Several months ago I reviewed five different open source project management applications. A commenter recently pointed out that, from his perspective “what you have here is a review of ticketing systems, some of which have some additional features that might help in a project environment.” And this got me to thinking… we all have different definitions of what a project management application should be. We all come from different sized businesses where we’ve handled different sized client rosters, managed different sized projects, and have reached our own conclusions on what project management software should do. Fortunately, the landscape of available applications is enormous and the features available are diverse enough to satisfy most any small businesses’ needs.
Can an issue tracker or task manager be used as a project management tool?
Most certainly. Just look at the success Basecamp has had in marketing itself to web designers and developers who need something simple for managing projects. With Basecamp you get a basic to do list, maybe some time tracking functionality, and you are on your way to collaborating and managing projects online. It’s worked for a lot of people who have simple needs when it comes to keeping their clients and projects organized.
Are Gantt charts and resource management a must-have for a project management application?
No. Not unless you are managing projects at the enterprise level. If you’ve got a thing for tossing around acronyms and printing out giant Gantt charts to impress executives at meetings, then an enterprise level project management tool like Microsoft Project is going to be better for you. I know I’m poking fun at traditional methodologies, but most small businesses don’t need them. What they usually need is something akin to an issue tracker or task manager, with some time tracking, document sharing, and reporting thrown in the mix. It’s not that we have to make do with less, it’s that we have less to manage in the first place.
What if neither of these two approaches work for you?
You have plenty of options. An entire marketplace has been created and evolved over the last four years, filled with online project management applications that cater to small businesses who need more than “simple” and less than “enterprise.” Our own software, Intervals, is an example of such an offering. These online tools have jettisoned the features that small businesses weren’t using (i.e. the Gantt chart, resource management) and improved the features offered by simpler applications. What we’ve ended up with is better task management, more thorough time tracking and less cluttered projects overall. And it seems to be working great for small businesses.
Can you answer the question?
Certainly. There is no single right way to manage a project. There are plenty of great methodologies that can be combined into a work flow that fits your way of managing projects. Many of the online project management applications available are trying to do just that. They are saying simple is often times not enough and enterprise is often too much, so try this blend of features we’ve brewed together to see if it is a good fit for you. What qualifies as project management software is any tool at your disposal that enables you to effectively and efficiently keep project deliverables under budget and on time. If you are accomplishing this as a project manager, semantics really don’t matter.