July 23, 2017

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

10 Ways to Compare Online Project Management Software

By Linky van der Merwe

Project Management Software

Project management software is any software solution with the capacity to help with planning and estimation, scheduling, cost control and budget management, resource allocation, communication, decision making, quality management, task management, documentation and collaboration.

You want information about scheduling, costs, time management, task assignments, quality control, issue tracking and more. When you need to make a selection of the right project management software for your business, there are a number of factors to consider.

Selection Criteria

1 Software as a Service (SaaS) or On Premise consider:

  • Pricing information
  • Support and updates
  • Data security
  • Compatibility
  • Features
Client-server software is on-premise and installed onto a computer/server, giving the owner control and complete ownership of the software. Do check that the software is compatible with your servers and operating systems. It comes at a one-time price with a high start-up cost, as well as support costs. Integration with existing company software is easier. Collaboration can be difficult especially for remote users.SaaS requires no local installation of software because the vendor manages all the code and the data. You access the system through a web browser, but ensure all of its features will display and function correctly in the web browsers used at your offices.Typically licensed per user with a subscription plan.No start-up costs and support is included. Integration with existing company software could be hard, but collaboration is easier, especially for remote users.
2 Features Understand project manager and team needs before making a purchase. What vital features do team members need to make projects successful and to help overcome obstacles, but also list non-required, but desired features.
3 Company size The size of your business, the number of projects and team members will help to determine which features are needed, as well as the storage space required.
4 Important trends Consider the most important trends.1) Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions have gained popularity. PM software industry is one of most mature with 85% that are SaaS solutions. Now a standard offering providing ease of use, frequent updates, mobility etc.2) Collaboration software – include collaboration features to cater for widely distributed (virtual) teams (offered by 94% of software).3) Agile solutions making provision for Agile development (30% software are Agile solutions).
5 Main functionality Software consists of modules to make provision for functionalities like:

  • Traditional project management (see explanation nr 7)
  • Collaboration (document management, create teams, messaging, social collaboration, forums, Wiki, RSS feed, Web Conferencing)
  • Task management (create to-do lists, set due dates and priorities, add contacts to certain tasks, task history, etc.)
  • Learning and support to learn functionality, troubleshoot issues (mail, phone, blog, videos, demos, knowledge base, brochures, help desk, Webinars, Live chat, tips and hints, User manual, White Papers, Wiki, Podcasts, etc.)
  • Reporting to summarize and graphically represent data (Dashboard, Financial, Resource, Custom reports).
  • Budgeting (project hours, manage expenses, forecast, hourly rates, track burn rate, etc.)
  • Resource management (allocate resources by skills set, role based permissions, cross project allocation, forecast resource needs)
  • Notifications (email, SMS, custom, notification groups)
  • Issue tracking (code integration, escalation management, issue history, multiple workflows)
  • Customisation (custom fields, labels, user interfaces, software development kit)
  • Agile project management (used to create products quickly especially where scope is uncertain.)
6 Traditional project management functions A variety of tools to organize your team and assist in decision-making processes like:

  • Scheduling
  • Calendar
  • Interactive Gantt Charts
  • Project templates
  • Project hierarchy
  • Supports multiple projects
  • Cross project dependencies
  • Risk/benefit analyser
  • Mind maps
  • Project Portfolio Management
  • Gate review process
7 Agile project management – for software/product development Consider the following functionality:

  • Burndown charts (used to forecast completion dates for specific project and sprints)
  • Card view (Simple way to access user stories, capture requirements, and examine project details)
  • Cycle time analytics (to view the completion rate of your projects or sprints)
  • Kanban (what and when tasks should be performed)
  • Manage product backlog (a prioritized list of features that need to be created for a product)
  • Scrum methodology (projects are divided into sprints to control schedule of work and getting tasks done)
  • User stories (to capture the needs end users of your product have)
  • Version control (to work with the most up to date version of the code)
8 Platform How the project management software is accessed.

  • Online – through a web browser and subscription based
  • On premise must be installed on your computer or local server
  • Mobile software can run on a mobile device through an app or a mobile optimised site.
9 Starting price The cost of the software, or lowest base monthly payment.
10 Solve the problem Determine the business problem you want to solve, then find the software that would give the best solution and the best return on investment.

 Source: Software Insider

FindTheBest is a technology company focused on collecting and interpreting data. The company offers websites, like Software Insider that helps business leaders compare all the software solutions needed for their enterprise.

Click PM Resource and find Project Management Software listed with details that helps you compare several project management software based on the criteria explained above.

Find below the PM Competitive Landscape where you see top products in the industry based off of average user rating vs. Marketing Presence (social, site traffic, review count).

 

Find below the PM Competitive Landscape similar to the above but looking at Feature Score vs. Market Presence (Social, site traffic, review count).

Project Management Software: How to manage Project Issues better?

By Sharon Thomson

project issuesDuring project execution there are typically a number of issues that need to be resolved. It is important to involve like-minded individuals who can share their knowledge and experience and provide valuable inputs for a breakthrough in resolving an issue.

Why is there a need to hold a discussion over an issue?

An issue that is creating a problem for the project needs an in depth understanding and analysis. Some issues are too complex to come up with an easy solution. Some issues are specific to individuals working in a particular department like marketing, procurement, etc.
For example, a marketing project that is launching a new product into the market require input from people who have the experience in the marketing field to resolve issues. These type of issues need to be addressed fast enough, so as not to delay the implementation of a project.

With many modern day projects having virtual teams who are distributed geographically, it poses a challenge as to how to bring them together on the same platform in order to have a discussion accurately and timely.

Technology comes to the rescue here. Project management systems are specifically designed to enable team members to collaborate over a common issue instantly and spontaneously. The centralized structure of a project management system allows a project issue to be discussed actively by the project members and in a fool-proof manner.

A project management tool allows people to be looped into the project. They can receive email notifications about their expected role in a project and how they can contribute to the project. They can express their willingness to join a project through email. Once their reply is received, they get connected to the project automatically and can start contributing to the discussions. Since certain stakeholders will only participate to help resolve project issues, their security access will be limited. The discussions feature promotes communication amongst small teams comprising of some selected members who are involved in discussions over an issue.

Project discussions can be categorised into two types. The first category is where every member of a project is involved and the other category is where only a few selective and knowledgeable individuals can participate. By applying this structure overloading of shared information can be avoided. Any type of discussion can be initiated depending on the need, scope and sensitivity of the issue.

The facilitation of issue discussions is done effectively by a project management system like ProofHub allowing users to deal with issues faster, contributing to a successful execution of a project.

About the Author:
Sharon Thomson is an author who likes to write on themes and issues related to project management. Through her write-ups she provides tips and suggestions for businesses, so they can better manage their projects and duly achieve their business objectives.

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How Project Managers can use Excel as a Project Management Tool

By Dough Hong

Excel-as-PM-tool-dashboardThere are many useful tools that Project Managers (PMs) use in their day to day work. You may have heard that Microsoft Project is THE tool that PMs should use to manage projects.

But what if you don’t have $300+ to spend on MS Project or then spend countless hours learning how to use it properly?

To use MS Project effectively you may have to spend a considerable amount of time to set up the tasks, resources and schedules.  Then you would spend a lot of time to maintain the file with the numerous changes that would occur on any large scale project.

MS Project is a great tool if you have a large project but for smaller projects, it may be an overkill. You want to have a tool that doesn’t cost too much, is relatively easy to learn and commonly used.  That tool could be another Microsoft product – Excel.

With Excel you have a tool to do scheduling, budgeting, charting, create checklists and much more. You don’t need to be an Excel expert to create useful files for communicating with stakeholders. It has robust charting capabilities to create effective graphs and flow charts that can be done up fairly quickly. However if you wanted more complex applications, you can even use Excel to create advanced dashboards to show performance metrics.

It is fairly affordable depending if you buy it as a standalone software package or part of the Microsoft Office bundle. It may already be part of the standard software your organization puts on your desktop or laptop computer.

Ask most PMs and they would say that they have worked with MS Excel. So if you wanted to collaborate with others, most of the time you already have an audience that is familiar with the tool and could work with you on updates. So what if you wanted to increase your skills on Excel or just learn a few tips….where should you go?

If you don’t have MS Project and would like to consider Excel as an alternative project management tool, here are some quick video tutorials that will help (and they are free!).  Just go to Excel for Project Management video tutorials.

About the author:  Doug Hong is a business analyst for a Fortune 500 technology company.  He was a former PMP certified practitioner and now focuses on metrics dashboards and visualization using advance Excel features.  He shares his knowledge with training videos on his Excel Training 101 site.  He also has an extensive list of training videos where you can subscribe to on YouTube.

Virtual Project Consulting – a 5 Year Celebration

It all started with the belief that a contribution can be made to the project management profession! From the context of “learning, earning and returning”, it was time to return. It was fuelled by my strong desire to help people.

5-year celebrationThat was the birth of Virtual Project Consulting 5 years ago. The company would only consist online with its presence on a website or blog with the same name: www.virtualprojectconsulting.com

It was targeted initially at small business owners who didn’t have project management competencies or capacity within their own businesses and who would benefit from advice and guidance about project management, leadership, best practice tools and processes, as well as other related topics. This community was served through a product called, ‘The Project Management Toolkit’, guiding users about the application of project management on small projects. Coaching was also provided to aspiring project managers.

It was quite a journey. While figuring out ways to market Virtual Project Consulting online, I had to learn about Internet Marketing practices, as well as social media marketing and apply that to my online business. This contributed to the creation of another website at linkymerwe.com, which was complementary and all about integrated online communications.

Over the course of 5 years the target audience has changed to aspiring and existing project managers who are now also served by comprehensive lists of recommended resources for project management practitioners who are looking for products, software, training, websites and books. My social media community has grown on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Every year brought about some ‘recalculation’ in terms of what to focus on both professionally and personally. To me it meant reassessing my goals, direction and my view of what success means. Towards the end of 2013, this process of recalculating lead me to refresh the website, as well as to make a conscious decision to focus on one community only, instead of different audiences through additional websites. It’s about growth, perspective and new possibilities.

With a constantly moving landscape in which we operate today, being flexible, adaptable and responsible are key to success in a changing world.  Success requires that one be nimble and ready when opportunity knocks.  But opportunity favours those who are prepared rather than surprised.

Some highlights that caused me to celebrate over the years were:

  • Publication of articles in the Project Manager Magazine and associated website; contribution to articles in PMI’s PM Network magazine.
  • Being interviewed various times by international contacts for contribution to Webinars, training, surveys, research and for blog articles
  • Awards of being in Top Ten list of favourite project management bloggers more than once
  • Success Stories Shared initiative whereby experienced project managers share their stories about challenges and lessons learnt on projects. One of these stories was used as a case study in a printed text book for Operational Management. It also lead to talks at national conferences as well a local chapter meetings.
  • Participation on global initiatives like the PMFlashBlog when more than 80 project management bloggers contributed stories about “what does project management mean to me” by publishing them on the same day at the same time. Many stories are collected in an ebook that’s available for down-load here.
  • Excellent guest authors who have contributed blog articles over the years

I’m celebrating the opportunities of meeting wonderful new people every year and being able to participate in so many creative initiatives that contribute to the growth of our profession. It is still an honour to be around and to be able to serve people and to make a difference in many small ways. I am truly blessed and enriched by this experience and wish to continue sharing, enabling and growing.

Thanks for reading and sharing my 5 year celebration!!!

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you would like to see more of as resources and information for PM’s.

Please subscribe to my blog to become part of our community and let me know how you want to collaborate.

If you would like to contribute to Virtual Project Consulting as a guest author, please send me a mail: linky@virtualprojectconsulting.com

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