The problem with project management software

Larry Cone has an excellent and well-deserved rant about project management software this week. It resonates deeply with the thoughts in my head.I’ve been thinking a lot about project management and software the last year or so. More and more of my work has moved into this area, where I’m not just getting all the work done in a crazy, chaotic way, but I’m responsible for making sure that other people also get things done. AND needing to be able to provide status on projects to “those that care.”But there’s an itchy feeling I get whenever I realize I’ve spent two hours in a conference call with everyone trying to read off the milestones on a Microsoft Project sheet and figure out what’s behind, what’s up to date, what’s out of date and where the dependencies are. Then when we’re out of time, everyone agrees to go in and spend more time updating the project plan so we can sleep knowing exactly how late everything is.When I first stepped into a bona fide project management role, around 6 or 7 years ago, I was introduced to MS Project and was enamored with how orderly everything could be made to be, how pretty the Gantt charts were, and how you could mathematically calculate the duration and cost of a project months into the future, right down to the penny, using people as 8-hour “resources” and rooms, tools.”I could really spend a lot of time having fun, organizing all my work in here,” thought the left side of my type-A brain, happily.Years later, I am starting to wonder what happened to everyone, as I sit in endless meetings where we seem to spend more time and energy thinking about the project management of the work than we do getting the work done.I thought about this recently when I went to see a professional event manager speak at a luncheon recently. She was an expert on top of her game, and she was organized. She got everything done by making lists on a clipboard. Write something down, put a number on it, check it off when it’s done.I love Gantt charts. I love views. I love the theory behind Microsoft Project and even its more evolved, beautiful cousin OmniPlan. But I wonder if these things are really worth the time and effort for the 90 percent of us who are not managing behemoth undertakings like the the construction of a skyscraper or the development of say, Windows Vista.

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