Project management software packages come in all shapes and sizes and are designed to help you take control of your projects. Different projects and different companies will require different software, depending on the size and complexity of the tasks you are managing so it's important to choose your package carefully.
Project management software helps coordinate large complex business projects so you can plan your schedules more effectively. This can mean arranging tasks to meet individual deadlines, planning specific events and meetings with clients and staff and forecasting how long each of your tasks should take. In many complex schedules, there will be a critical path, a series of events that will depend on each other, and whose durations directly determine the length of the whole project. Software packages are able to highlight these tasks.
Project management software can be implemented as a program that runs on every employee's computer. As a result, all users are able to locate schedules for resources, how long tasks are expected to take to complete, updates on projects or even just to check scheduled holidays.
The alternative implementatio is a Web application, to be accessed through an intranet or extranet using a web browser. The main advantage of this method over installing it on all employee computers is that you can access the applications from any computer, home or away as long as there is internet connection. It's easy to use and can be retrieved by any number of users. However if you do chose to use this application, it's worth bearing in mind it will be slower than desktop applications.
Project management software isn't just limited to the workplace; it can also be purchased to help manage your home and lifestyle. In this instance, you would probably only require a single-user programme, where only one person ever needs to edit the plan at one time. These programmes are also used in small companies, as opposed to the collaborative systems, designed to support multiple users.
While there are many different project management software packages available, the best one's to invest in are those that include Gantt charts and Pert Networks. Gantt charts allow you to measure the progress of your projects, with horizontal bars above a timeline to show when tasks begin and end. They provide a quick basic overview of your plan and are a great way of monitoring detailed progress.
Pert Networks on the other hand, offer a more sophisticated level of management. Most packages will still be able to draw Gantt charts, however they also offer more sophisticated methods for identifying how to organise your work structure and present it in the form of a network diagram. A good pert network will allow you to identify what needs to be done and how you can achieve these goals, using a detailed plan of action.
For those who operate a Windows PC, there are a number of different Project Management Software packages available to you, including the Microsoft Project, The Minuteman or Microsoft Excel. The Microsoft project is the most sophisticated but this comes at a price.
If you do not need software this advanced, the Minuteman is a great option. It offers a more basic package but is a fraction of the price and great value for money. Many PC's will have Microsoft Excel installed, which allows you to create a number of varying spreadsheets to help you complete your tasks successfully.
Project Management Software can also be installed on a PDA (personal digital assistant, or handheld computer) such as a Palm or Pocket PC. Project@Hand is a low cost package that will synchronise your palm with information from Microsoft Project. Pocket Plan is another similar piece of software, costing around the same price as Project@Hand and also synchronising your Microsoft Project files but is ideal for Pocket PC's.
With so much Project Management Software available on the market to suit every need, there's really no excuse for your business, or indeed your private life, to be anything less than super organised.
Dominic Donaldson is an expert in computer applications
Find out more about Project Management Software and the different options available to buy.