Project Management Tools for The Rest of Us
As a Project Management Trainer and a Project Manager, I'm often asked about what tools I use to help me manage my workload. Microsoft Project 2010 is certainly the most robust project management tool -- in terms of functionality and capacity. From a management standpoint, it’s the best application on the market for developing project plans, assigning resources to tasks, tracking progress, managing a budget and analyzing workloads. The only drawback is the learning curve it requires for end users -- in terms of both the application and project management as a discipline.
In my Project Management for Administrative Professionals course, I work with a lot of students that do not have any formal PM training. These students tend to work on smaller, more organic projects – sometimes by themselves or with a small team. Their needs are not nearly as comprehensive as a PMI Certified Project Manager. As a result, many of them have experienced an increase in project efficiency and effectiveness using the following free web applications.
WBS Tool is a free online application that lets me create Work Breakdown Structures – tree structures that allow me to break my projects down into smaller, more manageable deliverables or components. The application even allows me to attach duration and budget estimates to each component. I really like how the site lets me export my WBS either graphically as a jpeg or as a list in a Word document – which I find very helpful when preparing my project plans and closing reports.
Below is an example of a Work Breakdown Structure I recently did for a fundraiser/cocktail party where everyone dressed in Black and White attire. You can see how it looks in both graphic and text formats as an output of WBS Tool.
1 Black and White Party
1.2.1 Social Media pages
1.2.4 Web Site
1.2.5 Press release
188.8.131.52 Bid Sheets
1.4.1 Set Up
1.4.2 Clean Up
I'm a huge fan of Asana -- a free collaborative task management application. Its user-friendly interface allows me to plan and manage my projects by assigning specific tasks and tracking their status.
This two minute video does a wonderful job of explaining Asana -- much better than I can!
Tom’s Planner is another free (for individual users) web application that I use when I need to produce a Gantt Chart (a bar chart that shows my project schedule and the dependent relationships between my project tasks) for my project documents. Much like the WBS Tool, the images can easily be exported into Word or PowerPoint for my project documents. Now if I plan on managing to a schedule, I usually use MS Project, since I’m a fan of it’s integration with all my other Microsoft applications. That said, if it’s just an image I’m looking for (and I want it to be better than an Excel spreadsheet), Tom’s Planner usually does the trick in a matter of minutes.
Again, all three tools are free for individual users.
Let me know how these work for you -- as well as what other applications you've found to be effective.
Good luck with your projects!