3 posts categorized "Spreadsheets"

11/17/2010

Why Do We Choose the Project Management Software Tools We Do?

IStock_000005289430XSmall I often think about why we choose a particular project management software platform (or why we should choose).  There were the usual reasons: the right features, pricing, fit with my organization, service, support, etc.  Then I came across an article by Ted Hardy that provided some food for thought.

There are the reasons we should choose a particular project management software platform, and then there are the reasons that we sometimes do choose a particular project management software platform.  Here are some the reasons I think that we sometimes do choose a platform:

Familiarity

Sometimes we choose a system that we are comfortable with.  This explains why so many people use spreadsheets as a project management software tool.  Is that the best tool for project management?  In most cases no, there is no built in project management functionality and it is difficult to pull any sort of analytics across multiple projects / spreadsheets.  But many people are very comfortable with it and so it gets used.

Access

What do you have access to?  Using spreadsheets again as an example, most people have access to a spreadsheet program.  That makes it cheap and simple to use.

Lowest Risk

It is sometimes personally less risky to go with a "well-known" system (aka Microsoft Project) even if that is not the best system.  Why?  Because it is well known and so it would be hard for someone to come back and argue why that was a poor choice, even when the system may not pan out well.

Simplicity

It is easier for us to implement a simple solution than a more complex one.  I am a big proponent of keeping things simple, but that has to be compared to the needs of the organization.  Perhaps we choose a system because it is so simple that it can be understood immediately, even though our needs may require something a little more complex.  For example, we may choose a simple system that makes it really easy to enter tasks, whereas the best system may also provide the capability to store documents, track time, enter dependencies, and track issues and risks.

History

If we have used software before (such as in a previous position), we are more inclined to use it again, even if it may not fit the current situation and organization.  It is hard for us to be open-minded and evaluate from a blank slate, even though the organization and needs may be very different from our previous history.  This correlates with familiarity.

Political Influence

Perhaps there is some sort of political influence - a director with a preference - that is the real reason for our decision.

Be honest now.  What reasons have you used to choose software systems in the past?





11/04/2010

4 Tips to Building an Issue Management Log in Excel

IStock_000005289430XSmallIssue Management is sometimes an overlooked part of day-to-day project management and project management software.  It involves managing the issues that arise in a project that threaten the successful completion of that project.  Once we plan a project, it almost never goes according to plan.  For example, resources may get siphoned off to a higher priority project, a customer may want to change the scope at the last minute, or something may have been done incorrectly and needs to be reworked.  All of these are examples of issues that need to be managed correctly.

Many project management software tools, including EnterPlicity, have Issue Management built into them.  One of the primary advantages of this is reporting: how many issues do we have, what is the open issues list across all projects, how many did we close, etc.  But what if you need to use Excel for your issue tracking?  Here are four quick trips to building a good issue management log in Excel.

1.  Don't be too simple.

In other words, don't just list the issues.  You need to include information to help you manage each issue.  This should include the date that you opened (or discovered) the issue, the date the issue was closed (or resolved), the status of the issue (is it open or closed), the priority of the issue (high, medium, low), the owner of the issue, the project, and any current notes on the issue.  This will allow you to know which issues to focus on (priority) and who is responsible for resolving the issue (owner).  Review these continuously and monitor their progress.  You can use drop down lists for your priority and status fields (see this article).

2.  Keep your issues together.

Ideally, keep one spreadsheet that contains the issues for all of your projects.  That will make it easier for reporting and to create a dashboard sheet.  You could keep a separate tab to track the issues of each individual project, but this will make it more onerous.  I would add a Project column to your issue log and keep them in one worksheet if at all possible.

3.  Keep it Maintained

It doesn't take a lot of work to maintain your issues log.  Sort and move closed issues to the bottom or to another worksheet or spreadsheet.  Maintain the status of each issue.  It is like I tell my kids with their homework.  If you plan and stay on top of things each day, it's not so bad.  But if you wait and don't keep up with it, it's going to be much harder.

4.  Allow Team Members to Submit Issues

Encourage the communication of issues from team members.  I would not have them open up your issues log and add issues to it.  You need to maintain the integrity of the issues log.  But you could have a special spreadsheet just for new issues.  In reality, many times team members do not want to have to find and open up a file and submit an issue.  At least encourage them to email issues, and then you can place them into the issue log (assuming it is actually an issue).  You want people to communicate issues so that you know about them right away and are not surprised in the middle of a meeting with your senior management.

In the next post, I will show you how to create an issues dashboard, such as showing issues opened and closed in a given month or a list of the current hot issues.





09/29/2010

Article: Comparison Between Project Management Software and Spreadsheets

The differences between project management software and spreadsheets may seem obvious.  However, since so many people use spreadsheets, I decided to document a comparison.  What really are the differences and advantages of each?  Are there things that you are not considering?

Read the article here






 

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EnterPlicity is project management software that enables your organization to extend project management software tools to everyone, share any project information, automate key processes, and analyze project data in a single, easy to implement system.