July 4, 2015

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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).

3 Benefits of MeisterTask for Project and Task Management

By Michael Hollauf

macbook The dust has finally settled after the launch of MeisterTask, our new collaborative task manager for creative teams, and I get to write a few words about why we made it, and why you should try it as soon as possible. Discover a way to work with your colleagues that’s not just more efficient, but also more enjoyable.

Finding a Need

MeisterTask is our second product after MindMeister, an online mind mapping and brainstorming app that is currently used by over 3.5 million people around the globe. It was mostly their feedback that inspired the development of MeisterTask. Many project teams were using MindMeister to brainstorm ideas and visualize project plans, but there was an inevitable interruption in their workflow once the creative part was done. The most amazing ideas were sometimes lost between dozens of random thoughts, and important to-dos were forgotten in idle mind maps, slowly becoming outdated.

… And Filling It

The best way to ensure that what is being decided in a meeting actually gets done, is to create tasks right then and there. Teams, however, simply didn’t have an efficient way of going from mind map to task management, from idea to action. This is how the idea for MeisterTask was born.

Everything You Need – And More

We’ve put a lot of thought into MeisterTask’s user interface, making it as intuitive and easy to use as possible. Of course, MeisterTask also offers all the standard functionality that you’d expect from a good collaborative task managerdocument management, time tracking, notifications, real-time communication etc. But there are three things that make it not just one of the most elegant, but also one of the most powerful task management tools on the web.

1. Flexible Boards that Adapt to Your Team’s Needs

MeisterTask Projectboard

MeisterTask Projectboard

 

MeisterTask doesn’t force your team to adapt to a new workflow or spend valuable working time on learning to utilize a wide array of features. Thanks to its flexible project boards, it’s completely up to you whether MeisterTask functions as a simple to-do list manager, a light-weight Kanban tool, a sprint planner or a combination of all three.

2. Smart Automations for More Efficiency

MeisterTask - Section Actions

MeisterTask – Section Actions

 

MeisterTask uses recurring tasks and steps in your workflow as an opportunity to save you valuable working time.  One of the features we’re currently working on are Section Actions. Section Actions are automations the user creates through simple IF-THEN functions. They require absolutely no programming skills, but they are a great way to set up customized notifications, change the status of a task or reassign it automatically when it is moved from one specific section to another.

 

3. Seamless Workflow from Idea to Implementation

MeisterTask seamlessly integrates with its brother-app MindMeister, offering a uniquely seamless workflow from brainstorming to execution. In MindMeister, teams can outline project plans in a collaborative setting, collect all project-related information and visualize issues, questions and to-dos. Once they’ve completed the creative stage, they can immediately turn their ideas into actionable tasks, and their mind maps into agile projects.

 

Take a look at this short video to see how it works:

 

MeisterTask has only been out for a few weeks, but the feedback so far has been truly amazing, especially with regards to the workflow from MindMeister to MeisterTask.

How do you go from ideation to execution? If you have a specific workflow in place that ensures none of your creative ideas get lost, share it in the comments!

About the Author:

Michael08Michael Hollauf is the co-founder of MeisterLabs, the company behind the popular online tools MindMeister and MeisterTask. He’s passionate about finding new ways to make life and work in our increasingly connected society easier. He lives in Vienna with his wife and three kids. You can reach out to him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.

 

 

Project Management: Pulse of the Profession 2015

Capturing the Value of Project Management

The Project Management Institute (PMI) has conducted the Pulse of the Profession study since 2006 to provide evidence that implementing strategy successfully is inextricably linked to an organization’s capability to deliver successful projects and programs.

The Report explores the Pulse findings and it demonstrates a clear path forward by focussing on fundamentals of culture, talent and process.

High-performing organizations are demonstrating that adhering to proven project, program, and portfolio management practices reduces risks, cuts costs, and improves success rates of projects and programs. This focus emphasizes the need for all organizations to get back to basics: By embedding a project management mindset in their culture, they will be better able to create a sustainable competitive advantage.

High-performing organizations drive project management and deploy related competencies with a goal of maximizing organizational value. The Pulse study shows that projects within these organizations meet original goals and business intent two-and-a-half times more often than those in low-performing organizations (90 percent vs. 36 percent).

High-performing organizations also waste about 13 times less money than low performers. No increase in the number of high-performing organizations was seen since 2012. This number remains steady at 12 percent.

Project Management Basics

What helps an organization build and sustain its growth capacity and become a high performer?

The Pulse research shows a number of factors contribute to this success, including a focus on what are considered the basics:

  • Fully understanding the value of project management
  • Having actively engaged executive sponsors
  • Aligning projects to strategy
  • Developing and maintaining project management talent
  • Establishing a well-aligned and effective PMO
  • Using standardized project management practices throughout the organization

 

Foundational practices for high performers

Research shows that high performers are likely to focus on:

  • Greater knowledge transfer effectiveness
  • More rigorous risk management
  • More frequent use of agile/incremental/iterative practices in project management
  • Higher benefits realization maturity.

 

To read the full report, visit Pulse of the Profession 2015

Please subscribe to Virtual Project Consulting (top right) not to miss future articles.

 

Infographic: Project Manager Salaries

For existing project managers it’s interesting to compare your salary with industry trends from this research performed by PROJECTMANAGER.COM.

For aspiring project managers this is very important information to understand what you will earn once you embark on this career path.

Important to remember is that your job title, role, location, and project-size all influence your salary.

 

infographic depicting a salary guide for project managers world-wide
Courtesy of: ProjectManager.com

Communication Challenges for Virtual Project Teams Part 2

Have you ever worked with virtual teams as a project manager? (Click for related articles) From my experience of working with virtual teams who are distributed and working remotely, we have to overcome the communication challenges by using tools like tele-conference facilities, instant messaging and email.

This article is Part 2 of a discussion of research findings about the challenges virtual teams face, communication preferences and recommendations. It is based on an online survey done by Software Advice’s Noel Radley (*) with professionals who regularly work on virtual projects, and who had an opinion on the challenges of virtual projects.

Virtual Team Members’ Preferred Communication Channels

Virtual team's preferred Communication channels

 

Preferred Communication Tools

The survey confirmed recent reports that email usage has not yet declined to the extent some predicted. To the contrary, 41 percent of virtual team members surveyed selected email as their most preferred communication tool. However, it was also stated as problematic by some (23%) due to long email threads.

After email, phone was selected by 36 percent of those surveyed as their preferred communication channel perhaps due to the benefits of a “real-time” collaboration tool. Surprisingly, tools designed for online collaboration were selected by the fewest respondents. Only 12 percent selected virtual conferencing as a preferred communication channel, and discussion forums and chat rooms were selected by just 10 percent.

Miller recommends instant messaging (or chat) as one of the more effective real-time communication channels for virtual teams. It’s a much better way to collaborate on something that’s in active progress, or to reach a final decision on an issue. It can also be used to link directly to Web pages or relevant documents that may come up in conversation.

When facing virtual workers who prefer traditional communication channels, managers may need to push adoption in order to help bridge the gap between the tools team members are accustomed to and the tools that help them collaborate most effectively.

Communication Channel Preferences by Age

To add further complexity, our findings revealed a shift in communication preference based on age. Generally speaking, the preference for digital mediums (such as email) decreased with age, while the preference for analog communications (namely, phone) increased with age.

Demographics: Communication Channel Preferences by Age

Preferred communication tools by age

 

 

 

Email preferences were greatest among the youngest team members surveyed: nearly half of those aged 25-34 had a top preference for email (46 percent). This preference was slightly less for 35- to 44-year-olds (41 percent), and lower still for 45- to 54-year-olds (36 percent).

The greatest preference for phone was held by team members in the 45-54 age category, at 41 percent, while 34 percent of the 35-44 age bracket and 29 percent of the 25-34 age bracket preferred communicating by phone.

These trends change when it comes to video conferencing and discussion forums and chat. The 35-44 group is less likely to prefer virtual conferencing and more likely to prefer chats and discussion forums than both the older and the younger age groups.

These differences may mean that companies with trans-generational teams run into subtle misunderstandings, as diverse communication preferences result in people not answering the phone or not replying to emails. To keep distributed teams on the same page, Miller recommends a “multifaceted” approach.

Recommended Solutions

In addition to using instant messaging, also consider mailing lists, a project wiki, and a project blog. A conference or face-to-face sessions where active project members are invited to get together is also a good solution. This works well at the beginning and end of projects.

Successful virtual projects, therefore, require more than just selecting the right communication tool for your team to use. Managers and project leaders for remote teams should supplement communication channels with engaging online information, collaborative environments and even perhaps in-person events to ensure that all team members stay in the loop.

Conclusions

Effectively managed communication will be more of a solution than a problem for a variety of issues, such as task management and team members with commitments to multiple projects.

Moreover, a multi-pronged approach, including instant messaging, agile project management tools, blogging and wikis, should be used to engage teams and foster effective communication. When confronting teams with diverse preferences, a comprehensive communication strategy involving a variety of tools and techniques can help solidify team connections, as well as improve project visibility.

According to Miller it’s important to keep enthusiasm and engagement high, and to make sure that team members’ direct managers or sponsors have easy access to meaningful information showing the value of the work and the overall return.

For reference, you can find the full report here:

http://blog.softwareadvice.com/articles/project-management/survey-communication-virtual-projects-0714/

(*) Software Advice is a company that researches and evaluates project management technology.

Communication Challenges for Virtual Project Teams Part 1

Have you ever worked with virtual teams as a project manager? (Click for related articles) From my experience of working with virtual teams who are distributed and working remotely, we have to overcome the communication challenges by using tools like tele-conference facilities, instant messaging and email.

This article is discussing research findings about the challenges virtual teams face. It is based on an online survey done by Noel Radley of Software Advice (a company that researches and evaluates project management technology) with professionals who regularly work on virtual projects, and who had an opinion on the challenges of virtual projects. It is divided into two parts. Part 1 is about the main challenges virtual teams are faced with and task management as a top threat to effective project communication.

Top challenges

  • Thirty-eight percent of team members said communication was difficult on virtual projects, making it the top-cited challenge.
  • Poor communication regarding task management was perceived as the top threat to project success, selected by 41 percent of team members.
  • Email was a preferred channel for 41 percent of respondents—though 23 percent noted long email threads were a communication pitfall.
  • The lack of the right software or technology was given by 33 percent.
  • A lack of productivity was seen as the biggest threat to project success by 28 percent, since many team members believed those who work remotely are held less accountable.

In addition to communication challenges there are also others based on feedback from Matthew Miller, a project leader at the open source technology company Red Hat who has worked with thousands of contributors on open-source operating system called the Fedora Project.

A deeper challenge of most remote teams is the fact that members are typically “drawn from other teams,” and thus have only partial responsibility to their virtual projects. Miller said that typically there’s more work that needs to be done than time to do it, and often commitments to virtual teams are the easiest to break. In view of the productivity challenge stated above, the issue may simply be that they have other commitments that take priority. Managers may need to consider analyzing the scope of a team’s commitments when assigning tasks or attempting to pinpoint problems.

Virtual Team Members’ Top Project-Communication Problems

Virtual Team Members’ Top Project-Communication Problems

Task Management

When analysing the top communication-related challenges of remote projects it was found that approximately 41 percent of respondents answered that the failure to clearly assign and update tasks, was the top threat to effective project communication.

For 23 percent of respondents, long email threads were the top obstacle to communicating effectively. For others (19 percent), they most experienced trouble scheduling virtual meetings and conference calls. And 16 percent of virtual team members experienced confusion about which communication channel—phone, chat or email—to turn to for which tasks.

Many turn to software solutions for task management. Software Advice found in a recent report that 52 percent of project management software buyers were seeking a task management application.

Although tools are important, Miller emphasized the importance of having established processes in place for your team, like regular group interactions for shared tasks for example.

For reference, you can find the full report here:

http://blog.softwareadvice.com/articles/project-management/survey-communication-virtual-projects-0714/

Please subscribe (top right) not to miss Part 2 and future articles!

The Professional Project Manager

Project Manager (PM Level 1)

As a follow up from the previous article about project management as a profession, this article will discuss the levels of project managers in more detail.

Project Management South Africa (PMSA) have registered three designations for project managers.

A project manager has earned this designation when fulfilling the full spectrum of responsibilities associated with project management being the core focus in their working environment. A PM will have obtained an appropriate first degree / qualification or accreditation and built up the required years of experience performing the role of project managers taking multiple projects through the life-cycle over the required period of time. Project managers maintain a high ethical standard and a minimum endeavour to comply with the principles of the Code of Conduct.

Awarding Criteria

Knowledge: An industry relevant tertiary qualification or a certification/accreditation plus five years of relevant experience. Practical experience should show skills, experience and commitment. Three years of managing projects of low complexity through full life-cycle. Signs and adheres to the prevailing PMSA Code of Conduct Competence: In the process of developing ability in each competency area.
Commitment Member of a professional body for a minimum period of one year.Engage in activities required to maintain registration and further their professional development and current knowledge

 

Senior Project Manager (PM Level 2)

A senior project manager earns this designation when they have actively chosen to pursue a career in project management within the field they originally qualified. They will have the technical knowledge associated with their first degree / qualification and related experience. They will have made the professional commitment to obtain one or more, further qualifications, certifications or accreditations related to project management.

A senior project managers will have applied their knowledge to deliver projects through the complete life-cycle on multiple projects of varying complexity for a period of at least 6 years.

Senior project managers will have membership with a relevant professional body to gain knowledge into current trends and best practices and to share their knowledge with peers. They maintain a high ethical standard and comply with the principles of the Code of Conduct.

The awarding criteria

Knowledge: An industry relevant tertiary qualification and any formal short learning in Programme / project management of 120 hours or certification, accreditation in a recognised methodology at the advanced level (PMP, IPMSA and completion of one renewal cycle of such. Practical experience demonstrated ability to practice in a chosen PM methodology. Experience will include 3 years low complexity, and three years moderate complexity taking projects through the complete life cycle. Members of at least one relevant project management association and participation in activities, like presenting.
Signs and adheres to the prevailing PMSA Code of Conduct.
Competence: Developed ability in each competency area.
Commitment Adopted and conform to Code of Ethics of professional body.
Member of a professional body for a minimum period of one year. Engage in activities required to maintain registration and further their professional development and gather required number of points.Engage in activities required to maintain registration and further their professional development and current knowledge.

 

Professional Project Manager (PM Level 3)

A professional project manager earns this designation when they reached a level of proficiency associated with an expert in the practice of project management.

This designation is awarded based on an individual’s portfolio of evidence as well as peer interviews in which proficiency, namely knowledge, skill, attributes and emotional intelligence, are analysed. It reviews a candidate’s past work in terms of consistent excellence across multiple projects of a required size and complexity, ongoing professional development and contribution to the growth of the discipline.

Awarding criteria

Knowledge: An industry relevant tertiary qualification and a qualification in project management. Practical experience would show a skill level of advanced or expert ability to practice in a chosen PM methodology. Experience would equal ten years in managing moderate to highly complex projects. Membership and active participation in a professional project management association.
Signs and adheres to the prevailing PMSA Code of Conduct.
Competence: Attributes would demonstrate traits required of an expert including emotional intelligence, leadership, decision making and problem solving. Developed expert or advanced ability in each competency area.
Commitment Adopted and conform to Code of Ethics of professional body.
Member of a professional body and made a tangible contribution for a minimum period of one year.
Made a contribution to the Body of Knowledge or future project managers through active engagement, research, sharing of best practices and mentorship.
Engage in activities required to maintain registration and further their professional development and gather required number of points.

 

What should you do next

If you are based in South Africa, you are encouraged to visit the Designations FAQ.

Once the system is available, you can activate membership and populate your member profile.

Once you understand the designation criteria, you need to upload all relevant documentation. When invited to do so, make an application for the relevant designation.

Welcome to the world of Professional Project Managers!

Project Management as a Professional Designation

The purpose of this article is to look at project management as a profession, the characteristics of a professional, the career path and levels of project managers and how to register it as a designation.

A Profession would have the following elements:

project management as a profession

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Project Management South Africa

When we talk about a professional project manager, what does that really mean?

Characteristics of a Professional

In a profession, people would be expected to have certain characteristics. Here are some of those:

  • Advanced education and expertise
  • Membership to professional bodies
  • Implicit adoption of that organisation’s ethics
  • Commitment to continual professional development and learning
  • Sense of responsibility to the wider public
  • Consistent exercise of discretion and judgement

Professionals would have a qualification, an accreditation and/or certification. Let’s look at the definitions to be clear on what each means.

Qualification – A learning outcome as a result of formal tuition. In South Africa it is what is recognised on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) at the different levels.

Accreditation – Recognition provided to a candidate in accordance with the criteria of a specific organisation or institution typically based on a combination of knowledge and demonstrated ability.

Certification – Certification is often needed to work in some trades. It usually means an individual has passed a trade test administered by a recognised authority. Possessing a certificate of completion of a course is typically not the same as being certified.

Registration – A Professional Registration gives a license to operate and to practice within a scope of operation and to take responsibility for the work. It provides authority to perform a certain scope of work without supervision. The registration is typically a statutory requirement.

Designation – In the South African context designation is a job title. It’s the title conferred by the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) recognised professional body that could be statutory or non-statutory, based on certain criteria defined by the professional body.

SAQA aims to work with professional bodies towards:

  • Progressing professions by working with those professional bodies that meet the criteria for recognition and with these bodies, regulate professional designations.
  • This promotes public awareness of these professional designations, inspiring pride in the profession, and sets the scene for public protection by requiring adherence to a code of professional conduct.

By recognising and formalising designations, professional bodies contribute to the development of career paths as well as promoting continuous professional development within the profession.

Project Management Landscape

The South African Department of Higher Education and Training named Project/Programme Management the 5th most scarce skill in South Africa. Project Management South Africa (PMSA) aims to provide a career path framework through qualifications, training, accreditation etc. The following designations have been registered:

  • Project Manager
  • Senior Project Manager
  • Principal Project Manager

Ongoing professional development is also enabled. The following image depicts a typical career path:

PM career path

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please subscribe not to miss the next article in this 2-part series about project management designations.