1. Project management
1.1. What is Project management
According to (Schwalbe, 2015) definition, a project is a brief undertaking in order to accomplish a planned objective. It is created through careful deliberation and has a requirement for a diverse supply of resources from numerous areas. However project management is the application of one’s skills, experience and techniques to meet the criteria of a project (Schwalbe, 2015). Project Management is a highly established and excepted area for expert knowledge within a domain as wells a subject of extensive academic research and debate.(White and Fortune, 2002). Despite the development of numerous different system and procedures capable of governing all stages within a projects life cycle, a great number of projects over spend their budgets or fail to meet deadlines (White and Fortune, 2002). In every project there are numerous risks and since each project is unique, the level of risk between projects differs. This would suggest that projects are influenced by both internal and external factors. The triple constraint model or otherwise refer to as the The Iron Triangle (Atkinson, 1999), states some of these influencing factors are basic to all projects; these basic factors are quality, cost and time (Atkinson, 1999). Furthermore these basic factors work antagonistically to each other, therefore changing one will cause changes in the other two resulting in an overall change to the project.
The scope of projects as well the method of how they are carried have out been transformed through the implementation of technology (Lientz and Rea, 2007). According to (Kerzner, 2015) advances in industry has influence the way projects are run, they are now more collaborative, more efficient and more highly dependent on technology. Project managers are now more than ever expected to deliver projects on time, on budget and to specification (Bloch et al., 2012) with increased stakeholders involvement (Bourne and Walker, 2004). An example that illustrates the significance of these basic factors in project management was the implementation of a civilian IT project in the NHS’s. The NHS is fund by the tax payer through national insurance contributions (Choices, 2016). The objective of the IT project was to develop a centralised electronic data base, in order to provide 40,000 GPs over 300 doctor’s facilities access to patient records (Syal, 2013). The system was designed by a large centralized team. Therefore as there was no direct stakeholder involvement, this resulted in disputes along with technical failures causing delays in the schedule (Syal, 2013). The overall cost rose from £6.4 billion to £10 billion (Syal, 2013). Therefore the failure of this project illustrates significances of ensuring all factors effecting a project are taking into consideration and the importance of stakeholders involvement (Bloch et al., 2012). Due to the ever raising expectation of stakeholders and the increased requirement of project success, the use of project management software is now expected; thus allowing for greater collaboration, efficiency and stakeholder oversite.
The objectives of this paper is to identify the advantages and disadvantages of current project management software tools. To meet this objective this paper will compare two leading project management software’s against a given benchmark. First is Microsoft Project (MS Project) is delivered through Microsoft office 365, its pc and cloud based and according to two independent reports it is estimated that 67% of companies use it (Maffeo, 2016; Burger, 2015). Some of these companies include United Airlines , Hilti Corporation, TGI Friday’s, Basecamp is a collaborative cloud based software that aims to incorporate everything that a project requires in to one easily accessible domain. Current notable clients of Basecamp are NASA, WWF, Adidas, National Geographic, Etsy and Twitter.
The significances of Benchmarking is well document (Camp, 1989; Hewitt, 1992; Main and Jacob, 1992), and is an important aspect of quality management in technology (Ramamurthy et al., 1997). Benchmarking is regarded as being cost and time effective because it “focus continual improvement of the core characteristics” of a company of process (Ramamurthy et al., 1997). (Kerzner, 2015) points out that it is “impossible to be a world class company without having a world class methodology”. (Kerzner, 2015) also states that most successful companies have maximum of six life-cycle phases and that these points are necessary for continual improvement. As discussed earlier, the triple constraint model refers to the cost, time and quality being the basic influencing factors of all projects (Atkinson, 1999). Therefore taking this into consideration, it is essential that the benchmarks for this comparison must be developed from the core characteristic for success in project management. These benchmarks are:
- Ease of use
- This refers to how easy it is for stakeholders to use the project management tool, amount of training/knowledge required, reliability and integration of other software and devices.
- Cost effective
- Whether it’s financial beneficial, therefore do the benefits out weight cost.
- Time management
- As time has a direct effect on the overall cost and quality of a project, does the software have the capability by the way of tools or apps to keep the project on schedule?
- Security Management
- Is the data protect, are fire wall in place, are there protocols to limit the number of people who have access or can alter the data?
- Are all stakeholders able to collaborate with each other in real time?
- As there are always risks of potential setbacks in projects, does the software utilize project variables to provide predictions to help ensure projects run smoothly?
3.1 Ease of Use
Project management in the 21st century is experiencing an “increasingly global work place” (Hicks, 2007) coupled with a decline in highly skilled and experienced laborers. Therefore according to (Hicks, 2007) it is critical to develop, use, and optimize the full workforce to ensure projects run to optimal capacity. According to (Kerzner, 2015) in order for companies to be successful in their fields, they must have “world class methodologies”. However considering the increased stakeholder involvement and varied levels of technical capabilities, these methodologies need to be simple for workers to use; as well as being able to deal with the majority of situations that may arise during a project.
Microsoft Project is designed by individuals who have overseen genuine projects and realize that project demands and procedures are continually evolving. The first edition of Microsoft project was released over 30 years ago. During this time, Microsoft have included an ever increasing number of capabilities and utilized their experience to make a tool that is more capable and adaptable than most alternative software available (Pales, 2017). Therefore, due to its vast amount of capabilities, Microsoft Project can be utilized in most situations. Despite this astonishingly enormous scope of capabilities, the tool manages complexity in an exceptionally basic way and it is generally simple for a client to do what he or she requires. (Pales, 2017).
As MS Project is part of Microsoft 365, it is easily integrated with other Microsoft products. However when incorporating software from alternative developers, MS Project struggles in comparison to other Project development software such as Basecamp. The MS Project is limited to Microsoft platforms, therefore there is no current Mac version of it. Basecamp is available on various platforms including mac and windows as well as mobile devices such as IOS and Android. This is important as this allows greater collaboration between stakeholders as it doesn’t limit access due to devices being used. Furthermore unlike MS Project, Basecamp is open sourced which mean its capable integrating with many third party apps. Considering no project is the same and project demands are always changing, this tailoring of the software allows for the tool to be customized to the needs of the project.
Cloud based projects are becoming an increasingly demanded feature in organizations (Lin and Chen, 2012). MS project is both cloud and pc based, however as it is pc based each stakeholders must have a copy of MS Project in order to view or collaborate on projects; thus making collaboration an issue (Frolick and Wilson, 2001). Unlikely MS Project Basecamp is solely cloud base, therefore files are stored in the cloud so there is no chance that stakeholders end up wrongly working on different saved copies of a project (Frolick and Wilson, 2001).
In spite of the potential benefits of cloud based solutions, it isn’t without its obstacles. As cloud based services rely on the internet to deliver its services (Lin and Chen, 2012). Issues posed by inconsistencies in high speed internet access and potential power outages acts as a deterrent to some organizations adopting cloud based services. (Miller, 2008).
3.1.1 Cost Effective
Due to the Brexit referendum in 2008 and the frustration in EU and UK divorce negotiations, the economy is currently unpredictable and companies are understandably cautious in investing in any long term commitments(Hodge, 2017). Therefore it is essential to ensure cost effectiveness when selecting appropriate tools in order to safeguard the budget and project success. However it is also important to remember triple constraint model and effect of reducing cost has on the quality and time of a project. Therefore in an effort to reduce cost, companies are moving to a cloud based computer systems in order to improve financial savings and resource management(Lin and Chen, 2012)
As per other Microsoft products, MS project cost comes at a hefty up front price tag; or a cloud based product at a more affordable monthly payment.
|Price||Project Standard/ Essential||Project Professional||Project Premium|
As discussed earlier, a disadvantage for MS Project is that the prices listed above are for single account holder only. This would mean In order for stakeholders to be involved they too must own their own copy. Therefore for a small company this a large financial investment whilst currently in risky economic business environment.
Alternatively Basecamp only requires a once a month fixed price of $99 or approximately £75. However unlike MS Project this price does not increase with the number of stakeholders and doesn’t require users to install software on any device. The company claim that they provide everything a project requires all in same place.
A benefit that both products provide is it minimizing the need for face to face meetings. Therefore this reduces the overall cost by reducing the amount spend on travel or accommodation.
According to (Emory, 2003) the primary source of all security issues is a people problem. Therefore with advancements in technology new modes of communication and computing inevitably occur. However in parallel to this new security issues arise due to evolutionary like response of the offender to this advancement in technology(Lin and Chen, 2012). Therefore data protection within project management pose’s a significant risk to project success as “What’s worth doing is worth protecting”(Emory, 2003). Furthermore concerns in security with respect to privacy and data protection are quoted as one of the most common objections to organizations adopting cloud based services(Armbrust et al., 2010). In addition to this a “perceived lack of control” (Armbrust et al., 2010) of who has access to what and when can dissuade companies from adopting cloud computing.
Microsoft and Basecamp pride themselves on robust security measure to mitigate these concerns of companies using cloud based services. Both tools provide multiple location backups and server redundancies which are important should serves fail. In addition HTTPS encryption is provided ensuring only that stakeholders have access to the data. However unlike MS Project, Basecamp does not offer the ability for authors to grant various levels of permissions within a project to different stakeholders; thus proving to be a potential security threat within itself. Both tools provide advanced physical security in access accounts and PCI-compliant billing procedures. An advantage of MS Project has over Basecamp is that it is endorsed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2015 and Quality Management and compliant with ISO 27001 Information Security Management Systems. Thus providing assurance to stakeholders that the company is recognized for having high standards when dealing with quality and security management.
However despite these security measure, MS Project and Basecamp are not invulnerable to security threats. In 2017 Microsoft was hacked with offenders stealing source codes for future Microsoft products, therefore making these product potential more susceptible to viruses (SEGAN, 2006) and more recently in 2014 by the Syrian Electronic Army (@BBCNews, 2017). Basecamp has severed at the hands of hackers with ransom demands with offenders being able to access user accounts (Goldman, 2014).
3.1.3 Time management
In an environment where stakeholders demand increasingly faster profit turnovers, time management is essential for project success. Therefore it is understandable that most project scheduling is done with the assistance of computer based software (APM, 2017b). Despite the laborious task of imputing data MS Project is renowned for its scheduling capabilities. The software is capable of disseminating numerous timesheets, checklist and calendars. However unlikely Basecamp is able to presenting data in the form of gant charts which
one reviewer stated “it was a brilliant tool for overseeing the whole project process, particularly if you have several projects running simultaneously”(APM, 2017b). This means that MS project is good for compiling reports or sharing data between stakeholders. Similar to Basecamp, MS Project is highly rated for assigning tasks to stakeholders and updating checklist in real time. One client reviewed MS Project “With Project Online, my team is saving 40 hours a month creating reports, and management is making decisions using up-to-date data” (Microsoft, 2015). Therefore in essences saves project managers time and effort which could be spent on the project. In contrast to MS Project a disadvantage for Basecamp is its lack of features, notably in time tracking capabilities; therefore organizations looking for this feature would be recommended to seek alternatives.
Time management is an important aspect within a project. As illustrated by the triple constraint model, poor time management can have a detrimental effect on the whole project; resulting in a combination of increased cost and poor product quality.
Communication is a fundamental element in project management. Collaborating with stakeholders is essential to project success as it ensure that everyone is aware of tasks that are assigned to them. Furthermore “virtual collaboration” (APM, 2017a) is vital as it allows for consistent support for employees. Therefore any unforeseen obstacles that hinder the progress of project deliverables can be reported, highlighted and help provided (APM, 2017a).
(Kerzner, 2015) discusses the rise in significance of social media (Facebook/twitter) into today’s companies and the speed of which communication now occurs. MS Project and Basecamp acknowledge the implications of this rise in social media and that emails are no longer the preferred line of contact. Therefore with this change in mode of communication Microsoft has incorporate a social media site Yammar (a social media platform) (Lardinois, 2012). Furthermore in direct competition to features already provided by competitors. MS Project has announced plans to release a platform that collates all messages and information within a project and store it in one easily accessible domain; much like Basecamps’ Campfire message boards. Basecamp and MS Project are renowned for their array of communication features such real time chat, conference calls traditional email and Basecamps automatic check-ins.
Forecasting is an important aspect of strategic management (Smith and Offodile, 2006) and affords the project manager the ability to predict possible obstacles within a project. This would enable project managers to be able to mitigate any potential increases in cost or suffer reduction in product quality.
While MS Project forecasting and modeling capabilities are inferior to those provided by alternative project management software, Basecamp has none native to its self. This would only allow project managers to deal with current events, therefore prevent them from being able to avoid possible future setbacks. As the difference between successful companies and failed ones relies on superior forecasting (Smith and Offodile, 2006) user would be required to seek alternative project management software such as ProSymmetry’s Tempus Resource and Roadmap.
To conclude this paper, technology and the rise of social media within organizations is a rapidly growing sector (Kerzner, 2015). Therefore in terms of the triple constraints model, this rise has had a positive effect on cost, time and quality of products within projects. However the risk in forgetting the human element within project mange leads to the danger of a generation of project managers who are solely dependent on such technology (Reiss, 2009).
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