What Tools Do Project Managers Use?
Project Managers use a variety of tools and software to handle things like team communication, scheduling, budgeting, sharing assets, and collaborating on creative projects.
What Is Project Management Software?
Project management software is software used for scheduling, project planning, budgeting, resource allocation, and change management. It allows Project Managers, stakeholders, and team members to conduct quality management, control costs and manage budgeting, and produce documentation. Project management software is also often used to help communication and collaboration between project stakeholders. Although project management software has a variety of uses, its main purpose is to aid the monitoring and planning of resources, project components, and stakeholders.
These are the main uses of project management software:
- Project planning: To define a project schedule, software helps Project Managers visually describe task progress.
- Task management: Allows for the creation and assignment of tasks, deadlines and status reports.
- Communication: Project management software makes it very easy to swap feedback on tasks, send updates, and ask for more information on timelines.
- Document sharing and collaboration: A central document repository accessible to project stakeholders increases productivity and efficiency.
- Calendar and contact sharing: Project timelines include scheduled meetings, activity dates and contacts that should automatically update across all calendars.
- Time tracking: Software must have the ability to track time for all tasks to eventually maintain records for third-party consultants.
What Is a Gantt Chart?
A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart that offers a visual representation of a project plan’s progression. Modern Gantt charts typically show you the status of each task in the project, as well as who is responsible for each task. It’s a very convenient way to stay on top of your project in progress.
A Gantt chart is made up of a variety of different elements. Here are some of the key components of a Gantt chart:
- Timeline: Running horizontally across the top, this displays days, weeks, months, and years.
- Task list: Runs vertically down the left to describe project work. It may be organized into groups and subgroups.
- Dateline: A vertical line that highlights the current date.
- Bars: Horizontal markers on the right side that represent tasks and show progress, duration, and start and end dates.
- Dependencies: Light grey lines that connect tasks that need to happen in a specific order.
- Milestones: Yellow diamonds that call out major events, dates, decisions, and deliverables.
- Progress: Shows how far along work is and may be indicated by percentage complete and/or bar shading.
- Resource assigned: Indicates the person or team responsible for completing a task.
How Do You Use a Gantt Chart?
To use a Gantt chart, follow these steps:
Figure Out Tasks and Subtasks
The most time-consuming step in this process is the first one. You’ll need to collect all the pertinent information at the beginning, so be proactive and realistic and consider each and every step that you’re going to need to follow to complete this project. Try breaking the work down into smaller, more manageable pieces and focus on milestones and the tasks needed to get there.
Define How Your Tasks Are Connected
Then figure out how the tasks are connected and whether there are any interdependencies. In Gantt chart terminology, there are different types of tasks: parallel tasks can be worked on simultaneously as other tasks; sequential tasks are linear; finish-to-start means the task can’t be started until a previous one is done; start-to-start tasks can’t start until another task begins; and finish-to-finish tasks, which can’t be completed until another task is.
Create a Timeline
The timeline is the other half of a Gantt chart. Be realistic – conservative even – and expect some setbacks and delays. Unrealistic timelines have the potential to upset stakeholders and place undue stress on your team members. If you can create a thoroughly considered timeline that your team can ultimately successfully follow through on, your team and stakeholders will feel they had a clear vision into your process the whole time.
As you order your tasks, you should also jot down the time it will take to complete each task as well as task relationships.
Build your Gantt chart using your preferred software.
Now it’s time to build your Gantt chart using the tool of your choice. There’s tons of different Gantt chart creation platforms out there, each with different features, benefits and drawbacks. TeamGantt, ProofHub, and Wrike are just a few popular examples out of many. Experiment with a few to see what works best for you.
Monitor how you’re doing.
Once the project has kicked off, you can use your Gantt chart to evaluate your team’s performance. Update the chart as the project evolves.
What Is a Critical Path Analysis?
Critical path analysis (CPA) is a type of project management technique in which the Project Manager must map out every key task needed to complete a project. That includes identifying the amount of time needed to finish every task and the dependencies of each task on any others.
Also known as the critical path method, CPA is used to set realistic deadlines and to track project progress along the way.
CPA works by detecting and defining all of the critical and noncritical tasks involved in a plan and identifies the maximum and minimum amount of time that will be needed to complete each of them. Also noted are any dependencies among tasks, and that tells them the amount of float or slack time that can be associated with each in order to arrive at a reasonable overall deadline date.
The project plan must be tracked through the course of a project to make sure every task is on track and no adjustments need to be made. Gantt charts are often used to express a CPA’s timeline.
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