Project management: web

Project management has changed: the specialized field full of buzzwords, and tightly dominated by Microsoft Office (a stand-along, 1990's application) came to an end when the Internet world discovered online project management software and its immense benefits.

In this article, I will highlight some of the (many) reasons why web based project management is better, especially when applied to online projects.

Time estimates are always 100% wrong.

The amount of time that a task will take only has one possible answer: "As long as it takes you to do it". Any time estimate is always a wild guess -- or worse, a guess that will tend to be over-optimistic in order to keep the customer happy. This is especially true in projects that require either programming or design skills. Time estimate for tasks is the biggest downfall of classic project management: some tasks (not many) will take a fraction of the forecast time, whereas other tasks (most of them) will take a lot longer than the longest, most pessimistic forecast. Definitely longer than the customer would have ever accepted when they signed the formal requirements document. Time estimate being so bogus is a major problem for classic project management, where these estimates, along with duration, are used to create charts which will give you nice theoretical reports of the "best path to completion" -- reports which most of the time remain theory (or, "wishful thinking").

Formal requirement are just not useful

In classic project management people spend phenomenal amounts of time getting the "requirements" document ready. The requirements list become a binding document, where (at least in theory) everybody is happy with what the system will do: the customer is happy about the feature they will get, and the company is happy about the amount of development time that will result in. These documents take weeks, sometimes months to be discussed (time that could be used to actually get development done). Sometimes time-consuming meetings are held, where the customer insists on discussing minute details while team members know that those details will be completely meaningless by the time the project is actually implemented. The main problems are:

Team members never work alone on a task

As much as you'd like to live in a world where task 1 is going to be completed by person A and task 2 is going to be completed by person B, the reality is that a task needs to be bounced off between team members, each one contributing to it in some way, before the task is actually marked as completed.

This goes against the methodology of classic project management, where a task has a set resource allocated to it. Again, it's the usual "wishful thinking" view which plagues classic project management, and that in the end brings projects, schedules and budgets to their knees.

Not always better

Having written so much about why online project management is better, I feel the need to present a counter-argument as well: there are cases where online project management is not the best choice. For example:

In the end, it's up to you to decide the best solution for you: the key is to keep things simple, and make sure you focus on getting things done the right way.

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