Project Management

I’ve done some project management in my work, especially for software rollouts. I’ve even had classes on the subject. Recently, a friend asked whether anyone had experience with implementing project management software. Here’s how I responsed.

A very wise project manager told me the golden rule of project management: In your new desk, you’ll find 3 numbered envelopes. When your project gets into trouble, open the next numbered envelope.

The message in the first envelope says, “Blame the guy in charge before you.”
The second one says, “Ask for more money.”
The third one says, “Make three envelopes.”

Project management covers a lot of stuff. You should start by clearly identifying your requirements. Are you looking at managing single projects with dedicated resources or multiple projects with shared resources? Are there a lot of repeatable cookie-cutter projects or are most things one-offs planned each time? Is the focus on project planning or tracking? Do you need it to handle scheduling and resource constraints?

Whatever. It always boils down to the standard roadmap.

1. How are you doing it today?
2. How do you want to do it?
3. Determine what’s missing.
3a. In what’s missing identify what’s must-have and nice-to-have.
4. What’s available?
4a. (google blah blah blah software)
4b. (google opensource blah blah blah software)
5. Matrix answers in #2 against features and costs found in #3.
5a. (wikipedia blah blah blah terms like ‘critical path’ so you can line up #2 with industry terms)
6. Get budget approval.
7 Buy and install software.
8. Make end users angry by introducing new system they had no say in and don’t know how to use.
9. Realize that implementing software systems has human costs.
10. Rapidly try to add training and procedures with no budget.
11. Look back at #1 and create a transition plan.
12. Swear to learn from mistakes and never do it that way again.
13. Rinse and repeat.

Most place I’ve worked used MS Project exclusively. I seen a few other systems. My overall advice: pick the software with the fewest features that cover your requirements. Bells and whistles sound good, but mostly get in the way in my experience.

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