Between my blog and my role at gantthead, I probably get two or three meeting requests a week from Project Management tool vendors. The general trends these days (or at least what they punch in demos) seem to be toward:
- Software as a Service (making implementation easy and quick)
- Portfolio Views and Back End Data Mining Capabilities
- General “Ease of Use” and Simplicity
In my mind, the one that really matters most is the last one. Dozens of application developers who barely know what a project is have developed a sea of “task list makers” and call them Project Management tools. They are cheap and people love a simple task list – so they buy them – AND THE END — USERS — USE THEM. Increasingly, I’ve seen departments within large organizations set aside expensive PM shelf-ware in favor of tools that they can buy on a credit card and not have to install or train people on. They lose some pretty major functionality, but let’s face it – it’s functionality that only a few people use. In other words, “ease of use” is the oddly revolutionary “functionality” that some vendors have used to change the PM software landscape as we know it – moving us from “highly-capable, rarely used” to “minimally-capable, frequently used” project management tools.
While ease of use is important for getting new PMs on board with tracking basic progress on projects, there has to be a bridge between the tools you can learn in a day and those that can handle robust reporting and complex projects. I personally think that building this “bridge” involves building software that is more fully integrated with the places you “live” on your computer. It also involves an “Amazon One-click” style transition to a more robust tool if and when it’s needed.
Where do you live?
I spend a lot of time in email and in an internet browser, but email is the one application I really can not stay away from. That’s why I got really excited when Microsoft announced integration between Outlook Task List and MS Project. Recently, I thought it was pretty cool when Project Insight (and SaaS vendor) did essentially the same thing. These approaches let you keep on “living” where you do now as an apprentice PM, then let you move up to the real tools once you start feeling the need. Companies like Daptiv have taken a parallel approach using widgets to integrate their tools into your Yahoo (or other web-based) home page. So companies are starting to try to make it easier for you to gain a foothold in PM and move up as it makes sense.
Where do you “live” on your computer? Do your PM tools live there too?