July 31, 2010

Criticisms of Project Management Software (PMS)

Project Management Phases

The following may apply in general, or only to specific products.

  • May not be derived from a sound project management method. For example, displaying the Gantt chart view by default encourages users to focus on timed task scheduling too early, rather than identifying objectives, deliverables and the imposed logical progress of events (dig the trench first to put in the drain pipe).

  • May be inconsistent with the type of project management method. For example, traditional (e.g. Waterfall) vs. agile (e.g. Scrum).

  • Focuses primarily on the planning phase and does not offer enough functionality for project tracking, control and in particular plan-adjustment. There may be excessive dependency on the first paper print-out of a project plan, which is simply a snapshot at one moment in time. The plan is dynamic; as the project progresses the plan must change to accommodate tasks that are completed early, late, re-sequenced, etc. Good management software should not only facilitate this, but assist with impact assessment and communication of plan changes.

  • Does not make a clear distinction between the planning phase and post planning phase, leading to user confusion and frustration when the software does not behave as expected. For example, shortening the duration of a task when an additional human resource is assigned to it while the project is still being planned.

  • Offer complicated features to meet the needs of project management or project scheduling professionals, which must be understood in order to effectively use the product. Additional features may be so complicated as to be of no use to anyone. Complex task prioritization and resource leveling algorithms for example can produce results that make no intuitive sense, and overallocation is often more simply resolved manually.

  • Some people may achieve better results using simpler technique, (e.g. pen and paper), yet feel pressured into using project management software by company policy (discussion).

  • Similar to PowerPoint, project management software might shield the manager from important interpersonal contact.

  • New types of software are challenging the traditional definition of Project Management. Frequently, users of project management software are not actually managing a discrete project. For instance, managing the ongoing marketing for an already-released product is not a "project" in the traditional sense of the term; it does not involve management of discrete resources working on something with a discrete beginning/end. Groupware applications now add "project management" features that directly support this type of workflow-oriented project management. Classically-trained Project Managers may argue whether this is "sound project management." However, the end-users of such tools will refer to it as such, and the de-facto definition of the term Project Management may change.

  • When there are multiple larger projects, project management software can be very useful. Nevertheless, one should probably not use management software if only a single small project is involved, as management software incurs a larger time-overhead than is worthwhile.

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