Project Management Knowledge Base

Go Back   Project Management Knowledge Base > Peer Support > Other Tools

LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 10-03-2005, 06:40 PM
Mark V. Smith's Avatar
Forum Newbie
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Sacramento, CA, USA
Posts: 16
Question What's the biggest gap in the toolset?

OK, there must be 16 billion Gantt chart programs out there, but what do you working PM's find to be the gap in your methodology most loudly crying out for a tool? Come on now, everyone weigh in...
Mark V. Smith, PMP
Princeton Solutions Group
Sacramento, Ca
Reply With Quote
Old 10-03-2005, 07:55 PM
Bernard's Avatar
Forum Newbie
Recent Blog: Another Success Story

Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Friendswood, TX
Posts: 29

I don't know if it is something that software can solve, but we see the petrochem industry struggle during turnaround maintenance projects (which are compressed) to process time sheets fast enough to make near real time earned value analysis practical. We capture the earned manhours (progress against the plan) easily enough, but because actual manhours are tied to billing/$$$, there are necessary safeguards/approvals that delay the processing of time sheets by a shift of two.
Reply With Quote
Old 10-04-2005, 12:27 PM
Mark V. Smith's Avatar
Forum Newbie
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Sacramento, CA, USA
Posts: 16


You're saying (daily) paper timesheets are delayed by approval before data entry gets them in system? Or are they online already and the system just doesn't post them for use by EVA until after approval? Is the difference between approved hours and unapproved hours significant enough to justify locking out access from the hours just for pulling numbers to run estimates? Maybe I should just ask what tool set you are using to manage these issues? I'm guessing you use something more high-end than Project for scheduling?

Anyway, you're right, I think I was looking for a different gap than that. You can get a WBS tool, a network diagram tool, a tool like Project that does your schedule and resourcing, etc. Sometimes they don't hand-off from one to the other, sometimes they have an internal step they flub. For example, Project is kinda sucky at resource levelling. I'm kind of interested in a tool, to export my project file to, that specializes in leveling, then import back to Project. If Project was open source, I would try fixing it. (Actually this is such a widespread complaint it probably would have already been fixed.)

Practically speaking, I'm not really asking people to think up tools, just speak up about places in their methodology where things seem harder than they ought to be. "I wish my PM tool did this [better]." Maybe as a group we can see a pattern that deserves a new solution, maybe its different for everyone and we can just help each other out by sharing experience.
Mark V. Smith, PMP
Princeton Solutions Group
Sacramento, Ca
Reply With Quote
Old 10-04-2005, 07:21 PM
Forum Newbie
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Posts: 10
Default What's the biggest gap in the toolset?


In IMHO, I found the best way to resource level using any tool is to manually level the resource profiles by splitting the screen into two. One half showing the resource histogram starting with the project's key (critical) resource(s) and the other half of the screen being the gantt chart filtered to display tasks only related to the resource your trying to level.

By manually levelling I'm talking about moving the tasks around by yourself rather than relying on the software to perform the levelling using its algorithm. Moving the tasks around may be done by adding new relationships between tasks, using lags or imposing "Start No Earlier Than" dates.
I've had more success by actually imposing start dates on tasks in levelling the resource profiles.

This technique however draws a great deal of criticism from fellow planners / schedulers. The main criticism is it reduces a scheduling tool to flat file by locking up the schedule with too many dates and not allowing the tool to calculate its own dates from the forward & backward pass. It also requires a greater awareness of maintaining these dates every time you status the schedule.

I've used Microplanner X-PERT & Open Plan Professional (OPP) which both have good resource analysis functionality. The user sets priorities etc. against tasks and runs the resource levelling function. However very seldom am I satisified with the answer they return - the PM is left a little puzzled by the results too. So I reverted back to manually levelling the resources.

At present I'm forced to MSP 2000 but I still find it simpler to level resource profiles by moving tasks around using imposed start dates. Of course sometimes tasks can't be moved (i.e. they're on the Critical Path), so additional resources (contract staff) are required but I demonstrate this in a 'What If' file by adjusting the hours and resources myself. More often than not, I achieve the desired resource levelling.

I'm not aware of any software that could perform resource levelling and import / export the data to MSP other than scheduling tools. In which case perhaps look at demonstration versions of OPP & P3 etc with the view to upgrade from Project.
Reply With Quote
Old 10-23-2005, 06:55 AM
snetzky's Avatar
Forum Newbie
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 3
Thumbs up Project Wish List

My background is in IT, but I'm currently on assignment as a planner/scheduler for an anhydrous ammonia plant's turnaround. The thing I'm finding is the biggest problem is that most tools work the equation assuming you know who is specifically (person/shift) going to do the work and can schedule based on that.

What I'm wishing I had on this project is a way of entering how many of a particular trade I have available along with any equipment they require, enter my task dependencies, and have the tool tell me when everything can get done based on the resource pools I have.

So for example, If I have a pool of 60 mechanics on the day shift, 30 on the night shift, 10 crane operators, and only one 25 Ton crane, I should be able to assign 3 mechanics, one crane operator and one crane to the task and have it tell me when the best time is to schedule that job based on the dependencies between the tasks, and the availability of the resources to work on that task. Note that because the resources have to work on that task together, the tool lets me indicate whether the resources have to work simultaneously or not.

Most tools I've tried require you to know who the specific resource will be (Often you don't on these kinds of jobs), and completely vomit when asked to schedule resources simultaneously. I'm currently looking at a Russian product called Spider Plan, and Sciforma's project planning tool. Sciforma doesn't seem to have a way around the conflicting calendar problem, but Spider Plan intrigues me right now. I've used Primavera in the past, and really liked it, but the price tag is a bit steep for many.

There is an open source project tool for Linux that I started to look at, but it's not much more than a CPM tool at this point.

I may have to try to learn C++ if I want to help make that tool what it could be, or at least try to get in on writing some of the specifications.

I think what I'm really looking for is Project with a functional resource leveling engine. Project has so many good things going for it, except this one issue, that if they would fix the scheduling engine, the tool would devestate Primavera's market share.


Last edited by snetzky; 10-23-2005 at 06:58 AM. Reason: grammar
Reply With Quote
Old 11-01-2005, 03:58 PM
Forum Newbie
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 2
Default The Execution Gap...

"OK, there must be 16 billion Gantt chart programs out there, but what do you working PM's find to be the gap in your methodology most loudly crying out for a tool? Come on now, everyone weigh in..."

I work with many project managers to define and optimize their processes. I also act as a PM within my own firm on occasion. The biggest gap that I've seen in any methodology is the gap between planning and execution.

Gantt charts are great tools for project managers, but they're not so great at allocating tasks and tracking the completion of work or tracking documents. Once the project plan is completed, it is typically communicated in meetings, via email, and through word-of-mouth.

I'm obviously a bit biased in my opinion, but my firm has researched this problem for some time and has come up with a solution. We have found that project managers need a centralized mechanism for capturing key project data (specs, documents, etc.) and for communicating with their team. Rather than simply coming up with a nice looking Gantt chart, we allow PMs to import (MS Project) those plans into our software and create workflows around them. This then allows the PM to assign tasks which then appear to the users when they log in, or notifications get sent out. The key is to make the plans actionable.

All users are able to view critical project data and updates through a web browser, and processes can be defined, implemented, and enforced. This alleviates the need for hundreds of daily emails and phone calls, and makes people accountable for their deliverables.

How many times have you heard, "I didn't get that email"? To be blunt, EMAIL IS NOT A PROJECT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM. It is a communication tool. This is actually one of the top complaints I hear from PMs, that they receive too many emails.

Another issue is stranded data. How many critical documents are stored on employees' desktops at your organization? Or in many cases, companies do have file management systems, but employees have absolutely no idea how to find the documents they need. Everyone structures their files differently for different projects and uses different terminology. This speaks to the gap in consistency.

I would venture to guess that about 80% of companies use MS Excel as their tool of choice for executing projects. Once the plan is made (often in Excel as well), complex Excel spreadsheets become the norm for tracking project data. EXCEL IS NOT A PROJECT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM. It's a very powerful spreadsheet application built primarily for financial applications.

In the end, PMs today are using the wrong tools because they don't know of any other solutions available to solve the issues described above. They use what they're familiar with and what they have at hand.

Hope this is useful...

Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2005, 09:49 AM
pmkb's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Cyberspace
Posts: 324

Quote from jsipila :
The biggest gap that I've seen in any methodology is the gap between planning and execution.
In my experience this is often the result of planning being on an island. Without buy-in and participation from the field/executors (as simple as a real review and approval process necessitating commitment), planning is often ignored.
"I love it when a plan comes together." - Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, A-Team

Do you have experience using project management software? Write a review!
Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2005, 01:01 AM
Forum Newbie
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 3
Default Adaptable project management

One of the largest gaps we have encountered in our exprience is matching the client organization's business process with the software program's processes.

Often times, a company has a project management methodology that they want to maintain but the project management software tool forces them to change or abandon it.

This is why we developed a solution that is entirely user configurable and can adapt entirely to fit the business' processes, rather than the other way round.

Reply With Quote
Old 05-18-2007, 08:26 AM
Forum Newbie
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 2
Default Missing features in existing planning tools


The main features I see as missing from existing planning tools include:

* Lack of support for iterative planning: I'd like to be able to select a subset of my work or product items and create an iteration plan containing just them.

* Poor structure for work or product breakdown: Ideally the hierarchy is completed from a template, e.g. the top level breakdown is already defined for a "small software project", or "medium sized integration" project.

* Lack of integration: Ideally work or product breakdown structures would be populated with, and synchronized with existing tools. For example under the "functional requirements" breakdown, I'd want to be able to import my use-case titles from my requirements management tool. I'd also like to do the same for risks, issues, change requests, defects, etc.

* Poor support for estimating. The project needs to choose whether they are doing effort based or duration based planning. Not the tool.

* Poor support for estimating. Estimates sometimes need to be defined in overall effort terms, e.g. 2 days, and sometimes in percentage terms. e.g. peer reviews take 10% of development time. This is rarely supported.

* Lack of support for attribute based estimating, and often no way to harness historical knowledge from past projects

Just a few thoughts, but if anyone knows of any tools that support this sort of functionality it would be great to hear about them.

Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:57 PM.

Powered by: vBulletin - Copyright ©2000 - 2016, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Content Relevant URLs by vBSEO ©2009, Crawlability, Inc.
Copyright (c) 2005 Measuring Up. All rights reserved.