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I am not a project manager, and the projects I am dealing with are not technical (no softwares, construction, etc.) But I need to make sure that 30 different projects are completed successfully by the end of the year by different (but overlapping) team. And I would like suggestion on how to simplify that. I am one of the two directors in a department of about 20+ people. For this first time this year, we put all our annual goals and wishlist into a project form and assigned owners and teams based on individual strengths and interests. We also roughly scope the deliverables and timeframe to be further refined by the team. I own a handful of projects, sponsor a whole lot more. And need to come up with an efficient process. Most of the people in my department are competent and motivated. Some very strong personalities. But they have varying degrees of project management skills. Plus they have their day-to-day jobs to take care of. Most of the projects are marketing or process-related, and I find that Microsoft Project is overly complicated for our needs. Any advice?

See Manager Tools' Project Management Guidance here.

rwwh's picture

To solve the communications need of projects I have used RT ( http://www.bestpractical.com/ ). This is a (free) ticket tracking package that allows you to appoint a responsible person for each project, and to keep track of who else needs to be kept informed inside and outside the organization. The package also allows you to keep track of relationships between projects (e.g. dependencies).

jhack's picture

Lots of managers successfully track tasks and milestones in Excel. They tend to be Excel experts. Might work for you...

John Hack

RobRedmond's picture

Plenty of Project Managers use it for little more than an overblown task list with dependencies, assigned people, and dates of tasks. You don't have to use most of what comes with it, and in my experience, even most PMP types don't know what to do with a lot of the functions in it. Just the what, who, and when seems to work OK for most.

One day, MS will finally put sub-tasks into MS Outlook, and when they do, most lightweight need for MS Project will evaporate and a GTD use of Outlook Tasks will finally emerge. That they have left this out of Office 2007 is frankly astounding.

-Rob Redmond
http://www.strugglingmanager.com

alaabebe's picture

Hello Rob,

Thanks much indeed for accepting my invitation.

 

Trust all is well at your side, Just wandering if we can chat over the LinkedIn or email or even on the phone on the most appropriate ways you use or you think it best fits managing large number of projects and what is the most effective reporting method and tools to be used to make that reports accurate, timely and maintain its integrity and soundness.

Appreciate your advice and thoughtful views on the matter.

Regards,

Ala'a [email protected]

+16137101073

 

 

pmhut's picture

Excel, outlook, and others are not made for Project Management. IMO, Excel should only be used to track a 2 day project max! Then again, it's the least efficient. You need to have one centralized place where you can easily access your project information, and you need the tool to make your life easier on the long run (such as sending notifications on your behalf).

Pay a few bucks a month for a decent online tool, let them handle the infrastructure, and have your data accessible from everywhere and to anyone (you wish to give access to).

Check this article on the ideal online project management tool before making your decision.

jhack's picture

pmhut,

Your site is partly funded by ads from companies that sell project management software. We welcome your thoughts and ideas, and appreciate that you're engaged in the conversation, and not spamming us. Your pecuniary interest in this discussion, however, should be disclosed.

John

DanGTD's picture

You may try http://www.gtdagenda.com

If you say the teams are overlapping, you can use the Team Names as Contexts.

So a task can be assigned to both a Project and a Context (Team).

ccleveland's picture

From your description, it sounds like you want a tool to help you keep track of important high-level information about the projects (Who: project lead/sponsor/owner, What: high-level deliverables/objectives/milestones, When: Key delivery dates). A spreadsheet works just fine for this. Don't mix tracking a "portfolio" of projects with the details of each project.

If you want more detail at the "portfolio" level, you can require specific dashboards that contain more detailed, but still high-level information on each project. This should be a 1-page report (Word or Excel) on the status with the same information fields for each project (including additional details like recent accomplishments & upcoming goals). This is a bit more challenging and requires discipline and direction for management.

I work in a project organization for a very large company. We manage about 50 active projects at a time for our division and use something very much like the process above to provide visibility to management on the status of our projects. Project manager and external project leaders are responsible for both executing project details and updating their project summary information. It works.

-CC

SantexQ's picture

I hear you about needing a simple tool to get the job done. Our tool, SantexQ is designed to be easy to use and not overly complicated. Its main focus is managing multiple tasks and projects. You can also generate reports for the hours you log to track progress or just see an overview of the work being done. We actually use it in-house to manage our own projects. If this is similar to what you're looking for you can check it out at www.santexq.com. Good luck with your search!

BJ_Marshall's picture

Few people here mentioned MS Project or its free Linux counterpart, OpenProj.

I've managed six complex project concurrently with no problem using MS Project. Each project had its own file, and they were all linked together to form a Master schedule. If you want to get nominally fancy, you can resource-drive your schedule to see how all those overlapping resources will pan out. Resource-driving will help you see where your resources might be overcommited (more than 100% combined for all projects), and you can then level schedules accordingly.

Eric Uyttewaal, PMP, wrote "Dynamic Scheduling with MS Project 2003," and I found it to be a great resource. I found it to be a REALLY easy read and more like a handy reference guide.

Here's the rub: I've seen too many people make these MPP schedules so complex they end up spending a significant time managing their schedules, rather than using Project as a tool to do their work. You know your business needs better than we; I'd hate to hand you a sledge hammer when you need a rubber mallet.

- BJ

Fitch's picture

Ganttproject (available via sourceforge) is a freeware simple gantt tracking app, no bells and whistles. May be useful to you, otherwise if you need more complex, go with OpenProj as suggested above (also free)

 

Fitch

IoanLucian's picture

To manage multiple projects you can try RationalPlan Multi Project. It was especially designed for this kind of needs. RationalPlan suite can also be seen as an affordable alternative to MS Project but a lot more easier to be used. You do not need to know to much about project management. The embeded guide will help you plan and schedule your projects and the free project viewer will let you share your projects at no cost.

apezz's picture

I use   EasyProjectPlan   which is an Excel Project Plan that syncs with Outlook and MSProject.

www.easyprojectplan.com

I use the Outlook and Calendar sync features to distribute and collect task information to my team members.

I distribute the EPP Excel file to all team members either by email or I post it in a shared folder.

My team members can edit the EPP excel file and send the changes back to me.

Most of the companies I work for have no PM task management system so EPP allows me to walk onto any project and immediately distribute and collect task information to all team members. Considering that most companies use Excel and Outlook, there is nothing to install on any computer.

In my experience, team members prefer to view task information in Excel and Outlook.

gabriel's picture

I think you need to reflect of what you need from the tool, here are a few questions:

 

1. Do you need a tool where those working in the project can update the status of their tasks?

2. Do you need a tool only for your own tracking?

3. Do you use or have interest in using a time/life management technique (GTD, etc) ?

4. What exactly you want to track? Just who is assigned to the task and when it is done?

 

There are many tools out there online and off-line to help you with this, I use GTD and and I found my ideal tool:

http://www.trgtd.com.au/

 

Now, you can check this link to see if you find any other tool that you might like better:

http://lifehacker.com/tag/project-management/

Good luck!

Gabriel

amasur's picture

If you're looking for something simple, yet effective to manage group projects, I'd suggest looking at Basecamp from 37 Signals.

Here's my Basecamp top-ten list (no, I'm not getting anything from them for saying this):

  1. Completely web-based.
  2. Unlimited users that can be inside your organization or in other companies/departments
  3. Multiple ToDo lists per project
  4. You can put ToDo in whatever order you want, but can have optional due dates.
  5. Milestones are date driven.
  6. ToDo Lists can be tied to milestones if you like.
  7. Good file sharing with basic "versioning"
  8. Basic Wiki-like functionality (called Writeboards) for group collaboration
  9. Several good iPhone apps (I use Outpost)
  10. Robust permissions

My team of 8 marketing people within a company of about 45 use it every day. We're even now getting some folks outside the team to start putting things in there as well. Happy to share/discuss more if you'd like.

-Adam Masur
http://amasur.me

PS: This is similar to another thread I recently commented on, so this is a cross-post (sorry). The other thread is http://www.manager-tools.com/forums-4432, and might be worth a skim.

alexdifiore's picture

Check out www.move4.net. They've got something called the PM portal thats highly customizable and intended to manage multiple projects at a much higher level than MS Project. Its got strong workflow and communication tools built in as well.

hezzw's picture

 I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU about MS Project. To start off, I am a certified PM but I didn' t start off like that. Your situation sounds similar to mine, and then I decided to get my PM certification. I have SO MANY projects on the go all at once, and my clients are located all over the place and some of my co-workers work remotely too. I have tried so many PM softwares and even took a course on MS Project. I had am on a constant search for the latest and greatest. I can't live without <a href="http://www.PureProjectTools.com">PureProjectTools.com</a> now. It is able to handle the capacity of my work and all my co-workers who aren't PM's find it easy to use and really intuitive, which is ideal because I don't have the time or means to train everyone on the software. It's totally free and definitely worth trying. I hated MS Project. Good luck!!!

pm_mike1994's picture

While always on the lookout for a tool to manage projects, I have found that many tools become a job unto themselves to manage. We are being paid to manage both projects and the people working on them, so also managing a tool designed to help manage can produce a time sink.

I keep a Word Doc for basic project information and current status. I try to update this weekly, or bi-weekly in its entirety, and add major status updates as they happen. As updates become dated I delete them as you really don't need to know about the distant past - whatever happened, happened.

For my current workload of about 50 ongoing projects (most take 3-18 monhts) I have about a 70 page document. Needless to say this is mostly to keep my brain from trying to remember too many details, but it is not reviewed by many people ever. I have a co-project manager who is concerned only with current status and making sure I am not operating in a vacuum. But I am solely responsible for delegating tasks and ensuring that deadlines are met.

Given the number of projects and sometimes overlapping deliverables, it is a juggling act at times. I frequently provide "cover fire" for the team and actually do a number of things that the podcast suggests, though not in the same terms.

We use Basecamp for some projects, but primarily as a way to store files and to exchange files with outside clients as an alternative to FTP or YouSendIt. We don't use the task lists of calendars though I'd like to.

I'm also experimenting with a 1 page Excel spreadsheet to track delegated tasks and deliverables.

My next goal is to introduce the Red, Amber, Green status system. Currently the status system is "where does this stand?" and the responses vary from useful to useless.

 

daveb's picture

I actually like MS Project. [shrug]. But I've only used the stand-alone tool. I'd love to try project server to link team docs together. But there's also Portfolio Server which might help with the original  question about managing multiple projects. Again - I haven't used, just throwing it out there as a lot of people don't know it exists http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/projectserver/cc627344.aspx

 

Alex_W's picture

Although this thread is stale (OP from '09) it's a good question so I'll offer my 2 cents.

Although I use MSP for projects and programs, it's not practical from many non-PMs and sometimes not the best overall tool.

Sharepoint has come a long way and has project- and non-project-oriented features, potentially enabling a manger of multiple initiatives to use one tool for a document repository, task etc. list, calendar, and other features too numerous to list here.

If your organization has MS Project Server implemented even better as it hooks into the other MS products, including Sharepoint.

 

 

JustHere's picture

 I advocate the Getting Things Done method. Alex, I think it's a good idea to bring up this old thread since things do change rapidly in the technology arena and project management.  I use two tools: toodledo.com for my life and academic research projects, and LiquidPlanner.com for bigger more complex projects.  LiquidPlanner has a neat way of seeing the worst and best case scenarios for project deadline.  Toodledo has a free version while Liquidplanner does not.

leesa01's picture

You should also check out www.proofhub.com/. ProofHub is an online collaboration and project management software that enables team members to effectively communicate and collaborate with each other in least time. It is a huge advantage for those team members who happen to be distributed in different locations around the world. It helps them to promptly discuss important matters and resolve quickly through sharing of ideas and views. Try it & Good luck!

davidbrown0128's picture

 You can try these tools 

1. Proofhub

2. Basecamp

3. Wrike

4. Trello

 

 

 

 

joshyeager's picture

If your projects are traditional pre-planned projects with clear milestones, select a tool like MS Project, Excel, or Proofhub. Those tools will manage your plan for you, but you have to trust your team to follow the plan.

If your work is more task-based, those tools don't work very well. Small ad-hoc tasks are too cumbersome to track in a project planning tool. Tasks that follow a consistent process repeatedly are even worse.

If you have a single team and simple ad-hoc tasks, use a tool like Basecamp, Trello, or Wrike. They are excellent and easy to use.

But those tools aren't very customizable, don't have multi-team access control, and can't define processes that tasks should follow. If you need any of those things, look for a "lean business process management" tool like Clarizen, Jira, or JobTraQ.

Josh

Disclaimer: I'm the product manager for JobTraQ. In my opinion, it is the best product on the market for its purpose.

alexswan's picture

 You should try eResource Scheduler for managing your resources in real-time, it allows you to perform a bit of project management also. Due to its multi-user login feature, data can be shared against users in real-time. If you have to take my opinion, evaluate its features for free. You can import project tasks from mpp (MS Project) and export Gantt Chart in MS Excel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_8_0ZgfBXg

 

 

NFPmanager's picture

I find SmartSheet (online tool) very versatile, intuitive and powerful. It's not specific to project management. It's like a super-awesome online excel. We use it for project management, workplans, budgets, to run registrations, etc. You can sign up for a trial. The help videos are a good way to get an overview. We switched from Basecamp to SmartSheet a few years ago and we don't regret it. It does do Gantt charts.

Ariashley's picture

I'm director for a team that includes 2 managers and 7 direct reports into each manager.  The teams have perhaps 15-20% "ongoing activities" and spend 80%+ of their time on projects.  For primary tracking purposes, we use a basic spreadsheet with a series of information about each project (name, responsible person, implementation date, date completed (which is more about documentation), responsible director, high level project status (i.e., on-track, off-track, at risk, parking lot, on hold, completed), a detailed project status appropriate for internal people in case someone is hit by a bus, a couple of sentence project status appropriate for executive/audit committee level, and then some specific details about the type of project.  We have around 500 projects in the spreadsheet.  We have reports built from the spreadsheet for all kinds of different audiences.  Each person is responsible for updating their project status at least monthly (for slower moving projects) and weekly (for faster moving projects or those near deadlines).  I review each person's projects with them in one-on-ones (or skip level one-on-ones) to get a status update.  Reports are buit using pivot tables and index(match) formulas.  It's simple.  That's basically status for all projects.

Each individual project has a project plan (using a standard template, also Excel), a project memo (standardized documentaiton about the project), a working group (most of our projects involve multiple business areas), a sponsor, a steering committee and standard package of materials.  Each project has a kick-off meeting that includes certain types of information, working group meetings, heat maps indicating project status, meetings with sponsors and steering commitees and executive sponsors.  We also keep track of team process improvements and other activities on the project list, but do not put all of this documentation around those items.  Instead, documentation is tailored for the much smaller nature of that kind of project.

rakinsler's picture

www.asana.com

This is exactly what you described you are looking for. 

Facilitymgmt's picture

Handling multiple projects at a time isn't a tougher if you're using some well-featured project management tools. Even if you're using Excel but you need some advance skill to use and manage.

Now, QuickFMS has the solution if you haven't much skill. QuickFMS provide project management software on cloud model which will enable you to manage multiple projects at once. It doesn't matter how different your projects from each other. You can track your projects and resources which is assigned to the specific projects easily using this software.

fuzzytop150's picture

According to your requirment I would suggest you to have a look on PPM-Factory (www.ppm-factory.com) that has vast potential to handle multiple projects with ease. 

sharansingh's picture

Get daily status from your team leader so you can see what are the progress of your work?? By report you can analysis the feature of your work and come to know the timing required to complete your project.