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Flexible Project Management Software – the Design Factor (1 of 2)

March 09, 2009

There’s an important, but not apparent, set of factors effecting
successful use of project management software which can trip
you up if you’re not aware of them.

Time is short,  let’s take a look at the hidden Design factor in this
and the subsequent blog, and how it impacts you.

Before we get started on design, a brief baseline. Project
management software
represents both a promise and a
challenge. The promise looks something like, “if you use this
tool, you’ll be on track, on time, within budget,
complete what you set out to do, etc…”

But it turns out that the (reality) challenge of completing the
project is bigger than the promise, given all the failed or over-run
projects that occur – that presumably were to be avoided by
using project management software.

I’m sure you’re aware of that – and if not, it’s easy to research
via Google

So here’s the first thing to get about project management
software design – this directly effects your time and dollars.

1. Project management software comes in all
sorts of design configurations, from simple to complex.
Theoretically you should choose no more complexity than
is required to complete your job, as increasing complexity
always requires more time, effort and cost to use.

If project management software was equivalent to tools for
digging in the dirt, you would probably agree that they range
in complexity from shovels to large earth moving equipment.
So, common sense would suggest that you pick the tool
that’s right for the job… and only spend as much money
as you need to.  Right?

But, here’s what most people don’t think about. What does
your project mix look like on the job?
What’s the % of time
spent working simple vs complex projects? E.g. if only 5%
of your time or resources is spent on complex projects,
you wouldn’t buy a complex software with all sorts of bells
and whistles… just because it was the biggest or
market leader… or would you?

Take one more look at this. What if you looked at the
needs of the people using the project management software.
What % of your people working on projects need something simple,
versus complex or high powered?
I’m betting the % on both is
a 10/90 split or higher – with 10% or less going to high powered

Well, it turns out actually lots of people/organizations buy more than
they need, or worse… can sustain
. This is an easy one to
trip over, but why?

Why? Because it has an immediate sense of comfort.
A protection against the distressing discovery that they have
purchased something that will “let them down” or that other
people can criticize as under performing. It avoids the dreaded,
“Why did you buy that software?” challenge. Reminds me of
that old phrase, “no one ever gets fired for buying IBM.”

Design factor, as it effects the simplicity vs complex dimension,
can trip you up in two ways.
1. Over Buy: You can protect yourself against not being sure about how
much you need and just over-buy, get something bigger than
you need… just in case (and then struggle with a low % of people mastering
it’s complexity).

2. Under Buy: You can also buy something “simple.”   But again, if you don’t
accurately assess your needs, it’s easy to trip and inaccurately�
determine if its simple design has enough flexibility and capacity
built into it to avoid limiting you and your team going forward.

Here’s the bottom line:

Most of us need a flexible project management software.
In fact we need it much more than we realize – not only to
match up well against the range of projects we are managing,
but also given the range of people’s need working on the project.

One tool that can be work simply when that’s all that is
required, and yet have the power built in when we need it.

But, an important hidden gotcha, is that along with flexilibility,
project management tools also need to leverage
information really well
. That’s an issue, especially when you
begin looking at simple tools, really all of them.

We’ll dive into that on the next blog. See you there.

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