Beyond Microsoft Project: Alternative Project Management Tools

When we think about project management, we often go straight to images of Gantt charts and Microsoft Project. While these are extremely useful tools and ways of thinking about project management, there are alternatives to these approaches that may approve more useful for you, depending on your learning and doing styles as well as your clients approaches to communication and project management. In this report, we’ve outlined various tools and processes that we encourage you to explore. Also, feel free to customize your own project management approach by borrowing elements of each remember, it’s most important that the project is completed effectively, and it’s your job to make that happen in a way that works for you and your clients.

David Allen: Getting Things Done (GTD)

In previous articles, we’ve lauded the ways of David Allen and his Getting Things Done approach. While some of his approaches can be geared toward individual productivity, many can also be applied to project management.

With Allen’s “Getting Things Done’ approach, you make your work/life/responsibilities into real, actionable items or things you can just get rid of. Everything you keep has a clear reason for being in your life at any given moment both now and well into the future. This gives you an kind of confidence that a) nothing gets lost and b) you always understand what’s on or off your plate

Also built-in to the system are an ongoing series of reviews, in which you periodically re-examine your now-organized stuff from various levels of specifics to make sure your focus is on track. Similarly, Allen has put together a project planning checklist to help individuals consider the various ideas to be considered when creating and managing projects. These can be helpful triggers to help you create a customizable project management process. His project planning checklist includes thinking about:

Resources

  • Whose input do we need?
  • Whose input could we use?
  • Has anything like this been done before?
  • What mistakes can we learn from?
  • What successes can we learn from?
  • What resources do we have?
  • What resources might we need?

Executive issues

  • How does this relate to the strategic plan?
  • How does it relate to other priorities, directions, goals?
  • How will this affect our competitive position?

Administration

  • Who’s accountable for this project’s success?
  • Communication and reporting methods and processes
  • What structures do we need?
  • What planning is still likely to be required?
  • What people do we need?
  • What skills are required?
  • What training do we need?
  • How do we get it?
  • What other communication do we need?
  • Who needs to be informed as we go along?
  • What policies/procedures affected? What needed?
  • What about morale? Fun?

Finance

  • What will this cost?
  • How do we get it?
  • What might affect the cost?
  • Might we need additional $?
  • What are the potential payoffs ($)?
  • Who signs the checks?

Operations

  • What is the timing?
  • Hard deadlines?
  • What might affect timing?
  • Who’s going to do the work?
  • How do we ensure complete delivery?

Quality

  • How will we monitor our progress?
  • How will we know if we’re on course?
  • What data do we need, when?
  • What reports, to whom, when?

Politics

  • Whose buy-in do you need?
  • How can you get it?

Stakeholders – Considerations?

  • Board
  • Stockholders
  • Employees
  • Suppliers
  • Customers
  • Community

Legal

  • Issues?
  • Regulations?

Research

  • What might you need to know?

Public Relations

  • Is there value in others knowing about this?
  • How do we do that?

Risks

  • What could happen?
  • Could we handle it?

Creative thinking

  • Who would have concern about the success of this project?
  • What would they say, ask, or input, that you haven’t yet?
  • What’s the worst idea you can imagine, about doing this project?
  • What is the most outrageous thing you can think of, about this project?
  • How would a 12-year-old kid relate to this project?
  • What would make this project particularly unique?

Online Project Management Tools

There are also a number of Web-based project management tools that may prove better aligned to your ways of work. Clarizen is an example of on-demand solution that allows you to effectively manage all your projects and resources with a dynamic, collaborative solution that incorporates the user-centric, interactive nature of the Internet with powerful project management tools.

Clarizen’s web-based project management solutions can help to manage the complete project life cycle from inception through to completion, to capture templates and best practices for future replication, and to connect team members across departments, functions, geographies and organizations.

For more information, and to participate in their free beta trials, visit www.clarizen.com.

Professional Project Managers

You also have the option to hire a professional project manager as an adjunct to you and your staff. There are likely significant costs associated with this option, but if you are strapped for time or resources, or if your project requires intense project management skills, this could be your best option. Visit to connect with a professionally certified project manager. Whatever your method, make sure it works for you. Nothing can compare to effectively manage projects. Remember, doing it well means more business from the same client referrals to others. It’s not a skill or process that can be overlooked, so make sure you invest the time into creating the process whether traditional or alternative that works for you.

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