Project planning is an art. It involves breaking a goal down into small tasks, then assigning and scheduling those tasks so the work continuously moves toward the finish line.
Traditional project planning tools are designed to handle a complex series of tasks. They're perfect for programmers and engineers but for the average small-business owner, it can be a steep learning curve.
Why not start with something simpler? Here are three iPad apps that take a more creative approach to planning a small project.
1. iScope -- Project Management 4 Humans
This app uses an intuitive interface that looks like a leather trimmed desk blotter. The action is based on task cards which sit on three horizontal rails. Each rail represents a deeper level of sub-tasks, so you can easily break goals into manageable chunks. Click on a task card to add deadlines, write notes and attach files. iScope also has its own contact list so you can contact and assign tasks to team members without leaving the app.
The Project Dashboard tool is where you'll find pie charts and graphs that show your progress on each project. It also shows the progress of each team member so you know at a glance who needs a follow-up call.
The downside to the iScope's friendly interface is that you can only see a minimal amount of information at one time so it's best for short-term projects with a minimal number of tasks.
iScope for the iPad is free to try. The full version costs $9.99.
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2. AgileScrum Pro
It may sound like an odd name for a project planner but AgileScrum is a reference to a software development method that is the basis for the app. The method takes a holistic approach to completing any project by breaking the tasks into tiny increments that your entire team can work on at the same time.
AgileScrum comes with a recognizable interface -- the old fashioned bulletin board. The board has three columns: To Do, In Progress and Done. Each task is a yellow post-it that can be dragged from one column to the next. You can assign tasks to team members, give them a specific number of hours for completion and run reports to see who is putting in the time.
The downside to this free app is that it uses terminology specific to the Agile Development method, so there's a bit of a learning curve to start.
Based on the concept of a tree (the project goal) with limbs (tasks) and smaller branches (sub-tasks), Treed is designed to force you to work backwards from your goal with large text boxes and a minimalist design.
Once you create your tree, you can drag and drop the task boxes, check off completed tasks, zoom out to see the big picture and use the ready task list to focus on your priorities.
What Treed doesn't do is handle dates, so it only works for projects that don't have a specific deadline. Without a free trial version, Treed costs $11.99.
Related: 5 Little-Known iPhone and iPad Apps for Startups