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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Project Management 2.0 in 2001

Project management 2.0 is one of these buzz words I don’t trust much. To make the thing more vague people label different thing with PM 2.0 name. Anyway in general I won’t be far from truth coming with a simple timeline: Web 2.0 brought Web 2.0 applications supporting project management, applications took “2.0” name as a differentiator and voila their users magically started doing project management 2.0. Some mixed that with agile growing into strength to make the meal spicier.

Similar position seems to be occupied by Andrew Filev, CEO of Wrike, which I reviewed some time ago. In his guest article on Agile Software Development Made Easy blog Andrew stresses importance of tools in modern project management. Tools are there to help with on-line task actualization, easy collaboration and information sharing. In a role of Uncle Pure Evil we have good old MS Project. Andrew writes:

Traditional project management software applications, like MS Project, were created to support the waterfall project management style and are file-based. All the data on different projects are stored in various disconnected files and are usually accessible to the team members in the read-only mode. The existing combination of processes and tools does not encourage the team to contribute to project plans directly on a daily basis. With these solutions, someone has to connect all the pieces and bits of information into a bigger picture, and this person is the project manager. Traditional project management applications also are rarely suitable for distributed teams that work in a heterogeneous environment of multiple operating systems. This software is focused on the project manager and places him or her in the center of the project communications. It often means that the project manager must collect all the data and manually put the information into the project plan.

Well, sounds like using MS Project is crap. I’m no fan of the tool so you guys don’t need to discourage me to use it, but it still doesn’t sound appealing at all.

The problem is I used MS Project back then in 2001 and actually it solved every of problem mentioned above. We had mpp file deployed on a Project Server and the team was using MS Project Web Access (in their browsers) to update their tasks on a daily basis. Updates were instantly seen by team manager (we didn’t have anyone with “Project Manager” printed on their business card).

Sharing documents? Share Point Server dealt with this. Areas created for each version of software, design documents published, stored and edited there. Email alerts incoming every time something has been changed. And yes, it worked in a browser. I know SPS is a crap now. Imagine how crappy it was 8 years ago. But it did the job.

By no means would I advise you to use this combo (MS Project + SPS) now to aid your project management. The point I’m trying to make is that we basically done project management 2.0 back then in 2001 when no one even thought of that name. Why? Because good project management hasn’t changed that much over time. I fully agree here with Glen Alleman who points that project management principles remain the same.

OK we’re still trying to find better ways to reach our goals: better tools, more suitable methodologies, better adjusted practices etc but is that all so different than it used to be? Nah.

Above example shows how artificial are efforts to create new market just with new cool slogans. Yet it would be hard to say they’re completely unsuccessful too. Anyway don’t tell me PM 2.0 is great because it’s, well, 2.0, brand new, it’s all about collaboration and nice tools which come in package. Don’t tell me because we did it in 2001 already.

in: project management

4 comments… add one

  • Glen B. Alleman November 29, 2009, 11:10 am

    Pawel,

    Maybe what Andrew is saying is "I haven't figured out how to use the tools to do anything other than a simple waterfall schedule in Project."

    As a user of MSFT Project Server, Deltek, and Primevera – all enterprise project management tools – NONE of the attributes Andrew describes are the case in practice.

    His narrow view starts and end with the statement MSFT Project was "created to support waterfall. This is course is typical Andrew nonsense." I'd love to have Andrew come and see how we manage programs with 10's of 1000's of lines of MSFT project tasks spread over the entire USA, with 20 or so major subcontractors.

    But as the self appointed leader of PM 2.0, it may be difficult to expand his horizons with actual projects performing work in ways he claims can't be done.

    Sad actually, because there is so much improvement needed in all areas of PM.

  • Pawel Brodzinski November 30, 2009, 1:59 am

    In defence of Andrew I can say his opinions are commonly shared among MS Project users (can't say for Deltek or Primavera because I know very few of them). My guess is that more than 80% or even more than 90% of usage of MS Project is limited to creation of mpp file and sending it out via email. If you use the tool this way limitations Andrew points are valid.

    Of course when one misuses the tool it's not the tool which should be blamed and that's exactly what I was trying to point (fully agree with you here).

    On a side note I think both product management and marketing for MS Project is completely screwed.

  • Glen B. Alleman December 2, 2009, 10:59 pm

    Pawel,
    I'd have to say you need to define "MS Project Users." I'm on a site this week, where there are probably a 1,000 MSP users. This site is one of a dozen sites for the firm across the US.

    So a few questions:
    1. What's your alternative?
    2. What are the details of the management and marketing of MSP – I know the Product Manager.
    3. You're correct about the 80% to 90% of the users create simple waterfall plans.

    The issue is there are 10's of 1,000's of users (out of the millions of licenses) that create large (5K to 50K) line schedules that manage 100's of billions of dollars of projects world wide.

    The real marketing issue is MSFT focuses on the 90% user base and essentially ignores the 10% (me and the 10's of 1,000's of PP&C people). We've had this discussion with MSFT and they know where the revenue comes from.

    So when Andrew speaks about MSP is suspect he's in the category of the 90% users that only build simple schedules for straight forward self contained projects.

    Our programs are a small minority compared to the total population (head count), but likely represent the vast majority – I'd conjecture 90% – of the total dollar value of projects. A $20M to $50M project in space and defense of considered "small." One joke in the local defense business here in Denver is a major firm wouldn't bend over to pick up a $10M bill laying on the sidewalk. Too small, too paper work for a small return.

  • Pawel Brodzinski December 3, 2009, 1:49 am

    Glen,

    The longer I think about it the stronger is my belief that MS Project should be really two separate products driven and marketed independently.

    I can understand your concerns to some point – I've never worked in such a large environment using MS Project so extensively, but I guess I went way further than 90% of MSP users. My usage was still limited to what I believe are simple features (at least most of them) but I'm aware how much more you could achieve with MS Project in such complex environment you work in.

    On the other hand when you buy MS Project you get all the stuff no matter whether you need them or not, budgeting being a nice example of premium feature which is rarely used by majority of users.

    I don't agree that MSFT focuses on 90% of project users. If they did we'd see lightweight web-based version of Project with limited feature set sold in SaaS model. I actually have no idea what MSFT focuses on with their marketing effort on MSP. If you as a premium user are unsatisfied and the same is on the other end of scale the marketing strategy must be flawed.

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