Project Management Tools Can Only Do So Much

Many of the resources here in the IT Downloads library are devoted to the myriad tracking and reporting tasks that face project managers as they try to herd the multiple initiatives running through IT at any given time.


Some of these tools are pretty sophisticated (as we discussed in "Project Tracker Keeps You on Top of Entire Scope of Project"), but none of them match the full range of tracking features included in project management software, such as MS Project. These tools have become so sophisticated that some executives might believe they create enough "efficiency" to allow them to "streamline" - i.e., not hire additional PMs - the project management process.



Not so fast, say our partners at in the presentation Getting Real About Project Management Software. The Powerpoint deck, available free to IT Business Edge members here in the IT Downloads library, actually suggests that a large shop might need to add additional headcount just to support the extensive planning and analysis that advanced PM software supports.


That's just one of the insights in the presentation, which admittedly comes at the question from a project manager's point of view. Still, some of the points made are fairly irrefutable:


Project management software can't gather data. Most failed analysis projects can track their worries back to incorrect or incomplete data. PMs not only have to round up information, they also must help decide what data is needed to evaluate a project's progress.


Project management software can't solve problems regarding subjective judgments. Unanticipated events arise in a project, and PMs must really on their personal judgment about who to loop into conversations about how to resolve these issues. You can program those kinds of interdependencies into a software package.


Project management software will not communicate for you. Massaging egos and negotiating disagreements is a key part of any PM's role. Thankfully, we don't rely on automated systems for that just yet. (By the way, you should definitely check out the Checklist for Maintaining Leadership in Meetings, also from, for advice on communicating in stressful or contentious environments.)


The presentation offers a lot more wisdom about the value human intuition and judgment brings to the complicated initiatives that IT faces every day. A lot of it could be described as "common sense," but then again, common sense does tend to go missing when managers discuss staffing and resources.

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