Project Management

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, 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 purposes is to schedule a series of events or tasks and the complexity of the schedule can vary considerably depending on how the tool is used. Some common challenges include:

  • Events which depend on one another in different ways or dependencies
  • Scheduling people to work on, and resources required by, the various tasks, commonly termed resource scheduling
  • Dealing with uncertainties in the estimates of the duration of each task

Providing information
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:

  • Tasks lists for people, and allocation schedules for resources
  • Overview information on how long tasks will take to complete
  • Early warning of any risks to the project
  • Information on workload, for planning holidays
  • Evidence
  • Historical information on how projects have progressed, and in particular, how actual and planned performance are related
  • Optimum utilization of available resource

Approaches to project management software

Project management software can be implemented as a program that runs on the desktop of each user. This typically gives the most responsive and graphically-intense style of interface. Desktop applications typically store their data in a file, although some have the ability to collaborate with other users (see below), or to store their data in a central database. Even a file-based project plan can be shared between users if it's on a networked drive and only one user accesses it at a time. Desktop applications can be written to run in a heterogeneous environment of multiple operating systems, although it's unusual.

Project management software can be implemented as a Web application, accessed through an intranet, or an extranet using a web browser.

This has all the usual advantages and disadvantages of web applications:

  • Can be accessed from any type of computer without installing software on user's computer
  • Ease of access-control
  • Naturally multi-user
  • Only one software version and installation to maintain
  • Centralized data repository
  • Typically slower to respond than desktop applications
  • Project information not available when the user (or server) is offline
  • Some solutions allow the user to go offline with a copy of the data

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