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Andrea Di Clemente's picture
By Andrea Di Clemente
Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - 23:08

Small teams don't need complex project management, they need effective project communication.

At the beginning, it was project management: it was basically a science, with its own specialised vocabulary and wide range of software options to actually apply that science. This science included contracts, budgeting, very refined task, sub task, sub-sub task breakdown, dependencies, complex graphs, time estimates, etc. A few people, the "project managers", were masters at finding their way in this little jungle of terms, rules, and methods. This method worked for some, but didn't work for many.

The new era

It is no secret that in the world many projects were, and are, late. Plus, if managing projects is so important and yet so difficult, what about small companies who needed a down-to-earth methodology to manage their projects without hiring a wizard?

The marketing departments of complex project management software did their best trying to convince people that managing a small web development firm needed the same tools used by Boeing to build their 747 aircraft. Those people who believed them, soon found out that they were using the wrong tool for their problems.

Building an airplane might well need a complex project management tool and methodology. However, managing several small projects doesn't. This is where simplified, down-to-earth and agile (or "simplified") project management software came by -- and won.

The online crowd

Today, there are several simplified project management tools out there which are aimed at helping people get things done. Unlike their older cousins, they have a much smaller vocabulary and, more importantly, are based on communication rather than management. Most of them are online (just like Apollo is), and can be used by anybody with a browser. A lot of them allow companies to invite external people into their project, and communicate with everybody else involved easily.

A new, simplified view on things

The strongest points of this new project management methodology are its simplicity and its focus on communication. Simplicity means that anybody can actually use it without getting lost in complex resource allocation, graphs, etc. The main unit of a simplified project management tool is the TODO list (or "task list") and the TODO item (or "task") that can be assigned to any one person working on the project. The main feature of tasks is their ability to communicate within that task: people can write messages, which will appear underneath that task. They might discus how to complete it, or even bounce it off each other. Basically, all these new project management tools allow simple, down-to-earth communication between the team members.

While there probably is a main person who is responsible of checking that things are actually getting done, everybody has a constant view of what's going on within the project, and feels responsible of completing what's been assigned to them.

There are important additions to this: there are timers (so that people can log how long they spend on a task), milestones (to know that things are being achieved), project messages (for general communication between team members), file storage (to store project-related files in one central point), etc. But this is hardly something that needs a specialised, certified person to manage.

Is this it?

I don't think "classic" project management will go away. There are plenty of companies out there who still look for a project manager, making sure that he or she is certified and adheres to some well-known methodology. What's left to be seen, is how many of them are brave or crazy enough to use an simplified project management tool instead.

I bet some of them do.

2 comments so far

Hugh Macken's picture

Hugh Macken

Wed, 01/19/2011 - 12:06


Apollo looks good. I just read about it on twitter ( from Posiq which is a company I've never had of but noticed in checking out LiquidPlanner's tweets.

So my question is the following:
Given the two different types of PM software with yours and others like it focusing on commuication rather than "management" and lingo, which method is better at ensuring on time delivery?

Tony Mobily's picture

Tony Mobily

Fri, 01/21/2011 - 19:51


Which ever works for you!