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Is planning software necessary? Can you plan your project without one?

15 Answers 15

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You can plan a project without a software tracking tool, you can't plan a project without communication.

The tools is just that, a tool. You use it to help you get what you want done. A hammer won't build a house, but it will make building the house a lot easier (using rocks to pound in nails is hard on the hand).

And as Zsolt says, tracking tools do nothing to help with planning. An architect doesn't even need to know how to use a hammer to plan a house.

If the tool is stifling the project, then the tool isn't working. Zsolt and MathAttack have already pointed to the humble excel. I managed a division that shipped a million units a quarter with just a spreadsheet.

  • Agreed, I managed a team of 8 developers in an agile methodology using a (pretty cool) spreadsheet. The point where the spreadsheet fails is when you have to get multiple people/teams involved in the planning. – Fiona - myaccessible.website Apr 14 '14 at 13:21
  • Comes back to communication again. Close to a hundred people relied on the simple spreadsheet I developed to track all the work done in the division I mention above. The key was to interview all the stakeholders and tailor it to their needs. I then iterated it almost monthly, based on input from the same stakeholders. – Joel Bancroft-Connors Mar 9 '15 at 0:08
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Tools have nothing to do with planning. They don't add too much to the cause. You have to know

  • the exact expectation of your customer
  • the exact deadline along with a known and understand set of requirements
  • the available resources (both human and physical)
  • and the list goes on

The thing is that there isn't a tool on the market which can do the planning and preparation for you. You can have an spreadsheet for "tracking" but tracking comes after planning and preparation. This is something you have to do manually.

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Yes, absolutely necessary. One hundred years ago, projects were planned and managed without software. So it can be done without. As with many things, technology has made things easier, faster, more precise, and less expensive to the point that, if you are not using technology, you cannot compete. So, yes, absolutely necessary.

  • in your experience, is there a way to use software for management and still have collaboration between team members and project managers? In all the examples I've seen so far, the software killed the collaboration and plus - not related - the software showed what the manager wanted to show not the real life – Zsolt Feb 12 '12 at 9:49
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    I think it would be a misattribution to blame the SW. Collaboration is facilitated by a skilled leader, with or without fancy tools. – David Espina Feb 12 '12 at 15:25
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    I'd say it depends on the project. If you work (as I do) with small co-located teams, software often gets in the way. For bigger projects, particularly where teams may not be sitting in the same area, building or even continent I can see software being a must. – Ben Apr 4 '14 at 9:17
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Depends on what you mean by software.

I haven't seen many people pull off using MS Project well.

I have seen a lot or folks do wonders tracking with Excel - much easier to use.

I have seen small projects succeed on email but nothing over a few months or a hundred mandate.

The importance isn't just defending the schedule, it is to manage dependencies, the critical path, and action items.

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Planning tools are always advantageous if used right, according to your specific needs. They improve your and your teams understanding on a plan and makes it easier to cope with deadlines. However, as it was already mentioned, a tool is just a tool. So the disadvantage would be that you still need to do the planning yourself, planning tools only enhance the process.

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Depending on what kind of planning you need.

If you are looking for a project management tool for planning your progress, it is necessary to do so. You may try something like JIRA.

If you are just looking for a way to share the progress with your team, you don't have to use any complex project management software. Instead, just share the files in Dropbox or Google Drive, and share the source code using GitHub or BitBucket.

If you want to plan the tasks in your team, you may use some task tracking tools like Mavenlink. But it is important to define a clear role for each person to prevent adding many tiny tasks that no one cares about other then the assignee. Or if you are lack of team members, you may outsource some works to other companies like Dustoki for QA testers.

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A specific software tool such as MS Project isn't necessary. It all depends on the size and scope of your project. You should count on using at least rudimentary software such as Excel and emails. In that respect, yes, you can plan your project without having PM-specific software. Beyond this basic answer, I'd need more details as to why you are asking the question. For example, are you trying to keep costs down? Running into a software licensing issue?

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The combination of Microsoft Excel and Email continues to be the "killer apps" for most project managers, but my experience tells me that different disciplines (IT, marketing, design, dev) have different needs.

I spent many years as a product marketer and product launches were my thing, and I executed well with a spreadsheet and email. When I moved into managing a creative team, there's no way I would have been able to keep up with comments/approvals/feedback that goes into managing creative processes, like proofing a video, or getting an annual report completed. We used a wide range of tools like ProofHQ, Jira, and ATTask to get our work completed.

I think at the very least you need a system, a plan and then you decide how specialized your task is and if there's purpose-built apps, great. If not, break open Excel and Email.

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No you do not need software, but if you have multiple teams (that need to share knowledge) or on very large projects it might be wise.

I can only speak for software development projects, but I guess it will work for other industries. You could use a whiteboard as planboard with post-its as work items. Project management methodologies like Scrum and Kanban work fine outside the software world too.

I once heard Jeff Sutherland say something about tooling and I think he said that tooling should be limited to the least you need to get the job done, because its extra overhead and is often in the way. He used Pivotal Tracker for his current company to plan and monitor progress though.

I would get two white boards:

  • one for the task/product backlog and prioritization
  • one for the current workload with at-least three columns: Todo, in progress and Done
  • Maybe a third for some metrics :)
  • Some framework for process, communication flows and DAILY updates
  • Profit! :)

Personally I love Trello if physical whiteboards are out of the questions or of teams are not located in one location.

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Not necessary.. But for the tracking purpose it is better to note it somewhere.. Simple Excel or a notepad would be enough to track the project.

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In my opinion, whether or not to use project planning software is up to you. I have seen great managers that use it and great managers that do not. So I think this is a question that you have to answer for yourself. Maybe this article about the tools different managers like to use will be helpful.

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    Fundamentally, you are saying that it is not necessary. However, is there any pattern to the use of planning software by different managers? - do those who don't use it tend to be running smaller or less complex projects, for example? If you can expand your answer to state whether there are key parameters that seem to define usage, that would be helpful. – Iain9688 Jun 19 '14 at 18:32
  • In my opinion there are a few factors at play here. In general, the bigger the project, the more likely that the manager is using project management software and vice versa. However, the decision to use management tools also depends on the field the company is in. The more organized and strict a field is, the more likely that the planning software will be used. Another thing that affects the decision is the general consensus in the company, whether they adapt to new technologies or not. So the key parameters are the size of the project, the type of business and the policy on innovation. – Emily B Jun 20 '14 at 12:22
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An effective planning guide should outline the questions that need to be answered at the outset in order to establish clear and measurable project goals and identify the budget and departmental resources required for its completion. So for effective planning we need planning tools. You may try something like Proofhub.

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No it is not necessary. Some teams may find it easier to use a tool than to draw on a whiteboard though, because they are used to using technology.

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Yes, it is definitely necessary. It's the root of the development and without good planning you will likely fail delivering (meaning that you might finish the project but not within the given constrains). Therefore you should always plan. If you would like to minimize planning then lean development approach might be good for you.

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Yes planning software is very necessary before creating any software.Planning software is a part of project management.In software planning you have to plan about the each and every thing you are going to do in every step.This plan consist of initial to the last step of the software.From the name of the software to the tools and techniques needed for that software and the planning also contain the cost and estimation of that software.You should also take care of the risk arises while creating the software.

  • Your answer appears to be a violation of CodeGnome's Law. Planning software is just a tool; it shouldn't drive your process. – Todd A. Jacobs May 1 '14 at 15:07

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