Most Useful Project Management Tools and Techniques Made Simple
Choosing the right approach to managing a project is crucial for successful project delivery. The way you manage work is defined by techniques that you use, and tools that you adopt. In this article, we’ve collected project management tools and techniques that are used in different fields and help create an efficient process.
Project Management Techniques
Techniques in project management range from traditional to innovative ones. Which one to choose for running a project, depends on project specifics, its complexity, teams involved, and other factors. Most of them can be used in various fields, however, there are techniques that are traditionally used in certain areas of activity, or are developed specifically for certain fields. Below, we’ve listed the most popular techniques that are used in project management.
The simplest, traditional technique is sometimes the most appropriate for running projects. It includes preparing a plan of upcoming work, estimating tasks to perform, allocating resources, providing and getting feedback from the team, and monitoring quality and deadlines.
Where to use: this technique is ideal for running projects performed by small teams, when it’s not really necessary to implement a complex process.
This technique is also considered traditional, but it takes the simple classic approach to the new level. As its name suggests, the technique is based on the sequential performance of tasks. The next step starts when the previous one is accomplished. To monitor progress and performed steps, Gantt charts are often used, as they provide a clear visual representation of phases and dependencies.
Where to use: this technique is traditionally used for complex projects where detailed phasing is required and successful delivery depends on rigid work structuring.
Agile Project Management
Agile project management method is a set of principles based on the value-centered approach. It prescribes dividing project work into short sprints, using adaptive planning and continual improvement, and fostering teams’ self-organization and collaboration targeted to producing maximum value. Agile frameworks include such techniques as Scrum, Kanban, DSDM, FDD, etc.
Where to use: Agile is used in software development projects that involve frequent iterations and are performed by small and highly collaborative teams.
Rational Unified Process
Rational Unified Process (RUP) is a framework designed for software development teams and projects. It prescribes implementing an iterative development process, where feedback from product users is taken into account for planning future development phases.
Where to use: RUP technique is applied in software development projects, where end user satisfaction is the key requirement.
Program Evaluation and Review Technique
Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) is one of widely used approaches in various areas. It involves complex and detailed planning, and visual tracking of work results on PERT charts. Its core part is the analysis of tasks performed within the project. Originally, this technique was developed by the US Navy during the Cold War to increase efficiency of work on new technologies.
Where to use: this technique suits best for large and long-term projects with non-routine tasks and challenging requirements.
Critical Path Technique
Actually, this technique is an algorithm for scheduling and planning project works that is often used in conjunction with the PERT method discussed above. This technique involves detecting the longest path (sequence of tasks) from the beginning to the end of a project, and defining the critical tasks. Critical are tasks that influence the deadlines of the entire project, and require closer attention and thorough control.
Where to use: Critical Path technique is used for complex projects where delivery terms and deadlines are critical, in such areas as construction, defense, software development, and others.
Critical Chain Technique
Critical Chain is a more innovative technique that derives from PERT and Critical Path methods. It is less focused on rigid task order and scheduling, and prescribes more flexibility in resource allocation and more attention to how time is used. This technique emphasizes prioritization, dependencies analysis, and optimization of time expenses.
Where to use: like the previous two techniques, it is used in complex projects. As it is focused on time optimization and wise resource allocation, it suits best for projects where resources are limited.
Extreme Project Management
Extreme project management technique (XPM) emphasizes elasticity in planning, open approach, and reduction of formalism and deterministic management. Deriving from extreme programming methods, it is focused on human factor in project management rather than on formal methods and rigid phases.
Where to use: XPM is used for large, complex and uncertain projects where managing uncertain and unpredictable factors is required.
Project Management Tools
When applying any of the techniques to the project you need to accomplish, you also need to use specific tools for successfully implementing the technique. Here’s a list of software tools that are used in project management on different work steps.
Organizing Workflow & Planning
This step is the core part of starting a project: it defines how the project will be performed, and how the quality of its outcome will be ensured. Large companies often use such comprehensive solutions as MS Project. For smaller teams, various alternatives are available. They don’t provide all the rich functionality typical to complex and expensive tools, but they have planning and roadmap features that are sufficient for visualizing future project progress. There are also free project management solutions that suit best for startups and small businesses.
Being the key point in many techniques and methodologies, communication within a project team needs to be properly organized. While using email for formal communication and important messages, it’s also essential to have a corporate messenger – Slack and Skype are the most popular ones. And, if your team members use different tools to communicate, eliminate the pain of having multiple messengers by integrating them.
When allocating resources and planning for future, it’s crucial to know who on the team is available for specific dates. Use scheduling software for that! Such tools as actiPLANS provide a clear visual chart of absences for upcoming dates, and allow to see all necessary details to team members’ leaves and time off.
Knowing where your team’s time goes not just helps managing current project risks. It also provides valuable information for future planning and estimating. Time management tools, such as actiTIME, help managers understand both individual time expenses and team’s results for any period. Informative reports with time & cost summaries and notes to the logged time provide insights into how time is used and what can be optimized.
Finance & Accounting
For any project manager and business owner, understanding financial outcome of the projects is crucial for analysis and future planning. Most used accounting tools – QuickBooks, Zoho, Freshbooks – help collect this information. For smaller project teams, other accounting solutions can be reasonable. They require less investment, but also provide insights on project profitability, teams’ performance, and estimation accuracy.
Before starting work on any project, select the technique to be used and the tools that will help your team speed up and automate work. This defines the entire workflow, management process, and control procedures. By following the principles of the selected technique and using the functionality of the project management tools, you’ll ensure successful project delivery in compliance with requirements and deadlines.