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Project Management Tools

Introduction

Project management today draws a lot of attention based on the benefits that accrue from its successful application. As business processes keep changing, a need for a defined process to start, plan, execute, and monitor these processes is necessary. This discipline normally presents itself through project management. The dynamic nature of business processes require an approach that can well adapt to the ever-changing business environment.

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During project management starting, planning, executing, and monitoring the project must be within the project constraints of time, cost, and scope. These are considered as the constraints into which every other project resource must fit. These constraints cost, scope and the time, form the project envelope. The project management process helps organizations to work within these constraints to ensure the success of their projects.

Project management requirements are significant and planned by a well-defined team that has the technical capacity to work within the defined boundaries. However, when these disciplines are not followed clearly, the project is likely to slip or all together fail resulting in loss of money and a dented reputation. Failed projects have a colossal negative impact to any business, especially due to the time and resources spent. To ensure that the project management process advances in a successful manner, tools are available to ensure that the aspects of project integration, time, cost, quality, as well as human resources are effectively covered.

The project charter for instance is a very important document that is prepared to support a successful project management process (Schwalbe, 2009). This lays the framework for the project management process and remains a strong reference point during the progress of the project. Lack of a project charter reflects negatively on the project and can adversely affect its success.

Project scheduling under project time management can be demonstrated using scheduling chart tools such as Gantt chart and critical path method (CPM) which are covered in more detail in a later section of this write up. The general project management tools provide the necessary support to assist expediently the project management team manage a candidate project successfully.

Financial Tools

Financial costing and other financially related matters in any project is very critical. Managing these issues will determine the success of any given project. A professionally constituted project management team should be able to employ “cost estimation tools and techniques” (Schwalbe, 2009, p.263). A variety of financial oriented tools may be used within a project. Some can be integrated as applications while others are specific and stand-alone. The conventional tools such as the net present value (NPV) which uses cash flows, investment rate of return (IRR), and the annual percentage yield (APY) are among the tools used to determine the financial value of the project undertaken.

The Tenrox tool for instance rely on previously collected data relating to similar disciplines that include planning, resource management and scheduling, project cost and billing, time and expense tracking as well as work process management (Tenrox, 2011). This tool makes use of a constituent component called the chargeback to ensure effective project cost reporting. The chargeback is also used to determine whether project costs and billing are properly accounted for. Chargeback also makes the project’s revenue recognition policy automatic.

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General Project Management Tools

The IT project management framework is an example of a tool that falls in this general category of project management tools. The framework also called the project investment life cycle combines the development life cycle of the system with the project management process (Dataperceptions, 2010). This framework also depicts the activities related to deployment and operations.

Assembla is another example of a tool that can be used for general project management purposes. This tool has features that offer communication through powerful collaboration. The main support features within this tool includes easily editable wiki pages allowing the team members to gain access and post their messages efficiently (Assembla, 2010). This tool also provides a centrally accessible file repository where the project team members can upload and download their files. Message boards where the team can pin and retrieve their messages. The tool also has a group chat video that offers real time communication for the team as another feature within this tool.

Risk Management Tools

Risk management is one of the most fundamental issues necessary for the success of any project. A very vital undertaking by any project manager is to identify, prioritize, and mitigate any likely project risks. The project manager can set up a risk chart covering these risks and their priority based on the likely impact to the project because of their occurrence. The risks with a higher possibility of occurrence and a greater impact on the project progress are addressed adequately or their effects addressed to reduce impact to a bare minimum. All this is important for successful implementation of the project. PIMS risk is a framework used to identify, analyze as well as evaluate typical threats to the project.

This tool will work well with the probability impact model that is used to estimate the occurrence probability by the cost or schedule delay. Other tools such as the schedule risk assessment manager (SCHRAM) and technical risk identification and mitigation system (TRIMS) enables the generation of risk adjusted schedules and provision of knowledge on technical risk management.(Worldnews, 2011).

Scheduling Charts

During project activity documentation, illustrations and diagrams ensure that communication is well effected among the members of a project team and with other stakeholders. Charts are used to ensure that information is accurately passed across to the target audience. Project scheduling is one such area where charts are used to illustrate effectively the project’s progress. Gantt charts are a common phenomenon in many projects.

They represent a graphical design of the project schedule. Other tools such as the critical path method (CPM) which helps the project team to determine the best duration a project can take based on the available resources normally accompany these scheduling charts. Another common tool is the project evaluation and review technique (PERT) which is an analysis tool that also falls within this category.

Claromentis project management software is a tool that specifically generates scheduling charts during project progress. The tool can enable the project team to effectively collaborate by controlling and monitoring the project’s progress and other related activities. Claromentis project management software provides task management, Gantt chart, as well as resource allocation capabilities. The task status-reporting component within this tool effectively complements the charting capability (Claromentis, 2010).

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Communication Aids for Teams

The success of any project largely depends on the communication among all the stakeholders. Effective communication channels must be established and maintained so that the progress of the project is communicated at every designated point. Perfecting communication involves the use of several support tools. One such tool is the ProWorkflow tool that is a web-based tool that can be used for time and team management (ProWorkflow, 2010). This tool provides an easy to use interface to manage projects and all their associated tasks. This process is integrated with the time tracking function for the staff.

Basecamp is another tool that enables the project team to communicate online concerning the status of the project. The tool is complete with a component that caters for project files. Basecamp has a dedicated dashboard that avails all the project resources and options to a user. Using this tool interactive milestone setting is easy. The team can also have online discussions related to the project they are working on. Basecamp centralizes these discussions to reach a wider audience (Basecamp, 2010). The message board component will support message posting concerning particular projects.

This tool has powerful communication aiding components that enable every team member to contribute to any project related discussions as well as enable task assignment and tracking. Personalized and unique features enable the team members to even leave comment tags against project milestones. Basecamp has an automated email notification system to encourage communication. The tool also supports popular file formats, which covers documents and images. These files and images can be shared between the team and clients. To keep track of project status, Basecamp supports version control

Conclusion

Project management remains an important exercise whenever a project is undertaken. The size and complexity of the project can be addressed satisfactorily if the project management approach is used. However, it can be noted that the management process itself spreads out to cover other aspects of the project. It is important for the project team to address integration issues independently. This is based on the assumption that the project consists of various components that must eventually be integrated. This integration is going to result into the complete system that represents the whole project. Therefore, towards this end, project integration management should be carried out.

Another key aspect for any project is its scope. The scope clearly identifies the project stakeholders and the acceptable levels of contribution and involvement within the project. The scope will cover the tasks and durations typical to the project. The time management will cover the whole project duration. A combination of methods and tools are available to support this process.

Costing in projects is among the most essential exercises. This process can determine the financial viability of a project as well as lay a foundation on which future projections can be made. This exercise helps the stakeholders beforehand to assess the financial benefits that accrue from the implementation of the project. Project cost management as a part of the project management exercise will employ methods, tools, and techniques to achieve a successful project management exercise. Forecasts can also be made based on the results for future projects.

Project management also includes quality management in projects. Under this part, the project’s quality assurance and control process is defined. Accompanying tools and techniques such as statistical sampling or the six-sigma approach can be used here.

Communication remains the most crucial aspect within any project management process. The project human resource management covers all aspects related to a project team to ensure a project’s success. This process focuses on the communication process within the project and ways of making the process effective and productive. Project human resource management explores the available communication aids, methods, tools, and techniques that are important to establish effective project teams that can be employed projects effectively.

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References

Basecamp. (2010). Project management software, online collaboration: Basecamp. Web.

Claromentis. (2010). Project software: Online project Management: Project management software- Claromentis. Web.

Dataperceptions. (2010). IT project framework. Web.

Proworkflow. (2010). ProWorkflow: Online project management software web based system: Time, task, contact. Web.

Schwalbe, K. (2009). Information technology project management (6th ed.). Cambridge, MA: Course Technology.

Tenrox. (2010). Project management software, online project tracking, & workforce management solution by Tenrox. Web.

Worldnews. (2011). Risk management tools. Web.

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