What Are Some Tools for Project Management?

Businesses fund the projects that upper management believes to be critical to their success. But funding a project alone doesn’t ensure that when a project ends a company will better off than it was before.

There are a lot of reasons a company may benefit from a project. An exceptional project manager may herd his team in the right direction. Or, due to outstanding training and on-the-job experience, a team may adopt all the right practices. But in most cases, the use of project management tools helps.

Project management tools such as a PERT chart and a work-breakdown structure can improve a team’s capabilities by providing guidance even if a project team possesses all the right knowledge and years of practice.

Gantt Chart

A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart that lists project activities, as well as the start and end date for each activity, which are displayed in a calendar format. A Gantt chart does not illustrate a relationship between one activity and another, but each activity referenced in a Gantt chart does coincide with an activity in a work breakdown structure, which breaks down project work into phases and work packages.

The Gantt chart also includes columns to document the duration and percentage of completion of each task. The number of workdays the activity has been in process, the expected number of days to complete the activity and the days remaining are also documented on the chart. These figures illustrate the planned versus actual work progress.

Pert Chart

A program evaluation and review technique or PERT chart is used to both plan the time and resources needed to complete a project and control project tasks. Using a PERT chart, or network diagram, project leadership can specify and schedule in sequence each task that team members must complete to accomplish a project objective and state the time required for each.

A PERT chart illustrates the interrelationship between tasks by identifying which tasks run parallel to one another and which ones must occur in sequence. Project milestones -- events that mark the end result of a series of activities -- are also charted.

In addition, a PERT chart includes three estimates for each project activity: the shortest time required to complete an activity, the time that’s likely to be required to complete an activity and the longest time the activity might require.

Critical Path Analysis

The critical path analysis is a tool used for projects that require the completion of interdependent activities. A critical path incorporates a list of project activities specified in a work breakdown structure, the completion time for each activity and the identification of interdependent tasks and end points, including milestones and deliverable items.

The completion times for the set of activities in the critical path are summed and equal the greatest amount of time a project might require to complete. The sequenced activities must be completed on time for the project to be completed on time.

Responsibility Assignment Matrix

The responsibility assignment matrix or RACI tool alerts project stakeholders to the team members who are assigned particular project responsibilities and for what work the individuals are held accountable.

As the tool’s name infers, the RACI matrix states who is responsible for a task’s completion, or who will be performing a task and the individuals who will contribute to the task’s completion. The matrix also specifies who is accountable for tasks and who has decision-making authority with regard to the task. Also stated are the names of those people who might be consulted in regards to the task and the people who should be informed about the progress the team makes in the task’s completion.

Work Breakdown Structure

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a project model or graph that breaks project work into tasks. The project’s WBS illustrates the interrelationship between tasks and between tasks and the project’s end product.

The WBS incorporates sub-projects and points out project responsibilities, required resources and time requirements to complete each task.