Project management is the core functionality of any business or enterprise. In modern organizations, it is considered to be the highest responsibility task. Project management is used in any and all forms of projects, ranging from software development to developing hybrid robotic technologies.
All project managers and teams use certain highly efficient tools to manage projects. These tools can be specifically designed tools or customized productivity tools that can be adopted for project management work. These tools help managers plan, manage and track their projects more effectively.
Here is a list of the 4 most widely used project management tools:
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
WBS is generally used at the start of the project to break the project down into individual tasks and group these tasks logically. At a root level this is more of a deliverable-oriented decomposition of a project into smaller components. It represents tasks and resources more like a tree structure, with clear subdivisions of effort required to complete a project. This structure also provides the essential framework for detailed cost estimating and control along with providing direction for schedule development, management and control. One should treat creating WBS as a critical step in the process of project management.
One of the most popular and widely used projects scheduling tool, Gantt charts are used when the project is up and running to monitor project progress. A Gantt chart shows you what has to be done (the activities) and when (the schedule). Gantt charts illustrate the start and finish dates of the terminal elements and summary elements of a project. They also show dependencies of tasks and relationship between activities. It is used on a day-to-day or weekly basis to show current schedule status using percent-complete shadings.
These kinds of network diagrams are more like flow charts and are used to show the start of the project to chart how the work should flow and estimate how long each task will take to complete. Also known as the project network diagram, these diagrams are drawn from left to right to show the project chronology. The diagrams are more popularly used to graphically show a high-level project snapshot. In comparison to the Work Breakdown Structure that shows the “part-whole” relationship, network diagrams show a more “before-after” relationship for a project.
Earned Value Analysis (EVA)
This is more of an analysis of the “planned” to the “actual”. It is used when the project is up and running to compare budget forecasts with actual costs, and compare estimated progress with actual progress. With the help of this analysis, project teams can forecast future effort and cost estimations. With the help of this analysis, managers can create risk mitigation plans that are based on actual cost, schedule and progress of the work. It is an “early warning” project management tool that enables managers to identify and control problems before they become big risks.
Apart from the above, there are many more tools available on the web that can help in better project planning and management, but they all have their core function and methodology built around the above mentioned tools. The unique features about these tools are that they can be created on a simple Microsoft platform i.e. word, excel, projects etc. and can be customized based on any project requirements.