(Disclaimer: I am not PM-certified.)
If you are familiar with the concept of project management or PM, you might have come across the term project management software. In essence, it is a software that allows the user (usually a project manager or coordinator) to manage events and resources of a project to achieve the project’s objectives or goals.
The most popular PM software is Microsoft Project, which is not included in Microsoft Office suite. MS Project allows the user to break down the project’s tasks, schedules, human resource, and see the status of various activities. I have not used Microsoft Project myself, so I am not in any authority to evaluate its capabilities nor its weaknesses (In fact, I am not speaking in any authority at all! I am just sharing my points of view and experience in using certain systems as a user.).
In any case, what I want to share with you is an opportunity to manage resources, activities and events of a project using free and open source software. You could Google the term “open source project management software” and you would come across probably Wikipedia’s list of project mangement software (here). PMS can be classified based on license or on platform base. According to license, of course, there are open-source and proprietary; according to platform base, there are desktop-based and there are web-based.
From a teacher’s or a faculty administrator’s point of view, a project management software can help one minimize uncertainty and ensure accomplishment of objectives by accomplishment of broken-down activities with specifically identified objectives, schedules and resources.
Take for example, a faculty conference. Any academic activity (particularly in CAS) has a strong academic principle and rationale behind it. Everything is done or happens for a reason. So a certain committee might think of doing something, with the given reasons or assumptions.
The committee may work as the project team (unit, committee, management office, whatever), with one person taking the lead. The project manager is the primary person for the implementation and achievement of the goals identified in the creation of the project (This is where the project charter comes in.).
The PM or his/her executive assistant or the committee’s secretariat will need a strong sense of project management if the conference is to succeed—that is, achieve its objectives both as an academic exercise and as an event to be managed.
This situation presents a need to have a software that helps the person to do just that. Considering the cost of MS Project (which I did not bother researching the price of), I tried searching for open source PM software instead.
Project management software like OpenProj allows you to identify your general objectives, project milestones, human and other resources, identify task predecessors, look at status of different activities, and make necessary adjustments.
A web-based project management software like Collabtive, Zoho Project and dotProject even works better. As it is web-based, the user can assign projects to other users, who can then enter the status of their own part/tasks. As such, status of different tasks is based on input of other people. This also makes management of projects which are geographically dispersed (like research projects in different communities).
What is the cost of open source PMS? Well, if you are not familiar with PMS but you are interested with its potential, the cost is absolutely zero! Why zero? Because you would exert the same (perhaps even less) effort to learn a new software as you would if you were to start learning a proprietary (and expensive) PMS.
Further, using open source PMS allows you to have software without paying for unnecessary features, like server-stuff and email (which I didn’t bother reading about).
Of course, using PMS is not guarantee of success, as PMS only allows one to have better understanding of project and information related to it. It still depends on the project manager on how to respond to contingencies, for example.
In a nutshell, a project management software allows you to manage a project which consists of multiple different types of objectives, resources, activities through easy-to-understand and summary information in one program. And an open source option allows you to do accomplish the objectives with significantly less the cost.
If you have more questions about PM, PMS or related info, just ask!
Sources: (All accessed 1 May 2009)