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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Save money on your project management software

Rohit Thakral

Published 21/08/2014 | 02:30

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Image of businesspeople at presentation looking at virtual project
Image of businesspeople at presentation looking at virtual project

When it comes to managing projects, ensuring everyone within a particular team, department or company is fully up to speed on what's happening is important. Project management software gives people the ability to organise, collaborate and track details of projects, as well as allocate responsibilities. Here is a look at the leading proprietary project management product and a couple of open-source alternatives.

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Microsoft Project Professional 2013

Cost: €400 - €1,000 per user

Overview: Microsoft Project provides project management tools to manage projects by allowing users to understand and control project schedules and finances, communicate and present project information and organise work and people to make sure that projects are completed on schedule. The latest edition of Microsoft Project includes a host of new features such as integration with Office 365 or SharePoint to work from virtually anywhere, enhanced reporting tools and new project templates.

Pros: It's versatile. Microsoft Project can do almost everything you need, regardless of what type of project you're planning and monitoring. It's also good at integration, as it works extremely well with the Microsoft Office suite and supports import and export capabilities with popular programs such as Excel and PowerPoint. Also, among the many new features on Microsoft Project Professional 2013 is the Task Path feature, ideal for project managers handling large, complex schedules. This enables seeing the path for a specific task including predecessors, successors and driving both. Finally, it's available both on Windows and on Macs.

Cons: Despite its strengths, Microsoft Project Professional has a number of weaknesses. Firstly, it's relatively expensive. There are also issues with navigation insofar as while Microsoft Project's multitude of features may be a benefit for large organisations, they may prove 'too much' for small to medium businesses, making it difficult to navigate for someone with limited experience. Finally, it's not available for businesses using Linux.

Open source alternative 1: Redmine

Cost: free

Overview: Redmine is one of the most well-established open source project management tools available. It can help project managers effectively keep track of projects within their team. They can utilise the application for free while making their own programming adjustments to further fit their needs. With a variety of plugins to choose from, projects can be managed with a full array of functionality.

Pros: It's free. It's also good for sharing information through the creation of 'wikis' and forums on a per-project basis. This means you can supply a wide range of information for each individual project while allowing others to contribute to the database. It's also easily customisable to suit the particular needs of a business, introducing or removing various fields for issues, users, entries and products. Thanks to Redmine's integration with Gantt chart and calendar systems, project managers can create reports based on a variety of variables in order to give graphical representation to the data. Charts provide visuals that make the data easy to understand. Finally, because it's a browser based app, it can be accessed anywhere once there's an internet connection.

Cons: Installation and implementation can be tricky if you're not very tech savvy. Also, Redmine lacks a number of enterprise features compared to other project management tools.

Open source alternative 1: OpenProject

Cost: from free to €25 per user per month for online software-as-a-service

Overview: OpenProject is a web-based project management system for location-independent team collaboration. This open source application is released under the GNU general public license Version 3 and is continuously developed by an active open source community. OpenProject places a lot of emphasis on ensuring the highest standards in data security and privacy as well as accessibility of most features. This has made it an attractive alternative to proprietary project management software, not just for smaller businesses trying to save money, but for many security conscious large organisations too.

Pros: It's well supported insofar as OpenProject has invested a lot of time and effort into offering support, providing training material, user guides and answering incoming questions and inquires. It's also available on Windows, Linux and online while the user interface is simple to navigate. Finally, it allows project managers to deploy resources to a project only when they are needed. This improves efficiency and effectiveness and helps reduce costs.

Cons: There is no option to implement an agile project management strategy. Agile management is a highly flexible method of creating products quickly, so you can put the product in front of users and get feedback early on. Also, in order to plan daily activities, project managers must utilise task management features, which is a little cumbersome. Finally, there are no features for managing and analysing risk.

R Rohit Thakral is a DIT graduate and chief 
executive of Dublin-based Target Integration, which specialises in providing CRM and ERP software. www.targetintegration.ie

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