The right tools for the job

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Expert Member
Expert Member
Posts: 132
Joined: Wed 08 Sep 2010 1:38 pm
Location: Westminster - London

Many, many years ago when I took my first job as an apprentice decorator I learned very quickly that a good tradesman never blames his tools. In decorating terms, this equated to me buying the very expensive Hamilton Perfection brushes. The reason for this purchase was that other brushes on the market used a varied mixture hog bristles that when new formed a rounded edge and would take months of use to develop the fine-feathered edge that I needed for high-class gloss work. Hamilton had addressed this problem in their Perfection range of brushes by grading the length of the bristles therefore creating a very fine tapered tip which was ideal for the type of work I was doing (a 95 percent reflection as gauged on a light reflectomitor).

How does this equate to project management you may well ask? Simple, there are a lot of free and paid for project management applications on the market all claiming to be project management tools. Like the brushes I mentioned earlier they will do an adequate job but not to the high standards that a true professional would expect.

I have downloaded dozens of these tools to evaluate and believe me there is some free crap out there, which you shouldn’t even consider. Of the paid packages, there are some really good ones that outwardly look easy to use and appear to be quite comprehensive until you get into the area of actually managing your project then the considerable weaknesses show up. In paintbrush terms this would equate to cheap bristles that fall out and a block of wood in the middle of the bristles that is designed to appear to give the brush bulk, not very good for professional work.

I believe that these three packages used in conjunction with each other forms the best combination for professional project management work.

MS Office Project Professional 2010
MS @Risk for Projects
Project in a Box Small Teams Edition (for consultants and those handling small to medium sized projects)
Project in a Box Enterprise Edition (for the larger organisation with multiple, sophisticated and complex projects)

(Yes, you will say they are very expensive and that is true, but consider this, a good engineer or mechanic could spend up to £85 or more for a single ‘decent’ snap-on spanner or ratchet wrench.)

I also believe that internet connectivity is essential even for the independent consultant because it is far easier to set up customer permissions and keep customers up to date via the internet than constantly travelling around the country to attend progress meetings and explaining the what, when and why of every conceivable question that the customer may have. A little customer training and access to the Internet in addition to a video conferencing service will go a long way to addressing all of these problems.

My only problem with Project in a Box ‘Community’ and ‘Personal’ Editions are that they do not adequately address the internet connectivity issue.

So in summary, if you want to be a truly professional project manager, make sure you always have the best (most up to date) tools for the job and that you are fully trained and up to date in their use.

That way like a good tradesman, you’ll never need to blame your tools for poor workmanship.
Full Member
Full Member
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon 31 Mar 2014 1:45 pm

I do agree choosing and using the right tools can help you to carry out your tasks in a smooth and organized manner. You can take quality decisions quite fast and this will improve your productivity.
Full Member
Full Member
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri 25 Apr 2014 9:56 am

Right tools are useful when you will work according to their instructions, but if you ignore it, it will cause accidents.
New Member
New Member
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu 19 Jun 2014 12:27 pm

I think you can't go wrong with MS Project and Excel. Everybody pretty much knows the basics of Excel and Project, it isn't too hard to pick up as it has the same format. As long as you use them correctly and make sure you keep on top of your projects, that's the main issue I found, balancing your workload.

George Evans
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Site Admin
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Posts: 495
Joined: Sat 19 Dec 2009 4:39 pm
Location: London

Hi George,

For me, the benefit of using a spreadsheet solution, such as MS Excel is you can tailor the tools to your exact requirement, that's why it's my tool of choice. For the cost of one software package, you can create an unlimited amount of tools to manage your projects. I find these useful:
  • RAID Log
  • Budget Analysis and Forecast
  • Progress Report
  • Pareto Analysis
  • Project Timeline
They can be found free by Googling for them.

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