July 2011 Archives

Project Management Is Alive And Well

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OK - so who remembers Project Manager Workbench, PMW for hose who were there at the time (or even Microsoft Project, the project management software for the under 5's)?

Who remembers printing out Gantt chars on A3 that you wallpapered the office walls with?

Been there, done that, b****y rubbish wasn't it! Just one mention of Gantt charts and trees started to fall of their own accord. So, it was with a combination of historial interest (and trepidation) that I visited a project management software start-up, eTask, in Farnborough, arriving there on time despite accompanying PR mate whose client eTask is, Nick Spencer's, unique human sat-nav (in)capabilities. Bless him - great advert for Tom Tom.

Anyway, turns out that the eTask guys actually have advanced the art somewhat by, among other things, simply getting the priorities right. First up, they are keen to emphasise the importance of reusing information, given that many projects are actually variations on a common basic theme. So they have a blueprint concept, whereby a project can be defined and stored for reuse, much like a code library for developers.

Then, with project defined - why do so many fail or suffer huge delays? The answer lies with governance. eTask belives that only 30% of the value of PM software is in the blueprinting and the rest is in the true governance of those tasks within the project. So a huge amount of effort has gone into ensuring that projects are automatically managed correctly; for example, cormparing blueprint with the actual adherence to those projections. It's all about properly documenting human thoughts and processes and enforcing standardisation within a company; a far cry from the randomisation factor that controlled most mainframe-based IT projects I looked in on (from the safety of the PC team) in the dim and distant past.

Being Google/browser based, we are also looking at a true SaaS application here; one with a very small footprint that is truly distributable in nature; ideal when you have multiple users perhaps scattered across a large geographical area. Integration with 3rd party applications - CRM/ERP etc - has also been well thought out, so that key areas such as billing are supported between 3rd party apps.

In essence, it's a bit like my old mates at Thingamy.com who take the enterprise software concept and model it, the model turns into the app itself, all SaaS-based, very coolio indeed. Here, the idea is to take a pilot project, look at the most troublesome aspects, document those and - in doing so - build out the blueprint, then deploy. Logical, captain...

If anyone wants a quick summary of the product, this is a good starting point:

http://www.etask.it/en/whatwedo/top-10

While the software is aimed primarly at the service (provider) industry, it has obvious applications at enterprise level and beyond and pilot projects kick-in at about £10K+ I understand, so it's not exactly blowing the annual IT budget (even in current economic conditions, unless you're a council IT department of course) to get into eTasking projects. If you're a SP/hosting company/Outsourcer/NSP etc etc, then it has to be worth a look...