Project Management Software

“Project management software” is a commonly used term that is loosely applied to...

“Project management software” is a commonly used term that is loosely applied to wide range of enterprise software applications such as:

Project planning: you can build a project plan graphically using a Gantt chart; alternative planning software provide you with a grid type view where you can specify tasks, durations and resource assignments. Generally, such software calculate the project’s critical path and provide Gantts, project WBS (work breakdown structure), schedule chart, load chart, task and resource sheet views.

Capacity planning: a capacity planning tool enables the organization to run what-if-scenarios in order to determine the most optimal use of its resources and capital. It also allows the organization to decide on which projects to fund, what additional resources to hire/contract and what other investments in needs to make to meet demand

Revenue forecasting and revenue recognition: companies today engage in all type of projects and complex billing arranges. Not all project work can be identified as hourly, some are milestone/phase/gate based, and in some cases the customer will refuse to pay fees on a project because they think excessive hours were spent to satisfy one or more project requirements. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) has volumes of text to explain revenue recognition guidelines and scenarios. All of this makes revenue forecasting less than trivial which is the premise behind a variety of software developed to track, forecast and report on revenue.

Time tracking: consists of a Web-based application (typically) that is used by employees and contractors to report on the time they spend on various projects and tasks.

Cost accounting and billing: provides the organization with a detailed report of cost by project, or how much billable work was done by project. This information is often integrated with the company’s financial system for cost and revenue reporting.

Collaboration and document management: projects often produce various types of documents; and a lot of project work is collaborative in nature, with two or more people working, at times, on the same document. Collaboration and document management software automates these activities and provides the audits, controls and accountability one would expect and need to ensure project artifacts (documents) are securely maintained and accessible.

Earned value analysis: earned value is the most accurate method to determine the true value created by work performed on a project. Earned value analysis is often offered as standalone project management software or as an add-on to existing project management software applications.

The best source of a comprehensive and official definition of the project management discipline is the PMI, the Project Management Institute. PMI’s Body of Knowledge also known as PMBOK. PMBOK is the recognized international standard for the project management practice. Suite vendors and the analyst community often try to bundle project management software as a component of a larger suite and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) type solutions. On the other hand, Web-service oriented technologies and best of breed vendors narrow the focus of project management to be more in conformance with PMI’s definition.

While project management software can be a single-user application where, for example, one person can use a Gantt chart to make a project plan (might as well just use a spreadsheet if just one user), any practical use of such software would have to be in a multi-user mode. In a multi-user mode, a project manager can plan the project, assign resources, get feedback from the resources on the tasks assigned using timesheets and project reports to evaluate project progress.

Based on our interpretation of PMI’s requirements, project management software is a multi-user application that includes the following independently accessible but inter-connected software modules:

  • Resource management & scheduling
  • Project planning
  • Time tracking (including time and billing)
  • Cost accounting
  • Revenue forecasting
  • Workflows for project approval, scope change control, risk assessment and issue tracking
  • Analytics

A long standing criticism for project management has been its single minded focus on projects, with little attention paid to the people who actually work on projects (the workforce) and their natural work patterns. The shortcomings of project management have led to a proliferation of new concepts, methods and innovations such as:

  • Critical Chain based on the Theory of Constraints
  • Project Workforce Management
  • Project Performance Management

Area of Application
Project Management

Related Terms
Earned Value
Project Plan
Critical Path