Project Scheduling – The Central Piece Of A Project Management Software

By | November 30th, 2011|Project Management Software|Comments Off on Project Scheduling – The Central Piece Of A Project Management Software

Project scheduling should be considered the central piece of any project management software. Without the possibility to easily schedule all the tasks of a project there would be little expectation regarding the efficiency of controlling complex projects. However a project scheduling software should simplify a project managers work and not complicate it.

The project schedule

The project schedule is the central part of the project plan and it is used to connect the tasks to be done with the resources that will accomplish them. It consists of a list of deliverables with intended start and finish dates. Deliverables are the lowest level elements in a schedule, which are not further subdivided.

In addition, the schedule provides project teams with a map for project execution and offers a baseline for tracking progress and managing changes. It can be used as a checklist to make sure that all necessary tasks are performed. If a task is on the schedule, the team is committed to doing it. In other words, the project schedule gives the means by which the project manager brings the team and the project under control.

The visual representation of a schedule is a timeline chart. It is created such that it depicts the tasks of the projects, the duration and the sequencing of them, and the major milestones of the project. The Gantt chart is the most popular timeline chart.

Prior to creating the project schedule the project manager must have a work breakdown structure (WBS), an effort estimate for each task, and a list of resources with availability for each resource. Once these data are established a project scheduling tool can automatically do much of the tedious work of calculating the schedule. However, before a project manager can use such tools, he should have an  understanding over concepts like WBS, dependencies, resource allocation, critical paths etc. These are the real keys to planning a successful project.

When establishing the project schedule a few important steps must be performed:

  • Establish dependencies – The first step in building the project schedule is to establish the order in which tasks are going to be performed. The WBS structure will be used as input. A dependency will be created between two tasks if one depends on the other. There are four types of dependencies: Finish to Start, Finish to Finish, Start to Start and Start to Finish.
  • Assign resources to tasks – The next step is to identify the resources required to perform the work. A resource is any person, item, tool, or service that is needed by the project. Based on its availability the schedule might get adjusted in time.
  • Create the schedule – Once the dependencies are established and the resources are assigned the project manager must enter the work effort or the duration for each task. With this information in place a project scheduling software should be able to automatically arrange the tasks and calculate a final date for the project.

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Tips And Common Practices For Project Managers

By | November 28th, 2011|Project Management Software|Comments Off on Tips And Common Practices For Project Managers

Nowadays almost any manager uses some kind of project planning software and the reason for this is simple: software can help and ease a lot the work of any person.

Many experienced project managers have created over time a knowledge base of tips and tricks that they can use. However novices are not that lucky. They need to gain all these in time. In this article we shall try to present some of the most encountered ones.

Keep your project as dynamic as possible

Projects tend to move and change in time and for this reason there must be an easy way to update it. If it is created using hard constraints a simple shift in time might actually be a very hard to do operation. Here are some things that you should take into consideration:

Use of constraints. Constraints on tasks impose certain restrictions in the scheduling algorithm because it relates to certain dates. Fixed dates should be avoided as much as possible since this links the project to a certain time period. Instead of using dates to specify the sequence of tasks you should rather think at adding dependencies between them.

Creating dependencies. If certain gaps must be created in the sequence of tasks within a project then these should always be represented using dependencies with “leads” or “lags”. This is very useful in case of shifting the project in time. Do not simulate them using false tasks or hard constraints. Using false tasks will result in an increased total work and constraints will make the project to be connected to certain dates. Furthermore dependencies should be avoided to be used to resolve resource overallocations.

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Make Sure Your Projects Are On Track

By | November 18th, 2011|Project Management Software, Project Tracking, Resource Management|Comments Off on Make Sure Your Projects Are On Track

A good plan is just the first step to the success of a project. The real work starts only after the project plan is ready. As a project manager you have to track the project’s evolution and make sure it follows the initial plan as much as possible. And the easiest way to accomplish this is through the use of project tracking software.

It is a well know fact that the initial plan does not always fit your expectations. The unpredictable happens. To increase the chances for project success, once your project is started the project manager needs to constantly monitor its progress keeping up with what everyone is doing. There are several factors that need to be kept under control: activities, resources and work, budgets and costs, progress.

Activities

Activities in a project can be categorized based on certain characteristics as projects, phases, milestones and tasks (the term task is generally used for all these terms). A milestone is a key event marking the end of a major stage of a project. And for this reason managing milestones is the most important factor. Essentially these are the deliverables which your project sponsors will remember and keep asking you about. You need to immediately recall these dates to instill a sense of confidence in your ability to be on top of things. The key here is to have a clean layout over the milestone plan and to make sure you check them as completed at the already planned dates. You can do it sooner but not later.

The next important activities are the low level ones. Since phases are just a summary of all these tasks it is obvious that once the tasks are efficiently tracked all the above levels up to the root project are also on schedule. In this case the key is to easily determine the critical path of the project and to constantly track those tasks. Project management tools like Gantt charts can make this job as easy as possible.
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Project Management Solutions To Better Control Your Business

By | October 4th, 2011|Business Management, Project Management Software|Comments Off on Project Management Solutions To Better Control Your Business

Any business needs some management solutions to get organized and stay on the floating line. Unfortunately, many organizations are forced to rely on paper trails and email-chains. These outdated methods were replaced by newer project management solutions.

There are different types of such solutions for a wide range of working domains and for many kinds of needs. The access to accurate, real-time data regarding projects and resources is crucial to making strategic business decisions. Companies must keep up with the changes that impact the day-to-day running of their business. Managers are expected to deliver more than ever – but with fewer resources, within a shorter period of time and to produce maximum returns for the business.

Many times all this work gets externalized to other specialized entities. This covers either the use of project management tools or even more the delegation of entire work to management and consulting companies. In all cases appropriate methodologies and processes are necessary to be applied.

Project management solutions

In order to make the best decisions to support your organization’s long-term goals you have to decide and choose the right management solution:

  • Resource management – if you have a resource oriented activity this is the solution on which you should insist on. In most cases it is strongly connected with work management software
  • Project portfolio – this type of solution is the most used in any domain. Any company has multiple projects that needs to be managed. It also covers almost entirely resource management software
  • Issue tracking – best suited for software development companies
  • Task management – many small and medium organizations resort to this kind of solution; task management software is used mainly because of the ease of use, simplicity and light collaboration features

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RationalPlan Version 3.24 Is Available With New Features

By | September 6th, 2011|News, Project Management Software, RationalPlan|Comments Off on RationalPlan Version 3.24 Is Available With New Features

RationalPlan version 3.24 was just released. Many new features were added like the possibility to work with custom filters, to attach documents or to use rich text editors on tasks. More reports are available now in multiple languages and as a bonus a preview capability is also present. Another thing that deserves to be mentioned is the compatibility with the latest Java version 1.7.

RationalPlan is a project management software designed to fit multiple types of users starting from novices, those that need an alternative to Microsoft Project, users that need an environment to handle multiple projects and up to companies that need a server solution with concurrent access for multiple users. It has been developed to help project managers keep their projects on time and within budget.

Important changes added to this version:

  • Added support for custom filters
  • Support for multiple languages for reports
  • Added a new “Resource assignments” report
  • Added documents for tasks
  • Improved the functionality for managing conflicts
  • Added WYSIWYG rich text editor for the notes on tasks, resources, clients and risks
  • Added support for Java 7
  • Added the possibility to preview reports

The reporting mechanism was significantly improved from multiple points of view. The most important is the possibility to have a preview of each report before it is decided whether it will be printed or not. Next a new type of report was added: “Resource assignments”. This report is useful to generate the list of responsibilities for a certain resource. This way the project manager can hand over either digitally through .pdf files or manually through printed sheets the list of activities that each resource has to do. And all of these are now available in multiple languages including English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Romanian.

Working with filters on tasks just got easier and at the same time more powerful. With the addition of custom filters users can now create any combination of the already existing ones. They will be able to see for example the tasks that are not completed and that are assigned to certain resource and that have a deadline.

The way users can manage documentation on tasks in the current version should be more helpful. They will have the possibility to attach documents as links to local files or to web pages over the Internet. More than that the Notes area was transformed in a rich text editor from a plain one. Users will be able now to format texts and add hyperlinks or images. The rich text editing was also extended to other data like resources, clients, risks etc.

Many more minor improvements were added like an easier way to manage conflicts, some cosmetic issues, better translation in other languages and so on. Support for the latest Java version 1.7 was also added.

RationalPlan suite includes:

RationalPlan Single Project – the alternative for Microsoft Project and the perfect solution for novice or accidental project managers
RationalPlan Multi Project – project management software for multiple projects, projects that are interconnected through dependencies and share common resource
RationalPlan Project Viewer – free project management software viewer, the solution for anyone (from project stakeholders to team workers) to view projects details
RationalPlan Project Server – a centralized place to manage the company’s projects while offering concurrent access to different users

RationalPlan Project Management Software is available at http://www.rationalplan.com. It can be download from https://www.rationalplan.com/download.php.

About Stand By Soft

Stand By Soft was founded in 1997 as a software company specialized in building desktop applications and components. RationalPlan is a project management software that follows the general recommended guidelines from project management domain. MOOS Project viewer is a Microsoft® Project viewer that allows you to open, view in a dynamic way and print any Microsoft® Project file

Contact name: Lucian Ioan
Address: Aleea Parului, Nr.4A, Craiova, Dolj, 200346, Romania
Email: marketing@rationalplan.com
Phone: +40771610710

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How To Best Manage Resources In Project Management

The general features of a project management software include scheduling, costing, budgeting, controlling, management and communication. However an important function of any project management solution is resource management. This covers all types of resources including human, equipment, materials and costs.

Nowadays businesses can work efficiently only by managing resources. With materials and costs things are pretty easy: you buy a stock and it is yours. Human resource management is not the same. You can not just own a human resource, but need to retain one. With the help of a resource management software, project managers can make sure that the right human resources are working on the right tasks and following a real-time project timeline. This is achieved based on several factors like employee’s skills, experience, and availability.

Resource planning software – must have features

In today’s global economy, when projects are spread across multiple regions or even countries it only makes sense that the right resources should make up a project team, regardless of their physical location. Even more project managers need to have powerful project planning tools capable of managing multiple projects with shared resources. At any moment in time they need to view resource availability and utilization even across multiple projects.

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Who needs a task management software and when?

By | July 22nd, 2011|Project Management Software|Comments Off on Who needs a task management software and when?

Many people find themselves at a certain point in their life looking for a task management software to help them refocus and keep their finger tips on what is important. Task management products organize, schedule and ensure that tasks get done on time. On short it can boost your productivity. By being better organized and more focused on what you have to do, you save time and reduce stress.

Good task and project management software was hard to find a few years ago when people were using Outlook. Nowadays productivity has become almost an obsession of geeks everywhere, so the increasing request for such tools generated a large base of good task and project management solutions. There are a lot of choices to help manage the tasks, ranging from standalone applications to web-based services.

What exactly are users looking for?

Most of them are actually looking for a personal organizer application to put some order in their busy and messy life. “In the beginning, I somehow managed to keep everything in my head. Then, as I began to take on more projects, I realized that I needed a task management system to keep me organized and focused.” says Deborah Woehr a freelance researcher and writer.

These personal organizers generally take the form of the so called “To Do List” applications where users create a list of tasks for which they set a start date, some deadlines and a priority – something very simple.

The Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology

Most of the to-do-list applications these days adopt, to one degree or another, the GTD approach to task management according to the work-life management system by David Allen that provides concrete solutions for transforming overwhelm and uncertainty into an integrated system of stress free productivity. Apps vary as to how tightly or loosely bound to GTD they are.

The problem, though, with To Do lists and personal organizers is that are only good for your work. Task management or task tracking software is more than just a to-do list. In a business many of the tasks are collaborative and require multiple team members to fulfill several tasks in a single project. In this case you need an application where assignments could be made, all tasks could be tracked, and completed work could be archived. This is a true task management tool.

Users sometimes need to manage multiple projects and delegate work to resources, schedule tasks in time or even create plans. This is a further step to an upper level: project management or project planning software. (more…)

Project Management Software Alternative for Microsoft Project

By | July 11th, 2011|Microsoft Project, Project Management Software|Comments Off on Project Management Software Alternative for Microsoft Project

One of the most used project planning software of all times is Microsoft Project with millions of users worldwide. The product is used mainly by companies to manage projects in almost any activity area. However the users base does not end here and the software package is also used for educational purposes or for personal use.

In the past there were very few project management tools hence a poor competition and for this reason the prices for such tools were high. In the last years the software market has grown rapidly such that at this moment there are hundreds of such products: some of them have just some basic functionality while others offer a full solution to manage projects. For this reason the prices have dropped significantly.

What to look for when searching for a Microsoft Project alternative

However many users still use Microsoft Project despite the high price. Why? Simple: Microsoft Project is still considered as the “de facto” standard in project management and many project plans are stored in its format. The biggest problem in migrating to another project scheduling software is the conversion of existing data to the new format. For this the new adopted product must be able to successfully read Microsoft Project files. Even more if it is needed a Microsoft Project integration then the new product must also be able to export data in MS Project Data Exchange format.

Another important factor in deciding what alternative to Microsoft Project to choose is the list of available features. It must supply some powerful tools like Gantt charts, scheduling mechanisms, resource management, cost management, etc. If it provides even additional features like running on multiple platforms, support for collaboration or even the possibility to handle multiple interdependent projects that is even better.

One major problem that users have with MS Project is the fact that they do not always need to modify projects. Many times they only need to view the projects or even less to see what they have to do. OK you might say that some printed reports will do the trick but this is somehow limited. Instead of using some static reports it would help a lot more to have a dynamic view over the projects: on short a Microsoft Project viewer.

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RationalPlan Project Management Software 3.22 Is Available With Stronger Server Privacy Options

By | June 17th, 2011|News, Project Management Software, RationalPlan|Comments Off on RationalPlan Project Management Software 3.22 Is Available With Stronger Server Privacy Options

RationalPlan project management suite version 3.22 added support for custom roles and rights for its Project Server module and the possibility for users to work from different timezone locations world wide. More reporting capabilities, easier to use and more intuitive interface, improved Microsoft Project integration and many more useful features were added. All these also available in German and French language.

RationalPlan is a project management software that follows the general recommended guidelines from project management domain. It has been developed to help project managers keep their projects on time and within budget. RationalPlan Project Server is a better solution for those companies that need a concurrent user project management system by adding a server module that gives project managers concurrent access to a central project data repository.

Important changes added to this version:

  • Added support for rights and permissions for users on RationalPlan Project Server
  • Possibility to create custom roles
  • Added the notion of TimeZone on server
  • Translated to German and French
  • Possibility to create task details reports
  • Render special working days in resource sheet
  • Added more filters to assignments page
  • Possibility to clear history on server side
  • Store graphical interface settings for resource sheets from all Gantt views
  • Allows users to select different positions for the labels on Gantt task bars
  • Possibility to move resources up and down in the list
  • Improved Microsoft Project integration
  • Possibility to fit horizontally to visible area on Gantt chart
  • Allow setting a fixed cost and accrual on phases

Some significant improvements regarding data privacy were added to RationalPlan Project Server. Business owners have now more powerful tools to keep their projects sensible data under control. “We decided to give our customers the possibility to create custom roles and rights and the ability to assign them for each created user. This is necessary to hide certain data like costs or other project details that should be kept private.” says Gabriel Toader, CEO of Stand By Soft. The list of rights usefulness expands further so that it can be used to also restrict access to certain functionality and features of the product. A resource or a stakeholder should always have less power over a software product than a project manager.

A sensible problem for companies that work over multiple locations is the timezone variable. Time related data like dates and working hours may be perceived differently by a user from Europe as compared with a user from Asia or America. This is why a solid project management tool should correctly manage time zone differences. Other improvements were also made to RationalPlan Project Server: the possibility to clear the history of changes, more filters for resources assignments and much more.

Current version also gets translated to German and French languages. “We would like to thank to all the users that helped us in translating RationalPlan products with special thanks to Mr. Jan Hefer from Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft research organization.” says Gabriel Toader, Stand By Soft CEO.

When resources in a project work according to a special calendar it is very useful to see those special working days while controlling the worksheets. All these are possible now in RationalPlan. Special working days are displayed with a different color while in Resource Sheet. It is easy to select the corresponding resource by just clicking on those special days.

All charts but especially the Gantt chart have been redesigned to offer more flexibility in presenting and handling data. A very useful “fit to page” action was added that will help users to easily scale the charts such that to fit horizontally to the visible area. This is neded when a project is spread over a large period of time and you want to easily see an overall presentation of it without too much details. Another useful feature is the possibility to present task details near the task bars in customizable locations (left, right, center). With this feature it is possible to generate better looking reports and printouts.

Other features: task details reports were added, the Microsoft Project integration was improved with a better support for MS Project 2010 files and more changes were made regarding the input of project’s data, allowing more flexibility in managing projects and resources.

RationalPlan suite includes:

RationalPlan Single Project – project management software for single projects
RationalPlan Multi Project – project management software for multiple projects, projects that are interconnected through dependencies and share common resource
RationalPlan Project Viewer – free project management software viewer, the solution for anyone (from project stakeholders to team workers) to view projects details
RationalPlan Project Server – a centralized management of company’s projects while offering concurrent/controlled access for different users

RationalPlan Project Management Software is available at http://www.rationalplan.com. It can be download from https://www.rationalplan.com/download.php.

About Stand By Soft

Stand By Soft was founded in 1997 as a software company specialized in building desktop applications and components. RationalPlan is a project planning software that follows the general recommended guidelines from project management domain. MOOS Project viewer is aMicrosoft Project viewer that allows you to open, view in a dynamic way and print any Microsoft Project file.

Contact name: Lucian Ioan
Address: Aleea Parului, Nr.4A, Craiova, Dolj, 200346, Romania
Email: marketing@rationalplan.com
Phone: +40771610710

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Things To Check When Choosing A Work Management Software

By | June 14th, 2011|Project Management Software, Resource Management|Comments Off on Things To Check When Choosing A Work Management Software

There are certain things that a project management software must have in order to be sure you pick the best one available and to maximize your return of investment.

One of the key features that a project management software should have is the possibility to track the progress, for both the project manager supervisors and workers that participate in the project execution. This is related to creating tasks that can be easily and clearly quantified or on short to create deliverables – tasks that have measurable parameters.

Analyzing the workload is very important feature that a work management software must have. Managers must be sure that an optimal work force is assigned to various parts of a project and that no overallocation occurs. Assigning more work force than it is necessary to tasks would be a waste of resources. A good project planning software must have the workload analysis process in inter-dependency with the list of analysis features.

Estimating budget costs and managing budgets makes a great difference between a good profit and waste of investment. A project scheduling software without a detailed cash flow, at task level, can do more harm than help. Tracking project evolution, in each stage, with a good correlation between costs and progress is very important to be sure that the level of funding is adequate at any time.

Also do not forget to check if the selected work management software is capable of handling multiple projects, being able to track resource usage (workforce usage) over multiple projects. You don’t want to assign a worker to two projects at the same time. In the case that it still happens a resource leveling mechanism is always welcomed.

Avoid project management software that do not have a trial version. It is imperative to check all the aspects before deciding if that one is the management program that best suits your needs. (more…)