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Low-complexity projects can be managed with lists of activities on paper or by using an outline in word processing or spreadsheet software. This software is inadequate for tracking complex projects. Fortunately, there are several dedicated software programs that keep track of the complex relationships between activities and resources.
Simple projects can be tracked using general purpose word processing and spreadsheet software like those available in Microsoft Office or OpenOffice. Medium-complexity projects benefit from dedicated project management software such as Microsoft Project and OpenProject. Complex projects require software that can track the interactions of thousands of tasks and produce sophisticated reports such as Oracle’s P6.
There are dozens of computer software programs available with a wide range of prices. Some open source software programs are free, but others cost up to a thousand dollars. There are several considerations for selecting a project management software besides price.
Use software that is already in use and with which most team members are already familiar. If software that is used by most team members is appropriate to the complexity of your project, it is the default choice. It is also valuable to know what software is used by key vendors or project partners so files can be exchanged electronically in the same format.
Any project management software that is selected must have the ability to track and display basic features such as the following:
Team members should be able to view the project schedule. Some software products require the use of expensive proprietary software that runs on the company’s server and that will allow several different team members to use the same schedule and restricts the use of the software to team members who have access to the company’s computer system. Other software products use a server on the Internet that is open to team members and vendors who have valid passwords.
For more complex projects, look for advanced features, such as the following:
Learning New Software
Describe the methods that work best for you when you learn a new computer program, such as self-directed exploration, a textbook, self-paced tutorials, or organized classes with an instructor. If you wanted to require that all the members of your ten-person team use project management software that was new to all of them, how would you recommend that they learn the software?