RationalPlan Review

While browsing the Internet and reading articles related to project management I reached Ian Burgess blog. And after reading some of his posts I just felt the need to get his opinion on RationalPlan products so I contacted him. That was an interesting point of view and I would like to share it with you:

Some time ago I was asked to try and review RationalPlan by Tiberiu Ghioca. There are two versions of the application Single Project and Multi Project. The version I used was the Multi Project Version which retails for around $98 per user (compare this to MS Project more about that later).

The one obvious advantage along with the price is the fact the application works on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. This is appealing as I am among the few Windows users (by the way I am happy with this) in most of the projects I work on. So finally a Project Management application that is not online (I travel a lot and do not always have easy access to the Internet) that can be shared among all the users on a project.

What is the best environment for RationalPlan?

From using the application over the last few months it holds its own in the SME and Micro Company market against any of its competitors. Where the project management is maybe only a full time job for one or two individuals or where a small team are delivering projects to multiple clients at the same time.

How did it road test?

Well I used this on a group of small projects using the same delivery team and was really pleased with the ease of use and simple interface. This screen shot was taken on a EEE with a 10.1 inch screen and this is a suitable screen resolution to make the application easily usable when I was on the move. Its lighter functionality in comparison with MS Project on was never really an issue when I was mobile.

What can it do?

From a functionality level it is more than capable of managing projects, baselines, risks, cost and resources which is really all you need to manage a project. If you are an MS Office applications user you may miss the import and export functionality the MS Project has with Visio and Excel. Although I have to say what I love about this application and has set it above all the other competitors that I have looked at is the project set up wizard. I have shown this to a few project managers who are starting out and everyone has been impressed with this tool.

The Project Set Up Wizard

This is the applications killer feature (shown in yellow in the screen shot) a quick group of forms that you can work through in a logical order and outline the whole project.

Project Section

The Project section allows you to define the whole project easily setting up all the project basics such as calendar and basic info but screens for notes and links also allows you to link to documents on the hard drive or network drive. There are also screens to capture risks along with assumptions and constrains which help to reduce the paperwork (files to manage the project) and make sure that by going through the set up you have thought about these factors.

Planning Section

The planning section start with creating a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) and then on to building relationship and scheduling the tasks. Once this is complete and you should have a good understanding of the project you then add resources and materials that you will need to the resource bank. At this point you will use the next three screens to manage the assigning of resource to tasks, with the Multi Project version you can see availability due to other projects on the level resources screen. Working through the project section allows you to get the scheduling and resourcing right easily. You also define additional cost in this section of the wizard.

Controlling Section

Once the project is live you can track tasks and monitor resource levels and cost, I found it useful to refer to the other screens during the controlling stage. This being said you can still easily manage the project in the Gantt and resource views but the wizard mirrors good practice and helps the planning process. For this alone I would use application to help create projects and get all the information in a a re-viewable format quickly.

Why would I recommend it?

I already have on several occasions and it is especially suited to:

  • If you are new to project management the wizard will help support good practice.
  • For most users not needing complex integration and Portfolio Management it will do more than you need.
  • Small teams with multiple clients.

It is not a competitor to MS Project but if you are looking for PM software you could save a lot of time by downloading a trial from http://www.rationalplan.com/download.php