International Project Management Day




Project Management Software Tools Evaluation


Quick Summary
Screenshot A checklist used during the evaluation of project management software to help get to the short list of evaluation candidates. This checklist helps you document what features are important to your PM process, as well as keep track of which software packages have which features. It also helps capture comments on different packages.


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What this is

A checklist used during the evaluation of project management software to help get to the short list of evaluation candidates. This checklist helps you document what features are important to your PM process, as well as keep track of which software packages have which features. It also helps capture comments on different packages.


Why it's useful

There are too many features and variations among PM software tools to be able to keep them in your head. This checklist helps you capture feature characteristics of tool software during your investigation and helps you compare features during the process of elimination that gets you to the short list of candidates for in-depth evaluation. It should also help you get agreement up front on most important features for your organization's needs and what should be included in the evaluation process.


How to use it

Use the attached table in the following tool evaluation process.

  1. First and foremost, examine your organization's project management process - how project management is used in your organization. This step is especially important. Many organizations make the mistake of looking to PM software tools as a holy grail that will solve their project management process problems. Tools can indeed help drive a project management process, but they are not a substitute for organizational process and ingrained organizational behavior. In recent years, there has been an explosion of project management software features and capabilities but only a small increase in the rate of successful projects versus failures (with poor requirements management at the project front-end being a leading cause of failure). So evaluate PM tools as a means to support and improve your organization's project management process and not as a substitute for process.

  2. If your project management or development process is not written down, then do so now. The use of project management is often centered in a product development process or a process for providing a service or adding value to someone else's products or services. Decide what changes and incremental improvements you would like to make to your process, preferably through a lessons-learned exercise involving your entire organization. Then state these improvement goals in writing and in measurable terms. If you are currently using project management software, state in measurable terms why you feel you need to change to another tool. Sometimes, this first step will show that the problem is not with the software tool (at least not yet) but with your project management methodology, and you need to spend some effort on your process before you begin evaluating software tools.

  3. Once you have set your goals for process improvement, examine the feature list presented in the file and identify the PM tool features that will help you achieve your process improvement goals. Include any key features that you have in current tools that you wish to retain, and features that you wish you had that are currently lacking. Note that some of the features in the table like "Reporting Capability" are general terms that you should refine into specific requirements according to your needs and what tool vendors can provide. Reword features as necessary to more closely reflect your requirements. Add to the list any additional features that your process improvement requires.

  4. Change the order of key features in the list so that the ones most critical to your process improvement effort are at the top of the list. Note that the relative importance of a PM tool feature will vary with different industries and development processes. For example, "Ease of Use" might be at the top of the list for an organization where user computer literacy levels are low, and conversely near the bottom of the list for a high-tech development organization. Schedule management may be a low priority for a long-lead pharmaceutical project, but absolutely critical for a software developer with an annual upgrade marketing model. And an organization with a cash-flow crisis may well put price near the top.

  5. Now start evaluating PM software offerings. Most data will be vendor-supplied, so keep a critical eye when viewing vendor claims. You can use published reviews and surveys, but remember that the software tool world changes very quickly and new offerings, updates, and improvements are constantly appearing. Use the tool surveys as vendor address lists and visit the vendors' web sites to view current offerings.

Continued in the downloadable file.


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