Comparison of the Project Management Software.(Printer friendly version)
Increasingly, companies are turning to the use of Enterprise Resource Planning systems (ERP) in order to fully automate and integrate traditional ‘back office’ functions. This is often the result of lower efficiency and difficulties in managing the multiple systems that are used in the departments. The ERP has enable the companies to be at equal footing with their competitors but is not able to analyze and make improvement to their process. A system is needed with the ability to identity, plan, analyze, design, implement, and maintenance a project. It musts has a predefined goal, using efficiently, and cost-effective methods, and produce deliverables based on a specific plan. That system eventually becomes a Project Management, which has specific rules on the activities, tasks, and procedure. The main characteristic of Project Management is the project plan, scope creeps, deliverable, and user-expectation.
Scope Creeps: Scope creeps are what the project managers need to watch out carefully. Often, as the project moves along, the clients may want improvement to the projects, this often result in an additional cost and time. This need to be written out explicitly in the contract on what is consider as an add-on and who is paying for the extra cost and time that might occur.
Deliverable: Deliverables are the final products that are submitted to the client. The scope of the project should clearly define the deliverables. A deliverable may be a data warehouse, data mart(s) or documents such as infrastructure planning.
Users-Expectation: A clear understanding between the clients and project manager is needed. Project manager must explain the deliverable to the clients clearly and make sure that they understand what are the cost, time and final product for the project. Clients might feel that a minor improvement will not cause a problem but to the project manager, that may be a major design change.
Why PM software?:
According to the study of 100 companies in 1995 Chaos Report by The Standish Group International:
Completing a project on time and within budget will require a miracle. A new breed of software is needed to help better manage the project and ensure it deliverable and better budget control. An important prospect of project management is team communication and collaboration. The project management software contain functionalities such as shared knowledge management which enable each member to access another member information, easier interface with the Internet, and better management of the resources. The software can also produce a timeline that help to establish the duration and expense of the project.
History: Many years ago, the project management software was applicable only to the large corporations. They are available only on centralized large mainframe or mini-computers. This is due to the cost of the computers; maintenance will require a team of experience operators. With the advance in the technology, cheaper cost of the personal computer and wide usage of Internet, many project management software are now available ranging from a few hundred to thousands dollars. They are available in 2 main categories; groupware and scheduling applications and web-based software. However, most of them now have move onto each other territories. Some of the PM software are Microsoft Project, Primavera’s SureTrak, IMSI TurboProject, eProject, Lotus Development’s QuickPlace, and eRoom.
Support for collaboration: The integration of the MS Project and MS Central front enable all the involve member to access the project using the Internet. This speed up the process for the members making the report of the project status to the manger, and vice-versa. Factors such as time and location become a minor consideration for the members. Manager will be able to view reports from the internet, have more control of the project which lead to more synergistic planning and more informed decisionmaking. Changes to the schedules and tasks can also be make faster and information dissipte more quickly. Members also will have greater flexibilities in hours need to do their tasks. Each member also has their own personal Gantt Chart.
Portfolio view: Using MS Project Central portfolio view, multiple projects can be viewed simultaneously. This enables better understand how changes in one project can affect other projects members might be working on.
Task linking: For manager, who handles very highly complex interdependent multi-tasks, this capability will prove very useful. A delay in one task will be distinctly shown, it affect on the other tasks will also be highlighted. A manager will be able to make any adjustment needed and see if the changes are sufficient to makeup for the delay.
Resource pooling: An example for this functionality is the ability to support multiple billing rates. This is especially useful in the analyze phase for the manager to make a cost-benefit proposal. Manager is able to calculate the total cost of the project using the different rates for the different resources.
Project KickStartTM: It is the main feature of the SureTrak that people widely used. It is a menu driven 8 steps interface that provides the basic or brainstorming and foreseeing problems. Users will define project phases, clarify goals, establish goals, anticipate obstacles, and delegate assignments.
Variable Timescale: feature lets users zoom in on a portion of the project timescale. This enable the user to select and zoom into certain duration (days) of the plan and still allowed the compressed view of the rest of the plan (weeks) both before and after the selection duration. The display can also be formatted to view a selected month in days and other in weeks. Pert Timescale is also used to give a better look at the sequence of interrelated tasks. With the Trace Logic window, the effect of changes such as delay on the project can be seen.
Better display for the activity attributes: Using the different patterns and color for the different activity attributes, project managers can clearly show the valuable project details and status for analysis. This is much easier to communicate than to have all the detail in words and numbers.
Users will be able to analyze the resource availability, produce a better report with better graphical representation of the summarizing activities based on phase, location, responsibility, resource, and other customizable codes.
Customization of reports and layout: The output can be customized to display the different color for the different day and to show a clear distance in each phase. Layouts and reports can be saved as HTML for web publishing and allow members to view on the Internet.
Compatible with MS products: The ability to work with the MS Project .MPD files allow the sharing of the project information with the users of the MS Project.
Data can be exported directly to Microsoft excel: Since TurboProject is closely integrated with the Microsoft Product; many features that are commonly in MS are applicable to TurboProject too. The major function is that data can be exported directly to MS Excel. The output can be formatted to graphical display such as tables, bars, profiles, and spreadsheets.
Varieties of templates for data to be exported in HTML: There are many preformatted templates available for the Layouts and reports in TurboProject to be published, and exported in HTML. The data can be published on the internal intranet or Internet for the client to view the progress too. Users can upload, distribute, view, print, and share project files with entire team via the Internet, regardless of whether they have the software.
Resource Usage View: There are 51 curves of different patterns available as tools for the users to represent the each resource in the Resource Usage View. Resources can be grouped by hierarchy and criteria such as department, category, skill, and job description. Using the Gantt pane, the spreadsheet will show what resources are assigned to that activity and the detail of that activity. Users will have the capability to evaluate if the resource allocated is appropriate for that task or not.
Although it is not the best option for the beginners, Microsoft offers a best overall value, especially for users of its Office suite who are familiar with the menu structure and appearance. It also offers a richer set of Web-based remote access features. The graphical indicators can take the place of data for spotting potential problems. The greater collaboration will enable a better teamwork and analyze the problem. Members can participate in the discussion with all the different views shared simultaneously. Network diagram which is an improvement of PERT chart, will enable new filtering and layout option. With the use of Gantt chart, it can show each member’s chart or multiple members’ on each project. MS Project is a very powerful PM software which pack many tools compared to others allowing for flexible analysis by; allow the creation of task specific calendar, deadline will be indicate if the task will not be finish on time, resource sheet allow better manage of different resources in a task, Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a collection of codes that corresponds to the hierarchical structure for the tasks in a project, and Contour Resource Availability which defining the available unit over times for resource group.
The SureTrak's extensive use of wizards makes it moderately easier to learn than MS Project. It is design more as an entry level for the users to the project management software. The wizard helps to provide a framework for brainstorming and problem identification. The PERT view allow for easier modification to the workflow. The integrated scalability should most appeal to large organizations that do not want to implementation a large scale PM software. However, SureTrak does not have as many powerful tools as MS Project. Most of the tools in SureTrak are menu driven so it is easier to navigate but lack the ability to be flexible.
TurboProject compare to other non-MS PM software has the advantage of the ability to exchange data with MS Project. Its main selling point is the 51 patterns for the resources compared to 24 that MS Project offered. This allow for better analysis of the resources use for each task and detail of that activity. Users are able to analyze the cost-benefit easier for that task. It seems that TurboProject put much effort into making their 51 lines their competitive advantage. To make using the curves easier, curve templates can be selected from the dropdown list in the Property Templates toolbar. However, one draw back for this software is that the project can not schedule in units as small as hours
IT is moving so fast that it is very hard to say what will happen in the future (I.T. development). First it was ERP and now it is PM, we will never know how long this trend will be around. The only permanent trend that can say is that all software application has move toward the web-based. The advances in the personal desktop system and increase connectivity to the Internet have enlarged the possibilities of people joining the project team. Project members will now spread all over the work working in different time zones resulting in greater efficiency of the project design and implementation. Members will come from not only in the same company but sub-contractor or out-sourced company.
Microsoft, as the market leader in software has already initiated to move their applications on to the web (.NET), it is only time before the other PM software follow suits. Interfaces will be changing constantly, evidently on the Internet as we move from the plain text to frames fill with images. PM software will continue to enhance functionalities, which allow for manager’s greater control of project without scarifying the member flexibility and ability to think “outside the box”. To choose a PM system, managers should choose the software wisely basing their decision on the adaptability to the environment and scalability to increase or decrease the scope.
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