How to Manage a Project



These are a set of questions that people have asked, mainly about applying the project management approach to their normal work situation. We have tried to give what we feel are "best practice" answers but cannot pretend that the answers are definitive.

What about computer software for project management?

There are a number of such programs which are specifically designed for Critical Path Analysis. They tend to be used by people who are continuously working on complex projects. The market leader is Microsoft Project, but there are other products that do a similar job at a lower cost.

Their strength is that they not only help to create the Critical Path Networks but that they also offer capabilities in project control, resource management and cost control. Almost essential for capital and IT projects where the information needs to be regularly updated.

Essentially they take a Critical Path Network that you have created, do the calculations for forward-pass and backward-pass, and create a network and Gantt Chart similar to the one below.

Microsoft Project

Particularly useful if you have a project (a building) where you need to update the information and repeat the calculations as the project progresses.

In practice, most projects do not need anything as sophisticated as Microsoft Project. They are not that easy to use unless you use them regularly. This sort of software is really designed for complex projects where the plans and schedules need to be regularly updated. It is best suited to IT and construction projects where the detailed activities for the whole project can be listed and estimated at the start of the project.

Regarding other software, most packages operate in the same way to Microsoft Project - often at a lower price. There is some freeware and open-source software available.

For most projects, Word, Excel, and Outlook are sufficient.  We have included some guidance on how to draw planning charts in Word and Excel under Making a Project Plan - Drawing Plans. Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes can be valuable where there are many contacts to manage.