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Project Management Tools for Project Managers

Tools and techniques for managing projects

A well-done project management is one of the keys to a project's success. I'm pretty sure every one of us manages projects using some kind of tools. But the right project management tool does not replace the knowledge and experience of a project manager. It only helps him in the process of managing a project.

The value of project management
Why do certain projects succeed while others fail? Clearly, it is not about luck although that might also help, it is not about the tools that are being used to manage the projects and certainly it is not only a matter of budget and dedication. The most important factor is the project manager, its experience, training and skills but research shows that projects which are designed and planned with care have a much higher success rate. So through effective project planning software there are better chances to reach projects success.

Over time project management tools have evolved from the classic pencil and paper method to software spreadsheets and now to dedicated project management solutions. There are several types of project management software. It may be a desktop application, a web-based software or it can also be a hosted software solution that allows access from remote locations through Internet or Intranet.

Tools & Techniques
It's a good practice to follow certain techniques to obtain the best results when managing projects. Among them it is worth mentioning: critical path methodology, task analysis, gantt charts, actions planning and closing the loop. For each of these techniques there have been developed dedicated tools. Any chosen type of project management software should offer a set of these basic tools.

Critical path methodology helps you schedule and manage complex projects and can be used as a mathematical procedure to calculate a project schedule. Generally it is being applied on logic networks. A Logic Network shows the sequence of activities and milestones from a project relative to time. More exactly it shows how activities logically follow each other. Using different slack values a project manager can detect critical tasks earlier or later as per his needs.

Task analysis or better known as Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is “breaking down” the whole project into smaller chunks up to the smallest deliverable. Task analysis is the first stage of critical path analysis. A WBS is a very common project management tool and the basis of the project planning phase. Unfortunately it is not present in many task management software.

The analysis is further conducted with the Actions Planning technique by identifying the individuals responsible for the completion of the tasks and the timeframe within which they have to complete it.

An alternative tool for helping you plan and monitor your project is to use Gantt charts. Gantt charts are used to show the overall “flow” of the project similarly to logic network diagrams but with a higher level of detail and with the tasks being plotted against identified timescales. Although it did not initially reflected the relationships between activities, this being done with the help of a logic network, it has become a required feature making Gantt charts an industry standard and a key project planning tool.

Closing the loop technique is useful in project tracking software for ensuring that you are continually monitoring and reviewing the progress of the project. With this technique four repeating cycle steps are executed: plan, do, check, act. And the cycle repeats until there are no more problems or until the project is completed.

It is mandatory that every project manager to make an analysis within the list of project management software packages available on the market in order to select the right project management tool for his needs.

More Stories By Lucian Loan

Lucian Loan studied at a technical facility and has an MS in Computer Science. He is now working in the software industry for Stand By Soft, a software company that specializes in building desktop applications and components.

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