Here is an idea for a formidable integrated project management system.
You compile your project plan using MS Project and after you have entered all your task and durations you then copy and paste them into Excel and use the Palisades precision tree tool (http://www.palisade.com/precisiontree/) to analyse your options for each of the task.
Lets say your first task is to select a builder for that stage.
You could enter three builders into the precision tree tool and assign them a cost in the first node, then in the second node you could do a stability analysis of their published accounts to determine if they are likely to go bust during the life of the project and assign a probability to that. Then from previous customers determine the likelihood of them finishing on time and then opinions of the quality of their work and assign probabilities to each of them. You would obviously continue in the same way for all of the key concerns that you have for the project.
Having done this for each of the tree builders you could then run a Monte Carlo simulation to rank each one (based on all your inputs) according to which is the best fit. This procedure would also tell you which one is the best back up builder in case anything did go wrong. Having got your information you save it as part of your decision making audit trail.
It does not have to be a builder that your analysing, it could be the option for selecting a team member. Say you have three people to choose from. Person A has the highest qualifications, person B is the next one down but has 5 more years experience over person A, but looking at his attendance record takes a lot of time off of work, person C is newly qualified but has no experience to speak of but is keen and does not have time off for any reason. Here we have three people with their own particular benefits and detriments to consider. All that needs to be done is to quantify them and then analyse the results in the simulation package.
Having done this selection and ranking for all of the task in your project you now have concrete data to proceed to the next stage which is assigning the resources that you have ranked as number one.
I have asked Palisade if they could consider producing a dedicated version of Precision Tree for Projects and am waiting for them to get back to me on the subject. If they decide to produce one, you will not need to copy and past your project list into Excel but work directly in MS Project.
Next, you could use the dedicated @Risk for projects program to refine your risk management strategy and produce three point simulation estimates on (a) each individual task, (b) each stage of the project, and (c) the project as a whole.
The next thing to do is to make this information available to all who are concerned with the project and that is done by using the Project in a Box (http://www.projectinabox.org.uk/personal_edition.asp) project configuration management software that is dedicated to the Prince2 methodology.
By saving all of the information from the previous two packages in the main Project in a Box resource folder you can then call up the original information to the relavant Prince2 process folders. Having done this you can now access it all in a totally auditable manner with version updates and you are able to use a whole host of other communication facilities provided in the package.
Having studied these four programs in detail, I think that mastering them and using them in unison would provide project managers with a formidable set of tools for getting their projects in on time and to budget.
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