Project Planning Software

Developing The Project Plan
Getting Started

The one definite thing we can say about project planning software is that...!

So, we'll approach this by looking at some components of a good planning phase, and considering some activities that have to happen for good planning. Then we'll share the project software that we generally use.

Components of a Good Planning Phase

Scope

  • define
  • target audience, customer, recipient
  • why the project is needed

Stakeholders

  • individuals and organizations who need the project or are affected by it

Standards

  • what quality level is required: perfect, workable, just get it running?
  • whose standards: internal policy, external like government or regulators? written or implied?

Constraints

  • key people or resources not available
  • deadlines

Organization Structure

  • authority: project manager often gets as much authority as s/he takes
  • autonomy: team members need approvals from their respective organizations?
  • stakeholders: are there others who think they should be stakeholders but haven't been included?
  • goals: does the whole organization agree with the goals?

Risks [Obstacles]

  • has a SWOT Analysis been done?
  • what steps have been identified to overcome the risks?

Goals

  • should be written, clear and detailed
  • need to be signed off by all stakeholders before execution commences to avoid later confusion

We'll show below which project planning software works best for us.

Activities That Must Happen in Producing a Good Project Plan

  • define tasks, their dependencies on each other and their duration
  • identify the people and equipment that will be the resources
  • schedule tasks and resources
  • estimate time and costs to produce a budget

In short, a good project plan needs information from a lot of sources..., and that information is both financial and non-financial.

It will have to be accumulated before and during the project.

And it will have to be communicated through reports to various stakeholders.

Project Software

Simple. From paper and pencil in the early stages, we quickly start to get things into a word processor. However, we do admit to a preference for using a spreadsheet for SWOT Analysis .

Once it moves to tasks, resources and assignments, the need to change and adjust demands that you use some sort of project management software on a computer. In the early days, spreadsheets worked, and they still do, sort of... Tasks down the left in the rows, time across the top in the columns, enter the person and/or resource in the cell. But they are a rather crude Gantt Chart , and not that easy to change time scale, etc.

However, specialized project planning software has been developed which is very powerful, relatively inexpensive, and quite easy to learn the basics. We use two such planning software products extensively and have compared them in Project KickStart versus Microsoft Project . In fact, we use them together in some cases while for simpler projects we use Project KickStart .

For estimating time and costs and producing a budget, spreadsheets make very effective project planning tool. However, some of the more extensive project planning software packages, such as Microsoft Project, also include the ability to enter and track cost and budget information. In Project KickStart versus Microsoft Project we discuss Controlling in detail and show you where there are potential problems if you try to use the specialized project planning software packages for Controlling time, costs and budgets. In Project Management Best Practices , one of our warnings is to Decide Early Where You Will Manage Time, Costs and Budgets, and we tell you why in detail.

We will re-iterate our warning here: decide early and carefully where it is best to track time, costs and budgets. That decision will be a key one in helping you decide which combination of project planning software you use - word processor, spreadsheet, specialized project planning software.





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