Project management software capabilities and features vary a great deal among the many products available. However, the variation is more in the depth and sophistication of the feature, such as its storage, display, analysis, interoperability, and user friendliness, rather than in the type of features offered, which are very similar for most software programs. Specifically, the following features are being offered by most project management software packages:
1. Planning, tracking, and monitoring. These most common features provide for planning and tracking of the projects' tasks, resources, and costs. The data format for describing the project to the computer is usually based on standard network typologies such as the Critical Path Method (CPM), Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT), or Precedence Diagram Method (PDM). Task elements, with their estimated start and finish times, their assigned resources, and actual cost data, can be entered and updated as the project progresses. The software provides an analysis of the data and documents the technical and financial status of the project against its schedule and original plan. Usually, the software also provides impact assessments of plan deviations and resource and schedule projections. Many systems also provide resource leveling, a feature that averages out available resources to determine task duration and generates a leveled schedule for comparison. The specific analysis reports are described next.
2. Reports. Project reporting is usually achieved via a menu-driven report writer system that allows the user to request several standard reports in a standard format. The user can also modify these reports or create new ones. Depending on the sophistication of the system and its peripheral hardware, these reports are supported by a full range of Gantt charts, network diagrams, tabular summaries, and business graphics. A sample of reporting capabilities available today includes:
• Budgeted cost for work scheduled (BCWS) report
• Budgeted cost for work performed (BCWP) report
• Actual versus planned expenditure report
• Earned value analysis
• Cost and schedule performance indices
• Cash-flow reports
• Critical path analysis
• Change order reports
• Standard government reports (DoD, DoE, NASA), formatted for the performance monitoring system (PMS)
In addition, many software packages feature a user-oriented, free-format report writer for styled project reporting.
3. Project calendar. This feature allows the user to establish work weeks based on actual workdays. Hence, the user can specify nonwork periods such as weekends, holidays, and vacations. The project calendar can be printed out in detail or in a summary format and is automatically the basis for all computer-assisted resource scheduling.
4. What-if analysis. Some software is designed to make what-if analyses easy. A separate, duplicate project database is established and the desired changes are entered. Then the software performs a comparative analysis and displays the new against the old project plan in tabular or graphical form for fast and easy management review and analysis.
5. Multiproject analysis. Some of the more sophisticated software packages feature a single, comprehensive database that facilitates cross-project analysis and reporting. Cost and schedule modules share common files that allow integration among projects and minimize problems of data inconsistencies and redundancies.
Was this article helpful?
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.