Want to get project disciplines into your organization fast? Here’s how

By | April 21st, 2016|Project Management, Project Management Software|0 Comments

 Introducing Project Disciplines is hard work

Lots of companies find introducing project disciplines slow, difficult and not very exciting.  Staff often show resistance and it can be hard to get buy in and commitment at executive level where other stuff is seen as more important or pressing.

Well here’s some good news.  The best way to get some project disciplines in fast is to buy a project management package.

But before you get too excited and start reaching for the cheque book, you need to make sure that you chose the right package.

Choose the right project management software

Choose the right software and accompany it with a process for running projects and some training and you’re cooking on gas.

If you choose well, your project management package will do all of the following:

  • Provide the means for project managers to produce plans and keep them up to date
  • Capture time worked and optimise staff utilisation
  • Capture and track financials
  • Monitor project status and publish project status reports
  • Facilitate executive level reporting on all of the above

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How Does RationalPlan Position Against its Competitors?

While publishing our products over a specialized reviews directory we were asked: “How do you position yourself against your competitors?“. To summarize it the answer would be: “RationalPlan puts the accent on productivity and tries to be as easy to use as possible: straightforward and intuitive“.

The Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule)

Compared to other products it has the same power but it is more affordable to the users. If you compare for example RationalPlan Single product with Microsoft Project standard version you get 80% of the functionality at 20% of the price. There was a customer – whose name I can not mention without his approval – that after buying RationalPlan he wanted a refund because he was not finding certain features available in MS Project. After explaining him where he can find that functionality we also recommended to keep the product. A few days later we received this answer: “Now that I get to know RationalPlan better, I wouldn’t want to miss it anymore. You helped me save a lot of money by “preventing” me from buying MS-Project 🙂

Embedded project guide

Project management applications tend to be a little bit more complicated and require some training for users to understand how to use them. There are special terms and notions that need additional explanations to understand them. RationalPlan offers an embedded project guide that takes users step by step through the whole process of initiating, planning and controling a project. It is great for a novice or accidental project manager but has the power and the tools to assist an experienced one. Once users get used to the software they can hide the project guide, increase the workspace area and create their own pattern in using the product.

Works everywhere

RationalPlan was developed to work on any operating system: Windows, Mac OS X, different Linux flavors. Even more with the cloud service module it can run directly within the browser no matter what the underlying operating system is.

Great support

One of the main aspects that RationalPlan believes in is the client satisfaction. That is why customer support is a priority. RationalPlan is not a big brand and people do not know it that much but anyone that gets to work with it prefers it over the competitors. Here are just a few testimonials to confirm the customer satisfaction.

However the final verdict is what the users say about RationalPlan products!

Top 10 Most Popular Project Management Articles of 2014

By | December 30th, 2014|Project Management Software, Time Management|0 Comments

When it comes to project management related topics year 2014 was no more special than any other year. Readers from all over the world visited our blog searching for answers and advices to their questions and problems. Here is a list with the top 10 most read articles starting with the one with the most visits:

  1. Creating Budget Or Cost Baselines For Projects
  2. CAPM® Exam – How to Pass It and Is it Worth It?
  3. Advantages and Benefits of Project Management Software
  4. Work Breakdown Structure Made Easy
  5. Traditional and Agile Project Management in a Nutshell
  6. Time Management In Project Management
  7. Managing Projects Using Project Baselines
  8. Which Set of Skills Is Crucial for a Project Manager: Soft Skills or Hard Skills?
  9. Is There a Project Management Methodology for One-Person Projects?
  10. How Important is Domain Knowledge for the Project Manager?

It can easily be seen that there is no particular topic that visitors are especially looking for. However it seems many of them are interested to know more regarding the work with baselines. Otherwise several blog posts are related to improving the skills required to better plan and manage projects – on short users want to become better as project managers.

Of course readers feedback is welcomed for the new 2015 year.

RationalPlan 4.10 – Project Management Software Now Also Online

By | October 5th, 2014|News, Project Management Software, RationalPlan|Comments Off on RationalPlan 4.10 – Project Management Software Now Also Online

RationalPlan Project Management SoftwareStand By Soft is pleased to announce the release of RationalPlan 4.10. Current version comes with a web-based project management module for the Server product, more reports, better support for opening Microsoft© Project files and many other features. Plus starting with this version all RationalPlan products are available for Mac OS X users within the App Store.

RationalPlan suite started as a desktop application designed to run on all major operating systems – Windows, Linux and Mac OS X – but it evolved into an embedded management system that is now available even as a project management cloud service both for individuals and for companies that need a distributed solution with concurrent access from multiple users.

Important changes for this version:

  • Added web-based project management module
  • RationalPlan products are available on App Store on Mac OS X
  • Added filters in Timesheet view
  • Added more reports
  • Improved integration with MS© Project 2013 files
  • Added Notes column for tasks and projects
  • Added possibility to display a special color for 100% complete tasks
  • Better rendering for exported Excel spreadsheets
  • Added support for special characters in Windows installer

RationalPlan Server can be used in two flavors: On Premise – installed on the clients hardware with a one time payment – and as a Cloud service – hosted on RationalPlan’s servers with a monthly payment. Starting with this version a web-based project management module was added such that users can start managing their products directly from a browser. Although the module is in beta version and is under heavy development it is stable and can be used even in production. (more…)

RationalPlan 4.6 – Project Reschedule, Invoice Generation and SkyDrive Storage Integration

By | September 27th, 2013|Cloud Project Management, Microsoft Project, News, Project Management Software, RationalPlan|Comments Off on RationalPlan 4.6 – Project Reschedule, Invoice Generation and SkyDrive Storage Integration

Stand By Soft is pleased to announce the release of RationalPlan version 4.6. RationalPlan is a project management software that puts the accent on productivity, ease of use and fast learning. Current version comes to support this ideology by offering the possibility to easily reschedule the project. More than that the integration with SkyDrive storage service offers increased collaboration and productivity.

RationalPlan is a project management software that was designed to help different types of users starting with newbie project managers, continuing with users that need an environment to handle multiple projects and up to companies that need a distributed solution with concurrent access.

Important changes for this version:

  • Added the possibility to generate project invoices
  • Automatically reschedule uncompleted tasks
  • SkyDrive storage service integration
  • Added the possibility to roll up tasks
  • Documents management module
  • Added the option to remember usernames and passwords when working with RationalPlan Server product
  • Better integration with Microsoft Project
  • Improved administration area within the RationalPlan Cloud solution

At users request it was added the possibility to generate project invoices. Hence it became a must to have the possibility to manage company’s financial details like tax ID and tax rate. And since RationalPlan customers come from different locations on the globe with world-wide clients it was also added the possibility to apply the tax rate only for certain clients.

Sometimes a project can be put on hold for various reasons. But when it resumes the initial plan is not valid anymore except for the already executed tasks. In this situation a reschedule is required starting from a new reference date. This is now possible in RationalPlan. Already completed tasks will remain at the initial location, while partially completed tasks will get splitted and rescheduled along with the uncompleted ones.

After Google Drive and Dropbox storage integration in version 4.4, RationalPlan continued with SkyDrive storage integration. Users can now manage their projects without worrying if their data is safe on their local hard-drives. All they need to do is to keep their files stored on any of the above three storage hosting solutions. (more…)

Dynamic Project Planning For Increased Productivity and Flexibility

By | August 15th, 2013|Project Management, Project Management Software|Comments Off on Dynamic Project Planning For Increased Productivity and Flexibility

Every project starts with a well-defined plan and schedule. But the reality offers a lot of uncertainty so the project may very well not evolve according to the initial plan. The result is that measures are required to adjust the state of the project to reflect the new reality.

Planning a project is not an easy job. It requires some knowledge and an amount of experience. The steps are simple… Create the list of activities that need to be performed, structure them accordingly in phases and sub-phases and establish durations (or amount of work depending on the types of tasks). Next create the project flow by adding dependencies between tasks. This way it is established the order in which tasks are executed.

Up to this point there is nothing related to time and this is the biggest hint to keep in mind: avoid hard constraints. As long as tasks are scheduled to start as soon as possible then every task will depend only on its predecessors and on the project estimated start. This is the perfect project template that can be easily shifted in time by just changing the project estimated start.

It is unlikely that a novice project manager will be able to produce such a scalable project plan… There are situations when it is just impossible to keep a project flexible even for a senior project managers. But this is due to the nature, the requirements and the constrains of the project.

How To Adjust The Schedule

So the schedule is done and the project is ready to go. But it may take no more than one week for the project plan to stop corresponding to the reality: some tasks take longer than estimated, others are executed faster or even worse the project is put on hold for various reasons (lack of funds or personnel, a financial crisis period, bad weather conditions and the list can continue). What now? Synchronizing the old plan with the reality takes some effort and attention.

It is obvious that the already completed or started tasks will remain at their location. The only discussion is about moving the uncompleted ones and/or splitting the tasks that are partially completed. This adjusting process is similar to planning the project but done on a smaller scale. If the initial plan was not time flexible then each particular conflict needs to be manually solved.

As mentioned above the best case is the one when the plan was created with as few as possible hard constraints. This allows an increased flexibility when it comes to shifting the activities in time. (more…)

PM 1.0 versus PM 2.0. What Is Next – Project Management 3.0?

There are certain individuals nowadays, mostly “project managers”, that decided to add version numbers to the notion of Project Management… And they created PM 1.0 and PM 2.0. More than probably the numbering idea came from the software domain: different tools and different versions for various needs.

A Little History Background

Since ancient times man created spectacular structures. The Great Pyramid of Giza around 2550 BC and The Great Wall of China around 206 BC are just two of them. Both survived to the test of time and even now are still standing. For this to happen it required a well done preparation, knowledge and workforce. These are clear proofs of an extraordinary construction engineering. Can we talk about project management at that moment? Perhaps not under this name but in reality it was exactly that.

The notion of Project Management as we know it today began to take root around year 1950. At that time organizations started to systematically apply management tools and techniques, developed in earlier years, to complex engineering projects. A famous tool that is being heavily used even today is the Gantt chart. One way or another businesses and other organizations began to see the benefit of organizing work around projects. So it was not just management anymore but it was also about projects: Project Management.

The Software Era

Managing projects on paper, as it was done at that time, is a time consuming process, prone to errors and costly. Obviously all these are true for medium to large projects and not for the small ones where the management is a lot easier to be done. But with the technology advances between 1970 and 1980 the first few project management related software solutions were created. This was an incredible increase in the performance of managing projects: faster computation, more reliable data and all the advantages that came from using a computer.

Over the years from users feedback better and better project management tools were created. Some solutions became deprecated and died while others evolved. However there is one particular point in time that can be considered a milestone: the evolution of Internet and the appearance of Web 2.0. All the fuss around the new World Wide Web aka Web 2.0 started around year 2000. The new way of dynamically rendering pages over the Internet offered an increased flexibility in using web application as a team as opposed to desktop ones. The gate to collaboration between team members directly through project management software was opened. And starting from this people created the term of Project Management 2.0[1][2][3].

How did that happen? Simple: the traditional way of managing projects (this approach was renamed into PM 1.0 at a later stage) was lacking in one regard they say – collaboration – and the new approach came with that. It is a hard thing to believe that before Web 2.0 there was no collaboration between stakeholders when managing a project… Maybe not through the use of PM tools but there were other means like email, chat, phone etc. So is it right to say that PM 2.0 = PM 1.0 + collaboration? (more…)

Working With Project Management Software – Who Is Managing Who?

By | July 9th, 2013|Project Management Software|Comments Off on Working With Project Management Software – Who Is Managing Who?

Managing projects is not an easy job and in most cases the manager would greatly benefit from the use of a dedicated software. Starting from this necessity project management tools were created. But the main problem is if these tools are a real help for those that are using them or it is just a loss of time.

It is a well-known fact that computers became a necessity in our lives by simplifying our work. Increased computational speed, huge memory and lack of fatigue are the main reasons why computers have so much success. Let’s admit it: in certain aspects robots are better that humans. So why not use them for such purposes? It is obtained an increased execution speed and accuracy. But all these come with one cost: time. Someone has to lose some time to teach computers how to do the job right.

So a project manager and his team can ease their work using specialized project management software. But is it worth it? Well… it depends if they are using the right tool: it should be easy to use and to configure and to not require to invest too much effort in using it. Time is precious and should be used to manage the projects and not the software. If one is using considerably more time to handle the software rather that working on its projects then that software is useless. In this case a replacement should be the right thing to do.

The sad truth is that for the most part, teams have absolutely no idea how to use their project management tools even months after they’ve supposedly integrated the system into their workflow. And it’s the same with other software… Some vendors just make complicated software that have far too many steps and users end up working more on their project management software to enter tasks and communicate than they do on getting the project done.

A well designed project planning system should allow users to easily create entities like projects, tasks, resources, clients and to add details – data input is a time-consuming process. Another point to keep in mind is that computed data should be always at hand and easy to follow. Navigation between any two views should not require more than a few mouse clicks. An intuitive interface is a big must: the users need to find fast what they are looking for. (more…)

Is There a Project Management Methodology for One-Person Projects?

By | June 13th, 2013|Project Management Methodology, Project Management Software|Comments Off on Is There a Project Management Methodology for One-Person Projects?

If you are an employee of a small organization or of a research institution, or just a freelancer, you are likely dealing with one-person projects. You are the team, you are the project manager, so you are responsible for all project documentation, communication, and, of course, project work.

Before you start looking for the right project management software and methodology, make sure you were assigned a project and not just a task or a set of interrelated tasks to accomplish a goal. A project has a definite beginning and end, and its aim is to create a unique product or service. It also has definite resources and usually its timeframe is defined by the organization. If indeed you were assigned a project, it is useful to approach it from a project management perspective in order to complete the work in an efficient manner, taking advantage of the knowledge, tools, and techniques of project management.

All projects have scope, deliverables, resources, and budget. For one-person projects, you are in charge of planning, executing, and monitoring your work, and you are accountable for the project’s outcome. Almost any project management methodology can be applied to one-person projects, with some exceptions. For example, applying Scrum is arguably not possible because there is no Scrum Master or Product Owner. But if you have volatile project requirements, an agile management approach is likely to fit your project, so you can use Scrum or other agile process as a basis to create your own version of the methodology and tailor it for your specific project. (more…)

Project Management Software for Traditional vs. Agile Environments

By | May 7th, 2013|Project Management Methodology, Project Management Software|Comments Off on Project Management Software for Traditional vs. Agile Environments

Agile vs. Traditional project managementHow much does an agile project management software differ from a traditional project management software? On short: pretty much. But on the other side both types of products have many things in common.

Many say that agile is not a project management methodology but rather a product development methodology. But in many cases the companies prefer to treat the development as a project and hence the notion of agile project management. Now the agile and traditional approaches are totally different so the first thought would be that the software used to manage each type of projects to be different. The idea is that agile PM is not a method per se, but rather an umbrella term for different processes. In turn, agile processes are very different among them.

In Scrum there are small teams, usually collocated, no project manager, and very often there is no need for a software for the managing the project. The team is self organizing, team members are doing daily meetings, and the project is split in iterations that take maximum one month. At the end of each iteration it is decided the next one and so on… No one wants to loose time by updating a plan that keeps changing or to monitor the daily progress of the team with a project scheduling tool.

In other agile processes the iterations take longer but the main idea is that the project plan, the requirements and the product specifications are subject to change. So a traditional project management software does not solve these needs. Indeed it is necessary to have a monitoring process for the project and the team, a system for client communication etc. but due to the dynamic nature of the processes there is no needs to have fancy or complicated features. An agile product should be light in functionality, easy to use, easy to access and highly portable. (more…)