Why Project Management Software? Part 2
Many, many organizations utilize stand-alone tools for their project management software needs. These include spreadsheets, Microsoft Project, Outlook, white boards, post-it notes, email, you name it. I am a believer that tools need to be matched with good processes. Which means that you could use these tools along with good processes to do an effective job of managing projects.
However, I have also seen that when an organization gets to a certain number of projects, it becomes very difficult to use these stand-alone and single-project tools. Why?
First, it takes a long time to physically manage those. For example, it takes a while to open all of the Microsoft Project files to update their status individually. Or to open up all the spreadsheets. Or to open up the single spreadsheet (assuming no one else has it open) to update the status of a particular project.
Second, those tools are not designed for multi-project management (some are not even designed for project management). You can use Excel but it becomes difficult when you have to start managing multiple projects with multiple tasks in each of those projects, all from within a spreadsheet. Microsoft Project is built to manage individual projects (I know you can create master project files but I am still waiting to meet the person that loves how this works).
Third, the information in these tools tends to be dispersed around the organization. One person may have files about their projects. Another person may have different files about their projects. Getting and keeping all of this information together becomes very difficult.
Fourth, an organization wants to begin to answer certain questions that are difficult without a good project management software system in place. These questions may be things like what is falling through the cracks? Or what have we promised our customers next month? Or which resources are doing what? Or which tasks are late? Or which people are more productive? Or where have we spent our time - on which customers and projects? These and others are all questions that are very difficult to answer when you have to manage a larger number of projects and collect data points across those projects.
That is probably why we see a lot of people that start looking because they realize that there has to be a better, more efficient way to do things. And as fundamental as this is (having too many projects) it is a fundamental reason why organizations look at project management software as a solution.