In order to manage the software project management activities efficiently, there has to be a right project management approach and right set of project management tools.
By the very nature of IT projects, since there are rapid changes in technology involved, regulatory compliance involved, varied skill set involved; project managers for software project have to deal with the high amount of complexity and risk involved. Now a days IT teams are practicing various methodology of planning and delivering software projects. Despite of a well set project management practice, project team needs right project management tools to plan, manage and deliver IT projects. There are plenty of tools available for effective project management. Let’s look at some of these tools.
Gantt Chart as a Project Management Tools
Ever since Gantt chart was invented by Henry Laurence Gantt back in 1910s, its usage and popularity has been increasing. It is now considered as a vital project scheduling tool that shows project activities graphically as horizontal bars along a project timeline. It also represents inter-dependency among project tasks.
Critical Path Method
Critical path analysis has been used extensively by project managers especially in infrastructure projects, albeit those who have experience using it. Critical path method identifies project activities on a shortest path (critical path) to the completion of projects. Typically activities on critical path are interdependent on each other. The way activities on critical path are arranged, the overall due date of a project with reference to a given start date can not be preponed. Other way round, if there is any change in any of the activity on critical path, it has direct impact on the project due date and any such change will change the final project completion date (as per plan).
This tool highlights set of tasks on critical path and project managers are careful about those activities on critical path; in terms of changing dates, allocating resources, budget for such activities. It has proved its utility over the period however some professionals believes that project plan on a paper is way different than reality hence they tend to ignore critical path. It is especially true in case of project management professionals who practice agile or non-traditional project management.
There are broadly three types of project baseline.
- Project Schedule Baseline
- Project Cost Baseline
- Project Scope Baseline
Project baseline is largely considered as an agreement between stakeholders for a given phase of a project to represent a logical / standard measure of the project performance.
There are different ways project managers use project baseline. One of the scenarios is such :: in which project manager baseline the project schedule before kicking-off the project and it is an agreement with stakeholders about activities involved, timeline. As the project execution starts, project manager may have to update project schedule over the period. Once he compares current schedule with what was baselined, project stakeholders come to know what has been changed/deviated from baseline.
It is also useful to check requirement changes, process changes, technology update or certain strategic decisions which might have impacted the project baseline.
Earned Value Management
Earned value management is favorite tool of many project managers as well as customers. Those customers who want to know how much value have we earned while project is underway, use earned value management technique. It is somewhat advance technique that not understood by considerable section of project managers. It has specific terms like budgeted cost of work scheduled, budgeted cost of work performed, cost variance, schedule variance, cost performance index (CPI), schedule performance index (SPI), etc. Understanding individual terms, their significance (e.g. When SPI is less than 1, what it means, when it is zero, what it means, etc).
Project managers practicing lean project management approach, may want to use Kanban board as a simple technique to visualize workload. Kanban board offers good visualization of work, it works well especially for those projects where routine activities are involved. Team members can check their cards on Kanban board and move that card to appropriate state/place on the board once there is certain progress for a given activity.
Program (or project) Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) chart is a project management tool designed to analyze and visualize the tasks involved in completing a given project. The tasks in PERT chart are visualized as network diagram or roadmap; showing flow of project tasks in parallel, as well sequential manner. PERT technique is considered in parallel with critical path method.that depicts project as network diagram. It is capable of graphically representing main events of project in both parallel and consecutive way. Events, which occur one after another, show dependency of the later event over the previous one.
Events are shown as numbered nodes. They are connected by labeled arrows depicting sequence of tasks in the project.
Resource Planning, Work Load Reports, Resource Capacity Planning
Before finalizing project schedule, project manager has to look at resources required to complete/deliver project. PM needs to evaluate skills, experience, roles required to carry out individual activity and accordingly check whether his/her organization has required resource available.
Resource Load chart is a semi-visual tool that represents resource (placeholder/ actual) and their required efforts on a daily/weekly/monthly basis over the project duration. This is very effective project management tools for resource planning and evaluating their productivity/utilization.
Time Tracking Tool
As software professionals starts working on activities of a given project (be it task, issues/bugs, risks, or change request), project managers have to track their actual efforts spent. Time tracking tool enables project team members to track time spent on a given activity; it can be reviewed by project manager while approving. Such tracked time can be used in following way
- Tracking actual efforts
- Tracking team member’s productivity
- Tracking actual cost of executing project
- Billing customer for actual work performed
- Tracking value earned from a given project
Additional readings about project management, leadership
- Avoid These 10 Most Common Mistakes That Leads to Project Failure
- Transition of A Good To Great Project Manager
- Looking for a robust task management software: Best of Both Worlds: Gantt Chart + Kanban Board?
- Project Management Tool for Software/ IT Projects
- Managing Project Stakeholder’s Expectations
- Guide to Selecting RIGHT PM Tool
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