Reports

Graphic reports of the project plan and project status are some of the most valuable tools a program can provide. A software program can make updating project reports quick and easy. And to the benefit of all, it is becoming the norm that programs provide graphic and plotting reporting capabilities.

The various programs offer a full range of reporting capabilities, but there are certain reports you will want your program to produce:

• Network Diagram (PERT chart) — The network diagram should show all project activities and their precedence relationships.

• Gantt (or bar) chart — This favorite shows each project activity as a horizontal bar extending along the project timeline. The Gantt chart should also show milestones (key dates) and, preferably, planned activity progress versus actual progress.

• Network schedule — This report may go by various names, but it is a tabular listing of all project activities with their earliest and latest start and finish dates. It also shows how much float, or slack time, each activity has.

• Resource reports — At a minimum, you will want a tabular listing of all resources and their assignment to activities. Resource histograms, vertical bar charts showing assignment of resources over time, are also valuable. Some histograms also show load limits; that is, the maximum allowable assignment of a resource.

• Cost reports - A detailed breakdown of assigned project costs is a minimum requirement. Very useful are cumulative cost reports which depict cash flow requirements. More powerful programs will calculate and graph out earned-value as the project progresses. An earned value graph compares project completion with costs expended. These reports will also show the estimated cost to complete the project.

EASE OF USE VERSUS POWER AND SOPHISTICATION

In software there often is a tradeoff between the program's ease of use and its power and sophistication. Many project management programs are extremely easy to learn and easy to use, but are too simplistic to manage real-life projects. They might be appropriate for creating the schedule for a small project (less than 50 activities), but are inadequate for handling the size, budget and resources of a larger project (more than 100 activities).

On the other hand, several of the more powerful programs-and some of these have been downloaded from mainframes to micros— are so difficult to learn and to use that they are often not used at all.

Somewhere in between these extremes you must reach a compromize between your project management requirements and the re quirement that the program be easy enough to learn that it will actually be used.

There are, fortunately, a few programs that are both extremely easy to use and very powerful. Viewpoint, Time Line, PMS II and to name just a few, offer full project management power, but not at the expense of ease of use.

Ease of use and the quality of the program's training may be one of your most important considerations. This will be true if the people who will be using the software are not themselves experienced project managers or familiar with project management techniques. In that case, you will want the program to have a good training session or online tutorial and very clear documentation.

Also, the ease with which the user interacts with the program, enters project data and processes reports will be of importance. If the program is not used, it is not useful. So good training and user friendliness may turn out to be the key to whether or not the program is a useful tool.

Training — Because few of the programs offer any training on project management itself, you may want to consider training your users first on basic project management techniques. This way you can base the selection of a program more on how the program will actually be used and what it can do than on how well it can get someone started in project management.

Finding the Right Program

The program features mentioned above provide useful criteria for comparing programs and judging their capabilities. There are, of course, many factors that might be important in deciding which program is the best one for you.

The most important thing is to take a hard look at your project management requirements and determine the minimum capabilities a program must have if it is to meet your needs.

When you have a good idea of what the program will need to do in order to be a useful tool in managing your projects, think about what you want the program to help you with most. Do your projects tend to be of a certain sort and have special requirements? For example, is account management and cost control always a primary consideration? If so, you want a program that will let you put in enough detailed cost information that you will have full cost tracking capability.

On the other hand, after a close look at the nature of your projects, you may realize they are primarily resource-oriented. For example, if most of your projects involve, say, R&D, in which successful management of the project is less a matter of completing tasks than it is a matter of using resources efficiently, you should look first at those programs that provide full resource management.

The power and capacity of a program might be your driving consideration. If you are the master scheduler for a large project that is made up of many other projects, you will want to look at those programs that allow unlimited tasks and speed in processing, keeping in mind as well the hardware requirements.

Along this same line, some projects, especially federal government projects, have very specific reporting requirements. Even though federal projects amount in dollar volume to a large piece of the project management pie, only a few project management programs actually meet federal reporting requirements specifications. So if your projects have to meet these requirements, you know which programs you need to look at first.

Or, again, if less experienced staff will be the primary users of the program, good training and documentation and ease of use can be a major consideration.

And finally, you will want to consider the program cost and how to justify its purchase. Programs vary widely in cost. But it is not possible to judge the value and capabilities of the program on the basis of its price tag. There are some minicomputer programs that cost thousands of dollars that cannot do what some microcomputer programs, which cost only hundreds of dollars, can do.

The best method for justifying a program's cost is to determine what your project management requirements are and to judge the value of the program on the extent to which it gives you the tools you need to better manage your projects. After a close look at your requirements you may decide that $1,000 for a program is a small price to pay for the power and sophistication it can deliver. At the same time it would be hard to justify paying a few hundred dollars for a program that lacked the capability to truly help in managing your projects.

Making the effort to find the right program can yield significant dividends to the serious project manager. And with so many programs now offering full project management capability at a microcomputer price, you won't have to look too far before you find the right one for you.

Project Management Software Buyers' Guide.

Project Management Microcomputer Software

PROGRAM CAPABILITIES

Tuykb Act vltles per protect; Milestones per project; Resource hacking- number per project: number per task; Partial resource allocation available; Network lormal; Time bass.

COMPUTER SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

OTHER INFORMATION List price; Date Introduced; Copy protected; Units sold to data.

FteacfaT

Service Number

Make of computer-RAM; Graphics card; Color monitor; Disk drives; Operating ay stem. Program language: Is program source cods available?

400; NA; —; t: —: —: Day«; Weeks. —; —; —; —; —; —; Variable.

IBM PC/XT/AT Of compatible-256K; 1 or 2 disk drives or hard disk: PC-DOS (2.0 or later). Awembly; no.

IBM PC/XT/AT or compatible-266K: 2 disk drives or hard disk; MS/PC-DOS (2.0 or later), C, Basic, no

$69.96; 1084. no; —. £09.00; 1064; no; —.

142

ZOO; 24: 200; 200; Yea; —; Variabls Unlimited; 1: 1: 1: —; —; Days.

IBM PC/XT/AT 01 compatible S40K: 1 or 2 disk drives or hard risk; MS'PCDOS (? t « 3 X); CGA/EGA, yea. Lotus; yet

IBM PC; XT .'AT or compatible-64-123K, 1 disk drive or hard disk: MS'PC-DOS £2.0 or later). Basic/Assembly; yes.

$79.95; 10SE; no; —. $78,00; (984; no: NA.

144

Unlimited; Unlimited; unlimited; 6: Yes, Acltvity-on-node; Days,

ibm PC i xt/at or compatible-256k; 2 disk drives « hard disk; PC-DOS (2.0 or later). —; —.

BM PC 'XT /AT or compeSbla-2SeK; 2 disk drives or hard disk; MS/PC-DOS (3.2 or later). MS Basic, no.

£09.00; I9S4; no: —. {05.00: 1905; yes; 20.

146 14«

600; 600; 6; 6; Yea: Aotinty-on-anow; Hour, Days, Weeks.

75: 75; 29; 10; —: Activlty-on-arrow. Activity-on-rode; Variable.

BM PC'XT/AT cr compatible-266K; Apple He/llc/]ll-&4K: 2 disk drives or hard disk; MS/PC-DOS (1.1 or latsrj. Compiled Basic, yes dm PC'XT/AT or compatible- 12SK; 2 disk drivas or hard disk; PC-DOS 2.0 or later . Basic; no.

Î69.95; 19S1; no; 1,000+ $69 50: 1966; TO 600

147 146

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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