starting over with each project. However, it’s vital that these templates go through continuous review and improvement. The project manager must review and identify any possible template improvements, and make the changes accordingly.
Also, project management functions are supported using these organizational templates. The first step for any activity should be to check if templates are available within the organization or throughout the network. Thus, you will save time and effort instead of starting from scratch. For example, instead of developing your own risk management template, assess whether such a template already exists for your organization.
Furthermore, many project management networks benefit from sharing such templates with each other. Thus, you can obtain templates from others and modify the template to meet the requirements of the organization and the project. Throughout project management networks exist a variety of templates, along with different methodologies. It’s always up to the project manager and team to choose the best option for the project.
The following are a list of common project management templates:
- Risk Register Template
- Configuration Plan Template
- Project Charter Template
- Work Breakdown Structure / Schedule Template
- Status Report Template
- Assumption Log Template
- Communication Plan Template
- Project Plan Template
- Stakeholder Register Template
The above templates can be found in many different file formats, though the user must ensure that the format aligns with the project needs. Be sure to include the file format you want when searching for the above templates online. There should be many free template options with a quick search in Google or Bing.
Project Management Tool: Local Records Using Microsoft Office
Project managers often document logs, budgets, etc. in Excel. Project Managers working on small or midsize projects can use basic Microsoft Excel to plan and monitor their projects as this is a streamlined spreadsheet for project management.
Because Microsoft Office is widely available, this project management tool can be easily used by project managers and their teams.
Furthermore, Microsoft Office applications such as MS Excel and MS Word can also fulfill various project management tasks. One advantage of such tools is that reports can be easily created and can be utilized as a management dashboard.
Project Management Tool: The Conclusion
In this article, we’ve offered you information regarding a variety of project management tool options. Our goal is to offer you vital information on aspects of the different available project management tools. We hope that you’ll find this article useful for your project management endeavors.
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