Project management software generally falls into three categories. This article provides an overview of these categories and a broad review of some of the leading project management software in these categories.
For the PM Specialist
There are a ton of project management software tools designed to assist the theoretician or to adhere to project management theory or to a particular project management body of knowledge or approach. Project management software solutions in this realm can measure risk factors against difference risk tolerances on a project, they can provide multiple baselines on different factors on a project, they can calculate the impact of deviations or variances, or earned value at different points of a schedule. They offer a ton of hard-core project management metrics and functionality. They are often used for large capital projects (like construction of a bridge, building a space shuttle or power-plant).
These tools vary in the functionality they offer or their complexity (like Primavera, Artemis or PlanView). But they all rely on a fundamental assumption that the project manager needs complicated project management software or a super robust, theory based project management toolbox. Then the project manager or project management office will disseminate that data to people who need to know. No-one will make a move without consulting the project manager or project management office. They are the people ultimately in charge of process improvement, metric measurement and control of project priority and status.
Project Collaboration (without Specific PM Features)
Then there is a range of project management software solutions that give very little information about changes in key project variables (the project plan, defined tasks durations and resource allocation). Instead, they focus or connecting people with a basic level of information or ways to organize that information online. These are tools like Basecamp. In its place, Basecamp and Basecamp like software, offer ease-of-use and easy-adoption, which has made Basecamp one of the most popular project management type software packages out there. Though Basecamp is better classified as a project collaboration tool. The relative thin-ness, as it were, of the application, has also made it a target for small software developers or software companies to copy or replicate.
PM for a Wide Audience
Then there are tools that fall in the middle, like Microsoft Project or MS Project Server. Software tools like those offer a middle-ground on complexity when it comes to planning and seeing the impact of changes in the project performance variables mentioned above. But there is a trade-off in “out of the box” type ease-of-use for the addition of these project management features in their software. Most of these software offerings require some level of training and customer support.
The middle range is being augmented and made more accessible by the introduction of online or web project management software solutions. These project management software tools offer a broad range of functionality (with varying degrees of complexity) and a range of ease of use. There are even tools which seek to mimic MS Project online, exactly, believing that the main problem with Microsoft Project or Microsoft Project Server (or tools like it) is that its not offered on-demand or in a software as a service type model.
Other companies in this category believe that there is room for improvement in a project management software product itself and that the Microsoft Project model is not the end-all/be-all in project management software functionality.
In this camp, you’ll find companies like Vertabase Pro (the company behind this blog). The idea behind these project management software products is to offer alternatives to Microsoft Project. More recently, these project management solutions are also an alternative to Basecamp and Basecamp like Web 2.0 type project management software or strictly project collaboration products.
In comparing the software in this space, the most obvious difference between MS Project and Vertabase Pro is that the latter are native web-based, offered in a software-as-a-service type model (as well as giving someone the option to install it on their server). The next difference you’ll see in a comparison of these project management software tools is the range of functionality compared against the level of ease-of-use or ease of adoption they have targeted. In their flagship project management product eProject seems to have targeted a more complicated, project management theory based type of functionality, which comes at the price of a certain level of ease of use. Vertabase Pro, on the other hand, has targeted a more practical, real-world level of project management functionality in its project management software, in order to gain usability and ease of adoption. Of course, each company, project management office and user has their own specific needs and should find the project management software tool that offers the right combination for them. But its important to keep in mind that any product in this category will require some degree of training. So make sure to evaluate the training and customer support of any potential project management software provider.