Project management software is a term covering many types of software, including estimation and planning, scheduling, cost control and budget management, resource allocation, collaboration software, communication, decision-making, quality management and documentation or administration systems, which are used to deal with the complexity of large projects.
Tasks or activities of project management software
One of the most common project management software tool types is scheduling tools. Scheduling tools are used to sequence project activities and assign dates and resources to them. The detail and sophistication of a schedule produced by a scheduling tool can vary considerably with the features provided and the scheduling methods supported. Scheduling tools may include support for:
- Multiple dependency relationship types between activities
- Resource assignment and leveling
- The Critical Path and Critical Chain methods
- Activity duration estimation and probability-based simulation
- Activity cost accounting
Project planning software can be expected to provide information to various people or stakeholders, and can be used to measure and justify the level of effort required to complete the project(s). Typical requirements might include:
- Overview information on how long tasks will take to complete.
- Early warning of any risks to the project.
- Information on workload, for planning holidays.
- Historical information on how projects have progressed, and in particular, how actual and planned performance are related.
- Optimum utilization of available resource.
- Cost Maintenance.
Approaches to project management software
Project management software has been implemented as a program that runs on the desktop of each user. Project management tools that are implemented as desktop software are typically single-user applications used by the project manager or another subject matter expert, such as a scheduler or risk manager.
Project management software has been implemented as a Web application to be accessed using a web browser.
A personal project management application is one used at home, typically to manage lifestyle or home projects. There is considerable overlap with single user systems, although personal project management software typically involves simpler interfaces. See also non-specialised tools below.
A single-user system is programmed with the assumption that only one person will ever need to edit the project plan at once. This may be used in small companies, or ones where only a few people are involved in top-down project planning. Desktop applications generally fall into this category.
A collaborative system is designed to support multiple users modifying different sections of the plan at once; for example, updating the areas they personally are responsible for such that those estimates get integrated into the overall plan. Web-based tools, including extranets, generally fall into this category, but have the limitation that they can only be used when the user has live Internet access. To address this limitation, some software tools using client–server architecture provide a rich client that runs on users’ desktop computer and replicate project and task information to other project team members through a central server when users connect periodically to the network. Some tools allow team members to check out their schedules (and others’ as read only) to work on them while not on the network. When reconnecting to the database, all changes are synchronized with the other schedules.
An integrated system combines project management or project planning, with many other aspects of company life. For example, projects can have bug tracking issues assigned to each project, the list of project customers becomes a customer relationship management module, and each person on the project plan has their own task lists, calendars, and messaging functionality associated with their projects.
Similarly, specialised tools like SourceForge integrate project management software with source control (CVS) software and bug-tracking software, so that each piece of information can be integrated into the same system.
While specialized software is common, software that is not project management-specific is often used in the management of projects. In particular, office productivity tools are used by most project managers.
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