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Effective Project Management Software? 38

Posted by Cliff
from the keeping-track-of-the-team dept.
thisisvinod writes "Frustrated with the lack of efficient project monitoring features in MS Project 2000, I was searching on the web for something that would suit my needs. I want a tool that would be browser-based, which will allow the PM to delegate tasks to others, against which they can mark the "effort" spent on the task (as hours/minutes), not percentage complete. Along with that, features that would allow creating of tracking reports, sending of email notifications and would also provide integration with empirical data would be quite nice. Any ideas on which tool would provide all this? And I really do think that most project management tools fall drastically short of one thing or another - MS Project is beautiful, but seriously flawed in the monitoring business. I'm sure other Slashdot readers have faced similar problems, and might have good solutions." Update: 07/30 2pm EDT by C : For the curious, Ask Slashdot last tackled this issue in this Linux-specific article, and discussed web-based versions, here. It's been 2 years, any changes?
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Effective Project Management Software?

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  • by HaiLHaiL (250648) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @12:45PM (#3979371) Homepage
    MS Project is beautiful, but seriously flawed in the monitoring business.

    Also seriously flawed in that you need IE on Windoze to use its web access features.

    You might want to check out Tutos [tutos.org]. Dunno if it has all the features you want, but it's free and open source. Add what you need! :-)
    • karma whore strut... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by 4of12 (97621) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @02:46PM (#3980362) Homepage Journal

      Also seriously flawed in that you need IE on Windoze to use its web access features.

      [Leave it to MS to never miss an opportunity to turn a great concept on its head to leverage the rest of their product line:) The folks at MS who actually implemented the web access feature in Project must have had the breath knocked out of them at the "IE specialization".]

      Nevertheless, the concept of web based project management is still a really good one. Not only for read-access to view what's going on, but also to help formulate project plans.

      I prefer to spend my time programming, but have had brushes with project planning exercises and noted the dearth of good open source alternatives to MS Project (which, practically, seems to require some training in order to learn the quirks of how to use it.)

      The most intriguing development I've seen is out of the Horde Project [horde.org] (a PHP [php.net] framework for web applications).

      They mention something called Nag [horde.org] that came out 1.0 on June 11 of this year, but I don't know what it's really like.

      But I can see where having an XML database for projects [unige.ch] that is accessed via PHP would be a good thing. That, and having some SVG enabled browsers [mozilla.org] (and server code [zend.com]) to create and view Gantt charts [umn.edu] on the fly.

      Since I'm throwing buzzwords and wishlists about, I may as well suggest that WebDAV [webdav.org] would be a great part of such a tool because it would offer a good means for collaborative authoring of project plans, which is really how the best ones get done. (The worst ones are guesses and dictats that make everyone mad.)

    • Wow... HaiLHaiL offers one alternative to MSProject while bashing Microsoft and his post is rated as a 5. Here's a big list I found of project management software. ...and I won't trash talk anybody or their products.
  • by Bravo_Two_Zero (516479) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @12:52PM (#3979442)
    My key complaint about MS Project (and something I'd like to see as a feature in another package) is the poor project plan distribution mechanism. MS pretty much forces all participants to run Project just to see details of the tasks. We don't want to buy 100 copies for a couple of projects per year. Hence, we print out the whole, stinkin' project plan once a week. Of course, I'm sure there are several php and cgi based project management packages in varying degrees of finish, but I can't sell any of the managers in my company on unloading Project unless all of the functionality is there and the interface is very similar.
  • SF (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jargonCCNA (531779)
    Yeah, an AC got this one first... SourceForge. OSDN's advertising it all the time at the top of /. at least. Check out the Portal Edition [vasoftware.com]; it looks like it may be what you're looking for.
    • I've always presumed that SourceForge is primarily (or exclusively) oriented towards software project management (thus the word "source" in the name). Perhaps that is actually what this person needs, but they didn't state that in their original message. For more general project management tasks, which might very well involve little or no programming, how useful would SourceForge be?
    • I use many of the projects at sourceforge.net , but this may not be the best example of the SF capabilities.

      Many of the smaller projects don't really use the bugtracker or task manager, and simply use SF.net as a file hosting and download location (See Sawfish [sourceforge.net] for an example.

      Overall, not that impressive. But as I said before, the small projects on SF.net may not be the best example of what SF can do for me and my organization (We run several java-based websites with thousands of files each. Currently we use Rational's Clearcase for SCM, but don't really have much of a Project Mangement software system).

      Does anyone have a large project which uses SF for product management, bug tracking, etc?

      I would love to see a SF example or demo on a large, active project.
  • For most if not all web-based project management software you need to be able to tamper with things you don't have access to unless you own the machine. I'd love to know if there's anything a simple user could put up that doesn't require playing with httpd.conf and so on.
  • MS now offers Project Mangement Server 2002...

    Microsoft Project Server 2002 [microsoft.com]

    It includes...

    What-if analysis. Gain insight into your organization's operations and make more informed decisions with help from simulation and analysis tools that evaluate resource assignments, scenarios, and general project data.

    Enhanced integration. Get tighter integration with and a smoother transition between Microsoft Project and other Microsoft applications. Import task lists created in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Outlook®, and Microsoft Project Web Access* directly into Microsoft Project. Plus, the familiar Microsoft Office interface and toolbars make it easy to use Microsoft Project, even if you've never used it before.

    Open architecture. Integrate Microsoft Project with other industry-specific applications and databases by using its full support for industry standards such as XML messaging and SOAP.

  • by BitGeek (19506) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @01:50PM (#3979885) Homepage


    One company who make wonderful product management software is Welcom-- www.wst.com.

    I don't know if it fits your specific access requirements, but I do believe they have web browser access.

    MS Project is "project for dummies". Its sorta a project management program, but not a real one-- not flexible, not standards based, and not used by professional project managers.

    The WST software is really well done, really scalable, and really libertating, especially if you've been forced to use MS Project in the past.

    Yes, I am a happy past customer, but not a paid spokesmodel.

  • http://primavera.com/ makes a slew of software for project management. especially P3, which is the industry standard scheduling software that MS Project was trying to emulate.

    Pro: extremely flexible, will do all but wipe your nose.

    Con: expensive, not sure about browser based options.
  • MS Project is a really complicated tool. You're probably just not seeing all the features there. I used to think the same thing, but then we started using ProjectCentral and I was also exposed to more of the UI of Project itself.

    For example, certain views in Project allow you to import effort per resource per task.

    Also, project central for 2000 allows you to do this, but it's a piece of crap. We're currently evaulating project server 2002. I can tell you project 2002 is a lot nicer already. Email me in a week or 2 if you want to know how 2002 fairs.

    With project central I currently have all my team members update their progress every week and I use project central to dump this into the main project file. From there I can monitor what's happening, how much time is being spent where yada yada yada.

    Project Central and Project Server are browser based too.

  • Intranet module of above has projetcs/tasks/tickets functionality all with calendars & billing, time sheets and history tracking, user comments and customer/partner access, automatic mailing of reminders.

    Requires AOLServer + Oracle or PostgreSQL. Free in all senses -- http://openacs.org/ [openacs.org].

    Gant charts are not there, though :^)

  • PMI... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by byrnereese (249300) <byrne.majordojo@com> on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @03:56PM (#3981003) Homepage
    I am engineer recently turned project manager (hiss)... and I was fed up with the lack of web based tools to facilitate project management. From my perspective, one of the most important things a PM does is facilitate communication betweem team members and groups working on a project. MS Project is great for scheduling and ghant charts, but does nothing to really help in the way intra-team-member communication.

    So, I got fed up and wrote my own application. It does not do scheduling. But it does offer a lot of tools and functionality to keep people up-to-date on a project and its status. It grew from the idea of providing an automated/dynamic "project page" that could be posted to our company's intranet... it grew and grew in scope to what it is today - which incorporates simple document management, team member management, release management/tracking, etc.

    http://majordojo.com/pmi/
  • One project I have been trying to get started is to create a web dashboard to MS Project schedules. If I could only figure out a way to export project task information to MySQL via ODBC - there is a way, I know there is! - then creating a web front end which mines that data would be a breeze!!!!

    Anyone successfully save and load MSProject data to and from a MySQL database??? I would really like to know! All my attempts have failed - which doesn't really surprise me given that it is Microsoft - no doubt, it saves and loads data from SQL Server seemlessly! grrrrr.
  • Is there anyone out there who'd like to track their own progress, without a web based tool? Personally, I'd like to have something more sophisticated than a simple todo list, but I don't want to run a web server for it. I also can't afford $1000+ for a decent PM tool.

    I've looked, and the OSS community just doesn't make easy to use PM tools that aren't web based, or underpowered.

  • <monty python voice>google not good enought for ya,have to your questions answered by all of slashdot. well don't come crying to me when slashdot is closed down cause it's got no viable bussiness plan!!!!</monty python voice>

    google's <ahref="http://www.webintellisys.com/project/deskt op.html">first</a> result
    google's <ahref="http://www.infogoal.com/pmc/pmcswr.htm">se cond</a> result

  • Most OSS projects are organized an operate differently from commercial projects. In OSS projects, the project plan is generally a fairly vague list of tasks with some rough prioritization and a little discussion of how they are interrelated. This is completely different from a typical commercial project, where the timeline and budget have to be worked out in advance, often before approval to begin the project is even received. This provides the need for tools like Project, which can take a list of tasks with defined intertask relationships and resource assignments and compress and level them to produce a tight project plan (well, actually it takes a lot of work by the user to make it tight, but the tool helps a *lot* by helping to avoid certain kinds of insane assumptions -- unless the user explicity requests the insanity 'cause the boss says we have to shave another month off, but I digress).

    What OSS projects do need is a way for widely distributed folks to be able to sign up for tasks and report progress, and there are a few different solutions out there for this problem (which other posters have mentioned).

    The strength and the weakness of the volunteer, community development model is that people write what they themselves need, not what others may need. In many cases, the needs of the developers are shared by many others. In other cases, they're not, and for those types of software volunteer development is unlikely to bear fruit.

    • mozilla uses a roadmap to achieve this -- theres no real reason open source tools couldnt use good project management. in most OSS projects the team is too small to justify it but a good OSS PMI tool could do wonders.
      • Large OSS projects need more management than small ones, but it's still a different situation from commercial projects. Commercial projects must be managed very tightly (to the point that management becomes a large percentage of the total effort, sometimes as much as 20% of the person-hours) because there are many restrictions on the schedule and budget. OSS projects don't suffer from these restrictions and don't really have the same need for complex scheduling and planning tools.

        For example, I work for a consulting company and write software for clients on a contract basis. I often put together bids for multi-million dollar contracts (sometimes even fixed-price contracts). Most of the time, we're competing against other consultants, so we can't just pick a comfortably conservative number; we must get the price as low as possible. But we also have to make sure that the project can be completed successfully for the proposed price. This means extremely detailed project planning so that all of the assumptions can be checked (well, as many as we can get a handle on, anyway), all of the dependencies analyzed and so we can figure out exactly what people we need on the project and when, so we can get them scheduled and no one is ever (ideally) sitting around waiting for anyone else. Further, many of our clients contract with us because they absolutely must have their system operational on schedule; sometimes they stand to lose enormous sums of money if the software is late. Tight planning is critically important.

        That sort of complexity demands a fairly powerful project planning tool, and MS Project is such a tool, when use properly. Some of the others are slightly better, but as of Project 98, MS Project is in that class.

        I can't see community-driven projects ever facing the same sort of severe constraints on budget or schedule.

        The original topic touches on something that Project does not do very well, which is tracking (it does it, but other packages are better). That is needed by community-driven projects as well, so there exist OSS solutions.

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