by Hadley Jones
Published on 7 July 2014
Knowing about your objectives, your resources and your risks is part of good project management - unlike crossing your fingers and just hoping you won't get any surprises. It's much better to map out possible scenarios and impacts, and go in with your eyes open. Otherwise you may embark on your project, happily oblivious of holes in your plan until you and your deadline disappear into one of them.
Sounds like time for a good checklist. The Project Management Institute offers one in the form of its PMBOK - "Project Management Body of Knowledge." In its simplest form, this lays out 5 different phases or processes, and 10 different areas of knowledge. The 5 phases are:
An output from one phase (like a design or a plan) is often the input for the next phase. The 10 knowledge areas are more detailed. They deal with the project management of each of the following:
And just to add some extra spice, each knowledge area overlaps with some or all of the five processes in its own individual way. Given that human beings typically at best remember 5 to 7 things at any one time, it's a fair bet that project managers could use some extra help when the possible pairs of items rise to somewhere between 10 and 50.
Project management software can help in a number of ways. Besides addressing the different phases and knowledge areas above and depending on the app in question, it can:
Mavenlink's aim for project management is to help you make it growth management as well. Destined for small to medium sized businesses with plans to expand, Mavenlink puts the emphasis on easy project scheduling and sound financial management of projects. It has facilities for managing projects in different languages and currencies and adjustment of user permissions for each user to see only the project information that concerns him or her. Mavenlink offers Gantt chart timelines to track projects and dependencies, as well as a Chrome browser plug-in for turning emails into specific project tasks.
Collaborate, communicate and come out on top, thanks to task-oriented project management. That's one way to describe Wrike, the project management app that brings project management to the people, rather than the traditional approach of loading it all onto one person or project manager. Project management by email is a central feature of Wrike. Tasks can be assigned via email to build accurate project schedules with an integrated, interactive Gantt chart. The associated 'work graph' approach lets people easily collaborate and update project data, with related tasks, schedules, ideas, files and discussion always at user's fingertips.
Social collaboration, 3-D project conversations and project portfolio management are just three of the defining features for Clarizen's project management. News feeds show users the discussion posts concerning their projects, with visibility into connected issues or opportunities. Project team members can also post documents, messages, expense sheets or any other object for a '3-D' view of what's going on. Risk management and enterprise portfolio visibility lets you manage your projects as a whole to optimize overall strategic advantage and profitability to your company.
Coming from a software project management background, Atlassian's JIRA leverages that experience and knowledge for the benefit of projects in general. JIRA brings an agile approach to let project teams easily manage, update and keep pace with user and market requirements. Detailed backlog information about tasks to be done, intuitive dashboards and custom workflows make JIRA a flexible, powerful way to manage tasks, projects and processes. Visibility is possible for the whole team, with project updates available via email, chat or RSS feeds. Tasks and actions can be captured for project scheduling, and ideas and requirements can also be recorded and integrated into the overall project management.
Comindware facilitates cross-company collaboration within and without the traditional project boundaries. Project planning is simplified and accelerated thanks to Comindware's innovative project management tools like automated priority-based planning and predictive Gantt charts. These two features allow efficient scheduling and easy planning, so that you can see immediately the impact of changes and reassign tasks to prevent overload. Workflow automation allows you to streamline your processes as well as your projects. Integration with Microsoft Outlook lets users do their project management from an environment they already know and use on a daily basis.
The designers and developers behind AtTask know the importance of being able to handle both main project activities and also all the parallel tasks that could otherwise derail project schedules. Tasks can be posted to team members to opt to accept them, rather than trying to simply impose tasks top-down. AtTask also lets teams handle project management to suit a variety of project styles, including Waterfall, Agile and hybrid or proprietary methodologies. The software is aimed at IT teams and marketing teams in particular. However, the facility with which AtTask lets users handle group dynamics and team member empowerment also make it suitable for a wide range of project sectors.
Which project management app is best suited to helping you manage your projects? Click on the links above to get more detail on the application that catches your eye. Alternatively, take a look at the GetApp list of project management software to see these apps and more, and use the handy Compare feature that's always available…