Project management tools are common devices for keeping track of activities, deadlines and resources on a project. They're usually visual tools designed to represent the goals and activities of a project — e.g., Gantt charts — or the responsibilities of those working on various stages of a project, such as swim-lane diagrams.
Project management tools help keep you organized from the start of the project. By identifying all of the activities and their duration, resources and accountable people, you never have to wonder what to do next or who's in charge. Details are easier to track because they're written down and marked when complete. Over the course of a project, better organization helps save time and stress and avoids last-minute scrambling.
Pro: Easily Shared
Project management tools usually create one document that serves as the “project at a glance.” This project is easily shared with everyone working on its different components. Everyone knows the status of activities that may impact their work. Certain software allows open-access editing so everyone can see all of the details of the project’s status as well.
Con: Time Investment
There can be significant time invested in learning and creating the initial project-management tool of choice for the project. Certain tools are quite easy to learn, but others can be detailed and technical. Everyone on the project needs to learn how to interpret the tool; someone also has to be responsible for learning how to create the tool. Sometimes, learning specialized software can take as long as creating the document itself.
Project management tools are only useful when they're updated regularly. The initial plan is valuable, but in reality, projects never go according to plan. When changes happen, such as new tasks or delays, the document needs to be updated accordingly. Someone has to be responsible for this regular task.
Maggie Allen is a political science doctoral student and a trained facilitator of environmental conflicts. She has traveled extensively for her work and began writing on these experiences in 2006, including policy papers for international organizations. She holds a Master of Arts in international development from the University of Guelph and a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of Northern British Columbia.