- October 1, 2015
- by Jakub Szyszka
- One comment
What programs can we choose when it comes to project management? We asked nine professionals working in project management in NGOs. Below is a summary of programs should we use and what tools are the most helpful.
What kind of project, such a program
You need a program that will help to manage the project. Great, but what do you mean by project management? Do you want to publish detailed plan and timetable for the project? Work together on documents? Keep track of the tasks – drafting documents, handling matters etc.?
The definitions of “project management and time tracking software” can be very different. Your needs will depend primarily on the draft terms, team and how to manage projects.
Replies of questioned people have been uneven. It turned out that the programs serve them primarily to the implementation of six management activities. In this article, programs were discussed just in terms of specialization in these six functions. At the end we are mentioning of such programs, which can be helpful by the way, all six issues.
For many people professionally involved in project management, support management tool mainly helps in the detailed plan goals and objectives of the project and visually shows how they combine with each other. With such a plan, we can accurately determine the project implementation schedule, understand the path of its implementation, and assign individuals cooperating specific tasks. Such a plan usually consists of:
- Detailed breakdown of tasks to do,
- Assign tasks, so determine who is responsible for which elements of the project,
- estimate the time required for each task.
- Links between dependent activities – for example, how a particular action affects the start of the next.
Those who like to manage projects in this way have a choice of many tools. Microsoft Project is a large, widely used package that offers a ton of features related to planning. Some people believe, however, that it is too complicated. Even in its simplest version, this program will require a decent apprentice to its service.
Many people praised the program OmniPlan, an application similar to Microsoft Project, although somewhat smaller and designed for the needs of Mac. It is noteworthy that both of these programs are computer applications that assume that the project is the person responsible for the management, including the creation and regular update of the plan.
However, such a formalized, detailed project planning is not good for everyone. Some consider the creation of such plans as too time-consuming and inflexible and the programs seem to them so complex that discourage regularly provide updates.
These people drew attention to the Gantt chart, which typically use these apps is too complex to represent designed plans for all those cooperating in the team, not to mention about the wider audience.
If this is your opinion as well, you can create a less formal implementation schedules for the project, using eg. Excel spreadsheets or charting tools such as Microsoft Visio and OmniGraffle (for Macintosh). As regards the use of Excel, there are many additives to create upon Gantt charts, and other types of graphs.
Assistance in managing tasks is usually the most desirable and most common feature in programs for managing projects. It was later on: defining tasks, assigning them to those, set a time limit for implementation, and verifying and confirming that tasks have been completed.
Microsoft Project proposes an extensive feature that allows the person managing the project identifying and assigning tasks, setting deadlines, predicting the number of hours required to perform particular tasks. Parallel to these activities, you can observe the impact of specific tasks and their implementation on the whole project schedule, as well as what workload of individuals in the team really is.
Also, if you use the version running on the server level, each person on the team can have constant access to your list, select how much time is devoted to the task, as well as characterize the tasks already completed.
When choosing a specific program, be sure that if program is easy to use, the less-developed functions will be offered. On the other hand, enabled a simple program probably can handle even the most sophisticated people in the team. It is always worth to think about what is important in a given situation.
Working on common documents
Work on any project relies heavily on various types of documents. Providing accessible for all a place to collect and store electronic versions of documents related to the project, you can importance to facilitate the work and improve the efficiency of operations. This is especially important in a situation where the people working in the project team live in different places and do not have the opportunity to meet regularly.
For such a team, sending emails with attachments constantly modified can quickly turn into a nightmare. (Note – some people may have trouble making the switch to work on shared documents in a network, so it is worth also take that into consideration and early to talk about it all).
Document sharing feature is the basis for most online project management software. Basecamp time tracking and Central Desktop provide an easy-to-use function for loading and storage of documents, simultaneous work on them and creating inventories of the collected documentation.
You should also look at other programs aimed extensive document sharing functions, such as: DreamTeam, Central Desktop, Dotproject, Microsoft SharePoint, and Live Office.
There is a lot of programs that are specialized primarily in the sharing of documents. Google Docs and Zoho Project offer the ability to store, and simultaneous and asynchronous editing of documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
If the project is not too complex, it may be enough even create a set of shared documents in GoogleDocs (specifications of the project, task lists, spreadsheets). It is a simple method that should be welcoming to all people working in the project.
Sharing calendars and contact lists
The effectiveness of project activities can also be affected well-functioning joint calendar and joint contact list. At the time when you need to arrange a meeting a few people from the project team access to calendars of them all happens really helpful and help you save a lot of time. If the team works with Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Exchange, you probably also are using all functions related to the common calendar and contact lists.
The above-mentioned programs also allow you to create a common calendar, but the problem may be the belief of each individual in the team to its regular replenishment. To remedy this, some programs offer the ability to integrate calendars to one under Google Calendar or Outlook. This can definitely make things easier.
If the calendar is the main tool to use in a project, you can simply use Google Calendar, which is friendly to use and allows you to run your own calendar and project calendar at the same time, share it with another and joint scheduling of meetings. For many projects it is just really shared spreadsheet containing all contacts.
Dealing with the problems and defects
Managing tasks is relatively simple – each task is assigned person, status, due date, etc. In many projects, the tool is needed that can help with more complex issues, such as comments and discussions on individual items, assign severity levels affairs and problems sending updates and new information, attach additional documentation as such. PrintScreen is related to this issue.
On the occasion of technical projects such tool it is often used to track emerging, requiring repair errors, as well as store information and solutions for these errors. In fact, in all the projects, this feature can help you solve problems because it creates a common storage location for questions and problems awaiting solution, as well as information about how they can be advised.
All questioned our people declared that to solve the problems utilize a different application than the way other functions. Some of them benefited simply from an Excel spreadsheet. Other programs are available to help are Jira, and FogBugz. The programs are charged a fee but the annual cost of use of these tools is really small.
There are also free programs with similar functionality, based on free software, such as Mantis and Bugzilla. These programs must be installed on your own server; it could be a good solution for organizations with more technical profile.
Most people underlined that even on the occasion of programs related to troubleshooting and repairing faults always waiting for us compromise – between functionality and sophistication of the program. This is especially important, we emphasize once again, when it comes to affordability for the average user. For example, tools such as DoneDone offer a simplified set of capabilities, further characterized by a modern, friendly graphics, which encourages the use also people with less experience when it comes to computer programs.
Tracking execution time
If the implementation of project tasks must be checked by someone from outside, or if you are performing for the first time a process which then will be repeated, it is possible to know exactly how much time to perform particular tasks devoted people on the team. Such data are, contrary to appearances, difficult to collect and translate into reality the plan and design tasks.
A large number of programs allow you to customize how to collect information during the implementation of a specific project. In Microsoft Project, you can find tools that let you send a request sheets timesheets and their preparation via email, as well as their subsequent automatic transfer of this information to the project plan. Similar tools also offer programs DreamTeam, Central Desktop, Basecamp integrations.
There are also apps that are only for time tracking but can be integrated with popular project management tools – one of them is TimeCamp. We are integrated with Podio, BaseCamp, Trello, Assembla, Jira, Asana and many others. This is convenient solution for teams who are used to any certain PM software but also need an additional time tracking.
Using an application that helps you keep track of the execution time it is necessary to ensure that that all persons performing tasks have clarity about what they stand before their deadlines and how these terms will be checked.
Tools that have all the functions
All those who spoke on the topic of tools for project management stated that they would check out one of the best super-tool, having all the features described above. At the same time no one is fully satisfied with the program, which has benefited.
In fact, it was impossible to establish one version of what it should include such a tool. It is doubtful, whether ever created is a program that adequately responds to all the needs of individual tasks.
However, if your project is used for more than one or two functions related to the management, you might want to check out some of the multifunctional programs.
It is a program with the longest tradition, richly endowed with advanced features, loved by many people professionally involved in project management. Perfect for large projects, but in the case of smaller teams may be too complicated. Unlike many other programs, Microsoft Project focuses on identifying at the beginning as many possible as detailed plan and its subsequent regular updates.
As already mentioned at the beginning of this program assumes that the project is a person actively managing it, which devote a certain number of hours a week to update the plan. If you manage to work this way, the program brings the ability to accurately see how the project is changing how individuals are assigned to tasks in a project like.
Easy to use and very popular time tracking Basecamp can be a great solution for teams that do not have particularly complex needs. It is designed to support teams staffed by persons living in different places. It offers primarily functions related to the provision of documents and joint work on them, as well as sharing calendars, informing each other when something changes.
Its functions are limited when it comes to planning and management tasks. We can for example see the relationships between tasks, observe Gantt diagram, and even assign the task to the calendar date of its implementation.
Central Desktop is largely similar to the program Basecamp, but it has more functionality. Particularly well it copes with a work based on the exchange of e-mails. For example, we not only share documents, calendars, tasks and receive e-mails with updates, but also use the common mail, send comments, which will be automatically assigned to the relevant project documents.
There are other, free Internet software with similar functions, such as Dotproject and Zoho Project.
What project management program is the best for you? This depends primarily on your needs and the nature of the project. Do you care more for one program, which will have the functions associated with all areas discussed? Whether do you prefer a tool that will help you in the key for you area, or in the management of tasks or problems, or time tracking of the tasks?
You depend on the tool that will streamline activities within team and such that will allow people outside the team quickly figure out what is happening in the project? Just the answer to these questions depends to a great extent, what program is best for you.