Project Management Software

User Forum Topic
Submitted by Anonymous on May 16, 2007 - 8:40pm

An off topic question here. I am managing a project at work, actually a very large event that will take place in July and has many moving parts including invitations, logistics, media relations and on and on. Each part has been assigned to someone in our group. I am looking for the best way to track the progress of the main areas of responsibility and the deliverables in a format that will allow us to chart our progress and also report to higher management in a clear manner. Right now I am using a Word document with bullet points under each section - not very efficient. Anyone have any suggestions for templates, software programs etc. that would make my life easier? Thanks!

Submitted by bubble_contagion on May 16, 2007 - 8:52pm.

Try Microsoft Project. You basically list all tasks with start and end dates plus the % completed. The tasks can be serialized so one has to finish before another can start. It shows your project in a Gantt chart that higher management should understand. Google Gantt for examples.

Submitted by SD Realtor on May 16, 2007 - 11:01pm.

We use MS Project for my asic design projects at work. Same as what bubble said. Anyways it is easy to use and is perfect for dynamic updating work assignments, identifying milestones, charting dependencies, etc...

I cannot recommend it highly enough.

SD Realtor

Submitted by greekfire on May 16, 2007 - 11:46pm.

Juice,

Personally, I would take the outline of the key tasks that you have in Word and copy/paste them into MS Project. MS Project can be a bit quirky for a new user. If you are not very familiar with it, use it as a means to produce a workable schedule (Gantt chart) that is acceptable to your client and that can be reasonably adhered to by your staff.

Your next obstacle will be to manage the day-to-day tasks that are a part of your project. If you are familiar with MS Project, there are a number of tools that you can use (too numerous to list here). If you are not, and I am guessing you aren't since you are using Word, you might find success in using an Excel spreadsheet to produce an initial (as well as a forecasted) plan of attack.

Break your project down by phases (Phase 1: Invitations, Phase 2: Logistics, Phase 3: Media Relations, etc.). Next, identify the tasks that will need to be performed for each phase (e.g., Phase 1: Project Kick-off; Phase 2: Transportation Bid/Procurement; Phase 3: Public Outreach; etc.) and assign a START DATE and a TIMEFRAME for each. The Public Outreach task in Phase 3 may begin on July 17 (a Tuesday) and last a total of 4 hours.

If you are using MS Project, you will want to set up dependencies - i.e., Phase 2 will start after the end of Phase 1; Phase 3 will start 4 weeks (lag) after the start of Phase 2, etc.). If you don't use MS Project, I recommend that you use Excel instead of Word. You can utilize similar organizational tools in Excel that you can in Word (e.g., bullets); however Excel gives you the ability to calculate hours and costs.

I could go on and on. The main thing to focus on when you have a very big project at hand is to try to break it down into logical parts and sub-parts, and then assign a time and cost metric to each. Think of the old Buddhist saying that "a thousand mile journey begins with a single step". Be sure to break the project down in a fashion that both you and the client can understand. If the project has already been won, you don't have to worry about satisfying the client as much as you do about making sure your staff has a workable game plan that will produce a high-quality product with as much profit to the company as possible.

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Aside from the software mentioned above, a more recent trend has been to utilize blogs for anything ranging from managing projects to customer service. A blog might be useful if you anticipate copious feedback or questions from staff or clients. The benefits of a blog, if it works in your particular situation, are numerous.

Project management blogs allow for open communication from all levels of the production chain, they are accessible from any PC that has an internet connection, and they can be searched, categorized, and dated. Yet, they can be implemented so that different users are set up with different access rights/privileges (password protection) and they can only see/add so much to the blog.

Finally, there are many blogs that are based on open-source code and are free! Examples are PHPBB, Joomla, Drupal (what Piggington uses), Wordpress, and many others. Implementing a "Feedback Blog" for your staff and clients might be one of the most proactive and innovative things that you can do for your project. Perhaps the coolest thing of all is that you can set up a different blog for each project and save them...so when you want to go back and see how a project went (I mean really see how it went ;-P, you can access the blog entries and review it.

If you want more info shoot me an email at mathuff at vanderhawk dot net.

I wish you the best of luck.

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