As an adept project manager, your work will be best complemented by equally effective planning software. To ably handle the complexities of modern projects you want a tool that will help you make the most of your workforce, employ your resources optimally, reduce costs and deliver on time.
In short, you want a dynamic all-encompassing solution that will adapt to project priority and resource changes in real time.
An effective project planner must offer the following key features:
- Project management system : This will enable you to put the entire project into perspective. It details the project scope, clearly defining the manager’s responsibilities. This is followed by project scheduling/planning where a detailed work breakdown structure describing tasks and dependencies is provided. A budgeting/cost management section enables ongoing project cost tracking. Issue tracking helps with the monitoring of any issues encountered while the risk planning and management section covers risk evaluation and appropriate response plans.
Also provided are sections for document management, time tracking, change management and project reporting.
- Progress tracking : With this feature, team members are able to at a glance observe the project’s real-time progress. This is with regards to resource utilisation, timeline progress i.e. whether the project is on track or lagging, the current risks and issues they should be aware of, and the project budget with focus on estimated costs versus actual costs.
Timeline progress is visually represented with the help of intuitive Gantt charts.
- Task management : This feature is an elaboration of the work breakdown structure (WBS). Starting with the creation of the WBS, the project manager goes on to describe tasks and detail task hierarchies, dependencies and priorities.
This section also has provisions for creating project milestones, tracking activities on critical path, and setting a project schedule baseline. It is also possible to monitor the progress of multiple projects at one location thanks to a project portfolio Gantt chart.
- Resource planning : Here the project manager creates an organisation hierarchy structure which then informs the project’s reporting structure. This is followed by the project team section whereby profiles are created, replete with everyone’s roles and responsibilities. For each member, the manager can add and/or alter resource details and set cost and billing rates.
Also provided is a real-time resource availability section and others for resource scheduling, leave plans and conflict resolution. Last but not least, a tool for measuring each resource’s efficiency and performance is provided.
- Risk management : Team members use this feature to submit risks and describe them in detail, as well as identify their type and suggest a likely date for their occurrence. The risk register contains details of all the submitted risks, their status, whether they have been assigned, their review status, etc.
The risk assessment section is where the project manager reviews newly submitted risks, estimates their impact, and develops appropriate response strategies. The risk dashboard represents these risks visually in terms of status and severity.
- Cost management : Here the project manager allocates a budget to the project and sets billing preferences. Cost and billing rates are also set for each resource and there is a provision for overwriting rates which have been defaulted at organisational level.
This feature also enables tracking of project budget, cost and billing. A dashboard representing these values visually is provided. With the help of a project portfolio cost matrix managers can track the financials of every project in their portfolio. Other sections are project expense tracking and expense category customisation.
- Project reports : Provided here is a portfolio dashboard where all crucial indicators including timeline, budget/cost, resource utilisation, task status and issue status are displayed. For the timeline aspect, a Gantt chart makes it possible to view all portfolio projects at a glance.
- Web-based project management : This features an online project planning schedule that is shared with everyone and updated in real time. Other sections here include a discussion forum, online project planner calendar, and social media status update.