A Brief Look at Project Management Tools
To build anything great on a budget or a timeline, you need to have good coordination. At the helm of these projects is the project manager. A job that is extraordinarily stressful and often equally thankless. After all, most customers take the positive resolution to any order for granted. This month, we will take a look at project management and the tools that are used by them to produce the best results possible.
What is Project Management?
This may seem pretty self-explanatory, but project management is the planning and systematic organization of a project’s tasks. Unfortunately, anything that ends up going wrong in a project is immediately the result of bad project management. That’s why it is essential to have tools that allow for efficient and effective project management.
Project managers typically oversee the creation, delegation, and completion of tasks that are coordinated in a way where the tasks result in a finished product. Therefore, a lot of what a project manager does “quarterbacking” a team of resources. Solid communications, time and resource management, and constant and diligent assessment are the staples of a successful project manager.
Parts of Solid Project Management
Every project is different, but there are some of the elements that the PM has to manage.
- Planning- It’s the PM’s job to plan out each task and assign it to the resources that are available for it. Being able to properly schedule resources is a core responsibility of the project manager mainly because most projects not only have multiple people that work on them, but also because tracking the time that the project takes is how organizations measure the profitability of the project.
- Time tracking - Typically integrated with the scheduler to streamline operations, time tracking is essential to manage resource involvement and be able to properly assign tasks.
- Collaboration - Today, businesses have collaboration options that fuel efficient project work. It is the PM’s responsibility to ensure every resource not only has access to a collaboration tool, but also uses the tool provided to complete their tasks as efficiently and effectively as possible.
- Documentation - In order to have a complete and thorough assessment of any finished project, you’ll need to have complete and thorough documentation to go through. Many of today’s productivity options have integrated a great set of tools that help PMs analyze contributor value.
- Assessment - At the end of a project, after the delivery of the product to the customer/client, a complete audit of the project will provide all the successes and failures that took place in the duration of the project, helping a business know what it needs to improve on and, ultimately, if their project is bringing a large enough return (or a return at all).
With the success of an individual project tied to the management of the resources it takes to complete it, proper coordination, documentation, and assessment are especially important.
Project Management Tools
Most of the actual tools needed to fuel your organization’s projects have now been integrated into one or two pieces of software. They provide PMs with all of the information they need to place resources, assign tasks, and oversee the whole project. A few of these tools include:
- Gantt chart - A Gantt chart is a visual representation of the project. The Gantt chart is used to illustrate how a project will run. It makes recalculating the timeline of a chart and shuffling resources around to meet demand much easier.
- PERT chart - PERT stands for Program Evaluation, and Review Technique. It’s essentially a chart that shows where each task assigned in a project is connected to other tasks in a project. Also represented through what is called the Critical Path method, this allows project managers and their teams to get a clear representation of how all the tasks in a project end up creating the end product.
- Moscow analysis - An analytic technique that stands for: must, should, could, won’t it allows PMs to work with project stakeholders to create the scope of the project. Obviously there are things you must do in the scope of a project, those need to be planned for and scheduled first. Then the things that should be done, followed by things that could be done to improve value, and finally eliminate things that simply don’t need to be done.
- WBS chart - WBS stands for Work Breakdown Structure, and is a common tool to help people visualize the entire scope of a project. This provides a comprehensive list of individual tasks.
- The Cone of Uncertainty - This is a visual tool that shows the measures of uncertainty vs. time. As the project goes forward uncertainty decreases. As risk is mitigated and governance is solid, confidence will increase. By managing risks properly, any project’s cone of uncertainty will show static improvement, ultimately leading to a successful finale.
There are several other tools that a project manager can use, and many of them are incorporated in today’s powerful collaboration software. Many Customer Relationship Management software titles provide project management tools. If yours doesn’t, you can get stand-alone project management tools for your email client that provides PMs a set of useful options.
What is happening more today, however is that PMs are beginning to use collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams and Slack that come with dozens of software integrations strategically designed to make project management--which is, of course, a traditionally messy endeavor--easier. These titles alone do a lot of good mitigating risks and fueling collaboration.
IT projects can often be difficult to implement, but the knowledgeable professionals at k_Street Consulting, LLC have a great track record of improving our client’s businesses through strategic project success. Call us today at (202) 640-2737 to see how we can help.