One of the key players in over-the-counter project management software is Microsoft. Its Project 98 is, according to Microsoft, the most widely used project management program. By the time you read this article, Microsoft Project 2000, the upgrade to Project 98, will be hitting store shelves. Because it's part of the Office family, Project 2000's interface should be familiar to Office users. Although it's a complex program, it's fairly easy to navigate. Beginners can work with it at one level while experienced users can dive right in and take full advantage of its features.
The new version of Project adds essential collaboration features including Project Central, an add-on Web tool that lets users access, interact with and manage projects in a familiar Web-browser environment. Project Central also lets users outline project plans and make them available to team members via the Web. Team members can make changes to the project, reassign duties, identify missing tasks and provide real-world time estimates. Those notes can then be returned to the project manager to finalize the plan. Essentially, once the plan is developed, team members can use Project Central to report back to the project manager, making pro-ject management a true group effort.
Another popular project management program is SureTrak Project Manager from Primavera Systems Inc. With features similar to Project 2000, SureTrak can act as a stand-alone project manager or a companion tool to the professional-level Primavera Project Planner (P3). SureTrak is an obvious choice for entrepreneurs currently using P3.
SureTrak's features also make this program a viable choice as a stand-alone project manager. Its KickStart wizard guides you through your project strategy, helping you identify project phases, clarify and establish goals, anticipate obstacles and delegate assignments. SureTrak also comes with a Web-publishing wizard to automate the process of building and maintaining Web pages with up-to-date SureTrak reports. Project participants can view tasks and collaborate on activity details via the Web.
For those looking for a quick and dirty solution to project management, TurboProject Express should fit the bill. Designed to make time planning easy, TurboProject Express lets users create schedules, time lines and charts without the severe learning curve you might experience with other programs. For the more ambitious, IMSI Software also offers TurboProject, which promises to "think like you do" without the rigidity found in Microsoft Project or SureTrak.
TurboProject takes a top-down approach to project management, letting the user opt for a loose layout approach by enabling drag-and-drop changes to a project's timeline--which is difficult to attain with traditional project management.
The bottom line? You can't just expect your team to meet the deadlines you set without helping them through each phase. By properly outlining a project from the start, you'll be able to better estimate both the time and costs associated with it as well as form well-thought-out budgets--things any entrepreneur can benefit from.