Project management is a complicated, complex task. It involves setting proper objectives, thorough tracking and continuously making sure that it doesn’t cost more than its benefits are worth. Setting objectives is the first and most crucial phase. Objective are about benefits rather than products, which is an often misunderstood concept, and in order to properly describe an objective we need to define a performance parameter to modify, a measurement procedure to assess the achieved modification, current and target values of the parameter and the date when we expect to achieve the target value.
As we mentioned in one of the previous articles, a well chosen software tool for tracking the project and its objectives is an exceedingly important part of the process. A good program will help the project manager see in time that the total costs are likely to go over the top or that a important deadline is about to be missed, and take appropriate measures to improve the situation. It will automate – at least partly – the measurement procedures related to various project objective. It’ll track the activities of staff involved with achieving objectives and help the project manager see how effective their work is. It will simplify communication within your team and simplify decision making.
Good project management software should be customisable too meet specific needs ot specific businesses. It also needs to be intuitive so your team can learn the interface quickly, since this affects cost-effectiveness.
So, before choosing your project management and tracking tool, make sure you do thorough research and estimate all the costs involved. You might have found the most comprehensive and configurable software available, but if your team consists of three people and the project is expected to end in three weeks, choosing this tool can ruin you financially rather than help. In this case, email, Skype and a few Excel sheets are probably the only project management software you need. But if your project is expected to take several months (or years) to be completed, and your team consists of 50 or a hundred people, then it becomes a different matter, and a really sophisticated tool becomes a must.
Any project goes – roughly – through the following five phases:
On every stage your project management software will help you, though on the stage of defining the project it will come down mainly to writing up the scope and setting the objectives. It’s the third phase – the execution – when a good project management software solution becomes essential.
if the project is relatively large, it will be broken up into separate tasks, each of them receiving a deadline – otherwise it becomes virtually impossible to control anything and to deliver on time. It will be handy to assign a discussion to every tasks, so all people involved with its execution – including the client – could discuss arising problems and possible solutions. This brings forward the question of access rights and restrictions, since you won’t want a client to be able to view discussions related to another client’s project. The members of the team who are responsible for the task typically report their activities and time spent through the same system.
Once a task is completed, its status will be accordingly changed, and the aggregated data on the time spent and costs involved will be analysed and stored – and, if necessary, added to printable reports. That’s how project tracking works, making lives of project managers much easier (just imagine how hard it would be to do all this work on paper, especially if you have a large team!)
Issues and deliverables are tracked in a similar way
Once we estimate that we have achieved the target value for a certain objective, the aggregated data collected during the execution phase can be used to assess the achieved modification and see whether the real benefit (in money terms) meets our initial expectations, considering the costs involved with achieving result. Once the project is completed, our software will preserve this data for us to use during the planning phase of our future projects, thus improving our experience and the quality of our project management.