I recently came across a job posting which requested samples of statements of work, project proposals, project plans, etc., and I had two thoughts:
- Many of those materials are often proprietary and my work has been majority financial services, so a) I don’t have copies of those materials, b) I can’t share them even if we have a signed NDA, and c) even if I scrubbed + shared (that should be a hashtag), much of the value of it has disappeared, therefore:
- Why don’t I just write a series of posts about my approaches to these things because that’s what you really want to know, isn’t it?
So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m calling this Breakdown and I’m going to try to cover as much area as I can. I’m going to start with the thing that most people think about when you hear “project manager”, that is to say: project plans.
And this posting is going to be about the tools of the trade.
Tools matter to me
A friend once remarked to me that I always have exactly the right gear for whatever we’re doing. Ice skating? I have my own skates: both figure and hockey. Volunteer construction work? I have steel-toe boots, denim w/ carpenter loops for tools, my own tool belt, and my own tools. Dinner party? Let me not explain the options of flatware and serverware and drinkware and—
You get the picture. While I can make do when necessary, if I have the option to have the right tools, I’ll use them.
Therefore, I like Microsoft Project or similar tools like Smartsheet, Basecamp, or JIRA. Dependent on organization options and need, I may use one of those, or some, or all. What I will not use is Microsoft Excel. What I will not use is PowerPoint…or Visio, or the back of a napkin, or an email program to simply corral and track issues, etc. Why not?
Because even if it gets me through a few days or a few weeks of project planning those tools, while wonderful and robust and flexible, are not fit for purpose, and I’d rather spend time doing the planning and day-to-day project management than reinventing the wheel (very often making it square this time around).
I am known to ask rather stubbornly for the tools that I need not because I have operatic delusions of being the prima donna but because I know I can do quite a better job with them.
What about you? Which tools and applications do you like to use when doing project planning?
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