Managing projects, particularly large projects with many team members, can be challenging. It is even more so when project team members work in two or more laboratories and seldom, if ever, all meet in face-to-face meetings. Judicious use of project management software can enable lab managers, team leaders and team members to keep informed on all team members’ progress in meeting their goals. There are a large number of programs, some of them free, to help managers plan and organize projects and stay on top of progress once work begins. These can be shared via the Internet or a company intranet.
Typical content includes:
- An overview of the project and a description of its goals and justification
- Information on each team member’s assigned tasks and workload; this can be used in scheduling vacations, training and conference attendance
- A list of important project milestones and target dates for completion
- Task lists for each team member and deadlines for completion of each task
- Information to be shared among team members
- Information on similar projects
Managers should guard against focusing too much on the planning phases and not enough on project tracking and adjustments to the plan or schedule as they become necessary. The software employed should be as simple and easy to use as possible. Some software comes with many options that are time-consuming to learn and offer little information-sharing and time-management advantages. Other features can be very useful, particularly in complex projects involving several phases proceeding in parallel. For example, there is often a critical path. Its duration and milestone definition can determine the length and cost of the entire project.