Project Management Software Benefits | Microsoft Small Business Center
Not very long ago, project management meant three things — a pencil, pad of paper, and the space between your ears.
Now, however, there's project-management software such as Microsoft Office Project 2007
and Microsoft Office Visio 2007 programs that, among other functions, help you organize your business better, collaborate more effectively, and plan and track projects comprehensively.
Still, some businesspeople may wonder what project-management software can offer that the old tried-and-true cannot. Here are seven benefits of the software that may boost your appreciation for it.
1. It makes anyone a quick study. Starting on a new project — or checking in or helping out with an existing one — often means substantial time in coming up to speed as to what's going on and why. But project-management software such as Project and Visio can provide a consistent framework that offers a clear picture of precisely what to do and what's going on — time after time. "A lot of people starting a new project wonder 'How can I get this done?'" says Ed Boyce, vice president of Nimbus Partners North America, a software development concern in Stamford, Conn. "With project-management software, you just go right to the software. It also gives you a way to look at projects you really know nothing about."
2. It may be more thorough than you. Every businessperson worth his or her salt tries to be as comprehensive as possible in his thinking. A great goal, but not one that's always realistic. Project-management software can provide the fail-safe to help ensure that no essential piece — be it a particular element of a project or a person who should be involved — is overlooked. "The software often brings your attention to things that you forgot or left out entirely," says Eric Spanitz, president of Synergest, a Chicago consulting and training company. "They're a terrific way to organize both data and your thoughts."
3. It's great for training. If, as most businesses hope, your operation grows and expands, project-management software offers a consistent means of training new personnel on how things get done and the methodology to follow. But that emphasis on training is also critical for experienced employees who, however well-versed they may be in some areas, aren't top-notch project planners and coordinators. "They [software programs] help you optimize the time involved in projects," Spanitz says. "You may be able to get certain things done more quickly with fewer steps or with fewer people than you thought you needed."
4. It offers objective tracking. Many elements of running a business are highly subjective. Nowhere can that be more the case than in monitoring project progress, where one person's on-time performance comes off as dawdling to others. By using project-management software to delineate reasonable, cost-effective deadlines and progress benchmarks, subjective interpretation is held to a minimum. That makes it easier to see what's really moving forward as it should and what may warrant in-course corrections to be brought back up to speed.
5. It keeps great ideas in-house. More than one business has taken a significant hit when an employee leaves, taking with her the methodology that made a particular project sing. It's never good news when talented personnel go elsewhere, but project-management software at least keeps elements of what made that person so special under your roof. "It's a great way to capture information and keep it so it just doesn't walk out the door with someone else," says Spanitz.
6. It provides valuable marketing muscle.. Business success is a hybrid of two primary ingredients: doing what you do well and, in turn, convincing prospective clients of that competence so new work flows in on a consistent basis. Here, project-management software can prove of invaluable help with its capacity for detailed planning and project tracking. That's information that you can compile and use to illustrate precisely how you will tackle any new job. "It helps you show exactly what you're going to do and how you're going to do it," says Boyce.
7. No, it's not a panacea and it's not meant to be. For all the varied advantages project-management software can bring to businesses of all sorts, it's equally critical to remember that it is not designed to be all things to all people. For one thing, if you invest in project-management software, it's also essential to obtain sufficient training so you're able to get the most out of it. "That's like buying word-processing software and suddenly thinking you're a novelist," Spanitz says.
Moreover, it's just as important not to use project-management software as a sort of intellectual crutch. Although it can be exceedingly helpful in organizing your thoughts and ideas, don't sacrifice your own acumen in hopes that you can always defer to what you think the software is telling you. "The software just helps you focus," Boyce says. "Never let it outlaw your own intuition."
See these Project and Visio pages on Microsoft Small Business for more specifics on how Microsoft's key project-management applications can help your business.