Posted on July 27, 2012 · Posted in Software

We have come to believe – right or wrong – that life would be impossible without ‘software’. I have given serious thought to this many times. In a way, it is true. We had ‘software’ before we had ‘software’.

You never imagine that our brain is a nice collection of software run and powered by a powerful CPU, the brain. Before we knew to hand over most of what we can do with our brain to the microprocessor, we used our brains in-built software systems. Now, the big thing is that, due to the microprocessor and computing ability, we have been able to spare our neurons to more creative and innovative use of them.

Man is realizing that brain has got to do a whole lot of advanced intellectual work instead of mere repetitive tasks that can easily be passed to hardware and software.

The question, though, is if we use this ‘brain freedom’ to make ourselves creative. Software is doing their job. Is your brain, too?

The project management industry is a lucrative market for software. We all started with the software applications developed for other generic purposes: word processing, spreadsheet applications, presentation software, database management applications and so on.

Today, however, there is a rich array of purpose built software packages available for the project manager, his team and the client to be integrated and function as one seamless unit.

Such software. of course, claim to give you a richer and more fulfilling life as a project manager. Most importantly, they will save you time and help you plan better. As a project manger, the first thing I expect from a PM software is the right level of complexity followed by enhanced communication functions built into it. Communication functions will allow you to keep everything on track and everyone in touch. The PM software must support the best forms of collaboration of the team. Collaboration functions designed must address the right type of collaboration required by project management and facilitate up to the minute information input. Finally, the software needs to have built with the goal of building team spirit – something which is rarely the concern of many PM software developers.

If you ever asked me to explain the best PM software, the answer will always be ‘a an intelligent one that will evolve by itself with the project’. True. We have to wait long.

The level of complexity of software is the most critical issue we have to consider. We have project management software by thousand. Some are too complex and others are too simple. You know what I mean. I remember times when my project teams were overwhelmed by the mere complicatedness of the software. Other times we had to suffer since the recommended software was not enough in complexity to go with essential requirements. Both extremes tend to create a new set of constraints as I find it meaningful to call: ‘software constraints’.

Right evaluation of the all available software solution for your particular requirement is an essential first step. You and your project team must involve in the evaluation process. If the application you are used to seems to work well, think twice before you switch it. People resist change more than anything.

On the other hand, you should learn to leave the horse when it is dead. Be proactive and realistic. You may be handling a project that is completely different from what you have been managing so far. So, your time tested old model may not work. But understand why it does not work. Document the level of complexity you and your team expect and brainstorm. Choose the software with right level of complexity.

After the right level of complexity, what I look for next in the right kind of project management software is its adaptability. I would never want to go for a software application that does not come with a lifetime customer support. Till the intelligent systems that self evolve are developed, we need software solutions that are adaptable. We should be able to make necessary changes easily. There should be room for introducing extensions and plugins as they are needed. It would be any project manager’s nightmare to get stuck in in the project due to software limitations and waiting ages for the software support to come and fix the issues.

Goals are what we are driven by. Goal orientation is an essential key to project success. Not only the project manger but the entire team of the project must be well versed in the project goals. I have rarely seen a project management software that is designed with goal orientation in mind. If you develop an application I can give you the specifications for such a system. You need to build a functionality to relate each and every task to the major goals of the project. There should be system reminders and notifications to make every member of the team individually aware of the contributions they have made so far in the achievement of the project goals. The best motivator is the correct knowledge about your ongoing contribution. In project management, nothing is more relevant.

Thanks to advanced communication technology, today we can work in a team whose members are widely distributed geographically. The internet can connect them, sometimes better than meeting face to face. I well remember the times that I worked with a team of which no two members lived in the same place. This collaboration is one of the most essential duties of the project management software. All emerging software seem to address the issue in more innovative and creative ways.

Collaboration has many aspects to take into account. It is not just voice or video conferencing which is today taken for granted. Collaboration is more about sharing data, documents and plans. Collaboration is about creating an informal environment in which team members feel that they belong.

With advancing telecommunication technologies coupled with super fast data transfer ability, we need to think of the next higher dimension of collaboration.

Twenty years ago, we complained of lack of information. Today, we are overwhelmed by the amount of information. The challenge now, in project management, like in any other human endeavor, is to managing information. Projects generate so much information and the project management software needs to be able to process this information in the right way. As project managers, we often experience situations where delays in processing make the information useless. Sometimes, it is the incorrect processing that lead to wrong conclusions. One measure of usefulness of any PM software is its ability to gather relevant information, process it in a relevant manner and proper submission to the relevant members of the team.

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