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4 Essential Project Management Tools

May 21 2010

Project Managers have four essential tools to help them bring a project from start to finish, on time and within budget.  Without these tools in place and effective use, a project will most likely fail in delivery and client satisfaction.

Specifically, the tools addressed in this article are:

Effective use of these project management tools is the core of a successful project.  When put into use, they can help the Project Manager and support team stay on track and deliver the objective as required.

1. The Budget.  The budget is the project management tool that will be used the most throughout the life cycle of the project.  The Project Manager begins by allocating resources and assigns tasks within the budget allowance.  During the execution of the project plan, it is not unusual for the Project Manager to make adjustments to keep the project within the budget parameters.

For small or simple projects, spreadsheet software is enough to create budgets and reports.  There are templates available to save time and effort.  However, for larger or more complicated projects, a better software solution is needed.  There are online programs to fit any size project and any number of shareholders.

2. The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).  A hierarchical structure, the WBS breaks down the project into tasks and sets the duration of those tasks.  This project management tool enables the Project Manager to identify independent tasks, allocate the needed resources for each task, and assign them to the appropriate stakeholder.

The WBS is often represented in such forms as diagrams, tables, or outlines.  These can, like the budget, be created using spreadsheet software or the programs dedicated to project management.

3. The Network Diagram.  The network diagram is the project management tool that picks up where the WBS leaves off.  This diagram provides a graphical view of task dependencies and sequence; this tool can identify those tasks that can be done at the same time by different support personnel.

There are both desktop and online software solutions that can render the Network Diagram into a flow chart that shows in greater detail the information provided by the WBS.

4. The Risk Management Plan.  This project management tool is a system used by Project Managers to identify, assess, and respond to project risks: project management risks, resource risks, client risks, technical risks, and other risks appropriate to the specific project.

Like the other tools, basic office productivity software (spreadsheet, word processor, etc.) can be utilized for the  Risk Management Plan, especially if the project is of small scale or simple scope.  Online software solutions can help with projects that are too complicated for a productivity suite.

In conclusion, these Project Management tools help to ensure the Project Manager can deliver a successful project objective.  Whether manual methods or sophisticated software are used, utilizing the four essential tools will help keep the project on track.